Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus
Chapter 20: Social science as a source of the law
Peter R. Senn The social sciences are, and long have been, a source of the law. The processes involved are unlike those of the sciences that study things or animals. Many of the same qualities that separate the different sciences lie behind the differences in processes. The most important of these scientific differences stem from their subjects and, secondarily, their methods. The roles of technology, indeed its definition, are special for each kind of science. Social science studies human interactions. The other sciences study things or animals. For these sciences, the ultimate test of truth comes from the technology which is developed from the knowledge the science provides. If the knowledge can be shown to work, it is judged to be correct. If the knowledge does not survive empirical verification, something about it is thought to be lacking. The case is very different for the study of mankind. There is no ultimate test of truth. The time, the place, the circumstances and, above all, man’s free will determine the outcome of events. Knowledge that stands up to empirical verification in one situation does not do so in another. Social scientific knowledge is contingent in ways that the knowledge of things is not. Even cultural universals, such as music and exchange, change with time and are socially conditioned. Few social science generalizations are verifiable for all times and all cultures. Those that are universally true, such as ‘all men die’, are attributes more of his physical body rather than of behaviour....
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