the nature of scientific consensus and the case of the social sciences

Knorr, Karin D. (June 1976) the nature of scientific consensus and the case of the social sciences. Former Series > Forschungsberichte / Research Memoranda 102


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summary (conclusion): the present paper has tried to explain the amount of consensus in a given field of social science by the structure of argumentation and justification entrenched in the methodological procedures used. it has been shown that the assumption of cognitive disunity among social scientists must be modified in that - depending on the methodological procedure used - extreme consolidation and extreme disagreement coexist side by side. the high degree of consensus can have two meanings: either the relatively extensive consolidation of areas proceeding formally is taken as an indication for the 'mature' level of development of these areas in contrast to all the other fields of social science; or one accepts the thesis of the potential gap between consensus and substantial growth of knowledge. we asserted that the proved consolidation does though speak in favor of a cumulative selection leading to easily closed 'trivial' structures of argumentation and justification, yet doesnot guarantee substantial cumulativity. the latter depends on the functioning of endogenous methodological control, which - in addition to the unresolved problem of measurement and meaning - does not seem to operate effectively in those areas of social science which ground their results extensively in theoretical terms. instead of the oriented and directed falsificationism of orthodox normal science we are confronted in these areas with verification circles which pave the way for the productionof a variety of divergent and dissonant results. the complexity and diversity produced is reduced by current societal patterns of interpretation: through the channel of the language of social science that is rooted in everyday language, and by meansof social science theory formation that is rooted in everyday knowledge, they guide and govern the expectation of the scientists. nevertheless, this influencing process is not unilateral. both the possible accumulation of empirical generalizations in the realm of observational terms as well as the systematic articulation and elaboration of theoretical concepts and systems of knowledge in the area of individual disciplines guarantee feedback effects. it will be the task of further studies to examine these.;

Item Type: IHS Series
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2014 10:34
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2016 14:07

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