Concept and Theory Formation in the Social Sciences

  • Alfred Schutz


The title of my paper refers intentionally to that of a Symposium held in December 1952, at the annual meeting of the American Philosophical Association.’ Ernest Nagel and Carl G. Hempel contributed highly stimulating comments on the problem involved, formulated in the careful and lucid way so characteristic of these scholars. Their topic is a controversy which for more than half a century has split not only logicians and methodologists but also social scientists into two schools of thought. One of these holds that the methods of the natural sciences which have brought about such magnificent results are the only scientific ones and that they alone, therefore, have to be applied in their entirety to the study of human affairs. Failure to do so, it has been maintained, prevented the social sciences from developing systems of explanatory theory comparable in precision to those offered by the natural sciences and makes debatable the empirical work of theories developed in restricted domains such as economics.


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  1. 13.
    See W. I. Thomas, ‘Social Behaviour and Personality’, ed. E. H. Volkart (New York, 1951 ) p. 81.Google Scholar
  2. 20.
    See Fritz Machlup, ‘The Economics of Seller’s Competition: Model Analysis of Seller’s Conduct’ (Baltimore, 1952) pp. 9 ff.Google Scholar
  3. 22.
    See Thelma Z. Lavine, ‘Note to Naturalists on the Human Spirit’, ‘Journal of Philosophy’, 1 (1953) 145–54, and Ernest Nagel’s answer, ibid., pp. 154–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1970

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  • Alfred Schutz

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