The Crisis in the Social Sciences

  • Ton Jörg


In this chapter the basic position of the book will be delineated. This is very much about the crisis of our social sciences and about a concomitant distorted worldview. Actually it is about the wrong foundation of our social sciences. History has shown how these sciences have evolved as a wrong kind of copy of the natural sciences, with a concomitant degeneration of the social sciences; a degeneration which has ultimately led to a contemporary crisis of our sciences and humanities and in society­ at large (cf. Sandywell 1996, p. xv). So, the topic of concern to be dealt with will be nothing less than The Future of the Sciences and Humanities (cf. Tindemans et al. 2002). The basic problem of the contemporary crisis seems to be that the system we are in as participating scientists is not able to reflect on itself (Sandywell 1996, p. xv). The functioning of us as scientists doing our science is comparable with the metaphor of the functioning of the eye which Giambattista Vico (1744/1984) used, in his book about The New Science: of the eye which is not able to see the eye itself (proposition 331). In direct relation to that inability, he described the need for the use of a mirror to see itself. This is also what we, as social scientists, need today for reflection on our doing science (Sandywell 1996, p. xv). As was the case for Vico, this reflection on the man-made construction of our world may be regarded as a turning point for our ‘wo/man-made’ view of the world. We may become aware that reality, as we perceive it, is not a given reality but an invented, ‘man-made’ reality (see e.g. Watzlawick 1984, p. 9; and Sandywell 1999, p. x). Just because it is a kind of invented reality, this reality cannot be the true reality (Watzlawick 1984, p. 9). This moment of reflection, of looking in the mirror, may make us aware that science itself, like reality, is not an independent variable! Both kinds of invention may be considered to be a kind of choice made in our history of science: a choice which could have been a different choice, made by men (see e.g. Vico 1744/1968; Whitehead 1925/1967, p. 200).


Black Hole Social Science Scientific Revolution Building Stone Normal Science 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Education and Learning (former IVLOS)University of UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands

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