Interpretation and Explanation in the Human Sciences

By David K. Henderson

Subjects: Anthropology
Series: SUNY series in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Paperback : 9780791414064, 293 pages, July 1993
Hardcover : 9780791414057, 293 pages, July 1993

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Table of contents


1. Interpretation and Explanation: Claims and Concerns

2. Standard Accounts of Interpretation and the Principle of Charity

2. 1: Standard Accounts of Interpretation

2. 1.1: The Holism of Interpretation

2. 1.2: A Fundamental Principle of Charity

2. 2: Common Refinements to the Principle of Charity

2. 2.1: Modifications Related to Stages of Interpretation

2. 2.2: Modifications Related to Types of Error

3. A Better Codification of the Constraints on Interpretation

3. 1: The Primacy of the Principle of Explicability: The Central Argument

3. 2: Two Concrete Illustrations

3. 2.1: The Treatment of Observation Sentences

3. 2.2: The Treatment of Truth-Functions

3. 3: Elaboration

3. 3.1: Empirical Adequacy

3. 3.2: Rules of Thumb

3. 3.3: Solving the Problem of Irrationality

4. On the Supposed A Priori Status of Minimal Rationality

4. 1: The View that Rationality is Constitutive of Intentional States

4. 1.1: A Priori Truths and "The Subject" as a Conceptual Matter

4. 1.2: Needed Perspective: An Extensional Notion of "The Subject"

4. 2: On an Argument from Measurement

4. 3: On the Argument from Charity in Interpretation

4. 4: Is Minimal Rationality Preponderant Rationality: What is Central to Present Theory?

4. 5: Summary and Significance

4. 6: Further Reflection on Minimal Rationality: Stich's Concerns

4. 6.1: Empirical Versus Conceptual Truths Revisited

4. 6.2: Acceptable and Unacceptable Similarity Bases for Interpretation

5. On the Supposed Privileged Place of Rationalizing Explanation

5. 1: Preliminaries

5. 1.1: The Basic Issue and What Is Sought to Resolve It

5. 1.2: The Rudimentary Received Model of Rationalizing Explanation

5. 1.3: On Theory-Dependent Versus Transcendent Preferred Statuses

5. 2: Rationalizing Explanation in Light of a General Account of Intentional Explanation

5. 2.1: Dispositions, Functional Analysis, and Semantic Interpretability

5. 2.2: Rationalizing Explanation and Nomic Generalizations

5. 2.3: Rationalizing Explanation and Irrationalizing Explanation are Epistemologically on a Par

6. Rationalizing Explanation and the Scientific Explanation of Events

6. 1: Restating Our Issue

6. 2: Why Explanations are Non-extensional and Why Normative Principles are Explanatorily Impotent

6. 3: Applications To International Explanations

7. The Nomic Status of Psychological Generalizations: Handling Rosenberg's Refinability Problem

7. 1: Rosenberg's Challenge: Nomicity and Refinability

7. 2: An Illustrative Casev

7. 3: Bootstrap Testing: Using our Theoretical Resources

8. In Defense of Heteronomic or Soft Laws

8. 1: The Issue: Can Psychological Generalizations Be Nomic?

8. 2: Davidson's Suggestion That Heteronomic Generalizations Do Not Cite Causal Factors and Thus Cannot Be Nomic

8. 3: The Prima Facie Case for There Being Nomic Heteronomic Generalizations Citing Causal Factors

8. 4: Psychological Factors Can Be Causally Relevant: The Basic Solution to the Explanatory Exclusion Problem

8. 5: Kim's Misstep into Reductionism

9. Summary



Name Index

Subject Index


Henderson examines the foundations of an analytic social science approach to develop a well-integrated account of the human sciences, focusing on the pivotal notions of interpretation and explanation. The author acknowledges the importance of interpretive understanding in the human sciences, and proposes a methodology that reflects both interpretive practice as well as scientific methodology. He refutes the methodological separatists who hold that the logic of explanation and testing in the human sciences is fundamentally different from that of the natural sciences, and examines in detail the constraints on interpretation. In providing an integrated treatment of these two central issues in social science, Henderson offers a thorough analysis of the adequacy of interpretation and the nature of explanation in the human sciences.

David K. Henderson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Memphis State University.


"This book promises to make an extremely important contribution in breaking a major logjam in the philosophy of social science and interpretation generally. It integrates a wealth of related philosophical literature and draws upon, and applies itself to, scientific material in an effective way. " — Robert Feleppa, Wichita State University

"This book is the first of which I know to attempt a comprehensive assessment of Davidson's philosophy for key issues in the philosophy of social science. In addition, and equally importantly, the author offers an in-depth assessment of arguments regarding the nature of explanation in social science and the relation of these explanations to those in the natural sciences. No other work, so far as I am aware, offers an analysis of recent work on explanation matching the breadth and depth of Henderson's. The issues which he discusses, both with regard to interpretation and explanation, are at the very center of both traditional and current debate. " — Paul A. Roth, University of Missouri, St. Louis