Understanding Human Action

Social Explanation and the Vision of Social Science

By Michael A. Simon

Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780873954990, 226 pages, June 1981
Hardcover : 9780873954983, 226 pages, June 1981

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


1. The Primacy of Action
2. The Social Nature of Action
3. What Social Science is About
4. Reasons and Social Inquiry
5. Rationality and the Methods of Social Inquiry
6. Biology and Social Inquiry
7. The Place of Causation in Social Science
8. Theory in Social Science
9. Objectivity and Social Inquiry
10. Social Inquiry and Scientific Understanding
11. The Fruits of Social Research



Is human behavior determined in accordance with causal laws available to scientists? Is science capable of making sense of human actions and social life? This book is a penetrating inquiry into the question of what social science is all about. In it, Michael A. Simon challenges the prevailing view with his thesis that the social sciences are sciences in name only, and are based upon the freedom and uniqueness of the human subjects of scientific explanation.

Combining sound scholarship with clear, readable prose, Simon explains why freedom must be a primitive conception and indicates the conditions for human uniqueness. He offers a proposal for what the social sciences might become if researchers recognize that they are not scientists in the ordinary sense of the word.

Michael A. Simon is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.