Study/Discussion questions on Weber

page 1: Can science tell us what is right and wrong?

What can science contribute to practice or policy?

page 2: What is Weber's attitude toward the materialist theory of history?

What does Weber mean by "an empirical science of concrete reality?

More generally, (pp. 2-3) How does Weber characterize the object of study of the social sciences? How does it differ from the object of study in physics and in astronomy? [Though Weber never mentions chemistry, how do the phenomena chemistry studies differ from those studied by physics and astronomy? What are the similarities and differences between what the social sciences study and what these different natural sciences study?

page 3 How do the social sciences decide on what to study? What is the popular contrasting view?

page 3 Weber speaks about the "empathic understanding" of psychological and intellectual phenomena. How does this different from the sort of understanding that scientific explanation provides. To what extent does the role of empathic understanding distinguish the social sciences from the natural sciences?

(pp. 4-9) Weber denies that the goal of the social sciences is the determination of the laws governing social phenomena. Why? Do you think he is right? It appears that he is directly disagreeing with Mill. Is he? How do you think Mill would respond to Weber?

page 4 Does Weber think that psychology provides a foundation for social science?

page 5 What does Weber mean by a historical phenomenon?

page 6 What distinguishes a causal interpretation from a typical causal explanation?

page 7 Why is knowledge of cultural reality perspectival and in what sense?

page 8 What role does knowledge of laws and causes play in social science?

page 9 In what sense are the social sciences subjective?

page 10 To what methodology does Weber contrast his views?

page 10 As Weber mentions, clinical medicine is also concerned with individual cases. How does it compare to the social sciences in its methodology and interests?

page 11 What are the main differences between Weber's view of the methodology of the social sciences and Mill's view?

page 12 What is an "ideal type"? What roles do ideal types play in the social sciences? Why are they needed? In what sense are ideal types "ideal"? What connections are there between ideal types and the values people attach to social phenomena?

page 14 Why do we constantly have to reconstruct our concepts in the social sciences?

General discussion questions:

What roles do values and value judgments play in the social sciences?

What, according to Mill, Marx, and Weber should the social sciences aim to explain? What explains the differences in the answers these three thinkers would give?