What is the Possible Breadth and Scope of Human Science?

Human Sciences are embodied with multiple features that distinguish its approach and body of work from the natural sciences.  “We can identify three main intentions in the modern human sciences: description, interpretation and the reconstruction of meaning structures” (Rothberg, 1991, p. 1). Each of these aspects or intentions gives clarity and definition to the pursuit of understanding and knowledge which is defined as a “second main form of science” (Rothberg, 1991, p. 1).  Human science is not just about investigating what the human realm is all about, but rather in gaining knowledge to better the human condition. In practicing human science we must be clear that within the area we have decided to attempt to investigate, our goal is to describe what is going on with the individuals or group, interpret what the activities, aims and outcomes are and finally to reconstruct the meaning of these aspects, as to how they constitute assertoric knowledge that meets the criteria our scientific approach, method and discipline.  In short, our inquiry as human science must be a holistic account which elucidates the complexity of all of the features and aspects of the area of inquiry (Creswell, 2013, p. 47).

The existential and transpersonal experiences and meanings of the individuals and/or group who are participating in our inquiry may or may not reveal scientific knowledge.  What is revealed may be something totally unexpected as an outcome or result and/or unexplainable given our method and approach.  We may have to decide to change our focus of inquiry, methods of investigation and involve the participants in developing the descriptions, interpretations and definitions of the meaning of this experience (Creswell, 2013, p. 47).  In human science our philosophical and epistemological assumptions demand that we incorporate various methods into the inquiry to bring about a richer understanding of what we are observing. “In most qualitative studies, the central problems are to identify how people interact with their world (what they do), and then to determine how they experience and understand that world: how they feel, what they believe, and how they explain structure and relationships within some segment of their existence” (Locke, Spirduso & Silverman, 2014, p. 99).

As  human scientists, we must establish our relationship to the inquiry so that it is clear where we are “coming from” in regards to our own historical presuppositions, assumptions, potential biases, and so on.  The “idea of the ‘researcher-as-instrument’ central to many styles of qualitative research emphasizes the potential for bias” (Robson, 2011, p. 157). In addition, many of the approaches of human science research call for the direct observation as a technique of inquiry.  While it “seems to be pre-eminently the appropriate technique for getting at ‘real life’ in the real world” (Robson, 2011, p. 316) it is not trouble free in so far as the presence of the inquirer creates an effect on the activity, and thus the outcome of the results of the inquiry.  Methods of approach exist to mitigate this, but it is impossible to eliminate some influence.  Again, this is another aspect of placing our involvement as part of the human science inquiry so that the evaluation of the knowledge gained takes this into consideration (Robson, 2011, pp. 317-324).

In the relationship of expanding knowing (epistemology) by refining our insights, it must be said, that understanding is not the same as knowledge. At one level of abstraction it could be said that the “progression” of epistemology is from perception to information to understanding to knowledge to wisdom, with each new level requiring a deepening of meaning and consensus. Somewhere in here is also awareness, sense, belief and certainty, to say nothing of truth. This opens up a whole vast area of discussion in each of these levels of what are really relationships with the world. If we can accomplish all of the aspects laid out above, hopefully we will have scientific knowledge worthy of the name human science.

References

Bentz, V.M. & Shapiro, J.J. (1998). Mindful inquiry in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage.

Berlin, I. (1969). Two concepts of liberty. In Four essays on liberty. 118-172, London, UK. Oxford University Press.

Creswell, J. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. Los Angeles, CA.  Sage.

Habermas, J. (1973). Theory and practice. Boston, MA.  Beacon Press.

Locke, L.F., Spirduso, W.W., & Silverman, S.J. (2014). Proposals that work: A guide for planning dissertations and grant proposals. Los Angeles, CA. Sage.

Marx, K. (1967). Writings of the young Marx on philosophy and society. L.D. Easton & K.H. Guddat (Eds. & Trans).Garden City, NY. Anchor Books.

Robson, C. (2011). Real world research. Chichester, UK. Wiley & Sons.

Rothberg, D. (1991). Inquiry in the realm of meanings: The idea of human sciences. Theories of Inquiry Learning Guide. PDF for Saybrook Resources.

Rousseau, J-J. (1987). The political writings. Indianapolis, IN. Hackett Publishing.

Said, E. W. (1997). Representations of the intellectual. New York, NY. Random House.

 

Jim Smith

Leave a Comment





Latest Posts

Use ‘think about the news’ questions to confront societal myths and political paradigms

By JoAnn McAllister | May 14, 2019

The questions asked about the Mueller Report over the last seven weeks represent a framework to learn, analyze, and act…

Use ‘to think about the news’ questions in everyday political conversations

By JoAnn McAllister | May 7, 2019

There are now multiple conversations at cross-purposes on the fall out from the Special Counsel’s report and it has been…

To think about the news (6): Ask, why use these words?

By JoAnn McAllister | April 30, 2019

Stories come to us as a cascade of words. The words are, usually, intentionally selected to make the story work,…

To think about the news (5): Ask, is it just a story?

By JoAnn McAllister | April 23, 2019

It is time to ask, is it all just a story? Yes, but a story is never just a story.…

To think about the news (4): Ask, who is trying to get my attention, and why?

By JoAnn McAllister | April 16, 2019

I have described three strategies for listening, thinking, and responding to the news: asking if it is really news, identifying…

To think about the news (3): Ask, who benefits, who doesn’t?

By JoAnn McAllister | April 9, 2019

This is my third question about the unfolding Mueller report controversy. First I asked of the initial flurry if it…

To think about the news (2): Ask, what is the point of view?

By JoAnn McAllister | April 2, 2019

Last week the focus of the news and political commentary was all about the submission of the Mueller report on…

March Madness: An “Experiential Commodity” with Money for the Men, Only Fame for the Women, and an Illusion for the Fans

By Jim Smith | March 24, 2019

It’s time for March Madness again, the scrambling tournament to determine the number one men and women’s National Collegiate Athletic…

To think about the news first ask if it is news

By JoAnn McAllister | March 23, 2019

At every turn we face a complicated world of different perspectives, whether in our everyday or virtual worlds, where conflicting…

Human Science and Being an Intellectual

By Jim Smith | March 7, 2019

As human science’s project is to transform the world, so is it the task of persons who are engaged in…

15585

Join the Human Science Institute Mailing List

Get important updates and event invitations!

15856