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Record Type: Review   ID: 572

Methodology for the Human Sciences: Systems of Inquiry

Polkinghorne, Donald

 The author is a professor at Saybrook Institute, and he says he has written this book "to provide a statement of the conceptual issues which inform research designs directed toward understanding human action and social structure" (p. ix). He adds that "in the present climate of renewal of methodology, researchers are called upon to understand the `way' of their designs as well as the `how' for carrying them out" (p. ix). He follows the tradition of William Dilthey, who advocated that the human sciences develop their own methods of research rather than trying to emulate the physical sciences. The need for this is especially evident today when the logical empirical philosophy of science itself is that "methods and research design for the human sciences must be able to yield information about being human as we experience it as embodied, historical, and integral. This position holds that human science requires a syncretic approach which integrates the results obtained through multischematic and multiparadigmatic systems of inquiry" (p. xi). In this book he presents the historical background of the methodology of the human sciences, how it has developed, and where it is now (still an ongoing debate). The Introduction provides a helpful overview of the meaning of research methodology in the human sciences in the context of the wider postpositivist debate re the nature of science, nethod, and understanding. Polkinghorne himself offers this brief summary of the book: "Chapter 1 explores the original debate over the type of methods that were to be allowed into the then-emerging human sciences. Chapter 2 describes the clarification of positivism that resulted from the combination of the new logic of Russell and the previously developed sense-data theory to provide a foundation for science. Chapter 3 presents the recent developments and challenges to the logical-positivist clarification. Chapter 4 presents the development of systems theory and structuralism and describes their challenge to the positivist conception of science. Chapter 5 explores the attempts at developing a theory of human action that recognizes the intentional character of action. Chapter 6 describes the Continental schools of phenomenology and hermeneutics. The final chapter lists and describes some of the conceptual tools needed by a human science researcher working within the context of the "postpositivist conception of science" (pp. 3-4).
Publisher Information:Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1983. 349p. Bibl: 325-341; Chap.bibl: 291-323; 4 figs; Index: 343-349
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