Essay: Is causal principle necessarily the foundation of social sciences?

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  • Subject area(s): Philosophy essays
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  • Published on: December 11, 2015
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  • Is causal principle necessarily the foundation of social sciences?
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1.1 Background to the Study
The success of science has been attributed to causality and induction. We always believe that for every effect, there is a cause, but since we cannot perceive all effects and causes, we usually conclude from observation of few causes and effects that a particular cause must produce a particular effect any time. This generalization is further shifted to social sciences where psychologists like B.F. Skinner and others, try to create a science of human behaviour.
Human behaviour refers to the range of behaviours exhibited by humans and which are influenced by culture, attitudes, emotions, ethics, authority, rapport, hypnosis, persuasion, coercion and genetics1. Human behaviour can be seen through human actions and words, so, what man does and what he says in his relation to other people shows his behaviour. The peace and harmony in any society depends on how we understand human nature and behaviour. Some behavioural scientists are of the view that science can be a vital tool that will aid the understanding of human behaviour. Klemke, E.D, R. Hollinger, and A.D., Kline, in their book; Introductory Readings in Philosophy of Science, defines behavioural science as a systematic analysis and investigation of human behaviour through controlled and naturalistic observation, and disciplined scientific experimentation. It attempts to accomplish legitimate, objective conclusions thought rigorous formulations and observations.2
However, the possibility of a science of human behaviour has raised a very big dust among philosophers, psychologists, and anthropologists. B.F. Skinner tries to create a science of human behaviour through his theory of operant conditioning- the idea that behaviour is determined by its consequences be they reinforcements or punishments which make it more or less likely that the behaviour will occur again. Although, Skinner in his book; The Possibility of a Science of Human Behaviour, points out that behaviour is not one of those subject matters which become accessible only with the intervention of instruments such as the telescope or microscope, this is due to its nature.3
David Hume, in the 18th century observed that there is no necessary connection between cause and effect, the implication of Hume’s revelation is detrimental to the empirical knowledge of both natural and social sciences. Hume claims that anything that happens must either be causally determined or a matter of chance. He does not deny causation; rather, what he denies was the idea of necessary connection between cause and effect. So, if this connection could not be established, what then are the bases of scientific assumptions?
1.2 Statement of Problem
This work is fundamentally concerned with the problems associated with the uncritical application of the principle of causality and induction in the social sciences. To this regard, the work is necessarily tailored to address the following questions.
1. Is causal principle necessarily the foundation of social sciences?
2. To what extent can we validly predict future occurrences from the past to the future?
3. Can human behaviour be subjected to pure scientific investigation?
4. Why is the application of the principles of causality and induction problematic in the social sciences, in spite of its acknowledged successes in the natural sciences?
The answers to these question will enable us know when, where and how to use induction, especially in making judgments concerning human behaviour.
1.3 The Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of this essay is to point out the implications of Hume’s critique of causality and induction for the scientific study of human behaviour. The specific purposes are:
First, to find out if causal principle is necessarily the foundation of social sciences
Second, to find out the extent we can validly predict future occurrences from the past to the future.
Third, to find out if human behaviour can be subjected to pure scientific investigation.
Fourth, to discover the reasons why the application of the principles of causality and induction is problematic in the social sciences, in spite of its acknowledged successes in the natural sciences.
1.4 Significance of the Study
First and foremost, the significance of this work is that it reawakens the consciousness and philosophical spirit of philosophers to understand the nature of and scope of the use of induction and causality in the study of human behaviour. In doing this the work will help philosophers to remember that one of the major characteristics of philosophy is presuppositionlessness.
Secondly, this work can serve as a research material for scholars who would, in future, write essays similar to this, especially the undergraduates.
Thirdly, the insight from this essay can make those influenced by induction and causality especially in human behaviour to be cautious of their use of them, both in their statements and in action. It will also help people who have made wrong assumptions about others to put aside their prejudice, bias, preconceptions and presuppositions.
The work will go a long way in maintaining peace in Nigeria because when Nigerians erase all prejudice and bias about others, they will be free to interact and live in peace.
1.5 Justification of the Study
This work rests on Hume’s view that habit and belief are the basis of predictions, not the principle of necessary connection. It is coming at a time when most Nigerians are scared of mixing up and interacting with people from some other parts of the country or state, because of distorted orientation and indoctrination, a time when man has abandoned critical thinking and embraced instinct, a time when people have accepted unverified assumptions especially in human behaviour and relationships without critical analysis. This work is timely and stands justified in the prevailing circumstances.
Knowledge has a major ingredient of being justified true belief, but induction and causality make these attributes of knowledge to fade away especially, when used in human behaviour. Although, we can find true knowledge in natural sciences through inductive method, but that of social science is difficult to come by. This essay is justified by the fact that its main objectives of Liberating people’s mind from prejudice, encouraging peaceful co-existence through integration, and enhancing critical and analytic spirit (or what Emefina Ezeani called Iquism4) have been achieved at the end.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The work is limited to David Hume’s notion of causality and induction, and the philosophers’ behavioural views and natural scientists’ views on the same subject matter. It X-rays Hume’s theory of knowledge by analyzing Hume’s understanding of necessary connection in causality. It also draws inspiration from Skinners behaviourism and beams its searchlight on different philosophers that tries to solve the problem of induction and causality. Finally, the geographical scope of the work is Nigeria, a country that has been a victim of many senseless generalizations.
1.7 Method of the Study
In writing the work, primary and secondary materials that deal with the subject of the study were sourced from journals, textbooks, conference papers, books of reading and the internet. The work employed a critical, and expository, prescriptive approach, infusing some elements of historical frameworks in order to highlight the aspects of the work that it so requires.
1.8 Organization of the Study
The work consists of six chapters, chapter one deals with the introduction. Chapter two, consists of the literature review where the body of the work actually begins, the works of philosophers on causality and induction were exposed. The exposition here consists in objective presentation of their positions as whether they supported or criticized Hume’s view on causality and how they tried to solve Hume’s problem.
In chapter three, the notions of causality and induction were expounded. Under this chapter, the essay also explains the different ways causality and induction have been used in natural science, philosophy and social science (psychology).
In chapter four, the work discusses David Hume’s critique of causality and induction. The chapter exposes Hume’s theory of knowledge as a denial of causality and induction. It also points out that in social science, especially in psychology, that the basis of prediction is habit and that the methods of induction and causality are used habitually and will not always give us the right answer.
In chapter five, the essay tries to solve the problem of causality and induction. It adopts a critical approach in evaluating the ways other philosophers attempted to solve it.
Finally, chapter six summarizes, concludes and recommends the way forward.

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