CamPoS: Cambridge Philosophy of Science

Philosophy of the Social Sciences

Inquiry into the metaphysics of the social world and the methodology of its study is now an established field within the philosophy of science. In Cambridge, scientists and philosophers have been doing philosophy of the social sciences (without calling it that) at least since the establishment of the Moral Sciences Tripos in 1851. Among the people who have contributed to the philosophy of the social sciences in Cambridge are economists John Maynard Keynes, Alfred Marshall, and Amartya Sen; anthropologist Edmund Leach; sociologist Antony Giddens; historian Quentin Skinner; and philosophers Henry Sidgwick, Frank Ramsey, Richard Braithwaite, and Mary Hesse.

Nowadays, Cambridge philosophers of the social sciences research and teach on a wide variety of topics, including the nature of rationality and rational choice models, the relationship between social and biological explanations of human nature and sociality, the measurement and definition of social facts, the status of social and psychological laws, and the nature of social and psychological theory. These inquiries benefit from the many different research centres of the university, such as CRASSH, Cambridge Centre for Political Thought, The Well-being Institute, and Cambridge Public Policy. The thriving community of social scientists, open to discussing the philosophical foundations of their work and constantly mixing with those outside their disciplines, makes Cambridge a unique place to pursue this area of research.

Anna Alexandrova and John Forrester
October 2012