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Additional info for The Role of Ethics in Social Theory: Essays from a Habermasian Perspective (SUNY Series in Ethical Theory)
Categorialontological. The main ontological issue here is that of the status to be assigned to the constructed models. For Weber these models are mere thought entities ("ideal types") made up by the social scientist to aid in the construction of empirical theories. They have no independent existence of their own. Marx, in contrast, makes a much stronger ontological claim. Much of Capital is devoted to working out a model of the capitalist mode of production and its general tendencies. In his view this model fixes the essence of capitalist societies, the depth level of the capitalist system that underlies surface level appearances. The speech within which this sort of issue is discussed is philosophical. Epistemological. In this branch of social science models of social systems and processes are constructed that somehow relate to the historical societies more concretely investigated in empirical research and empirical theories. But if no empirical theory is ever directly refuted or verified by any bit of empirical research, so much more is it the case that no construction of a model of a social system or process can ever be directly refuted or verified by any bit of empirical theory or empirical research. To what degree, then, do empirical theories and empirical research provide a check on the construction of these models? This question is connected with one's views on the ontological status of the models. If one believes with Weber that ideal types are simply tools, the models will be subject to the single criterion relevant to any tool, usefulness. If a model proves helpful in any way for constructing empirical hypotheses and orienting research, then it has been "verified. " If, however, one believes that a model of a social system or process ought to grasp the essence of historically existing societies, then more stringent criteria for the adequacy of the model are demanded. It must, for instance, be able to Page 13 give an adequate account of the appearances in those societies. The question of the criteria by which the epistemological validity of models is to be measured is another example of a specifically philosophical issue. Normative. In constructing models of social systems and processes the social scientist must always abstract from some of the information presented in empirical research and empirical theories. Any principle for deciding how to do this will involve the values of the social scientist. A libertarian, for example, in constructing a model of a capitalist social system will stress those features which make it plausible to assert that an "invisible hand" behind market transactions ensures the common good, and assert that everything else is contingent and nonessential to the system. In contrast, a Marxist will stress those features which ensure the recurrence of class struggle, and assert that everything else is contingent and nonessential. Such differences are inevitable; no models can be constructed without values coming into play in this manner.