Here is another of my occasional conversations with my friend and colleague Dan Kaufman, this time on the nature of explanation in social vs natural science (i.e., psychology, sociology and economics on one side; biology, chemistry, physics and the like on the other).
We begin by discussing what constitutes an explanation in the natural sciences, and the role causality plays in it. We then look for (and, in my mind, do not find) categorical differences between social and natural sciences — which of course does not mean that there are no interesting differences at all.
The conversations moves to the divergence, if any, between biological and social explanations of human behaviors, and we agree that there are, in fact, some significant differences to be fleshed out.
Dan brings up what he refers to as the distinct “narratives” of the social vs physical sciences, which leads us to talk about whether the social sciences are in the business of explaining or interpreting human behavior (I argue both).
The last part of the video deals with a bit of general philosophy of science, as we question the necessity of “laws” (whatever they are) in natural science, and talk about why the social (and, indeed, the biological) sciences will likely never discover laws in anything like the physical sense of the term.