On social science

The physical scientist, despite all the difficulties alluded to, faces a relatively easy task compared to that facing the social scientist. Physical science has painstakingly removed any suggestions of ‘mental life’ from its subject matter. The gods, spirits (benevolent or evil) and the minds of the dead have all been banished from the physical scientists’ view of matter. 1his ensures that the scientists’ theories do not in themselves provoke physical matter into movement or change. This is not the case in the social sciences. In studying people, we have to take fully into account the belief that they will be perceiving the social scientists and having thoughts and feelings about them whilst the social scientist is constructing meaning about them. This makes social science difficult; or it does if you believe that by adapting the methods of the physical sciences you are going to be able to construct viable meanings about people.

Sheila Harri-Augstein & Laurie Thomas (1991) in Learning Conversations

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