Document Type : Original Research Paper


Faculty member of Allameh Tabataba'i University, Tehran, Iran.


Like philosophy of natural sciences, philosophy of social sciences begins with questioning of the meaning of science and the criterion of scientific explanation. Although in the former, just similar to the latter, the epistemological abstractive discussions are divergent, the practice of science is not. But in the sphere of social sciences the practice also lakes convergence and the community of scientists does not share the same scientific criteria of scientificity. The problematic of this article is that, in the realm of social sciences, what exactly scientists are pursuing and searching for when they are producing science. Usually, there are, at least, three responses to that question: cause, reason, and meaning. Describing, analyzing, and criticizing those epistemological positions, each of which is a well-known school in philosophy of social sciences, I will try to demonstrate that none of these criteria is able to pretend an absolute dominance in scientific explanation. However, this does not mean that they have all the same value and weight. The hypothesis is that, in theoretical analysis as well as in scientific practice, causal explanation, investigation of reason, and inquiry concerning meaning, are respectively more important and functional in scientific explanation in the area of social sciences. In many works of the most prominent social scientists, we can find some sort of combination of these different points of view that reflect this hierarchy of criteria.


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