Monday, March 5, 2018

Social Sciences

Thanks to Cosh.

I was always Joe Poli Sci, I never really wanted to major in anything else, and I have always been interested in all kinds of politics, not just the political philosophy in which I eventually specialized. It's always struck me, however, that there is something unimpressive about "today's social sciences." Physics and technology have kicked ass in every way, including "improving human life," so what do the humanities do? One answer is: Look over here! We're still here! We've got sciences too. Social sciences! That's got to be something that will improve human life.

In my day a lot of poli sci majors were pre-law. They could be smart, and God knows they were ambitious, but somehow they weren't really all that interested in the subject at hand. I went into a fourth year Honours stream--getting a whole course credit for writing a thesis, on which I did well. One friend of mine who went the more straightforward four-year major route said he tended to find the folks in Honours to be lazy. As I looked around, it struck me that English majors did more writing, and had to learn a lot about writing, History majors wrote a lot and were exposed to different kinds of research, and had to prove some facility in at least two languages. (Our second language requirement was pretty minimal, and didn't require citing any works in a second language). I had a friend back then who wanted to work on "theatre of the absurd," and he thought his best chance of finding a supervisor was in Sociology. Maybe there was a sense that people in Psych were practising rigorous science, I don't know.

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