Teaching “Distinctions” to Undergraduates in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences

  • Steven I. Miller


Introduction: The analysis presented here is a continuation of the authors research and teaching activities directed toward a better understanding of critical thinking processes among undergraduate students in the philosophy of the social sciences. Over a span of ten or more years, what I have been basically concerned with is the use of overlapping intellectual domains (e.g., sociology, philosophy of social science, and cognitive psychology) as a means of identifying both issues and pedagogical strategies that instructors in the human sciences may find useful in enhancing their own teaching and stimulating the creative problem-solving side of their students intellectual development. To this end, I place these comments within the tradition of Mills (1959) and Parsons (1968). The first reflects the belief, as always given in Mills, that good teaching and research are a function of the creativity of the social scientist; the second, Parsons, in his meticulous attention to the concepts of sociology, but also as having a deep understanding of how these concepts interact with, for instance, epistemological concerns from philosophy, historical analysis as a means of tracing the origins of sociological thought (e.g., Weber, Durkheim and Marx), and the centrality of economics in grasping the motivations of actors in both micro and macro contexts.