My project is about the methodology of the social sciences. It specifically deals with the political philosopher Leo Strauss and his book Natural Right and History (1953), which contains his criticism of Max Weber. I got interested in this project after doing a research paper last fall semester for my sociological methods course. The paper was about the social science methodology of Max Weber, and how his methodology was interpreted by the sociologist Talcott Parsons and social scientist Alfred Schutz. I had already been interested in the philosophy of science, but this paper got me really interested in methodology of social science specifically.
I see my project as being related to my long-term goals because I am really interested in developing a more fully integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to social science. I hope to have some type of career related to academia, and I think that this work has been a great way to begin to step into that world.
On a weekly basis, I do a lot of reading. I have stacks of books on my desk with markers at different places in them. There is so much material and controversy around Leo Strauss. On top of that, his writing is very subtle and difficult to interpret. And it is even harder to write about. So I feel like I have had to try to be exposed to almost everything that he has done and everything that has been said about it. This is of course an impossible task, but without having the broadest possible view, I didn’t feel as confident talking about him. I now am confident that I have enough of an overview of his work to understand the parts of his thought that I need to. But my weeks were filled with lots and lots of reading of primary and secondary sources, and also with lots of writing. I write by hand and on the computer. I usually draft things by hand, and then copy and amend this draft by copying it onto the computer.
One thing that I discovered this week was how Strauss’ approach to the social sciences relates to empirical social science. I think that Strauss offers an approach that augments, not replaces, empirical science. I think that empirical science retains its full importance for Strauss. What his approach does is help to formulate more effective empirical approaches by emphasizing the importance of ethical criteria in the “pre-scientific” understanding of the world.