The Great Ideas of the Social Sciences

by Gene Callahan

Let’s take social science broadly, in the sense of German wissenschaft, so that The Republic and Politics and The Social Contract are social science. (I would contend that they are, in fact, often much more scientific than the latest regression study of how detergent use correlates with the suicide rate.)

So what, then, are the most important ideas ever put forward in social science? I’m not asking what are the best ideas, so the truth of them is only obliquely relevant: a very important idea may be largely false. (I think it still must contain some germ of truth, or it would have no plausibility.) Think of it this way: if you were teaching a course called “The Great Ideas of the Social Sciences,” what would you want to make sure you included?

Here’s my preliminary list. What have I left off? What have I mistakenly included? Continue reading

The Republic and the NAP

by Gene Callahan

Having discussed in a previous post the libertarian contention that following the non-aggression principle implies holding libertarian policy views, I wanted to follow up here with an example from The Republic.

Now, let us begin by noting that Socrates, towards the beginning of the work, states a non-aggression principle (NAP) even stronger than the one usually framed by libertarians. It is not merely wrong, he claims, to do injury to one who has not injured you, it is even wrong to do injury to someone who has injured you. The details of the argument need not concern us here; the relevant point is that Socrates endorses a strong version of the NAP.

But then, of course, Socrates (or Plato, if you wish to consider “Socrates” here as a sock puppet) goes on to paint a vision of the just State in many ways far more extensive than anything we even have today in the US, including things like tight State control over art. How can this be? Continue reading

Obama Has the Right Idea

by Gene Callahan

There has been a lot of commentary about Obama’s “beer summit” with Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley at the White House to discuss Crowley’s arrest of Gates. I must say that I admire Obama’s approach here, as I find it refreshingly Aristotelian: the right way to sort out conflicts like that between Gates and Crowley is to have a symposium and engage in reasonable discussion about the problem.