Defending scientific study of the social: Against Clifford Geertz (and his critics)

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This paper will defend scientific study of the social by scrutinizing Clifford Geertz's interpretive anthropology, and evolutionary psychologists' criticism of it. I shall critically examine Geertz's identification of anthropology with literary criticism, his assumption that a science of society is possible only on a positivist model, his view of the relation between culture and mind, and his anti anti-relativism. Then I shall discuss evolutionary psychologists' criticism of Geertz's view as an exemplar of the so-called "Standard Social Science Model." Finally, I shall claim that both Geertz and evolutionary psychologists misunderstand the aim of the social sciences, which is to explain the unintended consequences of human actions in institutional contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-314
Number of pages26
JournalPhilosophy of the Social Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Sep
Externally publishedYes


  • Clifford Geertz
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Interpretive anthropology
  • Positivism
  • Standard Social Science Model (SSSM)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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