Foundations of Social Science

  • 0/5 Stars
Course Length:
15 weeks


Foundations of Social Science serves as an introduction to the social sciences from a philosophical and theological perspective in order to equip students to understand better the world in which they live. More specifically, this course is designed as an in-depth critical introduction into the study of the social sciences. It provides students with a theological and philosophical analysis of the social sciences and the study of human behavior. In particular, the course emphasizes the philosophical foundations of the study of human beings and the particular problems of attempting to study human beings scientifically. Some major schools of thought on the social sciences (e.g., naturalism and interpretivism) are examined along with the basic concepts and some special problems of particular disciplines within the social sciences (i.e., sociology, economics, and political science).

Teaching Method

The main approach to teaching in this course will be Socratic dialogue- a guided discussion led by the professor but which is impossible without student participation. Dialogue means that students must take a share of the responsibility for each class. It is essential and expected that students read the assigned material before class, ask questions in class, contribute alternative perspectives, respond to questions from the professor, and generally speak their minds in a respectful manner. The degree to which you (the student) learn will depend on the degree to which you prepare for and participate in this class.

Course Objectives

Beyond the general objectives already stated above, Foundations of Social Science endeavors to enable students to evidence the following:

1. Knowledge of the basic components of various social science disciplines (i.e., sociology, economics, political science). 2. Knowledge of the basic components and assumptions of the scientific research method. 3. Knowledge of key social science ideas and basic social institutions. 4. A broader understanding of physical geography. 5. Critical analysis in evaluating historical and/or contemporary issues of relevance to the social sciences. 6. The ability to integrate theology and philosophy with the social sciences through the investigation and study of society.

Course Skills

In order for students to be successful in this course, it is imperative that they foster and nurture particular study and preparation skills. These techniques have proven to ensure success to many students who commit themselves to their application:

1. Daily review and study of class notes—It is of fundamental importance that students critically review class notes on a daily basis. This review must be of a critical nature in which students engage the notes and discussion of the day, ask questions of the material, and seek to develop a holistic understanding and grasp of the class content. This, along with exam specific preparation, will ensure much better and thorough preparation for the exams in comparison only to studying 2-3 days before the exams. 2. Close-reading and sympathetic interpretation—These skills enable us to enter into dialogue with the author, to be open to learning from someone with a different point of view, to be sensitive to detail and nuance, and to be willing to take time and ponder the meaning of both the content and the form of its expression, on the presumption that most writers are extremely deliberate and careful in writing. 3. Developing and explaining ideas—Through daily review and preparation as well as class discussion, students should aim to develop the ability to say what the various ideas we are discussing mean, how they are used, and why they are important. Students should hone these skills both in class and in their personal preparation so that they are able to articulate class content in a clear, coherent and organized manner in speech and in writing. 4. Philosophical discussion—This is an art and a skill which requires practice like any other. Philosophical discussion entails several factors. First, it encompasses the ability to listen to the opinions of others even when they are very different from and challenging to our own. Second, philosophical discussion entails the rational and objective consideration of the opinions of others for the purpose of critical evaluation. And, lastly and most important, philosophical discussion requires that we also rationally and objectively critically evaluate our own opinions and arguments as well as allow others to do so.

Course Expectations, Requirements, and Assessment

While the application of the above skills is important for success in this course, there are other factors or “expectations” which are essential for success not only in this course but others as well. Students are expected to complete the required reading assignments prior to coming to class, to study and review outside of class, and to attend class prepared to contribute meaningfully to daily discussions.

As a student in this class, you are expected to be present and on time for every class session. A roll may at times be taken, for statistical purposes, but you will not receive a grade for your attendance—attendance is simply a reasonable expectation that you should place upon yourself.

The grade you earn in this course is heavily dependent upon your PRESENCE in class, your PREPARATION for class, and your PRESENTATION to class. Thus, you should maintain a high-level of personal responsibility and obligation in regards to your educational duties.

Besides the completion of reading assignments, the following are required in this class: (See Examination Dates Below)

Examination No. 1 (Course Section 1: World-View and Course Section 2: Naturalism)* 27% Examination No. 2 (Course Section 2: Sociology and Course Section 4: Economics)* 27% Examination No. 3 (Course Section 3: Political Science, Gorgias, Geography)* 27% Geography Quizzes** 19%

  • Examinations may be a combination of multiple choice questions, essay questions, and short answer questions. While none of the exams are comprehensive, every examination subsequent to Examination No. 1 assumes that you have sufficient understanding of the previous material and that you can apply this material along with the new material.
    • Geography quizzes take place on a weekly basis on most Thursdays. These quizzes are multiple choice and the lowest score in this category is dropped. The final exam will contain a geography section based on the previous quizzes. See below for more details.

The criteria that will be used in grading essay and short answer exams can be summed up with the following:

Accuracy: The views of the philosopher or writer truly represented. Quantity: In sufficient breadth and depth, nothing essential excluded. Quality: With clarity, understanding, and insight.

Required and optional texts

Required Texts (Purchase)

Perry, John and Erna Perry. 2004. Contemporary Society: An introduction to social science. 10th edition. Allyn and Bacon. (Hereafter “TEXT”)

Plato. 1994. Gorgias. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Hereafter “Gorgias”)

Required Texts (Library Reserve)

Martin and MacIntyre (Eds.). 1994. Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994. (3 copies in reserve at Library.) (Hereafter “MM”)

Strauss, Leo. 1959. What is Political Philosophy? Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Three copies in library reserve at Centennial Library.) (Hereafter “LS”)

Bronner, Stephen E. 1994. Twentieth Century Political Theory. London: Routledge. (Three copies in library reserve at Centennial Library.) (Hereafter “TCPT”)

Electronic Reserve Articles (hereafter “ERA”)

Course Schedule

Course Section No. 1

1. Topic: Philosophical foundations of “world-view” concept and a Christian world-view of God and man.

2. Topic: The scientific method, Interpretivism, and the social sciences


  • TEXT: Chapter 1, Through the Lens of Science
  • ERA: Soft Sciences are Often Harder Than Hard Sciences by Diamond
  • MM: Are the Social Sciences Really Inferior by Machlup (5-20), The Function of General Laws in History by Hempel (43-54), The Theory of Complex Phenomena by Hayek (55-70), Human Nature and Human History by Collingwood (163-172)

Exam of Course Section 1

Course Section No. 2

1. Topic: A scientific approach to social life: Sociology.


  • TEXT: Chapters 3, Culture: Product and Guide to Life in Society, Chapter 4, Group Interaction: From Two to Millions
  • MM: Psychology Constructs the Female by Weisstein (597-610)

2. Topic: A scientific approach to exchange and value: Economics


  • TEXT: Chapter 17, The Economy: Concepts and History, Chapter 18, Principles of Economic Behavior
  • MM: The Methodology of Positive Economics by Friedman (647-660)

Exam of Course Section 2

Course Section No. 3

Topic: Gorgias, Geography, and the scientific approach to political life: Political Science


  • Gorgias: Section 1: Gorgias 447a – 497e, Section 2: Gorgias 498a – 527e
  • TEXT: Chapter 14, Government: The Institution…, Chapter 15, The Government of the United…
  • LS: What is Political Philosophy by Strauss TCPT: What is Liberal Education by Strauss (TCPT)

Final Exam over Course Section 3, Gorgias, and Comprehensive Geography