Peter Winch's "The Idea of a Social Science"
Sixty Years of an Idea: Peter Winch's "The Idea of a Social Science" after more than Half a Century
University of Pécs, Hungary
Date: 30th-31st March 2018
Department of Sociology, University of Pécs, and MTA BTK Lendület Morals and Science Research Group
Peter Winch’s The Idea of a Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy was first published in 1958 – and it is still in the forefront of controversies. Winch’s Wittgensteinian approach to sociological problems, his conception of understanding (Verstehen) and its focus on rule-following, and his vision on the relation of social science and philosophy found a peculiar place within the Verstehen-tradition and collided with alternative conceptions of understanding (most importantly, Max Weber’s verstehende Soziologie). Winch’s view of social science made him a worthy opponent of many different and well-entrenched positions in the philosophy of the social sciences – and after having been labeled the ’linguistic variant of Dilthey’, a ’collective solipsist’ and a radical relativist, in the introduction to the second edition (published in 1990) he took steps toward a slightly modified and softened position – without revising the original text.
This workshop aims to assess the afterlife of Winch’s book, to take up topics central to the text and to Winch’s oeuvre (philosophy of the social sciences, interpretive social science, social theory, ethics), and revisit them after more than half a century of their initial formulation. We invite submissions on the legacy of Peter Winch’s thought for the philosophy of the social sciences and social scientific methodology, particularly in the context of Verstehen and interpretation.
The questions our workshop aims to address include but are not limited to the following:
- How does the Winchian account of interpretation relate to different concepts of social scientific understanding?
- What kind of philosophical consequences can be drawn from a Winchian view regarding the building blocks of society and social life?
- What kind of consequences could be derived for the practice of sociology, anthropology or political science?
- What kind of ethical considerations are worth addressing regarding society and interpretation?
Abstracts of about 500 words should be sent to Dr. Akos Sivado email@example.com