Thursday, September 20, 2007

Humanities vs. social sciences

A collaborator, Emily Dolan, and I are presenting at a seminar in the English Department on the topic of cross-disciplinary research. In that spirit, here's a funny cartoon that highlights some of the perceived differences in how we approach things between the humanities and social sciences.

For those in the business, do you think sociology is all social science or part humanities too? I have my ideas, but they are not grounded in very systematic observation (said like a social scientist, I suppose).

9 comments:

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

As a burgeoning philosopher, I've encountered many who say that doing philosophy is, as the last person in the comic suggests, sitting in a room reading books. They tend to write it off as a discipline for those who have nothing better to do but sit around and contemplate the meaning of life. Yet in my own department we have philosophers cross-appointed to the systems design engineering department, where they work on mapping out neurological systems, discovering new and interesting ways about they way humans think and operate. Still others are cross-appointed with a school of theoretical physics, not to mention those who work in applied ethics, political science, semantics/linguistics and the like.

For a discipline that is often caricatured as 'sitting around reading books' there seems to be a lot of scientific activity and involvement in the social sciences. I don't know what sociology is like, but I sure would like to do away with the idea that the humanities "don't use real data" Not only is it empirically false, but it also contributes (in my view) to an impoverished view of what science actually is.

Brad Wright said...

Hello Peter,

Sounds like you're in a very interesting department.

I agree that that the comic overstates the case for both humanities and social sciences... that you all don't use real data and that we don't use data uncritically. Also, as implied by what you write, the distinction between the two is often overstated.

I think the comic was highlighting by exaggeration differences between the two.

Michael Kruse said...

I strongly suspect that if you looked at Myers-Briggs inventories. You would find a high proportion of humanities folks are NF (intuitive feelers) and the social science folks NT (intuitive thinkers). Sensing type will be very under represented.

A great many managers in business are "S" (sensing) folks and would dismiss both as hopeless intellectuals, lost in abstractions, who are of little productive value. :)

Jay Livingston said...

Ooops. I just blogged about a couple of New Yorker magazine short stories as sociological documents. Where does that put me?

S.S.Stone said...

Jay, that makes you human.;)

Brad Wright said...

Michael, I wonder if anyone has tested the idea of personality differences between disciplines. It's certainly a stereotype, wonder if it's there.

Jay, if only you had seen this cartoon before you post on those essays, you could have avoided the faux pas.

Michael Kruse said...

I know that despite being 12% of the population, NFs are 50% of pastors. NTs, also about 12% of the population, make up nearly half of lawyers. Those are the only professions I remember reading about.

Bob Schmit said...

Any ideas where one could find out more about that? I personally would agree, being a NF myself, I'm a philosophy major. S people may still be suited to social science though, depending on how scientific it is. Remember that Ss represent upwards of 70% of the population.