The Facts of the Social Sciences

“The Facts of the Social Sciences.” Ethics 54 (October 1943).


“There there exists today no commonly accepted term to describe the group of disciplines with which we shall be concerned in this paper. The term “moral sciences,” in the sense in which John Stuart Mill used it, did approximately cover the fields, but it has long been out of fashion and would now carry inappropriate connotations to most readers. While it is for that reason necessary to use the familiar “social sciences” in the title, I must begin by emphasizing that by no means all the disciplines concerned with the phenomena of social life present the particular problems we shall discuss. Vital statistics, for example, or the study of the spreading of contagious diseases, undoubtedly deal with social phenomena but raise none of the specific questions to be considered here. They are, if I may call them so, true natural sciences of society and differ in no important respect from the other natural sciences. But it is different with the study of language or the market of law and most other human institutions. It is this group of disciplines which alone I propose to consider and for which I’m compelled to use the somewhat misleading term “social sciences.”

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