21.182 prediction and explanation

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2007 08:40:44 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 182.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2007 06:56:36 +0100
         From: Suzana Sukovic <suzana.sukovic_at_student.uts.edu.au>
         Subject: Re: 21.171 prediction and explanation?

Willard, a number of approaches in social sciences gave up competing
with scientific procedures and theory building. Denzin's 'thick
description' is well known: "'A thick description is one that goes
beyond the mere or bare reporting on an act (that is, that individual
A did B). This is a thin description.... A thick description
describes and probes the intentions, motives, meanings, context,
situations, and circumstances of action' (p.39).
"Thick description replaces thin description. Prediction becomes
interpretation. Explanation in terms of general laws is not sought".

Denzin, Norman K. 1989. The research act: a theoretical introduction
to sociological methods. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.


At 06:09 PM 24/07/2007, you wrote:
> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 171.
> Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/humanities/cch/research/publications/humanist.html
> www.princeton.edu/humanist/
> Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu
> Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2007 07:07:23 +0100
> From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
> >
>In our work, when we attempt to describe the significance of results
>we believe to be reliable, can we ever say that our procedures
>*predict* something or other that has yet to happen or that we have
>yet to test, or are we constrained only to say that these results
>*explain* what we have seen or tested? It seems to me that unhelpful
>cultural baggage (chiefly physics as understood by the Vienna Circle
>et al) privileges the former to such a degree, as the real arbiter
>of theory, that we're unwisely tempted to go for the more
>prestigious alternative without asking what we mean by this. In a
>weak sense, if we say that X may happen under conditions A, B and C,
>and then it does, we can say that we've predicted it, but such usage
>doesn't mean much by itself and blurs dangerously into the stronger
>sense normal to the physical sciences, that X will happen under
>those conditions. Again it may help at this juncture to consider
>older fields in which prediction in the strong sense is simply not
>on, in which theories are for explaining, not for predicting.
>Biology would seem to be one of these. Very good in this regard is
>an article by Michael Scriven, "Explanation and Prediction in
>Evolutionary Theory", Science NS 130.3374 (28 August 1959): 477-482.
>It's in JSTOR.
>Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
>Computing in the Humanities | King's College London |
>http://staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/. Et sic in infinitum (Fludd
>1617, p. 26).

Received on Fri Jul 27 2007 - 03:57:40 EDT

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