Why do spatiotemporally restricted regularities explain in the social sciences?


Journal Article

Employing a well-known local regularity from macroeconomics, the Phillips curve, I examine Woodward's ([2000], [2003]) account of the explanatory power of such historically restricted generalizations and the mathematical models with which they are sometimes associated. The article seeks to show that, pace Woodward, to be explanatory such generalizations need to be underwritten by more fundamental ones, and that rational choice theory would not avail in this case to provide the required underwriting. Examining how such explanatory restricted regularities are underwritten in biology - by unrestricted Darwinian regularities - provides the basis for an argument that Darwinian regularities serve the same function in human affairs. The general argument for this claim requires, inter alia, that we accept some version or other of a theory of memes. The article concludes by clearing the field of some prominent objections to the existence of memes, and extracting some policy implications from the persistence and acceleration of arms races in human affairs. © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rosenberg, A

Published Date

  • March 1, 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 63 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 26

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1464-3537

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0007-0882

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/bjps/axr014

Citation Source

  • Scopus