Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

This book has its earliest roots in the summer of 2008, when the most gifted graduate student in the political theory program at Berkeley at that time suggested we spend a summer reading two philosophers (Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre) I knew next to nothing about instead of the slate of contemporary thinkers (including Habermas, Foucault, Rawls, Nozick, and Strauss) I had in mind. My research never would have taken the direction it did without those months of freewheeling, challenging, and mind-expanding discussions with Tyler Krupp....

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Introduction: The Problem of Superstition and the Divorce of Political Theory from Social Science

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pp. 1-6

Imagine a far-flung, primitive society in which the sudden invention of an alphabet radically improves the lives of the inhabitants. Whereas once they communicated their traditions orally and were able to retain only limited amounts of knowledge, suddenly they are able to store vast quantities of information in written tomes. Their capacity for expression through written media also diversifies and deepens. Captivated by this great leap forward, this society develops a mania for writing. They write letters, journals, and books; they open institutes devoted to the written word and amass vast libraries. Their knowledge of the world advances in countless indisputable ways. They also, however, become so obsessed with written language that they gradually come to devalue speech in any form whatsoever. Various social and political movements that are hostile to speaking arise. Some of society’s brightest intellectuals demote speaking to a lesser form than written communication. “Speaking is dead,” these intellectuals adopt as their motto—which they write down because they refuse to speak it aloud anymore....

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Chapter 1 The Deeper Sources of the Breakup: The Rise of “Naturalism” in Philosophy, Social Science, and Politics

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pp. 7-23

In the twentieth century, naturalist assumptions were pervasive, even dominant. Indeed, so powerful was naturalism’s influence that Taylor’s and MacIntyre’s contributions to social science can hardly be rendered intelligible except as critical responses to this cultural and philosophical movement. Moreover, because naturalist intuitions are still widely held, a definition and brief sketch of this cultural and philosophical movement are necessary to reflect on the current situation....

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Chapter 2 The First British New Left’s Rebellion against Naturalism

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pp. 24-37

Taylor’s and MacIntyre’s calls for an alternative to naturalism have their origins in the 1950s and their encounter with a group of scholar-activists that came to be known as the “first British New Left.”1 Led by such figures as E. P. Thompson, Raymond Williams, and Stuart Hall, this group sought to articulate a more humanistic form of Marxism.2 The originality of this movement lay in its critique of both Western liberal democracies and Soviet communist regimes as being implicated in mechanistic and naturalistic worldviews. British New Left thinkers advanced this critique by adopting a nonreductive account of human agency, which allowed them to denounce the mechanistic tendencies in both the East and West. The result was a novel intertwining of antinaturalist social theory with a humanist critique of the two major political ideologies of the day....

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Chapter 3 Analytic Philosophy as a Weapon for Attacking Naturalism

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pp. 38-59

Very early on in their intellectual careers, both Taylor and MacIntyre were set on a path distinctly shaped by the successes and failures of the first British New Left. From that point forward they were seeking a form of social and political theory that rejected mechanistic, impersonal modes of explanation in favor of one joined to a politics capable of recognizing the basic moral worth and creativity of human agents. Yet a crucial part of their intellectual development involved the influence of an entirely different school of thought, one traditionally hostile to Marxism—linguistic or analytic philosophy...

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Chapter 4 Inspiring a New Social Science: Aristotle and Heidegger

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pp. 60-74

During the 1970s, Taylor and MacIntyre were becoming increasingly established as notable philosophers and academics with growing international reputations. Nonetheless, each encountered a basic inadequacy in terms of their work in the philosophy of social science. Namely, their respective critiques of naturalist research programs, which were widely read, relied on an underdeveloped conception of human agency. Taylor’s and MacIntyre’s own critiques of the primary political science and psychology research programs of their time had not actually settled the underlying ontological dispute. And this, I have argued, revealed a basic limitation of the resources of linguistic analysis, which offered certain...

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Chapter 5 Overcoming Value-Neutrality in the Social Sciences

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pp. 75-93

Inquiry in the natural sciences is normally completely separate from normative questions of ethics and values. For example, the study of cellular structure in biology or rock formation in geology is logically separate from the ethical positions that researchers in these empirical disciplines might happen to hold. Naturalism attempts to import this same division, under the banner of “value-neutrality,” into the social sciences. The basic idea is that researchers wishing to achieve true scientific status must as much as possible exclude value judgments from their accounts of the social and political world. This is because values are the result...

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Chapter 6 The Great Reunification: An Antinaturalist Social Science

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pp. 94-109

My account up to now has predominantly focused on Taylor’s and MacIntyre’s intellectual development through the 1970s—a period that furnishes the philosophical resources for a devastating critique of naturalism and the basis for a humanistic and interpretive social science. This amounts to nothing less than a dramatic alternative to the naturalism that has saturated extensive areas of contemporary intellectual life. But what would it look like to actually carry out an antinaturalist and interpretive research program? Although only time and the ingenuity of future scholars can fully answer this question, I would like to conclude by suggesting the beginnings of an answer....

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Conclusion: Future Projects and a Renewed Humanism

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pp. 110-113

At stake in the debate between naturalism and interpretivism is much more than simply an academic tiff over how to do research. Rather, Taylor and MacIntyre have compellingly shown that what hangs in the balance are our views of the human person, of policy, and of power. As we saw, this notion of a thick politics intrinsic to the philosophical commitments of naturalism was an insight both MacIntyre and Taylor inherited from the British New Left. Naturalism is consequently of interest as both an intellectual and political force. Social science only appears to be solely of academic interest. In reality, the social sciences are one site for a struggle over how to frame the problem of politics. But naturalism is an embodied social, cultural, and political form that has seeped into many of the most prestigious and authoritative institutions of modernity....

Notes

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pp. 114-125

Bibliography

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pp. 126-134

Index

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pp. 135-144