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The Art of Social Theory$
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Richard Swedberg

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691155227

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691155227.001.0001

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Why Theorize and Can You Learn to Do It?

Why Theorize and Can You Learn to Do It?

(p.1) Introduction Why Theorize and Can You Learn to Do It?
The Art of Social Theory

Richard Swedberg

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter begins with a description of a crime solved in the summer of 1879 to shed some light on the importance of theory in social science. The victim of the crime, and also the person who solved it, was philosopher and scientist Charles S. Peirce. In a letter to his friend, he described what had happened as an instance of the “theory why it is so that people so often guess right.” Guessing, in Peirce's view, plays a crucial role in scientific research. It is precisely through guessing that the most important part of the scientific analysis is produced—namely, the explanation. The term that Peirce most often used in his work for the guess of a hypothesis is abduction. Human beings, as he saw it, are endowed by nature with a capacity to come up with explanations. They have a “faculty of guessing,” without which science would not be possible in the first place.

Keywords:   theory, social science, Charles S. Peirce, guessing, scientific research, scientific analysis, explanation, abduction, hypothesis

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