Assumptions of Sociological Metatheory and Philosophy of Science

Miloslav Petrusek



As a challenge to those who do not give much credit to reflecting on sociology as a science, this essay stresses the import of metatheoretical considerations. Aft er all, what is known as postmodern discourse is scarcely a little more than metatheorizing and the phenomenon of the so-called “crisis of sociology” cannot be comprehended without some metatheoretical premises. Knowledge about knowledge should therefore form a special field of inquiry and enjoy its relative autonomy. In this article, the place for metasociology is delimitated by the account of the development of the general science of science. While the prefi x “meta-” originally came from linguistics as a way to differentiate a proposition about an object of science from a proposition about science itself, the history of metatheorizing can be traced back to ancient philosophy. Hence, the most important sources of inspiration for this intellectual activity are epistemology and the philosophy of science. A crucial moment in their development was the so-called “crisis in physics” that carried over to social sciences and spawned many contemporary trends such as the multicultural approach to sociology and the radical stance of methodological anarchism. The major philosophical orientations that have most directly addressed the questions about the scientific knowledge have been neopositivism and analytical philosophy on one hand, and phenomenology on the other one. No claims about metasociology can be made without being acquainted with at least the elementary positions in this exchange of ideas that took place in the philosophy of science. Metasociology, itself divided into metatheory and metamethodology (or general methodology), makes up an integral part of the science of science.

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TEORIE VĚDY / THEORY OF SCIENCE – journal for interdisciplinary studies of science is published twice a year by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies). ISSN 1210-0250 (Print) ISSN 1804-6347 (Online) MK ČR E 18677 web: /// email: