What is Explanation and Understanding in Social Studies?: Approaches to Studying Society and the Implications for Political Philosophy

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Yared Akarapattananukul


The purpose of this paper is to discuss the relationship between ‘explanation’ and ‘understanding’ in social studies from three main perspectives: the support of explanation in social studies in the same way as a scientific inquiry; the support of understanding and interpretation of social relations in terms of a ‘meaningful life and meaningful language’; and the support of the coexistence between explanation and understanding as the main method for social inquiry.  The way in which the coexistence or the dichotomy between these two accounts is formulated depends upon one’s basic epistemological principle which reflects one of the most controversial topics in the philosophy of social science; that is to say, it involves the debate of whether social researchers can use the method of inquiry in the same way as natural science. Given the foregoing, I argue that both explanation and understanding give significance to social studies and political philosophy whether one account might be considered more than another account. The implication of this study is to provide an adequate account on social realities and political philosophy that we seek to understand.


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