Some students have requested that I share my views on the philosophy of the social sciences. Some scholars prefer the singular form: philosophy of social science. However, such distinctions do not really matter much. Philosophy of social science is that branch of philosophy which examines the concepts, methods, and logic underpinning social sciences. A simple way of distinguishing between humanities, social sciences and natural sciences is to imagine a spectrum or continuum with two extreme poles. On the one end one can place humanities and on the other end the natural sciences. The humanities consisting of fiction, poetry, literature, the arts, history, religion, theology, philosophy. language and so on look at the unique, subjective and mystical. An exposure to humanities helps us develop an aesthetical and liberal approach to life. On the other hand, the natural sciences explain phenomena as a web of material cause and effect relationships. The scientific method is a combination of deductive reasoning in the form of hypotheses which are then examined a finite number of times, which is essentially premised on inductive reasoning. On such a basis a chain of hypotheses leads to theory. Scientific laws are derived through such a process. Scientific truths are true until proven wrong. For a theory to be scientific it must be open to observation, testing and falsification. A society which is robust in its knowledge about what makes people behave in one way and not another can always reform and prevent the recurrence of unwanted human action. In that sense, social science is a scientific approach to social life A scientific theory must be falsifiable, which means it cannot be taken as the final truth though as long as it is not proved wrong it is accepted as reliable and the known truth. The frontiers of science are always expanding. Methodologically-speaking science has no scope for the spiritual or the mystical. Everything must have a material basis and cause and effect. In Pakistan one is likely to come across people who work with sciences but more as professionals without having any idea of the underlying philosophy of the subjects they qualify in. They continue to subscribe to a mindset which is not scientific but deeply religious. In the developed world scientists who are deeply religious are a rarity. Social science occupies a middle position between those two. The humanities include aesthetics, history, philosophy, languages and so which deal with the uniqueness of human actions and creativity. Some schools of social science are close to the humanities pole. They primarily try to understand social phenomena and interpret human action systematically. The interpretative branches of social science and humanities often run into each other. Such social science looks at the meaning of action in accordance with some idea of rationality and interpret action systematically so as to identify the structure of action. At the other end are schools such as behaviouralism which imitate the stringency of natural sciences and consider human behaviour more or less as mechanical response to stimuli. Thus every action begets a reaction. Such action follows from the values and culture indoctrinated in human beings through the family, the school system and others such avenues. In the social sciences, when dealing with society and human action we seek general patterns as against the uniqueness of human life which is a concern primarily of humanities. Historians do use the comparative method to study two or more societies over time but the ambition is to look for similarities and differences rather patterns and structures as is the concern of social science. The most important thing in the social sciences is the status of theory. One can say that while some schools such as behaviourism are very closely fashioned on the natural sciences and look at behaviour as a mechanical response which is more or less spontaneous because of socialization (inculcation of values and beliefs). It has increasingly been acknowledged that human beings are a different category from other types of life. Human beings have a will and therefore it is not possible to predict their behaviour as accurately as in the natural sciences. Humans can always defy socialization and act freely. However, social science theory does have an ambition to explain behaviour through some idea of causality and grand social science theory is just about explaining behaviour in terms of some overarching understanding of the social world. Marxism, Structural-functionalism, Systems theory and so on are grand or meta theory within which their practitioners analyse social action. The whole idea is to generate hypotheses to study why so and so outcome of action has happened. So, one looks for variables. An independent variable is assumed to remain constant but impact on dependent variables and thus result in a particular action. It is increasingly understood that it is almost impossible to make accurate predictions in the social sciences. Economics is a branch of the social sciences which does have an ambition to make scientific predictions and its methodology is fairly sophisticated. Yet, every now and then economics too fails to make accurate predictions. In political science theory is particularly attractive to those scholars who want to quantify political action and make predictions. Often times the predictions of quantitative studies are trivial or simple such as prediction voting behaviour. But the election of Donald Trump underscores the fact that such predications can be grossly inaccurate and misleading. However, systematizing political action and explaining action by applying methodological discipline has meant that we have gained far greater knowledge about the nature of politics, power, the state, political systems and so on. One thing is most important: in the social sciences the different theories provide an explanation within their internal logic. Which means that one understands politics within a theoretical framework. It is not claimed that it is the one and only correct explanation of politics but that it is a plausible explanation from within a theoretical framework. Most studies of politics are qualitative which means one systematically studies and analyses politics in the light of a hypothesis or a theory. Qualitative social science provides deep insights as it studies phenomena in depth and seeks to identify the nuances and variations. On the other hand, quantitative studies based on raw data look for regular patterns, Regression analysis and similar other methods are meant to explain political outcomes in an accurate manner and can make predictions but once again those predictions hold water only in accordance with the underlying theoretical underpinnings. One can say that social sciences seek to explain human behaviour rationally. For example, one can look for reasons why Pakistani society is nowadays violence prone by looking for theories which combine psychological and sociological variables and look for the rationality of even otherwise irrational behaviour. Simply put the study of society in its different aspects (social, political, economic and so on) is the main function of social science. Social science first explains and then proposes steps and methods which can help to bring about change which is constructive and contributes to the progress of society. If we know why people become violent and in what circumstances we can make those changes which minimizes the propensity towards violence. Of course, anti-social forces do the opposite and exploit human beings for negative actions. Therefore, a society which is robust in its knowledge about what makes people behave in one way and not another can always reform and prevent the recurrence of unwanted human action. In that sense, social science is a scientific approach to social life. The philosophy of the social sciences is then the sum of theories and methods which specialists have devised in improving our knowledge about society and such knowledge can be used to bring about meaningful and productive change. The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor Government College University; and, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He has written a number of books and won many awards, he can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, November 27th 2018.