Taylor, Charles (1931–)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD089-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved October 27, 2021, from

1. Explanation and interpretation

In his most prominent early publications, Taylor addressed the status of explanation in psychology and the social sciences. The Explanation of Behaviour (1967) challenged the adequacy of behaviourism in psychology, principally by arguing that accounting for intentional action entails a teleological understanding of the ends of action that cannot be achieved within purely causal theories. ‘Interpretation and the Sciences of Man’ (1971) extended this argument to politics and social analysis, showing that attempts at explanation in terms of external approaches to ‘brute facts’ not only fail to satisfy those who seek more meaningful understandings of human agency, but are also incoherent or incomplete on their own terms. These studies are all parts of a more general argument against the epistemology that both inspired and drew strength from the scientific revolutions of the seventeenth century and after. Taylor holds that this epistemological tradition both relied on an atomistic account of putatively undifferentiated nature (including human nature) and erected a perniciously sharp distinction between knower and object of knowledge, with the result that it drastically distorted and narrowed the scope of understanding of human life (see Behaviourism, methodological and scientific §1).

Citing this article:
Calhoun, Craig. Explanation and interpretation. Taylor, Charles (1931–), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD089-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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