Oxford University Press, 2020
Over the last fifty years, pseudoscience has crept into nearly every facet of our lives. Popular sciences of everything from dating and economics to voting and artificial intelligence, radically changed the world today. The abuse of popular scientific authority has catastrophic consequences, contributing to the 2008 financial crisis; the failure to predict the rise of Donald Trump; increased tensions between poor communities and the police; and the sidelining of nonscientific forms of knowledge and wisdom.
In We Built Reality, Jason Blakely explains how recent social science theories have not simply described political realities but also helped create them. But he also offers readers a way out of the culture of scientism: hermeneutics or the art of interpretation. Hermeneutics urges sensitivity to the historical and cultural contexts of human behavior. It gives ordinary people a way to appreciate the insights of the humanities in guiding decisions. As Blakely contends, we need insights from the humanities to see how social science theories never simply neutrally describe reality, they also help build it.
Jason Blakely is a professor of political science at Pepperdine University and has written extensively on political philosophy, political theology, and the social sciences. He has written this book on the many ways in which social scientific methodologies, while purporting to describe in a neutral manner individuals and societies, in fact, generate new conceptions of their subjects that then feed into a "double-hermeneutical" (double-H) loop: Social scientists imagine the world through various presuppositions and then analyze and contextualize data in ways that can only reinforce their original theories.
At his best, Blakely gives readers the tools to interrogate the methods of social scientists who, intentionally or not, have smuggled serious philosophical claims into their work under the guises of "objectivity," "neutrality," and, yes, even "science." However, readers of a more conservative bent will inevitably notice Blakely's bias in favor of his own left-communitarianism. Still, We Built Reality is worth considering for its illumination of the ways in which so much ground-breaking social science ultimately leads not to a broader understanding but a narrower reimagining of humanity.
All told, We Built Reality is a concise introduction to interpretive (hermeneutical) philosophy that will open the eyes of readers to the unstated but highly debatable presuppositions so much of the social science that populates our imagination rests upon