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Social Work Science$
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Ian Shaw

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780231166409

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231166409.001.0001

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Talking Social Work Science

Talking Social Work Science

(p.7) [1] Talking Social Work Science
Social Work Science

Ian Shaw

Columbia University Press

This opening chapter focuses on the language of social work science. It sets out the range of problems and positions taken in relation to them and offers preliminary responses. I open by asking what we should know and think about the language of science in social work. I take the idea of science being about understanding “nature” and then the meanings of “theory” and its relation to “practice” as examples; I will also consider the word “science” itself. I ask if science can be seen in some senses as a single field, including how we should understand claims that science is or should be value free and “objective.” Following a generally historical account of how these themes emerged, we then trace the meaning of “positivism” and the emergence of positions that broadly may be called “postpositivist.” This leads us into the meaning and significance of Kuhn’s contribution to understanding science and thence to a brief outline of social constructionist positions in science. This chapter and the one that follows should be seen as groundwork for all that follows in the book.

Keywords:   language, nature, theory, positivisms [nb I intend the plural], causality, Kuhn

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