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Explaining Social Action Revisited: A Reply to John Levi Martin

Mediations of Social Life in the 21st Century

ISBN: 978-1-78441-223-4, eISBN: 978-1-78441-222-7

Publication date: 31 October 2014

Abstract

Purpose

To clarify and address questions that have arisen concerning John Levi Martin’s Explanation of Social Action (2011). I reply to some of Martin’s comments to my original review of his book (2012). In particular, this paper examines the distinction between first-person and third-person accounts of human action and whether third-person explanations of action are ever justified.

Findings

This paper concedes several of Martin’s points, but contra Martin, maintains that third-person accounts are sometimes valuable forms of explanation. This paper also concludes that the distinction between first-person and third-person explanations is relative to the actor.

Methodology/approach

A careful and close analysis of his reply is employed along with careful explication and exemplification of central concepts related to the study of human action.

Social implications

Martin has argued that third-person explanations of social action generate epistemological instability and hierarchical social relationships between researchers and those researched. This paper expresses doubts about the generalizability of these claims.

Originality/value of paper

To date, no extended discussion has been published pertaining to the social value of third-person explanations of social action.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank Larry Chappell and Rhydon Jackson for their invaluable assistance and suggestions.

Citation

Bradford, J.H. (2014), "Explaining Social Action Revisited: A Reply to John Levi Martin", Mediations of Social Life in the 21st Century (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 32), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 259-269. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0278-120420140000032010

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014 Emerald Group Publishing Limited