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.
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.
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.
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.
I’d like to thank Larry Chappell and Rhydon Jackson for their invaluable assistance and suggestions.
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, Leeds, pp. 259-269. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0278-120420140000032010
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