I am interested in understanding the interaction between interpretation and explanation in social sciences in general and in economics particularly.

It is argued that interpretation is pervasive in all methodologies, even in physical sciences. However, as I understand, interpretation cannot escape subjectivity: the interpretation must reflect knowledge and understanding of the interpreter. For example, some interpret recessions as crucial parts of the business cycle, but other interpret it in other ways. Yet, we tend to be interested more in what causes the phenomenon, or finding the explanation of it.

My question is then this: What is the relation between interpretation and explanation? How can these two be thought of in particular in context of economics? I have senses that they can't go without the other, but are there any sources of reading in this topic?

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    Why would you claim that asking about the method of social science, any less philosophical than asking about the method of natural science? Whereas the later brings discussion over the well-known problem of induction, the former- which is what the above conveyed, invites discussion on the nature of explanation and interpretation. Is this site open merely to philosophy of science, philosophy of math, logic, ethics, aesthetics and religion? I recommend (vote) to leave the question open; unless of course the site aims at excluding certain branches of philosophy. – Jordan S Dec 2 '15 at 7:56
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    Hi, the reason I am asking the question within social domain is that in natural science, it seems to me explanation is the end goal. Naturalists aim to objectivity tend to avoid interpretation, which is biased. In my opinion, rhetoric relation in the natural science is more or less trivial. – Thien Dec 2 '15 at 10:04
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    User Thien, the comment I've posted above aimed at users Swami Vishwananda, Keelan, commando, Alexander S King, virmaior who claimed your question was not philosophical enough and in turn put it on hold. I myself however believe your question is in place. And could infer your intellectual motivation from the manner you expressed the question. – Jordan S Dec 2 '15 at 10:09
  • @JordanS there's no goal whatsoever of excluding any branch of philosophy. You draw an analogy in your comment above about physical sciences. One difficulty is that there's a methodology debate internal to the social sciences in a way that is not present in the "natural sciences". It's not entirely clear that the question is being asked on a level not covered by the fields themselves. – virmaior Dec 2 '15 at 11:33
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    Walter A. Weisskopf, Alienation and Economics, Delacorte Press (1973). This economist does not use a Marxian analysis. However, his knowledge of philosophy is so good that he constructs a unique book well worth reading and it addresses the subject that you ask about. – Gordon Mar 11 '18 at 14:00

The topic you've raised is intricate indeed. Except for the two approaches you mention towards the social sciences - interpretation (advocated by anti-naturalists) and (nomological) explanation (advocated by naturalists), there is the pluralist stance combining the two, and there is the approach known as 'critical social science'.

The pluralists contend that social scientists can pursue both naturalist and anti-naturalist research programs. According to their view social scientists can on the one hand attempt at explaining some social phenomenon by 'social laws' parallel to laws of nature (thus - naturalist approach), and at the same time - they can also attempt at interpreting the meaning of the laws by an appeal to Hermeneutics (thus - anti-naturalist approach).

Traditionally, the dispute among varied philosophers over the methodology of social sciences has indeed involved the question of the possible degree of objectivity of the social sciences.

Few of the many sources on the topic, some of which touch upon economics:

F. A. Hayek, "The Theory of Complex Phenomena", in Studies in Philosophy Politics and Economics, Chicago Press, 1967, pp.22-24

Carl G Hempel, "The Function of General Laws in History", in Journal of Philosophy volume 39, 1942, pp. 35-48

Max Weber, "'Objectivity' in Social Science and Social Policy", in The Methodology of the Social Sciences by Max Weber, 1949

Milton Friedman, "The Methodology of Positive Economics" in Essays in Positive Economics Chicago Press, 1953, pp.3-23

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