The Four Analytic Levels of Social Sciences

Ricardo Crespo

Table of Contents


This paper argues that four analytical levels may be found in the social sciences, including economics –namely, a) a statistical descriptive level, b) a causal explanatory level, c) a teleological explicative level, and d) a prescriptive teleological level. Typically, social sciences only consider levels a) and b). The exclusion of level c) may lead to viewing behaviors that do not respect theories like the rational choice theory or the expected utility theory – theories which adopt “instrumental rationality” – as “anomalies”. Including level c) entails considering “practical rationality” and makes those anomalies reasonable. The paper adopts Aristotle’s causality notion and teleology as a theoretical framework. The first section introduces these notions, while the second section explores contemporary views on causality and teleology. The third section introduces arguments to establish the legitimacy of values in social sciences. This step is necessary because the final causes of teleological explanations in the human realm are ultimately values. These discussions pave the way for the introduction of the afore-mentioned four analytical levels in the fourth section. Specifically, in the case of economics, this discussion is based on Carl Menger’s classification of economic disciplines.


  • 1. Aristotle’s views on causality and explanation
  • 2. Causality and teleology today
  • 3. Science and values
    1. 3.1. Arguments denying the distinction between fact and value
    2. 3.2. Arguments from under-determination
    3. 3.3. Arguments from the social processes of science
  • 4. Analysis levels in economics


JEL Codes : A10, A11, B3

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