Leaving the Cave: Evolutionary Naturalism in Social-Scientific Thought


504 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88920-258-3
DDC 300'.1




Reviewed by Hannah Gay

Hannah Gay is a professor of history at Simon Fraser University in
British Columbia.


This book was prompted by what the author sees as the failure of the
social sciences to accumulate reliable knowledge. Hutcheon, who believes
that a naturalistic approach to individual and collective human behavior
is needed, provides a survey of Western sociological thinkers since
Plato and Aristotle.

While there is much of interest in the book, many of Hutcheon’s
claims are debatable. It is surely wrong, for example, to claim that
Aristotle made no great ontological contributions when one considers the
enormous influence he had on cosmological and natural historical thought
for roughly 2000 years. The Medieval and Early Modern worlds are poorly
served; most of the chapters cover thinkers of the 19th and 20th
centuries. Both Marx and Darwin receive a rather superficial treatment.
In a long chapter on Weber and Durkheim, Hutcheon regrets the domination
of the Marxian-Weberian stream at the expense of Durkheim’s more
empirical and naturalistic approach. She applauds the common-sense
empiricism of Bertrand Russell but questions his need for Pythagorean
certainty. A sympathetic chapter on the work of Hannah Arendt maintains
that Arendt’s naturalism survived a German idealist education and that
she overcame her fear of what science might bring.

A recognition of the limitations of the naturalistic approach to the
social sciences would have lent more credibility to Hutcheon’s


Hutcheon, Pat Duffy., “Leaving the Cave: Evolutionary Naturalism in Social-Scientific Thought,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/4965.