Kinds of Propositions

  • Stefan Nowak
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 82)


The terms occurring in the language of the social sciences serve the sociologist as a tool for formulating the propositions which make up his science. A proposition is just a sentence predicating something about the object which it concerns. Sentences may be classified according to different rules. For example, they may be divided into empirical propositions, i.e. those in which something is stated about a reality accessible to direct or indirect observation. Such propositions are sometimes called synthetic sentences; attention here is drawn to the fact that these sentences are true when things really are as the sentences say. Synthetic sentences are contrasted with analytic sentences, i.e. those whose truth is guaranteed directly or indirectly by certain terminological conventions. Such propositions are characteristic of the deductive sciences, but they not infrequently make their appearance in the empirical sciences as well (although only in an auxiliary function).


Objective Content General Proposition Singular Proposition Spatiotemporal Relation Numerical Size 
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  1. 1.
    Cf. S. Ossowski, “Prawa historyczne w socjologii” (Historical Laws in Sociology), in: Dziela (Works), Vol. 5, 0 nauce (On Science), Warszawa 1968; S. Nowak, “Prawa og6lne i generalizacje historyczne w naukach spolecznych” (General Laws and Historical Generalizations in the Social Sciences), in: Studia z metodologii nauk spolecznych (Studies in the Methodology of the Social Sciences), Warsaw 1965; L. Nowak, “Uog6lnienia historyczne a zagadnienia idiografizmu i historyzmu” (Historical Generalization and the Problems of Idiographism and Historism), Studia Socjologiczne, 3 (1966).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Laws (or, more generally, propositions) about the sequence of events are also sometimes described as diachronic laws, whereas propositions (and laws as well) about their concomitance are referred to as synchronic theses and laws. Causal laws would thus be a subclass of diachronic laws.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The notation for antecedent and consequent in causal relations has been changed here in comparison with the previous sections of this chapter. As an aid in visualization, the reader may, for example, interpret S as a “stimulus” and B as the “behaviour” evoked by the stimulus, whereas he may treat D as a “disposition” in favour of the corresponding behaviour.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The arrow under the equal sign here denotes the fact of a temporal sequence of S and B,and its direction. We read it as: “S is equivalent to B which follows it” or “If and only if B occurs, does S occur after it”.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For simplicity, we assume here and subsequently that the alternative causes S and A never occur conjointly, i.e. that their domains exclude each other. This is not, however, an indispensable assumption.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cf. S. Nowak, “Some problems of causal interpretation of statistical relationships”, Philosophy of Science, February (1960).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Taken from P. Guilford, Fundamental Statistics Methods in Psychology and Education,New York 1956. As we recall, the closer the correlation coefficient to +1 or to 1, the closer the relationship between the two variables to a linear one, or to put it differently, the stronger the statistical relationship associating them.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cf. S. Nowak, “Przyczynowa interpretacja zalezno§ci statystycznych w badaniach spolecznych” (Causal interpretation of Statistical Relationships in Social Studies), in: Studia z metodologii badan spolecznych (Studies on the Methodology of Social Investigations), where a number of examples were presented of different types of multivariate relationships.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cf. T. Pawlowski, “Rodzaje skal a struktura zdan stwierdzaj4cych zwiazki miedzy wielkosciami” (Types of Scales and the Structure of Statements Asserting Relationships Between Quantities), in T. Pawlowski (ed.), Logiczna teoria nauki ( Logical Theory of Science ), Warszawa 1966.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    This is not the most fortunate of terms since a law about a constant consecutive sequence of stages of a particular class of processes need not necessarily signify the type of directional sequence which we commonly call a “development”. However, what I had in mind here were certain sciences—such as developmental psychology-which are chiefly concerned with this type of law—hence the term. The term “dynamic laws” would be too broad, since it is used to designate laws of the sequence of events, both those which describe certain longer processes and those which denote sequences only of two classes of events.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cf. S. Ossowski, “Prawa historyczne w socjologii” (Historical Laws in Sociology), in: Dziela (Works), Vol. IV, O nauce ( On Science ), Warszawa 1967.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cf. J. Topolski, in: “Proces historyczny (Prawidlowo§ci historyczne)” [Historical Process (Historical Regularities)], Metodologia historii (The Methodology of History) eh. 12, Warszawa 1968 (English edition —1975).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Cf. Oskar Lange, Calose i rozwdj w iwietle cybernetyki (Wholes and Parts, a General Theory of System Behaviour), Warszawa 1962; English translation, Warszawa 1965.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Cf. P. E. Meehl, “On the Circularity of the Law of Effect”, Psychological Bulletin, (1950).Google Scholar

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© PWN—Polish Scientific Publishers—Warszawa 1977

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  • Stefan Nowak

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