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I wrote this paper as a 1998–99 Fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin, where I read the first version at Dienstagskolloquium. I thank Lynda O’Riordan for improving my English and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

1.This point is made by Esser (1993/1996: 3–6).

2.For the first time in: Coleman (1986: 1320–3). See also Coleman (1990: 1–23). Coleman considers Weber’s argumentation in ‘Protestant ethic thesis’ as specimen of sociological explanation via macro–micro–macro transition. He criticizes Weber for missing elaboration of the concluding link (micro–macro transformation). However, he presents Weber’s case in a not completely correct way, considering as Weber’s final explanandum ‘capitalist economic system’ (Coleman 1986: 1322). McClelland describes Weber’s explanandum correctly as ‘spirit of modern capitalism’. For recent interesting suggestion how to improve the micro-macro link in Weber’s argument see Swedberg (1996: 319–23).

3.In this distinction, I follow Udehn (1987).

4.The useful systematic overview of the field with relation to the metatheoretical problems of sociological explanation is provided by Goldthorpe (1998).

5.See, for example, Eells (1982), Howson and Urbach (1989), Morton (1977/1997).

6.See Popper (1944–45/1957), Popper (1961/1980) Popper (1967/1985), Popper (1976/ 1994).

7.Popper makes no reference to Weber in his description of the method of situational analysis. But because of Popper’s good knowledge of Weber’s methodological work there is no reason to doubt Weber’s influence on Popper on this point. Such influence is also assumed by Goldthorpe (1998: 181, 189).

8.Regarding the concept of ‘focal point’, see Schelling (1960).

9.Baumgarten (1964: 603–04). This statement by Baumgarten (80%) about Weber’s views cannot be justified by the direct textual evidence but, substantially, it is correct.

10.Weber presents his case for the independence of social science from psychology most strongly in his review essay on Lujo Brentano’s attempt (Brentano 1908) to deduce the law of diminishing marginal utility from the psychophysical Weber–Fechner law. See Weber (1908/1968).

11.This condition was called ‘Postulate of Adequacy’ by Alfred Schütz: ‘Each term in a scientific model of human action must be constructed in such way that a human act performed within the life-world by an individual actor in the way indicated by the typical construct would be understandable for the actor himself as well as for his fellow-men in terms of common sense interpretation of everyday life’ (Schütz 1953/ 1962: 44).

12.In this case the variable has no influence on behaviour.

13.See Elster (1986: 22–3); Elster (1989: 13–18).

14.With respect to this problem, see Udehn (1987: 151–7).

15.On the problem of indeterminacy of rational choice, see Elster (1993).

16.I am using the distinction between the first-order and second-order decisions to present Esser’s theory in a shorter, but somewhat simplified way. He locates the decisions which I refer to as ‘second-order’ in the context of the ‘logic of situation’ (see Figure 1). The decisions I refer to as the ‘first-order’ belong to ‘logic of selection’. Esser conceives his theory of second-order decisions as the theory which explains the phenomena described in the sociological tradition as ‘definition of



situation’. On the second-order decisions, see most recently Sunstein and UllmannMargalit (1999).

17.See Esser (1990: 244–5), Esser (1996: 30–1) and especially Esser (1999: 224–30), where he presents his view in the most detailed way.


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ZENONAS NORKUS is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Social Theory at the Vilnius University (Lithuania). He graduated from the University of Saint Petersburg (formerly USSR), where he defended his PhD thesis on Edmund Husserl’s philosophy of logic. He was Humboldt Research Fellow at the Mannheim University and Fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin. His academic interests are the history of philosophy, history and philosophy of social science, and metatheory of historical studies. He has published articles (mainly in Lithuanian, German, and Russian) on German and Austrian intellectual history (the works of Edmund Husserl, Franz Brentano, Alexius Meinong, Johann G. Droysen, and Max Weber; German historism; Austrian theories of value), social theory (positivism and postpositivism in social theory, the concept of power), and theory of action (heuristics of suspicion; the ‘thin’ and the ‘thick’ concepts of rationality). His books include Study of History (Historik, in Lithuanian, 1996); Max Weber and Rational Choice (forthcoming, in German).

ADDRESS: Department of Philosophy, Philosophy Faculty, Vilnius University, Didlaukio 47, Vilnius LT-2057, Lithuania [email: zenonas.norkus@fsf.vu.lt].

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