The naturalist approach to social sciences is based on content. The naturalist actually pays attention to what people say and considers their life stories as revealing phenomena. On the other hand interpretational approach, if people have beliefs and desires, an interpreter ascribes them. In this approach there are no independent facts of the matter about content. So there should be some way in which the content is interpreted as a set of revealing set of beliefs. In other words, there should be some agent and a system of methods (procedures) with which the interpretation is done.
So, the basic assumption in interpretationist approach is that there is an acceptable behavior of the agent whose relation to the environment is understood and that the beliefs of the agent will match those of the subject he is interpreting (Davidson. D, 1993). The basic conflict between these two approaches is that the naturalist approach accepts the contents of the life stories of what people say, on the other hand the interpretationist accepts only those beliefs and desires that are ascribed by an interpreter.
The naturalist accepts that independent facts can exist on the other hand the Interpretationalism does not accept independent facts about mental content. The naturalist accepts what people say on the other hand unless ways of interpreting the spoken word is not found Interpretationalism does not accept the set of beliefs that are held by person making the utterances. Let us consider a more general fact that is studied by social sciences, that if the supply of a product decreases then, “other things being equal” the price for their product will increase.
The naturalist may study the life story of a commodity dealer who may give an account of how the prices of the commodities that he dealt with like wheat; barley and rye went up whenever there was a shortage of these commodities. The naturalist may then visit a grocer who may give a lifetime account of how every shortage led to increase in the prices of products he studies. The naturalist may proceed to take several such life stories, statistically significant and establish the cause and effect relationship between the shortage of supply and price increase.
In case of Interpretationalism the scientist would approach an interpreter, in case of a commodity market it would not be the commodity dealer but an expert who would interpret the behavior of the dealers. The task of the interpretationist would be to first select the agent (agent) on the basis of his behavior in relationship to the market. The interpretationist would study the relationship of the expert with that of the commodity market, and attempt to ascertain if his beliefs are similar to those of his.
Then the expert will interpret the behavior or the utterances of the commodity dealers and reach a conclusion that if the supply of a product decreases, then, “other things being equal” the price for the product will increase. Currently, using an expert opinion is an interpretationist approach to market research. The strength of the naturalist approach in establishing that that if the supply of a product decreases then, “other things being equal” the price for their product will increase is that the naturalist gets information direct from the dealers, that is from the people who are the actual actors.
In addition, getting information from several actors increases the validity of the study as well as provides scope for statistical analysis. On the other hand the weakness of such an approach is that the naturalist may misinterpret the data from dealers. For, example the dealers may not eliminate the factors relating to “other things being equal”. It is possible that factors like a substantially increased demand may have led to the increase in prices but because the naturalist depends on the dealer’s accounts he may accept their interpretation that the prices of commodities have gone up because of decrease in supply.
The strength of the interpretationist approach is that the interpreter or the agent has the expertise to interpret the utterances of the dealers. His relationship to the market (environment) is such that he has the ability to make a learned interpretation of what the market dealers utter. In addition, the agent is supposed to have beliefs that are similar to those of the interpretationist. In other words he has the sagacity to take into consideration “other things being equal”. The weakness of this approach is that the interpretationist has to depend on the interpreter or the expert.
He does not have the facility of large numbers. It is not easy to subject the information to numerical analysis. In addition, there is a chance of errors in interpretation because the selection of the agent may be faulty. The agent’s relationship to the market (environment) may not be as close as required. In addition, the beliefs of the agent may be at variance with that of the researcher. In both these cases the results would be erroneous. To sum, there is a conflict in the approach of the naturalist and the interpretationist. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages.