Underlying the institutional politics of the Irish university question was the clash between scientific rationalism a papal-championed revival of the scholastic philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. But in social science, as the growth of a Catholic social movement and a succession of Irish-published sociology textbooks illustrate, a natural law perspective long went unchallenged by secular alternatives. It was Catholic clerical academics who first embraced an empirical approach to social science in the Ireland of the 1950s but in the succeeding decade they found themselves marginalised by a new breed of state technocrats who perceived empirical social research as a useful tool for their planning project.
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