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September 11, 2013 3N06 Lecture Notes.doc

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

September 11, 2013 Political Science 3N06 S EPTEMBER 11, 2013 P OLITICAL S CIENCE 3N06 2013 L ECTURE 2A : W HAT IS THE SOCIAL WORLD MADE OF AND HOW CAN WE KNOW IT ? - Political research, no matter how specific, parochial, and mundane, always starts with assumed answers to big-picture questions Ontology: - What is the world made of? - A) Foundationalism - There is an objective world “out there” that is what it is regardless of how we perceive it - B) Anti-foundationalism - Reality is socially constructed and therefore socially variant Epistemology: - What can we know about the world, regardless of what it is ultimately made up of? Methodology: - How do we gather knowledge about the world - What techniques can we use to access true knowledge Positivism (the list is a bit of a simplification of a complex philosophy of knowledge, but…): - FACTS and VALUES are separable (Logical positivism…etc.) A) Naturalism: There can be only one: - The social world is analogous to the natural world (very similar) o Ontological and epistemological to look at this o Natural world we see patterns and laws that are applied regardless of time / place o Social world works the same way, the same basic structure, and patterns regularities. o Epistemological; if we want to study the social world, we have to do the same thing that scientist do to study the natural world. 1 September 11, 2013 Political Science 3N06  One logic of science (natural and social sciences should do the same thing) - It is patterned, and governed by laws in the same essential way - Consequently, the social world can be studied and understood using the same techniques as in the natural sciences - Physical science (physics), Animal science (biology), Human science (social science): “All sciences share a common set of principles and logic” - Objective and goal as social scientist should be to find the patterns and the laws of the social world. o Essential relationships between the different variables o What causes development? o The goal is to try to explain phenomenon in the social world the same way we explain the natural world. o Once we understand the way the social world works we can predict and develop? B) Nomothetic analysis - Nomothetic analysis is oriented towards uncovering general laws o Whether the laws governing chemistry o Or those governing human behaviour - Laws that hold across time and space - Uncovering cause-effect relationships will allow us to explain and predict behaviour in the social world - POINT: What are these laws telling us? Finding social facts, those things that are true beyond our own subjective of what is true. o EG Capitalism that forces individuals to do certain things whether they want to do so. o Law of Capitalism compels certain kinds of behaviours. o Social facts that confront individuals C) Facts and Values are (in principle) Separable - Scientific knowledge is (and must be) value free - Distance, objective, dispassionate, neutral – these are the watchwords Facts and Values are SEPT. What is the nature of political order? What is the consequence of doing __ and doing ____. - We can find objective facts about the world based on a combination of: - I) Empirical observation (Classical Positivism) - We can observe the world as it really is 2 September 11, 2013 Political Science 3N06 o If you want to find out the way the world actually is, you find out by observing. o See the facts, as they are free from VALUE, without being there any social factors that are distorting. Facts and values apart. o In the sense that what you see is what actually is - General laws are discovered by observing empirical facts and then uncovering the regularities and patterns amongst those facts (induction) - II) Logic (Logical Positivism) - Start with a theory and see whether the empirical evidence supports it (deduction) - If the evidence supports the theory, the theory is verified - In Political Science: - During the 1950s and 1960s the so-called behavioural revolution began to exercise intellectual hegemony over Political Science, particularly in the US - Political Science should be based on quantitative analysis and hard data - Political science should attempt to analyze political behavior from the outside - To explain the relationship between variables from the dispassionate viewpoint of the outside observer o Political science should be free of politics - There was and is a certain paradox to this approach - Political Science was to be free of politics (as we normally use the term) C RITIQUES OF POSITIVISM: - Some of these critiques come from in
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