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POLS 3180 Research Methods I September 18 2013.docx

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Political Science
POLS 3180
Edward Koning

POLS 3180 Research Methods I September 18 2013 (Lecture III) Positivism, Realism, and Interpretivism What does science attempt to do? What is it good at? (Class disagreed on answers to these questions) What does truth look like? Main subjects in philosophy of science Ontology- What is? - What kind of things exist in the world, what is true - Philosophers of science focused on whether there is such a thing as objective truth Epistemology- What is knowable? - Regardless if there is such a thing as truth can we know it? Methodology- How do we obtain knowledge? - Your ontology provides for your epistemology and intertwined with your methodology Logical positivism/ Classical positivism: not the most convincing school of thought o Main idea: science can study social reality relatively unproblematically and arrive at objective conclusions o Many other schools of thoughts developed as a reaction to logical positivism school of thought 1) Ontological assumption: a. There is a world independent of out interaction with it b. Naturalism: the social world is like the natural world. It is governed by recurrent patterns or “laws”. These reflect casual relationships i. “Richer people tend to vote for the conservative parties ii. Ideas that there are patterns in reality that can be found and they structure our world c. There is a fundamental distinction between facts (which are real and objective) and values (which are metaphysical and subjective) i. “This is a table” vs. “This is a beautiful table” 2) Epistemological assumptions: a. Empiricism: observations (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) is the source of all knowledge b. Observation is value free and thus objective 3) Methodological prescriptions a. Systematic observations i. Need to observe it carefully: how we detect the patterns in reality 1 b. Induction: we observe things in the world we see them we detect patterns i. Individual observations general ‘rule’ c. If we consistently see that B follows A, we conclude there is a casual relationship between A and B. (common sense approach). ** There is a world out there we take a look and have general knowledge.** - The rationalist critique: o Main point: observation alone doesn’t prove much. It is meaningless since it is not guided by theory and logic.  Observation is meaningless if not guided by theory and logic  How do you determine what to study o Karl Popper (1902- 1994)  Most well known supporter of critique  The fundamental problem of induction  No matter how many observations are in line with your theory they will never constitute conclusive proof o Example: he was from Austria (Europe) and all swans, he saw were white so he could say all swans are white. When he went to Australia he saw that swans are black. o Implication of induction:  Use deduction instead  [Start with general expectations (‘rule) and then look at individual
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