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
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
Logical positivism/ Classical positivism: not the most convincing school of
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
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
1 b. Induction: we observe things in the world we see them we detect
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