Human Inquiry and Science:
*Philosophy behind social sciences
Inquiry: An attempt to understand and predict people. It's an intrinsic value and an
instrumental value (Intrinsic – the wanting to know vs. Instrumental – the calculated way
of knowing Ie. When you drink above your alcoholic limit you run the risk of not
knowing how to return).
Causation (Cause and Effect):
Deterministic causation:Adirectly leads us to point B
Political Science favours Probabilistic causation: A will give a higher chance for B to
Accurate prediction is not the same as understanding**For example, constant patterns
don't have a perfect explanation of why something happens.
What and Why something happens**
We're dependant on two things:
Agreement and Experiential Realities:
Agreement reality is knowledge based on two sources: Tradition (things we're told by
past members of a shared culture) and Authority (An authority figure which passes down
knowledge). They are useful, but not explanations for why.
Whereas Experiential realities are based on experiences we've partaken in. However,
experiential realities are based on selective and inaccurate memories of events; this can
be explained by our imperfect memory, our observations are coloured by our values,
interests, expectations and knowledge (Normative beliefs over anything). Another is:
Anecdotal evidence and over-generalizations – stories to support claims which are based
on anecdotes. Lastly: We have limitations of logical reasoning: For example, the
likeliness of something happening because of past events will not increase or decrease
with regard to probabilities.
Despite the disadvantages, there are advantages:
By being more systematic and conscious, we're going to focus and think about what
specific study one will follow (one path reasoning). It increases the quality of reasoning;
rigorous standards for logical inference. Lastly, there are decreases of subjective
conclusions – Transparency opens up replication.
Science: the systematic investigation of reality relying on rigorous standards of
observation (or research methods).
Variables: Category of the things we study; any groups of concepts. For each case, there is a value or attribute applied, and they can vary from one case to another.
Theory: They're prevalent in mainstream media (of causal nature) and identifies patterns
and regularities of aspects of life. They also posit the existence of causal relationship
between two or more variables – Independent variable --- Dependant variable.
Positivism, Realism, and Interpretivism:
September 17, 2013
Ontology: what is there? Is there a truth independent of us? What exists in the world?
Both these co-exist and are dependant on one anotherEpistemology: What can we
know about the world? Is it possible to acquire knowledge about the world? Can we
know it entirely or partly?
Methodology: Considering what exists in the world, how do we go about acquiring
knowledge? Systematic methods of acquiring knowledge*
Behaviour Revolution after World War 1 – Most social scientists known as logical
positivism – contains a lot of common sense knowledge and a lot of intuitiveness.
Ontological assumptions: There is a world independent of our interaction (regardless of
how we see the world).
Naturalism: The social world is like the natural world; it's governed by re-occurring
patterns and laws. These reflect casual relationships – for example, it is a misconception
thatALL rich people vote for conservatives but, such isn''t the case.
There is a fundamental distinction between facts (real and objective) and values
(metaphysical and subjective)
Empiricism: Observation as the source of knowledge – examining the physical features
of things in the world (an intuitive assumption).
Observation is value-free and therefore objective*
Systematic observations above all* How we detect the patterns of reality is through
process of induction – observing things in the world, and through them, you detect the
patterns that exist, for example, re-occurring patterns of a certain activity. If we see that B is caused by A, and vice-versa, there will be a causal relationship.
The Rationalist Critique:
Observations alone doesn't prove enough; anything not guided by rational thinking and
theory, then there isn't enough to prove anything. Secondly, a pattern may exist, but if
there's no theoretical account, there can be no explanation for why something occurs
and/or have enough conclusive evidence. Karl Popper further adds to this assumption of
Popper claimed, instead of depending on induction, one must study through deduction:
Furthermore, science should go through falsification instead of verification; in finding a
falsification for an empirical view, one can determine that something is not valid –
reference to swans and colours.
Good theories must be falsifiable: If something becomes infallible it becomes
Objectivity and Values:
September 18, 2013
Values in research:
Researches' values influence their research - at the most basic level, choice of research
subject is apparent. Moreover, it influences the way we study a certain subject (for
example, to measure the economy of a country, a liberal will favour “what is the
inequality?” whereas a conservative might favour “what is the economic growth over a
certain span?” Lastly, values colour our interpretation of evidence – unconsciously, we
will accept something that favours our normative beliefs instead of something that
challenges it. Because of this, the framing of evidence becomes apparent.
Researcher's position in society influences their research – personal experiences in
society play an important role on how you observe things. Note link with interpretivism –
History itself was created by one party and not collective. This critique originates in
feminist-based thinking because centuries of male research has distorted conclusions
about justice and equality.
Theory and Knowledge:
What researchers already (think they) know influences their research. Rosenthal effect –
Research expectations influencing outcomes of research project; evidence usually align
with their expectations because it's favourable. Therefore, it becomes impossible to
observe something without a framework we already know about.
Thomas Kuhn – Structure of Scientific Revolutions – He noted paradigms (big
assumptions of how the world works, how society works etc.) all influence what people study. Research, therefore, is not objective; two researchers studying different paradigms
will reach different conclusions. The best way to notice how paradigms exist is by
pointing out the history of science is not a gradual and linear one.
Critiques make objective science difficult but not useless; the research community has
become increasingly diverse (having theoretical and methodological