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Lecture 1 and 2

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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
La Haine

Lectures 1 and 2: Introduction This lecture introduced students to key concepts related to theoretical thinking in the social sciences: - Definition of a Theory: description, explanation, prediction Every model by definition omits certain dimensions of reality Every model therefore includes implicit fundamental assumptions of what matters most There is always more than one way to cut the cake Theories are only useful only if we can falsify them World systems: multi-polar, bi-polar, uni-polar Because of certain theories we can explain certain things Falsification Theories need to be falsifiable to be usefulempirical evidence What to do when a theory is falsified? Change the hypothesismodify it and start again, test it over and over (avoid ad hoc assumptions) When should we abandon a theory? Problem: probabilistic hypotheses (democracies never fight each other~ joint democracy reduces the probability of warthis is probabilistic and it works, better than the latter) Hypothesis: golfing countries never go to war with eachother Define golfingnon-golfing nations: 1 courses per million of population Check the war involvement of golfing nations: never on opposite sides of a war Exceptions: 1) Britain vs. Argentina (prob. Fewer gold courses in 1982) and Northern Ireland Spurious correlation Hypothesis vs. laws The golfing hypothesis gives a claim not a causal explanation Hypotheses are theoretical predictions (probabilistic thinking) Laws are empirical regularities
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