The social sciences have long been concerned with the epistemic status of their claims. Unlike in the natural sciences, where a clear record of practical success tends to make the exploration of such philosophical issues a tangential endeavour, in the social sciences, there is an important and evident relation between differences in the philosophies (whether explicit or implicit) of science of researchers and the kinds of social-scientific work they do.
This workshop provides a pluralistic framework for analyzing philosophical positions, their assumptions, and their methodological implications for the ways in which social science research is conducted and judged. While far from an exhaustive survey, the workshop offers an opportunity to engage philosophical topics of recurring relevance to the conduct of social science, the methodological training of new social scientists, and efforts to justify and advance the aspirations of many social scientists to receive some of the public attention and support that natural scientists routinely enjoy.
The workshop takes as a baseline the survey of philosophical issues, typology of alternative stances, and call for methodological pluralism advanced in Patrick Thaddeus Jackson’s The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations: Philosophy of Science and Its Implications for the Study of World Politics (Routledge, 2011).
Chapters of Jackson’s book are paired with shorter additional readings of two kinds: 1) selected texts from philosophers so we can judge how Jackson presents philosophical positions; 2) selected texts from other contemporary political scientists so we can better identify and evaluate what is distinctive about Jackson’s arguments.
The workshop sessions will be seminars that combine framing presentations by the instructor with extensive discussion. The goal is not only to help participants to understand Jackson’s terminology, assumptions, and arguments, but also to spur them to reflect on and articulate their own philosophical premises and commitments, which may well diverge to a greater or lesser extent from Jackson’s.