Mark Irving LichbachIn their debate on neopositivism, while Kratocwil danced with relativism,Pollins stressed the value of positivism to qualitative researchers, andHopf recognized the importance of making interpretations more rigorous.Listening to their stimulating debate, Chernoff tried to clarify thenature of naturalism, and Waldner probed the idea of causal mechanisms.Trying to understand the implications of the debate for social sciencepractice, Lawrence subjected the empirical claims of the democratic peaceliterature, and Levy international relations research programs morebroadly, to scrutiny. Bernstein, Lebow, Stein, and Weber summarize and extend these analysesby making a plea for case-based reasoning. We need to understandthese debates in terms of three principles of the traditional positivist philosophy of science.1. Theory is deductive-nomological: it begins as abstract, axiomatic,and foundational; it becomes subsuming, integrating, and unifying;and it ends as organized, comprehensive, and encyclopedic.2. Evidence is oriented toward falsification: scientists attempt to reject ahypothesis; after one possible explanan is discarded, they investigateanother to see if it can account for the explanandum.3. Evaluation is therefore based on deductive and nomological lawsthat resist falsification: these laws establish the ever-expandingdomain of a theory; science therefore succeeds when it discoversuniversal laws that are true.This philosophy of science might have suited social scientists a few decades ago. Today’s more modest philosophy of science that consists instead of three different principles.1. Theory consists of research programs that contain nuts and bolts;these causal mechanisms are combined into models of a theory thatsuggest lawful regularities.2. Evidence establishes the applicability of these models of a theory forthe models of data that exist in particular domains; the elaborationof a theory thus delimits the theory’s scope.3. Evaluation grapples with the problem that the science that resultsfrom following the first two principles is prone to nonfalsifiabilityand to self-serving confirmations. Confrontations between theoryand evidence are thus evaluated in the context of larger structures ofknowledge.This final chapter moves the debate (Lichbach 2004) forward by dealingwith the problem of evaluation. For pragmatists who work with a thin version of one paradigm, Lakatos’s (1970) “additional and true” standard, which lets them explore rationalist, culturalist, and structuralist approaches on their own terms, is applied. For competitors who employ alternative paradigms, Popper’s (1968) “different and better” standard, which lets them conduct competitive evaluations among alternative rationalist, culturalist, and structuralist explanations, is employed. And for hegemons who synthesize the different paradigms into one thick paradigm,“ nested models” that combine the two standards, and thus lets them compare syntheses to their components (models and foils), is used.Source: Theory and Evidence in Comparative Politics and International Relations Edited by Richard Ned Lebow and Mark Irving Lichbach, 2007.
Theory and Evidence
24 Sunday Jan 2010
Posted Archives, Global Politicsin