Assignment #1 Fall 2002
Throughout the study of the philosophy of Political Science there have been many debates over how to proceed with studying the discipline. I, along with Daniel Little, believe that one debate in particular rests at the center of both old and more modern conflicts within the profession--naturalism versus antinaturalism. It is this relationship between the social sciences and the natural sciences, or lack of a relationship according to some, which has been the focal point of dissension over the past few decades. Although the debate has evolved over time, I believe it is at the heart of such matters like the quantitative-qualitative debate and, therefore, still needs to be studied in classes today.
Naturalism according to Daniel Little is the "view that the social sciences are methodologically similar to the natural sciences." Naturalists believe that one can approach the study of the social sciences in the same manner in which one studies the natural sciences.
They believe in the use of scientific methods in order to explain and predict social phenomenon. Naturalists believe in the use of theories that can be tested empirically and then retested later on to get the same results.
Daniel Little says the basic concept of science is "an empirical testability criterion, a logical coherence criterion, and an institutional commitment to intersubjective processes of belief evaluation and criticism . . ...." He then goes on to describe more elements like "the use of quantitative methods and models; commitment to explanation of observed phenomenon on the basis of underlying laws, processes, or mechanisms; a conception of theory as a unified system of hypotheses; use of controlled experimentation to evaluate hypotheses; extensive use of predictions based on theoretical reasoning; and commitment to background metaphysical beliefs." In other words the naturalists are looking to...