lecture9 - UCLA PS 40 Department of Political Science...

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1 UCLA Department of Political Science Fall 2007 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz Hunk 9 Analytical Reasoning in Political Science We in the social sciences are concerned chiefly with explanation . Typical Explanation A typical explanation has the following elements : 1) Fact(s) These are the observations, data, or even conventional beliefs that are to be explained. 2) An hypothesis This might also called a theory or a model . It is essentially a guess . More fully it is a conjecture that is provisionally assumed to see what follows from it—to see how well it explains the given facts. 3) Steps of inference, if need be These are offered to show that the hypothesis explains the original facts. 4) Rival hypotheses and comparisons. In due course I shall address this last element at some length. Look at what makes a bad explanation bad. A bad explanation does one of the following things : 1) Does not explain The fact to be explained does not follow from the explanation offered. Example : Turnover (i.e. the rate of change in office holders) is greater in the California Senate than in the US Senate because the California Senate is smaller (40 vs.
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2 100 members). It is true that the US Senate is larger, but from that it does not follow that it should have lower turnover. The reasoning is just wrong. 2) Is Circular The hypothesis differs too little, if at all, from the facts to be explained. Reasoning runs in a circle, asserting in effect that so-and-so is true because so-and-so is true. A circular explanation is also said to beg the question . Example: Why do Prof. Schwartz’s lectures put people to sleep? Because they are soporific. Example : Why didn’t our football team win last night? Because last night they didn’t have the winning spirit (because the other team played better). 3) Its hypothesis is false. This may be tolerable if the hypothesis explains a good deal and approximates the truth. How tolerable depends on other hypotheses available and on the standards of the discipline in question. But falsity is always grounds for criticism. Example : Why does Prof. Schwartz like students? Because he is a cannibal and they are tender and juicy. (False: as you probably know, students are not tender and juicy.) 4) Faces rival explanations not adequately ruled out Ruling out rival explanatory hypotheses enhances the explanation offered. Explanation is intended to show why something is the way it is. If there are many good
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This note was uploaded on 04/01/2008 for the course POL SCI 40 taught by Professor Schwartz during the Fall '06 term at UCLA.

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lecture9 - UCLA PS 40 Department of Political Science...

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