Government 40 Lecture 2 Theory

Government 40 Lecture 2 Theory - Government 40 Lecture 2:...

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Government 40 Lecture 2: The Role of Theory Stephen Peter Rosen I. Dealing with Complexity: The problem with common sense A. How do we make sense of the complex reality of international relations? Millions of individuals, geography, economics, ideas about justice, religion, ideology, technology, demography, military forces, battles, charismatic leaders, climate, disease B. What matters? We do not know, so we make assumptions C. How does the world work? We make assumptions about causal mechanisms, about how people make decisions D. Where do those assumptions come from? From what is familiar, what we have experienced. What is familiar? Local, domestic social interactions, not interactions with foreigners, armies, governments. So our assumptions may not be appropriate. Do we share the same familiar experiences? Not necessarily. John Mearsheimer and Sister Theresa. So whose assumptions should we use? We cannot know that assumptions may be arbitrary or inappropriate until we make those assumptions visible. Common sense does not do that. II. So we need ways of making sense of reality and ways of evaluating those ways. This is the role of explicit theory construction A. What are we trying to explain? Why thing happen, or cause and effect relationships. More specifically, variables and variations in behavior. i. Why variation? Why not relations that always hold true? A relation that always holds true is an identity or a tautology. Mutations are always associated with changes in the structure of DNA. That tells you that mutations ARE changes in the structure of DNA. ii. We want to know what the cause of variations in behavior, why things happen more or less frequently, with higher or lower levels of intensity, greater or longer duration. Why does peace sometimes last a long time? Why do some wars have higher casualties? iii. We look for the causes of the variation in the thing we want to understand. We call what we want to understand the dependent variable, because we are treating it, for the time being as the result of something else, though we know we could look at it differently
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This note was uploaded on 03/07/2012 for the course GOV 40 taught by Professor Stevenrosen during the Spring '10 term at Harvard.

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Government 40 Lecture 2 Theory - Government 40 Lecture 2:...

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