The Politics of Science and the Science of Politics: Feyerabend, Pluralism, and Democratic Challenges

28 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2011

See all articles by Megan K. Dyer

Megan K. Dyer

Texas A&M University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: April 8, 2011

Abstract

What might be called the new political science provided a strong challenge to older traditions centering on political philosophy, law, history, and institution-giving. Beyond their being seen as inherently normative and thus flawed, one could argue that these glossed over important aspects of the empirical world at the behest of those commitments. The scientific study of politics, by contrast, offered a way to acquire valid knowledge: the way forward. Decades and successive crises of identity later, however, it has become apparent just how much questions of value bleed into this progress. The rages and repudiations of the discipline time and again highlight the tension between shared standards and good work. Concerning the relationship between these, no easy agreement exists. Strikingly, one finds as little agreement concerning our disciplinary canons as there is in politics or even about what constitutes the political. Pluralism is therefore not only an empirical fact in science as in politics but also a fact that science might embrace. I apply Feyerabend’s philosophy of science to political science and explore what political scientist might embrace in such an account. As opposed to efforts to discipline or demarcate our peculiar practice, an account of science and of the science of politics that offers a strong rather than merely tolerant commitment to pluralism better mirrors the diversity and contested nature of political phenomena and is better suited to fruitful pursuit of the study of politics.

Keywords: Feyerabend, philosophy of science, philosophy of social science, pluralism, democracy

Suggested Citation

Dyer, Megan Kathleen, The Politics of Science and the Science of Politics: Feyerabend, Pluralism, and Democratic Challenges (April 8, 2011). Western Political Science Association 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1806332 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1806332

Megan Kathleen Dyer (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University - Department of Political Science ( email )

College Station, TX 77843-4353
United States

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