Epistemological and Ontological Priors: Explicating the Perils of Transparency
American Political Science Association Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, Qualitative Transparency Deliberations, Working Group Final Reports, Report 1.1-2 (December 2018)
25 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2019
Date Written: February 12, 2019
The discipline of political science encompasses multiple research communities, which have grown out of and rely upon different epistemological and ontological presuppositions. Recent debates about transparency raise important questions about which of these research communities will be accredited within the discipline, whose values, norms, and methods of knowledge production will gain ascendency and whose will be marginalized. Although the language of "transparency" makes it appear that these debates are apolitical, simply elaborating standards that all political scientists share, the intensity and content of recent contestations about DA-RT, JETS, and QTD attest to the profoundly political nature of these methodological discussions. This report traces the epistemological and ontological assumptions that have shaped diverse research communities within the discipline, situating "transparency" in relation to classical (Aristotelian), modern (Baconian) and twentieth-century (positivist, critical rationalist, and postpositivist) versions of empiricism. It shows how recent discussions of transparency accredit certain empirical approaches by collapsing the scope of empirical investigation and the parameters of the knowable. And it argues that "transparency" is inappropriate as a regulative ideal for political science because it misconstrues the roles of theory, social values, and critique in scholarly investigation.
Keywords: qualitative methods, research transparency, epistemology, ontology, philosophy of science, Qualitative Transparency Deliberations
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