Lecture 006


Main Ideas and Conflicts

Naturalism: everything is composed of fundamental elements of nature; scientific method.

Reductionism: explain social phenomena in terms of "beliefs", "desires", and "action"

Holist: need larger scale structure to fully explain social phenomena.

Tragedy of the commons: prisoner's dilemma

Three Examples

The Democratic Peace: in theory, democracy produce long-lasting peace

Azande Witchcraft: a group of people believing in self-contradicting practice is a result of primitive evolution?

Freedom Riders and Free Riders: why do people resolve prisoner's dilemma


normative: expressing view about what SHOULD BE the case factual(descriptive): expressing claim that DESCRIBES what IS the case

The normative / descriptive distinction is important in social science


  1. "rational", "irrational" cultural specific?

  2. In theory, they can be non-cultural specific: any conclusion by ignoring the premise can be counted as irrational. However, in practice, it is very hard to come up with 100% non-mathematical deduction.

  3. "self-interest" assumption good? Support / against it? They should assume that people will act TOWARDS self-interest, but they should not assume that everyone will act IN self-interest. (just like nobody wants to die in accident, but the truth is, somebody die in accident, since human are not perfect), since humans have limited ability to guess which event would be good for themselves. Support: prisoner's dilemma.

  4. Could normative commitments of the researchers (views about what should be the case) influence their choices of democratic nations and/or of peaceful relationships between nations? Or should this not be a concern? Justify your answer.

  5. (Not Quiet Understand This Question) Social science often guide policy? Section of study result effect.

    1. Yes, it can be, because such thing can happen when scientist is biased when using their assumptions.
    1. since we have not defined causal structure, I don't know how to answer.

Normative commitments of the researchers can influence the choices of their object of study such as "democratic nation" and "peaceful relationship between two nations." Assume scientist A thinks that having no physical war between nation 1 and nation 2 should indicate a "peaceful relationship" between nation 1 and nation 2, and scientist B think that a survey conducted in nation 1 and nation 2 shows no hate between citizens from both nations should indicate a "peaceful relationship" between nation 1 and nation 2. By this assumption, the claim about the definition of "peaceful relationship" is a normative claim. Scientist A may consider Cold War "peaceful" but scientist B may consider the Cold War non-"peaceful." If they both want to study countries in a peaceful period of time, scientist A may include the United State and the Soviet Union as their object of study whereas scientist B may not. Therefore, normative commitments of the researchers can influence the choices of their object of study.

  1. normative study not useful? value not useful?

YES. Because value are not consistent among scientist, scientist may progress slower because there are less people who scientists can cooperate with.

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