Rennes Day 2: Presenting

Today was The Big Day: Finally, the moment had arrived that I would be able to present my paper to the people attending to the methodological pluralism workshop. After a nice breakfast in the hotel lounge, I headed off to the conference site.

Reading the text-messages wishing me good luck, I walked into the room where `my’ workshop was being held. Appearing to be the first, I took some time to prepare well for my presentation.

The workshop started out with some general notes on the ECPR `standing group’ on methodological pluralism that organized the workshop and with an introduction on all the participants. The group of people present was rather diverse, ranging from a former physicist and a linguist, to sociologists and of course many political scientists. This should make for some interesting discussion, I’d expect.

The first paper of the workshop was a really interesting one, distuinguishing between two developments in the philosophy of science, where the one locates the possibility of unification at the level of observations, while the other one locates it on the level of theory. After an hour of interesting and ongoing discussion, it was my turn.

I think that presenting my arguments went really well. I felt confident and actually rather calm, while being able to hold the attention of the workshop participants. I got the feeling that my paper (clarified by the presentation) was received quite well as well. My discussant made some really insightful (and flattering) comments and had picked up on some parts of the paper that I left out of the presentation (for reasons of time). The most important suggestion that she did was to lift the level of `analysis’ from methodological to epistemological and/or ontological as well. I think that that would indeed make a very interesting paper, so I might try to think of a proper way of doing it. On the other hand, perhaps the paper would that loose some of the hands-on approach that I’ve tried to achieve. In short: I have to think about it. Based on questions and remarks of other participants, a very nice discussion emerged again, but what I especially liked about it this time, is that it gradually developed to topics and issues that were more broad than the statements made in my paper, while still being related to it.

We had lunch at the university restaurant and (finally!) some coffee in a typically French bar. It was nice to have conversations with people from different nationalities: there is always an interesting comparison to make. This time the group consisted of people from the Netherlands, Ireland, England, Spain, and the United States.

Two other papers were discussed after lunch, both of which had an empirical meta-analysis of the degree of plurality of articles in political science journals. The two innovations I liked most about these papers was that the first stated that we should not only look at the references (to journals of other disciplines), but to authors coming from totally different disciplines as well. The second innovation was in the other paper, which had a longer and stronger theoretical basis, stating that plurality implies some degree of equality as well.

After all this intellectual fun, we decided to give ourselves over to some other type of fun: we went from bar to reception, and back to another bar. The group consisted of almost the same people as during the lunch, but someone from Hungary joined as well. After the bar, we rushed to the reception, held at the political faculty (a really nice location, I might say). I’ll just say it again: it is a really good idea to attend conferences organized in France. The French people know how to cater: there was an abundance of really good and diverse food and wine. After the reception was over, a little group of three decided to go to another bar. Clearly, I was one of them. Luckily, one of the others trades wine as a profession, so we made him in charge of buying some really nice wine for us. He went inside and didn’t come out for ten minutes or so, but with a really good bottle of wine and three glasses to go with it. Cheers!

Fortunately, I was able to find my hotel again after all this `fun’. It was nice to find out that it was actually really close to the bar we were in. Although I was exhausted on my first day on the conference, I felt sure about one thing: the academic life isn’t a bad one at all!

(This is one of my blog-posts on my participation on the ECPR 2008 Rennes Joint Sessions, that were held in Rennes, France. For an overview of all posts, ranging from somewhat personal to outright academic in nature, please visit this page.)

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