Uncertainty as a guiding principle in methodological pluralism

Today I’ve presented my paper titled `Uncertainty as a guiding principle in methodological pluralism’

Below the paper, the presentation, and the text belonging to the presentation are available for download. Reactions and discussion (both privately and via the comments) will be highly appreciated.

This is the summary, as stated in the paper:

The present-day social sciences harbour a wide variety of research methods. This paper addresses two questions: (1) on what grounds in this methodological plural discipline can a research method be selected and (2) how can progress be judged. Based on the notion of the theory-ladenness of observations I discuss the overestimation of certainty provided by scientific methods. I suggest that the interplay between the philosophical positions of Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend informs us on how to relate to methodological pluralism.

Since researchers can never be fundamentally certain about the validity of research methods, it will always be required that assumptions are made. To sensitize researchers to hidden assumptions that cannot hold, contra-intuitive research methods need to be used, which can be provided by methodological pluralism. Thereby the uncertainty associated with different methods can offer a guideline for evaluating progress, where research based on more valid assumptions prevails over
research based on less realistic assumptions. Additionally, researchers should strive for selecting research methods that are associated with the most valid assumptions. From this it follows that methodological pluralism can best be seen as an asset of social sciences discipline, while at the same time this does not mean that any method should be tolerated. It neither excludes the situation in which specific research methods need to be adjusted of even abandoned.

My conference paper: Uncertainty as a guiding principle in methodological pluralism

The presentation: Presentation: Uncertainty as a guiding principle

The presentation notes: Presentation notes

(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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