Department of Political Science

Evidential pluralism and evidence of mechanisms in the social sciences

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Is evidential pluralism possible when we move to the social sciences, and if so, to what degree? What are the analytical benefits? The answer put forward in this article is that there is a tradeoff between how serious social science methodologies take the study of mechanisms and the analytical benefits that flow from evidential pluralism. In the social sciences, there are a range of different approaches to studying mechanisms, differentiated by 1) the degree to which the ‘process’ is unpacked theoretically, and 2) whether the approach takes seriously the particular nature of social phenomena and the epistemological consequences that flow from this, as in realist approaches to the study of mechanisms, or whether more neopositivist -based foundational assumptions are adopted. Depending on which approach to study mechanisms is used, evidential pluralism is either: easy but superficial, very productive but challenging, or almost impossible because of the fundamental differences between the types of claims being made and the forms of evidence used.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSynthese
Volume199
Issue3-4
Pages (from-to)8899-8919
Number of pages21
ISSN0039-7857
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

    Research areas

  • Counterfactuals, Critical realism, Evidence of causal effects, Evidence of mechanisms, Evidential pluralism, Experience-near evidence, Mediation analysis, Process-tracing

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