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Explanation in Social Science (PO921)

What is involved in providing an explanation? How is explanation distinct from and related to interpretation? Sometimes people fail to satisfy the conditions of ‘rational action’. Is this a problem for the theory or a problem for the people?

This module explores philosophical and methodological arguments relevant to research in the social and political sciences with special focus on the nature of explanation in the social sciences.

Programme content

Beginning with an examination of different traditions of explanation and understanding in social and natural science, we see how these traditions have evolved in the development of various disciplines including philosophy, politics, economics, and sociology. We then go on to drawn upon topical debates in the natural, social and human sciences to illustrate competing modes of explanation.

This module acts as a stand-alone module for students on all the PAIS MA modules, but it is a core module for student studying for the MA in Research in Politics & International Studies and may be of particular interest to those studying for the MA in Political and Legal Theory. Outside PAIS, it will be of interest to students of Philosophy, Sociology and Education.