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Department of History and Philosophy of Science

 

Calculating People is a reading group on history and philosophy of social sciences.

The meetings take place on Tuesdays, 2–3pm UK time on Zoom. Organised by Christopher Clarke and Anna Alexandrova.

All are welcome to join, but participants undertake to read the articles ahead of time.

Lent Term 2021

26 January

Greenfield, Patricia M. 'Cultural Change Over Time: Why Replicability Should Not Be the Gold Standard in Psychological Science'. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2017 Sep;12(5):762–771.

Recommended also: 'Why Replication Is Overrated', Uljana Feest, Philosophy of Science 2019 86:5, 895–905.

2 February

O'Neill, J. and Uebel, T. (2004), 'Horkheimer and Neurath: Restarting a Disrupted Debate'. European Journal of Philosophy, 12: 75–105.

9 February

Marion Godman, The Epistemology and Morality of Human Kinds, Routledge 2020 (selections, probably ch 4).

16 February

O'Neill, J. and Uebel, T. (2004), 'Horkheimer and Neurath: Restarting a Disrupted Debate'. European Journal of Philosophy, 12: 75–105.

23 February

Osborne, T. and Rose, N. (1999), 'Do the social sciences create phenomena?: the example of public opinion research'. The British Journal of Sociology, 50: 367–396.

2 March

Chris Clarke book draft 'Chapter 1 – Introduction'

In this introductory chapter, I do three things. First, I identify four questions that lie at the heart of the long-standing controversy between quantitative and qualitative political science about how to hunt causes in the political world. To answer these four questions would be to give an account of the rationale behind quantitative and qualitative causal inference in political science. Second, I introduce the idea of conceptual engineering. I explain how I think conceptual engineering ought to proceed, and why a conceptually engineered concept of causation will be a good basis upon which to build an account of the rationale behind causal inferences in political science. Since conceptual engineering runs contrary to more traditional 'conceptual analysis' in philosophy, this gives political scientists reason to doubt much of the philosophical literature on causation, on which political science methodologists presently rely. Thirdly, I argue that there are good prima facie reasons to think that the role that the concept of causation plays in our reasoning can only be described by using quantitative mental states. So qualitative researchers who want a concept of causation that best serves their aims should be prepared to talk about mental states in quantitative terms.

9 March

Chris Clarke book draft 'Chapter 3 – Causal Reasoning as a Guide to Propensity'

This chapter will define causation in terms of propensities. But I will not define causation as 'probability raising', nor will I define causation in terms of 'interventions'. Instead, my definition will look to the quantitative social sciences for inspiration in defining causation. I will define the meaning of causal hypotheses by showing how causal knowledge can be gained from knowledge of propensities, and of how causal knowledge can then be used to further one's knowledge of propensities. Thus causal reasoning allows one to take knowledge of propensities as an input, and then produce knowledge of propensities as an output. I will show how this overall system of reasoning is a striking innovative and informative one, rather than being unproductively circular. Namely, this overall system of reasoning with causation enables a sophisticated form of inference about propensity that I call intersecting cross-case projection.

16 March

Chris Clarke book draft 'Chapter 4 – Causation and Decision Making'

Chapter 3 examined the role that causal knowledge can play in measuring propensities. Chapter 4 will examine a seemingly distinct role for causal knowledge, namely the role that causal knowledge plays in guiding one's actions when one is making a decision about what action to take. I will argue that this latter action-guiding role is not distinct from the former propensity-measuring role: in fact, this action-guiding role is just a special case of this propensity-measuring role. So, yes, the meaning of causal hypotheses can in part be defined by the role that causal knowledge has to play in guiding an agent's actions. But this decision-guiding role for causal knowledge in no way competes with this propensity-measuring role. Rather it depends upon it. Therefore one cannot point to the action-guiding role of causation as an objection to my argument in Chapter 3.