Political Science: A Philosophical Analysis

By Vernon Van Dyke | Go to book overview

Preface

This book presents a philosophy of political inquiry--a philosophy of science applicable to political science. In this context philosophy denotes, most briefly, thought about thought. Somewhat more broadly, it denotes general conceptions of ends and means, purposes and methods, in scholarly inquiry. Still more broadly, it includes an effort to spell out and clarify both the meaning of crucial words that are employed in scholarly inquiry and the meaning and implications of various assumptions and premises on which such inquiry is, or should be, based.

Though in part descriptive of the ends actually pursued and the means actually employed, the book is in larger part prescriptive or normative. What should political scientists be attempting to achieve? What standards of judgment should guide them in choosing what to do? What criteria should be employed in deciding what to teach and to write--and in appraising what others teach and write? What sorts of inquiry are to be regarded as worth while, and what sorts of accomplishments as satisfying? How should the ends that are chosen be pursued? Many of the words used in answering these questions are vague, making it necessary to devote considerable attention to their meaning. Thus much of the book is designed to enhance conceptual clarity. In addition, the book aims to be both analytical and logical: analytical in identifying the elements that go together to make for high-quality scholarship and logical in identifying relationships among those elements.

The main purpose of the book is thus to contribute to the development of good scholarship in political science. The ingredients of good scholarship that are treated have to do with the choices that scholars make. The assumption is that these choices are likely to be wiser if they are made deliberately and self-con-

-vii-

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