The Committee on Concepts and Methods (C&M - IPSA RC01) publishes two highly regarded series of working papers. In 2011, the Committee introduced the Best C&M Working Paper Award, which recognizes the best working paper published in either of its two series during the three previous year.
Committee on Concepts and Methods
International Political Science Association
Peter Stone (Trinity College, Dublin)
"The Concept of Picking" (Political Concepts 50, May 2011).
In this paper Stone seeks to defend as rational the idea that agents sometimes simply pick among options in the absence of reasons to justify that selection. In instances where the standard ‘filters’ of rational decision making (first identify the feasible set, then choose the best option in that set) leave the agent with either no option or several, she may be justified in picking. Stone traces the genealogy of this idea, defends it against several skeptical alternative views, and in the process specifies the conditions under which it holds. In so doing he not only contributes to the task of delineating the concept of rational action, but offers a rich assessment of picking as a distinctive enterprise.
2014 Award Jury:
David Kuehn (University of Heidelberg) and Ingo Rohlfing (University of Cologne)
"Causal Explanation and Multi-Method Research in the Social Sciences" (Political Methods 26, February 2010).
After a long and often fiercely fought debate over the respective values of quantitative and qualitative methods in the social sciences, multi-method research (MMR) is emerging as a new methodological paradigm. The debate on MMR meets with the ongoing discussion about standards of good causal inference and explanation. It is now widely acknowledged in the philosophy of science and social sciences that one should strive for causal explanations that include propositions of both causal effects and causal processes. Our paper provides a systematic discussion of the potential of MMR to assess and produce robust causal explanations, which is an issue that has received surprising little attention so far. We argue that the salient dimension to be addressed in light of the plea for causal explanations and MMR concerns the distinction between deterministic and probabilistic causality. In the first part of the paper, we detail the implications of determinism and probabilism for the formulation of causal explanations and cross-case and within-case propositions in particular. Based on this framework, we evaluate the potential of MMR to develop and test causal explanations in the second part. We conclude from this discussion that the causal inferences generated through MMR are considerably less certain than the current state of the debate about MMR suggests.
Awarded at the APSA meeting in Seattle.
2011 Award Jury: