In this short but critical appreciation of Keith Dowding’s seminal Philosophy and Methods in Political Science I reflect on the distinctive treatment of both realism and explanation in contemporary political science that its author offers, expressing rather more sympathy for the former than the latter. I welcome his critique of the use and misuse of ‘isms’ in much of the existing literature, while pointing to some potential inconsistencies; I accept his broad and inclusive understanding of philosophic realism; and I praise Dowding for putting the question of explanation – and its adequacy – at the heart of the philosophy of political science (where I think it belongs). Yet I reject the idea that prediction is, or indeed, should be central to all social scientific explanation. Similarly, I take issue with the contention that we are typically distracted by questions of causation, suggesting that the presentation of a ‘credibly causal’ narrative is the crux of adjudicating good from bad explanation. I explore the implications of such a position and conclude with comments on Dowding’s call for the reproducibility and transparency of data.
HAY, Colin. Explanation, Prediction, Causation – An Unholy Trinity? Appreciative Comments on The Philosophy and Methods of Political Science. Political Studies Review. April 2017, vol 15, n° 2, p. 180-186. ISSN 14789299.