Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological and Psychological Perspectives

Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological and Psychological Perspectives


By (author) Philip E. Tetlock, By (author) Aaron Belkin

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  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 344 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 229mm x 28mm | 714g
  • Publication date: 30 September 1996
  • Publication City/Country: New Jersey
  • ISBN 10: 0691027927
  • ISBN 13: 9780691027920
  • Illustrations note: 8 tables 16 line illus.

Product description

Political scientists often ask themselves what might have been if history had unfolded differently: if Stalin had been ousted as General Party Secretary or if the United States had not dropped the bomb on Japan. Although scholars sometimes scoff at applying hypothetical reasoning to world politics, the contributors to this volume--including James Fearon, Richard Lebow, Margaret Levi, Bruce Russett, and Barry Weingast--find such counterfactual conjectures not only useful, but necessary for drawing causal inferences from historical data. Given the importance of counterfactuals, it is perhaps surprising that we lack standards for evaluating them. To fill this gap, Philip Tetlock and Aaron Belkin propose a set of criteria for distinguishing plausible from implausible counterfactual conjectures across a wide range of applications.The contributors to this volume make use of these and other criteria to evaluate counterfactuals that emerge in diverse methodological contexts including comparative case studies, game theory, and statistical analysis. Taken together, these essays go a long way toward establishing a more nuanced and rigorous framework for assessing counterfactual arguments about world politics in particular and about the social sciences more broadly.

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Review quote

"The book sets out to examine the many roles that counterfactuals and counterfactual reasoning play in the study of world politics. It has many merits. The quality of the papers is high. It is well edited by Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin. It succeeds very well in building on earlier discussions of counterfactuals in social science, from Weber to Elster, and linking them with a wide range of concrete problems and issues in international relations."--Andrew Hurrell, "The Times Literary Supplement"