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

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

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Edited by Philip E. Tetlock, Edited by Aaron Belkin

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  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 356 pages
  • Dimensions: 163mm x 226mm x 25mm | 558g
  • Publication date: 8 September 1996
  • Publication City/Country: New Jersey
  • ISBN 10: 0691027919
  • ISBN 13: 9780691027913
  • Illustrations note: 1, black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 783,254

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

Back cover copy

""Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics" is an important book for all social scientists, not only those who study international relations. The introductory paper, outlining different ways of using counterfactual arguments, is likely to become a standard reading in courses on methodology and research design. Many of the other chapters are outstanding; some are brilliant. When I next teach my graduate seminar on research design, this book will be on the required reading list."--Robert Keohane, Duke University "[This] is an important book for all social scientists, not only those who study international relations. . . . When I teach my next graduate seminar on research design, this book will be on the required reading list."--Robert Keohane, Duke University

Table of contents

List of Contributors Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological, and Psychological Perspectives 2Causes and Counterfactuals in Social Science: Exploring an Analogy between Cellular Automata and Historical Processes 3Counterfactual Reasoning in Western Studies of Soviet Politics and Foreign Relations 4Confronting Hitler and Its Consequences 5Back to the Past: Counterfactuals and the Cuban Missile Crisis 6Counterfactual Reasoning in Motivational Analysis: U.S. Policy toward Iran 7Counterfactuals about War and Its Absence 8Using Counterfactuals in Historical Analysis: Theories of Revolution 9Counterfactuals and International Affairs: Some Insights from Game Theory 10Off-the-Path Behavior: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Counterfactuals and Its Implications for Political and Historical Analysis 11Rerunning History: Counterfactual Simulation in World Politics 12Counterfactuals, Past and Future Commentary 1: Conceptual Blending and Counterfactual Argument in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Commentary 2: Psychological Biases in Counterfactual Thought Experiments Commentary 3: Counterfactual Inferences as Instances of Statistical Inferences Commentary 4: Counterfactuals, Causation, and Complexity References Index