Political Philosophy and Empirical Political Science: From Foes to Friends?

Abstract

Political science has been detached from philosophy in general and political philosophy in particular. The latter has also ‘celebrated its purity’. But should political philosophy cooperate with empirical political science? This article argues that since political philosophy is part of the study of politics, if it does not cooperate, political philosophy might lose its relevance, create a distorted notion of politics, and commit a methodological mistake. It is further argued that democratising political philosophy is the way to encourage such cooperation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Parts of this paper are based on de-Shalit (2006). I thank Luke Ashworth, Michelle Cini, Josie Kelly, and Alex Warleigh-Lack for their fruitful comments.

  2. 2.

    On what empirical political science can gain from engagement with political philosophy, see Elster (1992), Miller (1999, chapter 3).

  3. 3.

    Wolin was so eager to portray the ‘theorist’ as an anti-thesis to the ‘methodist’, who constructs her theory on the model of science, that he (Wolin) emphasized, perhaps just too much, the picture of the methodist as concerned solely with practical matters and the theorist as devoting her time to visions of social order.

  4. 4.

    Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937). In a nutshell, Gramsci's argument is that, if people are convinced and their behaviour is changed due to theory, then the latter becomes part of practice.

  5. 5.

    For example, if they want to study attitude towards equality, they use conceptions of equality that were put forward by political philosophers, and distinctions such as between equality of resources and equality of welfare.

References

  1. Adorno, T. (1969) ‘Interview – of barricades and ivory tower’, Encounter 33: 63–69.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Barber, B. (1988) The Conquest of Politics: Philosophy Against Practice, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. de-Shalit, A. (2006) Power to the People: On Teaching Political Philosophy in Skeptical Times, Lenham, Maryland: Lexington Books.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Elster, J. (1992) Local Justice: How Institutions Allocate Scarce Goods and Necessary Burdens, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Hirst, P. (2002) ‘The future of political studies’, lecture to the Danish political science association, http://www.essex.ac.uk/ECPR/publications/eps/onlineissues/autumn2003/research/hirst.htm.

  6. Kelly, P. (2000) ‘Political Theory in Retreat?’, in N. O’Sullivan (ed.) Political Theory in Transition, London: Routledge, pp. 225–241.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Miller, D. (1999) Principles of Social Justice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Pogge, T. (1989) Realizing Rawls, Itacha: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Riker, W. (1962) The Theory of Political Coalitions, New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Shklar, J. (1991) American Citizenship, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Strauss, L. (1962) ‘An Epilogue’, in H. Storing (ed.) Essays on the Scientific Study of Politics, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, pp. 305–328.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Wolin, S. (1969) ‘Political theory as a vocation’, American Political Science Review 63: 1062–1082.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

de Shalit, A. Political Philosophy and Empirical Political Science: From Foes to Friends?. Eur Polit Sci 8, 37–46 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1057/eps.2008.12

Download citation

Keywords

  • political philosophy
  • political science
  • method
  • democratisation