Classifications: Kings and Presidents

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


James P. Pfiffner spoke for many scholars when he confessed that while he knew that ranking and rating presidents is “not very rigorous and does not tell us what we want to know,” he nevertheless finds the practice “irresistible.” 1 The problematical status of presidential rankings demands some resolution if one accepts Betty Glad’s a nalysis. In her 1990 address before the Presidency Research Group, she argued that the alleged low status of presidential studies was based in large part upon a model of science used in theoretical physics. Instead, she contended, if research in botany and some other sciences were employed as a model, other approaches, particularly classification, would be prominent. Presidential studies would be less preoccupied with a misplaced scientific status hierarchy and more capable of generating explanations and offering predictions. 2 But what if classification that ranks presidential performance as a research activity leads not to a rigorous and robust body of knowledge in presidential studies as Glad predicts but rather to a version of the emperor’s encyclopedia described by Jorge Luis Borges in which phenomena are cataloged in a completely ersatz fashion?


Natural Kind Presidential Study Entry Problem Historical Constraint Presidential Performance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Philip Abbott 2013

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  • Philip Abbott

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