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UNC-Chapel Hill PHIL 154 - Final Paper Prompts

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Philosophy of Social Science Final Paper Prompts The final paper is your chance to articulate, in 1500–2000 words, your own thoughts on a tricky issue. In this paper, you must clearly and explicitly state your view and explain why you believe it. You may choose to write on any of the topics below (be sure to answer all of the lettered sub-prompts). Or, you may propose your own topic. If there’s something you’ve been thinking about related to this class, come talk to me and pitch your idea. It’s always more fun to write about what you want than what someone else gives you. 1. In order to conduct their research, social scientists need to take concepts from ordinary life and turn them into something precise and measurable. How should this process go? (In answering this prompt, you will likely find it useful to give an example and carry it through the paper.) a. Explain Carnap’s method of explication, and how social scientists might use it. b. What should social scientists do to address the concern that, in changing the meaning of ordinary words, they risk changing the subject? c. What role, if any, should experimental philosophy play in this process? 2. What legitimate role, if any, can researchers’ ethical values play internal to social science?1 a. Briefly explain the distinction between ethical and “epistemic” values. b. Give some examples of cases where the influence of researchers’ values undermined the quality of the science. (It’s better if these are your own, and not ones we’ve discussed in lecture). c. Explain Heather Douglas’ “inductive risk” argument. What implications does it have for the role of ethical values internal to science? d. Explain what a “mixed claim” is. When, if ever, is it legitimate for social scientists to make such claims? Explain. 3. Which conception(s) of objectivity should be held up as the ideal for social science? Why? a. What kinds of problems arise when objectivity is lacking? b. Explain 2-3 forms of objectivity that you think can plausibly address or avoid these problems. c. Which one of these is most effective, and so most important for social scientists to strive for? Why? 4. Well-being is a popular research topic across the social sciences. How should measures of well-being be validated? a. Briefly explain a couple examples of well-being measures used in different fields. b. What does the process of validating such measures typically look like now? c. What problems are there with how things typically work now? d. How can these problems be addressed? 5. What is the “replication crisis”, and what should be done about it? a. Why would it be a problem if replication rates in a scientific field are low? 1 Here, “internal” to the science means in the research itself. Hence, this question is not about the roles values play in constraining research (e.g., regarding the treatment of human subjects), or motivating certain research (e.g., on treating diseases). It’s about the process of conducting a certain program of research, the conclusions drawn, the theories developed, etc.b. What are some candidate explanations for low replicability rates in the social sciences? Keep in mind that replicability rates in non-social (e.g., medical) sciences seem to be comparable. c. What are some strategies for making research more replicable? (These can be strategies we discussed in class, ideas of your own, or both). d. Which of these strategies is most


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