Published on December 31, 2007
1Introducing the Ancient Debate: 1 Introducing the Ancient Debate The Ideal Versus the Real: The Ideal Versus the Real The contrast between realists and idealists is a popular fictional theme. Untouchables Star Wars Struggle between: what we would like to do (idealism) what we must do or what is possible (realism) The Ideal Versus the Real: The Ideal Versus the Real In politics the tension between the real and the ideal is prominent. Politics must balance dreams and the real world. dictators: possible revolt peace negotiator: need for compromise other examples? The Ideal Versus the Real in Plato’s Republic: The Ideal Versus the Real in Plato’s Republic Thrasymachus, the realist, is a sophist. A sophist is one who taught the skills necessary for political success. A sophist does not teach ethics. Socrates is the idealist. The purpose of politics is the happiness of the citizenry. Who has the stronger point? Politics is about the ongoing struggle between realists and idealists. Your “Own Private Idaho”: Your “Own Private Idaho” Everyone brings to the study of politics their own unique set of experiences. People organize and simplify their understanding of politics through conceptual frameworks. personal experience preferences expectations People use these frameworks to interpret political phenomena. Fiction can help transcend these frameworks. Fiction as a Tool for Exploring Politics: Fiction as a Tool for Exploring Politics Fiction is a useful tool for study politics because: It provides a window into an environment where our conceptual frameworks give way to the author’s creativity. It can give us a taste for political situations that we will likely never experience. It exaggerates political phenomena, thus making them easier to identify. It is engaging. It promotes active learning. What is Politics?: What is Politics? It is a word clouded by personal opinions and potentially conflicting examples. Political scientists cannot agree on a definition! People often think of calculating behavior meant to influence others in order to get something or attain a goal. People often have negative impressions of politics. What is Politics?: What is Politics? Politics consists of individual or combined actions of individuals, governments, and/or groups, aimed at getting what they want accomplished, when those actions have public consequences. Definition does not distinguish between “good” or “bad” behavior. What is Politics?: What is Politics? Politics is never stagnant; the specifics are always in flux. The fax machine as a political tool in China during the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989. Choosing not to participate in politics is a choice to leave political decisions to others. Not voting is a political action. What is Politics?: What is Politics? Politics can take place outside of government. Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) is a form of politics outside of government. A society’s religion, its customs and traditions, its resources, and its economy can be part of its politics. Private decisions can have public consequences. What is Political Science?: What is Political Science? Political scientists do not agree on a definition; often heated battles. What is meant by “science”? Aristotle wrote about a science of politics. He was referring to a body of knowledge regarding how to organize a state to obtain happiness. He was being normative; he was offering his opinions on the good life. What is Political Science?: What is Political Science? Some think about science as the scientific method. Social scientists usually cannot isolate individuals, organizations, and groups in the laboratory or isolate and manipulate the things that might influence them. Political scientists have come up with numerous ways of approximating the ideal of laboratory conditions, primarily through the use of statistics. What is Political Science?: What is Political Science? Some suggest that the use of statistics pushes researchers to examine things that can easily be counted, cataloged, or quantified. money votes weapons This causes important things that cannot be counted, like beliefs, expectations, or hopes to be discounted or ignored entirely. Still, researchers using statistics have made tremendous contributions to the study of politics. What is Political Science?: What is Political Science? Some argue that it is not possible to be objective about politics in the way one can be in the natural sciences. These scholars have increased our understanding by showing how rhetoric, decision process, and culture influence the behaviors of individuals and governments. Perhaps there should never have been “science” in the term “political science.” What is Political Science?: What is Political Science? The best way to approach “science” may be to use social scientist Earl Babbie’s framework. Experiential reality versus agreement reality. experiential reality = the things we directly experience. agreement reality (more important) = things we believe are real even though we have never directly experienced them. What is Political Science?: What is Political Science? We can think of science as a set of rules and processes we agree to use to generate agreement reality. Thus, the “science” in political science is the effort to develop a greater understanding of politics by conducting research openly and transparently, utilizing methods that will convince other political scientists to accept the results as accurate and correct. To create agreement reality regarding politics, all researchers must carefully document their research, fully explain their findings, disclose any of their known biases, and acknowledge any known weaknesses in their research.