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Response 1: Scientific Method in Social Policy Research Is Not a Lost Cause

  • STEPHEN McKAY (a1)

In ‘Generalisation and phronesis’, Paul Spicker argues that the methodology of empirical research in social policy would be improved by drawing on Aristotle's concept of phronesis (φρόνησις) – which is generally translated as practical wisdom or prudence. He argues against versions of generalisation that rely on cause-and-effect, whether through deductive or inductive means. He maintains, however, that social policy research must still aim at making generalisations, for which he recommends the application of phronesis.

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C. Beatty , S. Fothergill and R. MacMillan (2000), ‘A theory of employment, unemployment and sickness’, Regional Studies, 34: 7, 617–30.

R. Gilbert , G. Salanti , M. Harden and S. See (2005), ‘Infant sleeping position and the sudden infant death syndrome: systematic review of observational studies and historical review of recommendations from 1940 to 2002’, International Journal of Epidemiology [doi:10.1093/ije/dyi088]

P. Humphreys (1989), The Chances of Explanation: Causal Explanations in the Social, Medical, and Physical Sciences, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

D. Lewis (1973), ‘Causation’, Journal of Philosophy, 70: 556–67.

M. Shaw (2003), ‘Flyvbjerg, 2001, Making social science matter’ [book review], Progress in Human Geography, 27: 2, 244.

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
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