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A Model DisciplinePolitical Science and the Logic of Representations$
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Kevin A. Clarke and David M. Primo

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195382198

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195382198.001.0001

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(p.134) 6 Explanation
A Model Discipline

Kevin A. Clarke

David M. Primo

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with a question. How do theoretical and empirical models interact? Theoretical models are not confronted with data, but with models of data, or empirical models. Theoretical models and empirical models represent different things, and given that there is no testing relationship, or even a strictly logical relationship, between the two kinds of models, what is the nature of their interaction? We consider existing justifications for combining theoretical and empirical models and find them wanting. We argue for a new justification based on the premise that theoretical models are necessary components of explanations. We discuss two broad conceptions of explanation, the unification approach and the causal mechanical approach, and show that political scientists have made use of both. An introduction to choosing between explanations in a relative sense and whether choosing between explanations is always necessary ends the chapter.

Keywords:   explanation, unification, causal mechanical

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