Monday, October 24, 2005

Less scientific, more intuitive

The other seminar today was that obligatory one devised to get first year Government students into the LSE first thing Monday morning. Christian List presented an overview of social choice theory (and in particular the problems presented with decision-making rules) while cecile Fabre offered an overview of some of the difficulties in normative political theory through the prism of her own work on the ethics of welfare distribution.

It's not an area that I know a lot about - and which I think was the same for many of my colleagues - so I fear that my questions were relatively simple in tone. What practical applications have social choice theorists done with their work (answer: not much, admitted Christian, but they should be used more often in areas like electoral reform), while I expressed concern to Cecile about my sense that normative theory seems to involve a sense of working back from an already drawn conclusion - which if starkly contrasted with political science (where the purpose seems to be to get at the 'truth'), is the opposite way around.

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