24 Feb Is the Method of Problems the Best?
The method of topics as that of comparison to methods of problems for a time now; has become an analytical structure and tool in the research industry. For the reason that some researchers from all facets of life hold views to what is best used.
The Method of Problems versus the Method of Topics is an article compiled by Fred Eidlin – an Author and Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Guelph. Here he asserts that the two methods of research above are in dire contrast to each other. Thereby, giving hypothetical illustrations to support the view that one method is far better than the other. Thus, in the field of social sciences to that of other sciences like natural, and political sciences.
Here in this work, I shall attempt to give a review of his work.
The malady of some students and professors that spark curiosity is what the author Fred Eidlin calls “topicism”. A term that rests on views about the knowledge that is deeply ingrained in commonsense knowledge as well as a mainstream social science. According to him, this method is still taught in social science methodology courses. A malady that eventually becomes a theory in the form of topic-covering.
However, in advanced natural resources, the method of problems is standard. For “the social sciences are not entirely devoid of problem orientation, yet topicism is rampant in the social sciences.” Karl Popper and Murray Davis also hold views that an observation often becomes the basis for deeper inquiries in scientific research.
The author Fred moves on to say that, intellectual problems are logical contradictions, which solutions resolve.
In the field of research, it is been asserted that the search for the solution to a problem or an inquiry is a result of logical inconsistencies. That which is tacitly held beliefs. In the long run, drives one to an inquiry. For Hattiangadi, “logical inconsistencies destroys the effectiveness of our system of beliefs, in that from a logically inconsistent set of statements any statement follows. A logical inconsistency forces us to seek an explanation. For left unexplained, it undermines our entire system of beliefs” (Hattiangadi 1978, 352).
Fred Eidlin makes it clear that background assumptions frequently are at the roots of the problem. Why? To him, all accounts made from an ornithologist, an entomologist, a horticulturist, and a real estate agent may all gather facts about the same piece of land and give entirely different accounts of it. Yet, all of these accounts may be true and consistent with each other. So it is that, becomes problematic when Marxists, Liberals, and conservatives often give different and inconsistent accounts of reality because of their differing theoretical assumptions and background knowledge. However, sometimes, despite such differences, they may give differing accounts that are true and consistent with each other.
All these illustrate that what is a problem for one observer will not be problematic for another observer who does not hold the assumptions that make it problematic.
The author again says that the method of problems retains the aim of finding explanations that may be tentatively shown to be true or false. That’s from the illustrations given above, assertions made about reality, if not consistent, there is no problem.
However, there will always be assumptions in a hypothesis formulation. Through and through to scientific debates. These assumptions then tend to serve as the touchstone of truth and falsity. In light of that, participants here over time believe that all these exist outside of all frameworks.
The assumption eventually becomes an autonomous reality. And then, its independency gives unity to science.
The paradigms and research programs such as theories, methods, and metaphysical views serve as the basis of background assumptions. These assumptions are further taken as self-evident. However, enlightenment arrives when the self-evident truths of different people clashes.
Nevertheless, according to Polanyi, knowledge in science is tacit. Subsequently, this knowledge exists below the level of consciousness.
In summary, the analysis made above is a clear outline of how research on the subject matter; “the Method of Problems versus the Method of Topics” has been mostly restricted to comparisons in most facets of life aside from social sciences. Most particularly in the academia of our modern day.
Fred Eidlin asserts that problem-driven research is by no means a monopoly of the advanced natural sciences. For contemporary social science and that of political thinkers, are unmistakably problem-driven.
In the social sciences, much of the research up to now has been descriptive. That’s resulting in “Topicism” as the author puts it. These are devoid of problems. Fred laments over how this is rampant in the field of academia. However, he fails to acknowledge the significance of “Topicism” in the social sciences. All he does is, putting more emphasis on how that is related to other sciences.
I agree partially with him that, the best way to help persons in academia, especially in the social sciences is by teaching them how to formulate and solve problems. One of the limitations of this solution is that it does not give room for other research tools and tools of knowledge. I think more can be done when these tools are considered in the field.
Sure, there is never a guarantee that not just the scientists, but other aristocrats will succeed, even in formulating a genuine problem, let alone in finding a solution. All in all, in this ground-breaking analysis Fred showed that the Method of Problems is of more significance in research to that of Method of Topics.