The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Win Phil’s Money

September 7, 2013

My views on the role of assumptions are no secret.  Nor are they without detractors.  In hopes of advancing the debate, I invite anyone who disagrees with me to enrich themselves while proving me wrong.

Pick any scholarly paper you have written, published or not.  If I cannot identify three patently false or fundamentally unfalsifiable assumptions in the paper, as judged by a mutually agreed upon third party, I will pay you $1000.  If I can, I ask only that you admit publicly that your view about the role of assumptions is untenable.  You won’t owe me any money.

I’m completely serious about this.  If you are interested, email me (parena at buffalo dot edu).

EDITED: this offer only applies to scholarly papers in political science and/or international relations, and only those purporting to explain some aspect of international relations (as opposed to review pieces or calls for reflection or whatever).

EDITED II: What’s the point of this?  Though this won’t by any means settle all debate about the proper role of assumptions, I think it has the potential to be informative. I believe it is impossible to avoid making false and/or unfalsifiable assumptions, and that it is therefore inappropriate to criticize someone for having done so. Many disagree with me.  There are those in this field who think that committing the sin of including a single false/non-falsifiable assumption is immediately disqualifying; who don’t distinguish between implausible assumptions that are only there to simplify and thus are ultimately innocuous, and implausible assumptions that are critically responsible for the substantive results and thus are deeply problematic on the other.  If someone agrees to the challenge, and I fail to do what I’ve proposed, my position will look a lot less tenable. If those who believe that no one should make assumptions are forced to realize that they have done so, even in a paper they were confident was free of sin, the contrary position will look less tenable.

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I am an assistant professor of political science at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. I mostly write here about "rational choice" and IR theory. I also maintain my own blog,