Meta-Jackson: Re-thinking Patrick Thaddeus Jackson’s Conduct of Inquiry

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In his The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations, Patrick Jackson identifies four distinct ways of studying world politics: ‘neopositivism’, ‘critical realism’, ‘analyticism’ and ‘reflexivity’. According to him, they all fall under the broad umbrella of ‘science’ but they each stem from a distinct philosophical foundation. In his view, which foundation one subscribes to is a matter of faith, which leads him to advocate pluralism. He classifies the underlying philosophical foundations in terms of two criteria: ‘mind–world dualism’ versus ‘mind–world monism’ and ‘phenomenalism’ versus ‘transfactualism’. Through a step-by-step analysis of his complex text, I show that what divides (1) neopositivism, (2) analyticism and (3) critical realism and reflexivity (classed together) is not in fact their philosophical foundations but the nature of the questions they ask, each reflecting distinct human interests. Accordingly, while praising Jackson’s philosophical vigilance against the dominance of neopositivism, I conclude by pointing to a need to consider the political underpinnings of different modes of knowledge production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-269
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • International Relations
  • Jackson
  • meta-theory


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