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Origins of Political Science : What is Theory?

Phraseology and its Confusing Applications for Undergraduates

Most of these phrases below come from one chapter in a text which focuses on normative discourse in “Metascience & Politics, An Inquiry into the Conceptual Language of Political Science.”[1] Almost all of these phrases allude to specific or general meanings, and may contain theories, and concepts that are not defined in this chapter or the book. This book is about a language domain in political science which seeks not to define but to argue these merits of conceptual language disciplines. This example helps to explain the language domain used in the rigors of this particular course on revolutionary movements in the twentieth century. Although, many of these phrases can cross specific sub-disciplines, one must pay attention to the way the phrases are used in context of their sentences to understand the point of view of the professor. Other professors and sub-disciplines will have variations on context, meaning and use for these phrases. Be conscious of the treatment. Although, an undergraduate student will not be required to understand or replicate every phrase, pay close attention in lecture to repeated phrases. This will help one focus in on phrase language so one can “predict” which specific employment of phrases will “likely” show up on the exam.

In general, various explanations will contend from one class to another – so this explains why there is a need for a field of phraseology (the study of phrases in linguistic rigors). Don’t worry if as a student you view this to be too simple for memorization purposes. There will usually be, or for this particular course, class handouts which will introduce numerous additional phrases, theories and concepts for the student to grapple with over the course of a semester. If this does not make one study well into the night, don’t worry, there are many other chapters in this particular text that will introduce plenty of new phrases to learn.

Example of phrase proliferation, wordata mainly from one chapter of a text:[2]

social science theory

Relatively precise empirical evidence

Essentially pretheoretical preliminary conceptual schemata

traditional political theorists

normative theorist

formal sense of theory

General Theory

Medium theory

Empirical theory

Concept formation

Discursive account

Descriptive account

Theoretical proposition

Predictive pretensions

Storage convenience

Schematic explanations

Characterized causal factors

Serious theoretical claim embedded

Manifest traits

Contingent conditions

Primitive taxomic scheme

Systematic predictive

Systematic explanatory

Determinate public procedure

Lawlike assertions


Indeterminate set

Preliminary criterial definition

substantive ideologies


constative utterances

perlocutionary dimension

linguistic performance

instrumental goods

interpersonal exchange

unproblematic individual wants

collective human wants

appraisive ascription

satisfactorily construed

ultimate satisfaction

reduce conflict

short-range interests

long-range interests

interesting conflict

essentially dynamic

perlocutionary performance

constative performances

ultimate reference

satisfactorily construed

essentially perlocutionary

sentiment attraction

sentiment aversion

normally conceived

normative discourse

normative utterances

normative elements

faulted truth claims

true descriptions

flictual disagreement

pragmatic consideration

nietaethical consideration

is/ought dichotomy

legitimately figures

normative conclusion

license enjoinments

stipulailve definition

stipulatively define

synthetic truth

analytic statements

bald pronouncement

proffered definition

antecedent persuasive definitions

evolutionary purpose

vindicate stipulative use

felt preference

spurious arguments

arbitrary restrictions

legitimate technique

compelling public arguments

zoological classification

array of existing knowledge

substantive descriptive

eminently rational

stipulative normative definitions

characteristically normative

Serious normative discussion 

normative disagreements

normative dispute

normative commitments

normative terms

public reasons

engage disputants

intrinsically good


principal function

existential psychology

political values

constative affirmations

simpleminded distinction

potential human equality

culmination of humanism

complete humanism

primitive sense

privative sense

cognitive advantage

predictive leverage

technique to engage interest

psychologically compels

affirmative sentiments

common sentiments

human sentiment

eminently personal

ultimate values

primary values

unproblematic values

unconsciously conspire to convince

recommend refuge

transrationalism to resolve normative disagreement

collection of factual assertions

perlocutionary function

informal logic

rudimentary logic

reasoned argument

reasoned stipulations

justificatory argument

reasonable specificity

defining attributes

reasonably clear characterization

emotive expressions

undefined emotive expressions

existence worthy

tender factual determinations

unproblematic value

unproblematic positive emotive force

rudimentary emotive theory of normative meaning

simple informal logic of moral dispute

lack of integrity

alternative definitions

public scrutiny

general approbation

warranted descriptive truth claims

logical consistency of argument

factual claims

projected total outcomes

consistent manner

explicitly formulated

interconnected sets of propositions

mutually interactive

demand disposition

adequately collected

responsibly processed

competently interpreted

methods of adjudication

imperative needs

analytic distinctions

unrestricted descriptive claims

emotive component

exploratory instinct

descriptive adequacy criteria

descriptive truth

moral judgment

warranted moral convictions

Moral scepticism

epistemological scepticism

invincibly incorrigible

indefeasibly true

initial deposit of funded empirical credibilities

entrenched credibilities

restricted domain of discourse

adequacy criteria

cognate imperatives

particular situation

subsequently modified

good reason

intrinsic goodness

enhancement of culture

flictual claim

cognitive claims

evidential merit

objective merit

collective survival potential

minimum content of natural law (H. L. A. Hart)

self-recommending values

universalizable nonproblematic values

derivative considerations

contingent knowledge


specific cognitive entailments

limited dispositional property

sentiments approving

logical impeccability

entrenched descriptive

well-entrenched values

instrumental value

extrinsic value

normative vindication

public appraisal

subsequent reevaluation

overriding reasons

complex constellation

interactive constellation

entailed commitments

strictly self-regarding

contextual constraints

contextual circumstances

language domains

normative priorities

conceivable implications

anticipated costs

hasty generalization

exploit hyperbolic

legitimate recourse

unreflective sentiment

common sentimental base

specific priority

normative posture

rational inquiry

guarantee absolute reliability

absolutely reliable

maximally reliable

basest motives

intrinsic norms

ambiguous criteria

autonomous norms

intrinsic to science

defensible recommendation

defensible injunction

defensible prescription

defensible evaluation

inextricably united

knowledge enterprise

total outcome

cognitive strains

normative strains

asymmetrical cognitive strains

asymmetrical normative strains

entire fabric

formal incongruity

extended cognitive system

maximize total value outcomes

complex fashion

responsible readjustment

maximize cognitive congruence

expectations confidently entertained

moral universe

responsible strategy

secondary importance

most important respect

make ready recourse

possible outcomes

grand alternatives

prevailing normative constraints

prevailing natural constraints

prevailing social constraints

ample evidence

vague generalizations

collection of vague generalizations

intuitively held values

public dialogue

responsible attitudes

defensible attitudes

intrinsically desirable

pursued rationally

competing value claims

indifference curves

demand curves

instrumental value

sophisticated philosophical analysis

unproblematically rational

irredeemably tendentious

extra-scientific insights

trans- scientific insights

post- scientific insights

formal domain


A key understanding in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley is defined as a field of social science. Social Scientists study subjective, inter-subjective and objective or structural aspects of society. It is important in understanding that the formal (a.k.a. natural) science solely studies the objective nature of properties. Political Science is in the sub-field of the informal sciences. For political scientists, an analytic substance of a course sometimes or often will illustrate how “discursive science” is actually undertaken. This can be explained by a political scientist’s role is to classify non-observable entities having observable properties. In the natural sciences, the subjective is rarely to never in dispute. However, in the informal sciences, the subjective or the inter-subjective(s) are rarely in agreement among the scientists. Each and every student of political science will face issues when they take a course at U.B. Berkeley in the Department of Political Science.

A student is required to learn theory, as U.C. Berkeley has been a cradle of theory for some time. There are endless theories and new theories proposed each year. The choice of theory concentration depends upon the professor. They may chose theories just to teach you them and then refute them, or introduce the complexities on a variety of new theoretical disciplines. Political Scientist that focuses on the industrialization era and onward in time will communicate in class that during and after the industrial revolution, theory helped explain the socio-political-economic phenomena that arose with the complications of modern society. For the student, this entails that essays or class projects are geared toward answering or proposing solutions to specific social-political problems – not just apprising them in their historical context(s).  In order to solve them, often theory or theoretical applications or conceptual schemata are preferred tools of the field.

As student, one will also be exposed to conceptual science. Emerging disciplines in interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary scientific enquiry will mean that the student at U.C. Berkeley will be required to learn more subject matter unrelated to their particular sub-discipline. This requires more effort upon the student. This effort may require extra studying time devoted to learning more theory, conceptual schemata or taxonomies that appear in other disciplines or sub-fields as adjuncts to the standard theories, conceptual schemata or taxonomies in your own political science field.

In all good will, this is supposed to help the student realize their ultimate goal of mastering the rigors of academic discipline, the prime goal set for the undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley.

Political Science (a species of social science) is part of informal sciences, in the modern sense (natural science being formal). What makes social science a distinctive field from natural science is the reliance on subjective and inter-subjective criteria. This can be explained in that natural sciences focus exclusively on objective aspects of nature. Objective data is much easier to catalogue, asses and quantify or qualify. This is because the subject is not in dispute.  Subjective data in social science, and particularly that of Political Science, often carries stipulating interpretative properties. For example, Stalin and Roosevelt, two contemporary and important world leaders of the twentieth century, used “Democracy” in the subjective sense to explain their system of government was the “liberation of their people.” (exmp.  Democracy is the liberation of the people!)  Obviously, the government system of the United States of America and the Stalinist government system are now known to not to be comparable subjective systems in any reasonable and reliable sense of the term and present problems for classification purposes.  

Humanity vs. Theory & Conceptual in Political Science  at U.C.B.

Humanities Discipline’s methodological process of operation can be explained as: it acquires data, reports the data, may analysis the data in regards to archival purposes or to telling a story. They do not seek to propose strategies for speculatory or prediction purposes.  Social Scientists usually need the humanities discipline to provide them with the data so they can categories it, analysis it and seek to form theories from the data – therefore to explain social phenomena and ultimately predict its future.

All theory’s origins lay in the scientific method. In its early use, its defining attributes were purely observational; then conceptualization replaced observation; then speculation on concepts led to supposed laws governing the speculation; then finally its current incarnation of a generalized method of supposed law-like assumptions that have been accepted ( by a certain community) and offer solutions or predictions to a (set of) problem(s). For example, Hegel’s philosophy may be combined within another discourse of science in conjunction with empirical data to form a hybrid conceptualization in which propositions are offered and/or a prediction is confirmed or disconfirmed. Freud’s psychoanalytical analysis may be combined with political data or empirical observation on some sort or set of social data to form a set of law-like assumptions and offer solutions or predictions to a problem. There may be economic theories that employ mathematical applications that claim rigorous scientific methodologies, such as Game Theory. Your professor may have a consensus on a definition of theory, but theory is still argued over in terms of its procedural and operational definitions and imperatives. Often theory and conceptual are blurred, leading to arguments called Theory construction. For example, typologies or taxonomies may be viewed as pretheoretical in concept, but may be argued that they can help lead to a theory. Some professors may argue in their texts or in lecture that an accepted theory is in fact a pretheory, according to their definitional field of interpretation—while someone had claimed it was a theory.

Modern Theory aims at prediction, while modern conceptualization aims at generalized ideas and classificatory attempts. As the scientific method has expanded to include many variations of scientific methodologies,  theory has been reproduced and redefined numerous times to take on different substantive roles in science. Therefore, most professors will have a different definition of them, with significant variations, as well as views on their application for one’s class. One Political Science professor, A. James Gregor, argues in political science applications that  “All commentators agree that we possess little in the way of defensible theories about political life in general, much less about a particular form of political life.”[3] Yet, in conceptualization, this methodology creates more problems than it solves. Most concepts in political science suffer from consistency – both source bases and comparative variability. Therefore, some have considered political science not part of the scientific genre of social science. Yet, this is a pessimistic point of view. However, one should be aware that conceptualization is often blurred with claims of theory.

Conceptualization and Theory are often contrasted with some humanities approach to reprising the past and predicting the future. Before Socrates, known for the practice of the scientific method (deductive enquiry) to uncover a term definition or an origin of someone’s knowledge, Herodotus, widely regarded as the first western historian, is a prime example of the method of humanistic approach to scholarship. This method (first used in western history as far as we know) regards gathering prime source data (in his case, some written documents, but mostly oral history), critically examining it, and then telling the story according to the sources. In this way, history or retelling of prime sources of the past, operate like artistic performance.  Humanities seeks to tell both sides (views) of the story (as Herodotus did) and represent the pro-and-cons behinds those representations found in the sources. Humanities are frowned upon by many academies today for its claimed undisciplined scientific rigors. In contrast, often theory seeks to work outside of prime source material, offering sometimes only a partial appraisal (or highly abstract and/or a specific set) of prime source data with a speculative approach to telling of history or answering a question. The academic argument against a humanistic approach is that it leaves out pieces of the story which can then be viewed in light of epistemic (literary) conquest. In essence, humanities approach to ‘communicating the past’ comes under the auspices of bias viewpoints. Yet, theory often only selects the sources it hopes to attain its propositions or selects the data it hopes provides its arguments of its academic qualifications. The refutations of the humanities approach by the conceptualizationists, or theoreticianists claim that it cannot tell the “whole” history/story and that it does not provide predictive tools. But this remains the same problem in conceptualization or theory based methods claimed by proponents of the humanities approach. It is this understanding that both may have limitations and both may have merits. Yet, humanities deferrers in one respect to conceptualizationists and theorists, it does not seek to solve anything or predict anything. However, as an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, the novelty trend at the movements is solely dominated by the theory and conceptual disciplines in the social sciences.

Yet, this does not mean that as an undergraduate one is qualified to critically think and offered solutions to a set or set of problems proposed on a test. A. James Gregor, in an interview with we, and as communicated to his class, Political Science 137a fall 2007, reproducing his ideas and views are pre requisites to passing the class. Not all, or even most, professors may conduct their classes as such. Yet, personally, Professor Gregor has communicated to me that as an undergraduate, in general, this class of academic students is not seen by the Academic Faculty as candidates for critical thinking or for solving problems. Solely what Professor Gregor is describing is that the undergraduate experience lays in training students in academic discipline. The rigors involved in writing well, representing one’s forebears arguments substantively on exams, and employing academic diction, are all important steps undergraduates must take and pass through before they can move on to the next level – graduate studies or entering the working world.

Concept Formation: employing a set of linguistic strategies designed to begin to sort some relatively stable constants out of the wealth of experience.[4] Gregor intends that totalitarianism is not a theory or model, but a concept formation. It can be viewed as a conceptual schemata.

Theoretical proposition: is a theory that is confirmed or disconfirmed by some determinant public procedure.[5]

Theory: is a collection of systematically related theoretical propositions, containing one or more law-like assertions, capable of affording explanations and making time –conditioned predictions or retrodictions.[6]

Concepts: The concepts in a quasi-experimental and informal science are not and, in general, cannot be other than “porous” or “open-textured” in order to accommodate the openness of on-going empirical inquiry.[7]

open-textured categories are regularly revised, amplified, and explicated.[8]

Preliminary conceptual schemata in informal disciplines are generally the products of commonplace assumptions.[9] ( Preliminary applies the adjunct assumption).

Heuristic: helping to discover or learn; specific; designating a method of education, followed upon empirical lines, using rules, and to offer to find a solution or answer a question(s).

Schemata: “are calculated to summarize, store, and efficiently retrieve whatever funded information we have about our universe of inquiry.”[10] It suggests an something about empirical reality of some loosely characterized class of some type of determinants.

International Socio-Economic-Political Science


Political Science:

  1. Socrates, the scientific method (in form of a question).  The role of the “gadfly” in historical context.  The commoner who brings up the discussion of social, economic and political topics – in public – a human right of free speech and the human right of democracy. Individualism becomes understood as a political right of a human being.  

  2. Plato: Republic: the role of the individual to the state. How does the community shape the individual? (How does it affect thinking of political movements, in the role of the individual to the state, of the industrial revolution era and onward today?) In the Republic, the class that controls the modes of production is a separate class from the common classes. This is not a classless society.

  3. Plato: Laws: The prototype/system of modern communism. There are no classes, all are of one class ~ discrepancy “ nocturnal council” is the role of the police state – the ones who force the population into classlessness ~ adding confusion to what Plato was trying to offer the world as the perfect socio-economic-political state ~ and if it was truly classless? No Socratic impute in the Laws. (How does the role of the individual to the state differ from the Republic, and how does this conceptual society reflect the revolutionary movements that sought to industrialize? How did the Laws influence, Thomas Moore, Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx’s writings on formulating communism or were they just retelling what Plato described as his ideal state/community in a period discourse?) How would this describe fascism and the role of the individual as a communal being to the will of the state? Did you know that Marx received a Ph. D. in philosophy?

  4. Aristotle, comparative politics (Comparative Political Science: state to state relations (Athens vs. Persian Empire ~ Democracy vs. Socialism). Natural Science, Aristotle’s Universe (Cosmology).

Note: Political Science may have already been around in the ancient times, but these three philosophers were to add substantially to the world around them, a record of socio-political thought of their times.


Phraseology at its metadefinitional denotation or connotation communicates the study of phrase(s). Phrases help social sciences articulate “precise” concepts, theories, and/or meaning/terms.

Phraseology is often a daunting task for an undergraduate (remember a phrase is not a clause, it does not need a subject or a verb). Often when reading texts, one has to search for the meaning behind unfamiliar set of words/or specific word phrases connected to a particular study.  Asking your GSI or professor to define terms or phraseology will become tiresome, because there are many terms or phrases in which the professor has little time to elaborate. This is due to time restraints placed on the professor who must cover important material in lecture, set down as faculty standards of class-specific breath requirement.  It is up to the student to learn for themselves. The vast encyclopedias kept at the many libraries here are a good start.

Example (1):

sociophilosophical presuppositions: A philosophy of society that has already been studied, and has been accepted. This phrase is used as a single term and does not distinguish the study of the philosophy (it may even contain some theoretical or heuristic constructs to some professors) connected to the society in question.  It is abstract unless defined. It may appear in a sentence, unrelated to a topic or discussion on any study. It may be pointing to a subjective, inter-subjective or an objective.  Therefore, it is implied that the definition has already occurred in the text.  So, search the chapter for the topic study or studies and/or the main study in the text.  If you see this word phrase used, one should search for the study in which this term is connected. Don’t worry if you think this is too simple, there are many of these ditties to keep you busy over the semester. Each class/professor has its/their own language domain.

Example (2):

Democratic Socialism: This overused international political science phrase/term defies a universal meaning. Each state or nation differs in interpretation for the definable characteristics, associated with the intersubjective meanings. We must remember that after the events of 1798, each state or nation (whatever the case) increasingly used democracy in their discourse, and each state or nation used democracy to explain a different governmental ideology or belief system as subjective parts of speech (including its inter-subjective relationship to economic and social systems employed). Each state or nation interpreted democracy in their own way. After 1890s, and Marxism became internationally known and debated, the term socialism was (re)introduced to lexicology and taxonomy of a state or national discourse and classification. Yet, again, each state or nation had their own interpretation of the term. After 1945, the term Democratic Socialism defined a synthesis of the two competing and variable terms. One must remember that the Soviet Union used both these terms as meanings for liberating the people, as well as Communist China, almost every country in the European Union, and currently Middle Eastern states, such as Iran. Each state or nation has their own defining characteristics of what the terms democracy and socialism imply or the meaning of the combination of terms which makes up this phrase. The importance is that each term or as a phrase can be applied generically or specifically, but is never fully agreed upon by political scientists. One should read their texts carefully to specify the denotative/or/connotative meaning of each term or the phrase in relation to each state or nation which employed them. Understanding the denotative/or/connotative meaning will assist in uncovering the economic and social policies of a said state or nation – which of course applies to an important metalanguage in international studies.


Nation: under the CIA definition (2005), a nation does not need to possess a military or have defined boarders. In some cases of historic literature/communication, a nation will posses a military and has definable boarders. For the CIA, the military and definable borders determine the general characteristic of a “state.” It is important to compare historical and contemporary meanings of even the most generalist of terms. It is crucial when international representatives communicate with each other in a defined metalanguage domain.

[1] A. James, Gregor,  “Metascience & Politics, An Inquiry into the Conceptual Language of Political Science,” 2nd, ed. (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2003), pp. 282-311. See chapter “On Normative Discourse.”

[2] A. James, Gregor,  “Metascience & Politics, An Inquiry into the Conceptual Language of Political Science,” 2nd, ed. (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2003), pp. 282-311. See chapter “On Normative Discourse.”

[3] Gregor, A. James, “Interpretations of Fascism” ( New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 226. Gregor in lecture does complain about overuse or abuse of theory in general in the social sciences. He may be addressing a certain unwritten community of political scientist in this statement.  Who “all commentators” are is unknown?

[4] Gregor, A. James, “Interpretations of Fascism” ( New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 220.

[5] Gregor, A. James, “Interpretations of Fascism” ( New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 218.

[6] Gregor, A. James, “Interpretations of Fascism” ( New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 218. A. James Gregor, has defined theory in a rigorous and specialized form. It may differ to other interpretations.

[7] Gregor, A. James, “Interpretations of Fascism” ( New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 224.

[8] Gregor, A. James, “Interpretations of Fascism” ( New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 225.

[9] Gregor, A. James, “Interpretations of Fascism” ( New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 225.

[10] Gregor, A. James, “Interpretations of Fascism” ( New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 229.


Copyright © 1999 - 2012 Michael Johnathan McDonald