Creative Abduction, Factor Analysis, and the Causes of Liberal Democracy

Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 33 (1):1-22 (2019)
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Abstract

The ultimate focus of the current essay is on methods of “creative abduction” that have some guarantees as reliable guides to the truth, and those that do not. Emphasizing work by Richard Englehart using data from the World Values Survey, Gerhard Schurz has analyzed literature surrounding Samuel Huntington’s well-known claims that civilization is divided into eight contending traditions, some of which resist “modernization” – democracy, civil rights, equality of rights of women and minorities, secularism. Schurz suggests an evolutionary model of modernization and identifies opposing social forces. In a later essay, citing Englehart’s work as an example, Schurz identifies factor analysis as an example of “creative abduction”. The theories of Englehart and his collaborators are reviewed again in the current essay. Published simulations and standard statistical desiderata for causal inference show the methods Englehart used, factor analysis in particular, are not guides to truth for the kind of data Schurz recognizes as common in political science. Recent work in statistics, philosophy and computer science that makes advances towards such methods is briefly reviewed.

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Clark Glymour
Carnegie Mellon University