Teaching and Learning Ontology and Epistemology in Political Science

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Abstract

The teaching and learning of ontology and epistemology is an important element of political science, as it helps students to appraise, differentiate and choose between competing philosophies, theories and analytical traditions. Thus, it encourages reflexive learning through the strategies of inquiry, role taking and benign disruption. However, we argue that there are aspects within the most prominent introductory material on these meta-theoretical issues which may undermine these processes. In particular, definitional inaccuracies and a lack of sustained reflection on the contested nature of the directional relationship between ontology and epistemology tend towards a prescriptive ‘path dependency’ and curtail the possibility of reflexive learning. By subjecting this received knowledge to critical reflection, we hope to overturn these weaknesses and open up a debate on the teaching and learning of ontology and epistemology.

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