December 1, 2003

Prediction, Explanation and the Epistemology of Future Studies

  • Paul Dragos Aligica

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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This article is a contribution to the development of the epistemological foundations of Futures Studies. The article starts by presenting the conventional "covering-law" model asserting the symmetry between prediction and explanation, a model that continues to undermine the authority of Futures Studies as a discipline despite the fact that Logical Positivism, the epistemological paradigm that inspired it, is no longer dominant. Then the article outlines the fatal weaknesses of that model showing how out of its criticism emerges the prospect of a coherent and robust epistemology of prediction. Two major points are made: First that predictive argumentation is not demonstrative but merely evidential. Therefore formal logic argumentative structures of the "covering law" type are inadequate in giving a complete and accurate account of predictive argumentation and practice. If the nature of predictive arguments is evidential then the epistemology of prediction should be based not on mere formal logic but on a larger theory of argumentation. Second, the criticism illuminates the complex problem of the types of knowledge and information used in predictive arguments to build up evidence. Explicit and formalized knowledge and statistical evidence are not enough for a successful predictive procedure. Background information and personal, local and tacit knowledge play a surprisingly major role in predictive arguments and procedures and that has very important epistemological consequences.

Read the article at ScienceDirect.

Aligica, Paul Dragos. "Prediction, Explanation and the Epistemology of Future Studies." The Journal of Policy, Planning, and Future Studies 35, no. 10 (2003): 1027-1040.