Theoreticians' obligation of transparency: When parsimony, reflexivity, transparency and reciprocity meet

Piki Ish-Shalom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


One way to describe the role of the social sciences (international relations included) is by relating to its function of rendering the social world transparent. This is a major conception of moral significance. The social world is a world of moral subjects. To render this world of moral subjects transparent involves exposing the inner states of the human mind. Moreover, according to the moral principle of reciprocity, those who make others transparent should be also transparent themselves. Furthermore, as facts do not order themselves objectively into parsimonious theory, the social scientist requires an extra-theoretical mechanism to classify and filter out data on the way to constructing theory. This extra-mechanism comprises the scientist's a priori assumptions of normative, ontological, and epistemological types: a priori assumptions that constitute the inner states of the theoretician's mind and necessarily precede theory. It is argued here that according to the moral and social principle of reciprocity, theoreticians have an individual and communal moral obligation to ensure that theory and theorising are transparent; an obligation attainable and preceded by strong individual and communal reflexivity. The extra-theoretical mechanism, and especially the ideological inclinations and normative convictions of theoreticians that allows parsimonious theory to be constructed from unbounded social complexity, should be made visible to the public.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)973-996
Number of pages24
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2011


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