Armchair theorizing

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Armchair theorizing, armchair philosophizing, or armchair scholarship is an approach to providing new developments in a field that does not involve the collection of new information but, rather, a careful analysis or synthesis of existent scholarship, especially frivolously or superficially so.[1]

Commentary and analysis[edit]

Different disciplines place different weight on purely theoretical research. Some anthropologists argue that purely theoretical anthropological research is outdated and that ethnographic fieldwork should be a necessary part of anthropological research.[2] On the other hand, some commentators argue that economic theories are designed to explain and predict economic phenomena, which requires analysis and synthesis, and not necessarily collection, of data. Leland B. Yeager even argues that economists can legitimately extrapolate from their own personal observations to design new theories. In this sense, Yeager sees armchair theorizing as something better than the "mere sterile juggling of arbitrary assumptions" saying that "it can have a sound empirical basis."[3]

While armchair scholarship contrasts with the scientific method, which inherently involves the active investigation of the nature through data collection, armchair philosophers and theorizers can assist in formulating theories that explain observations; these theories can then be tested with further scientific investigation. While the methods of the armchair philosopher are different from those of the scientist, they can complement each other to produce new insights and discover necessary truths, whether they are empirical or theoretical.

See also[edit]



  • Ingold, Tim (2007), "Anthropology is not ethnography", Proceedings of the British Academy, 154: 69–92
  • Nadel, S.F. (1956), "Understanding primitive peoples", Oceania, 26 (3): 159–173, doi:10.1002/j.1834-4461.1956.tb00676.x

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