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Lecture 2 + 12 Research philosophy Philosophical perspectives The realism-constructivism debate Gergen and the concept of middle Exercises Department of.

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Presentation on theme: "Lecture 2 + 12 Research philosophy Philosophical perspectives The realism-constructivism debate Gergen and the concept of middle Exercises Department of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lecture Research philosophy Philosophical perspectives The realism-constructivism debate Gergen and the concept of middle Exercises Department of Organization Creative business project and methods for creative industry analysis Cand. Soc. (CBP) Spring 2012 Rehné Christensen

2 Philosophical perspectives ”This is a black point”

3 Philosophical perspectives ”The painting is meditative”

4 Philosophical perspectives ”The organizational everyday life at CBS is highly complex ”

5 Philosophical perspectives Agreement What is agreement? What does it mean to agree on something? How do we obtain agreement? What constitutes and makes agreement possible?

6 Data suggests that x is y D C ”x is y” W if the data suggests that x is y, then x is y (by certainty, probability...) Criteria establishing Philosophical perspectives Criteria establishing What criterias (should) count in social research? What criterias (should) count the most?

7 Philosophical perspectives The main philosophical perspectives in social science and research: Realism Phenomenology (subjectivism) Constructivism

8 Philosophical perspectives Philosophical perspectives why? Philosophical perspectives and scientific approaches directly and fundamentally determine our scientific reasoning and research: Making your scientific position explicit Perspective and approach affect problem formulation, choice of method(s) for data collection and analytical strategies Choice of theory and theoretical concepts Choice of criteria of research quality.

9 Philosophical perspectives On philosophical perspectives Conceptualization of fundamental assumptions and understandings of the world, our knowledge of it and ability to theorize about it. Theoretical point of departure: (r) reality exist independent of our knowledge of it (c) reality is constructed continously in social processes (p) reality is the individual’s subjective picture of the world. Perspectives entail different aims of research and research interests: (r) describe reality as precise and neutral as possible (c) capture the complexity (and ambiguity) of social procesess (p) achieve understanding of individual pictures of the world.

10 Philosophical perspectives The dynamics of perspectives Venn diagram-interpretation of the dynamics of perspectives: The 3 intersecting circles represent the 3 perspectives realism, constructivism and phenomenology. The middle represent the research in question (object, description). The diagram demonstrates: 1) perspectives is a matter of choice, 2) possibility of shifting back and forth between perspectives, 3) two or more perspectives may be applied simultaneously to one and the same object.

11 Philosophical perspectives On the nature of perspectives No clear demarcation of perspectives: open-ended and overlap. Nor are perspectives definite in number: Perhaps only 2 (e.g. merging (c) and (p), perhaps more than 3 (e.g. subjectivism). Tentative clarification on concept use: Perspective: concept of the philosophy of science frequently drawing on general philosophical considerations e.g. ontology, language. Scientific approach: traditions such as positivism, hermeneutics and poststructuralism all to be subsumed by and ”derived” from the perspectives of realism, phenomenology and constructivism respectively.

12 Philosophical perspectives Realism Ontology the world, reality exists ”out there”, objectively and independently of our perception and description of it. essentialism in realism; objects of reality are bearers of inherent, essential properties. Epistemology we obtain objective and true/false knowledge of the world. our knowledge and language is true or false depending on correspondence with object/empirical trial with reality. Philosophy of science to describe and explain reality as neutral and objectively as possible.

13 Philosophical perspectives Realist provisos Critical realism critical awareness of strong realist claims about reality: Knowledge and science do not mirror reality in exact and every detail but objectivity remains an ideal of knowledge and science. Science and method brings us closer to reality (but not the reality). Realism in the social sciences the realist researcher seeking behind conventional human action arriving at the underlying guiding structures of the social. This level is not open for our scrutiny but regulates the empirical level of which we have acces – cf. Kantian two-layer theory; the thing for us, the thing in itself).

14 Philosophical perspectives Constructivism Ontology reality is constructed by social processes. Reality is the result of how humans construct our mutual reality through interpretation. non-essentialism in constructivism; objects of reality are not bearers of inherent, essential properties as assumed by realists. Epistemology we do not obtain objective knowledge since this rest on empirical trial with reality. This obviously makes no sense if we hold that we ourselves construct reality. alternatively we should allow for criteria of correctness and inter- subjectivity. Philosophy of science to describe and explain reality not as neutral and objectively as possible, but as coherent and in all complexity.

15 Philosophical perspectives Provisos of constructivism Reality is not something existing entirely in our heads. Reality is ”out there” but not independently of our understanding of it. We use our senses, reason and language to obtain understanding and thereby influencing reality. Constructivism does not entail radical subjectivist relativism claiming that everybody is holding ones own private truth and perception of the world. Most constructivism put special emphasize on the assumption that the world is collectively constructed and so truth becomes a matter of intersubjectivity most oftenly situated in language, discourse or institutional structures framing our common context. Constructivism in social science Critical potential when challenging basic categorizations taken for granted in reasoning and science; if everything is constructed, so is the basis of our categories thereby all up for potential revision.

16 Philosophical perspectives Phenomenology Ontology reality is only perceptible and understandable through our interpretations. Our only access to the world is by our consciousness: No such thing as facts given objectively, they must necessarily be chosen by our sensory apparatus and consciousness and is therefore always interpreted facts. Epistemology The distinction between epistemology and ontology becomes vague since ontological questions are always already tainted by epistemological ones. Philosophy of science to describe the world in terms of our subjective view of it. Our worldview is concrete and everyday – in contrast to natural scientific abstract and formalized descriptions of the world.

17 Philosophical perspectives Phenomenological provisos Phenomenology does not entail the notion that everybody posess one’s own private experience of the world and that meaning should therefore be radically individual: Our life world is always also a common, intersubjective world. The life world is a social, cultural and historical context shaping a specific horizon of meaning for the individual. Phenomenology in social science The neutral researcher should be replaced by a notion of research and researcher that obtain special understanding of the object of study through empathy i.e. identifying oneself with ones object. Focus is on motives and specific experience rather than general patterns.

18 The realism-constructivism debate Dimensions of the debate According to Burr (1998) the realism-constructivism debate evolves around 3 themes, dimensions or aspects of reality: Truth (i) What does the concept of truth mean in relation to falsehood? Materiality (ii) How do we grasp the concept of materialty in relation to illusion? Essence (iii) What is essence contrasted with construction?

19 The realism-constructivism debate Dimensions of the debate: Truth? Realism – Tarski-style semantics: ”The snow is white” is true iff the snow is white. The sentence may be ascribed truth value if the propositional content corresponds with empirical fact(s). The world forms the truth conditions of language and science. Constructivism How to ascribe truth value to theories about organizations and art? No set of formal truth conditions is to be attached to theories of the social. Alternative concept of truth; adjusted to the social world allowing for correctness and intersubjective agreement.

20 The realism-constructivism debate Dimensions of the debate: Materiality? Realism (Kripke 1998) Could Hitler have been someone else? Could Queen Elizabeth II? (in all possible worlds) Criteria of origin: Hitler could not originate from someone else than his unique parents. If a material object has its origin in a certain hunk of matter, it could not have had its origin in any other matter. Criteria of substance: Hitler could not have had a different substance. Hitler is structurally constituted by a unique genetic code x,y,z. Constructivism This is trivial: The research interest of social science is the very contingent properties and actions of Hitler (power, politics, evil etc.) rendered less important on this notion of materiality.

21 The realism-constructivism debate Dimensions of the debate: Essence? Realism (Kripke 1998) Gold’s atomic number 79 is an essential property of gold: if some chunk of matter has this atomic structure, then it is gold. This is not the case with gold being yellow: sometimes gold is white and other metals such as pyrites is also yellow (fool’s gold). We may state that the property yellow of gold is contingent. Constructivism What is the essence of an organization or a text? The objects of social science are not bearers of essential properties but of nominal such. Essence in the social sciences is nominal i.e. types of properties that we in some way construct (e.g. ”efficiency” of organizations).

22 Gergen and the concept of middle Discourse as middle ground Gergen (1998) wish to absent the realism-constructivism antinomy and exhibit 3 directions or strategies for moving on (beyond): 1) (remain) isolated in enclaves 2) Direct confrontation; material nature vs. rhetorics 3) Consider realism and constructivism as forms of discourse.

23 Gergen and the concept of middle Discourse as middle ground Strategies to absent from the realism-constructivism antinomy: 1) (remain) isolated, safely secured and fragmented in hostile self-satisfied enclaves.

24 Gergen and the concept of middle Discourse as middle ground Strategies to absent from the realism-constructivism antinomy: 2) Direct confrontation resting on the assumption that it is doubtfull whether argumentation has the potential to yield common understanding due to the fact that both positions are to beconsidered foundational ontologies. Arguing the first necessarily rules out the foundations of the second and vice versa: the realist cannot point to material nature in order to convince the constructivist, since such evidence has no currency in constructivist ontology. the constructivist cannot use rhetorical references to compel the realist, since mere rhetorics would disqualify the argument in the eyes of the realist.

25 Gergen and the concept of middle Discourse as middle ground Directions to absent from the realism-constructivism antinomy: 3) Consider realism and constructivism as forms of discourse; key concepts are words and phrases used by everybody – a dual capacity of using both realist and constructivist claims and arguments by both. This is in a sense already the case: In order to participate in the battle one needs to know about the opposite viewpoint in detail. Also adding the fact that explaining both viewpoints is very much encouraged by using the opponent in explaining. It follows that agreement on which discourse is appropriate in various situations may be reached: Constructivists using realist discourse to critize realism and realists using constructivist reasoning objecting to constructivism.

26 Gergen and the concept of middle Realism and constructivism as forms of discourse Positive consequences of strategy 3); considering realism and constructivism as forms of discourse. a) non-confrontational mode of opposition based on argumentation: A domain of dialogue rather than conflict. b) Separation of persons from discourse: Constructivists may use realist discourse and vice versa. Realism and constructivism not as identies but as perspectives. Realism and constructivism gain intelligibility by opposition. c) Explorations in commonality: Looking for elements bringing together rather than separating.

27 Realist Constructivist Realism and constructivism as identity Material nature Rhetorics Material nature Rhetorics

28 Realism Constructivism Realism and constructivism as discourse Material nature Rhetorics Material nature Rhetorics Realism and constructivism Material nature Rhetorics Material nature

29 Gergen and the concept of middle Middle The neither-nor of middle Either A or not-A; either A or B; both A and B. Neither A nor B: negative definition of middle, C the rejection of the one-sided (approaches). The fullness of middle The middle, C, interpreted as constructive alternative. Middle as fullness: filling up space instead of void. a point of equilibrium and balance.

30 Exercises Philosophical perspectives Pick one of your research questions. Develop two problem formulations that corresponds to; 1) a realist perspective 2) a constructivist perspective Discuss obvious research questions within both perspectives.

31 Exercises The realism-constructivism debate What is your stance on the question of realism versus constructivism? Which perspective seems more reasonable to you? – and why? How will your work be affected by your position in the realism- constructivism debate?

32 Exercises Gergen and the concept of middle Realism, phenomenology and constructivism: Separate and conflicting perspectives or different yet supplementary dimensions of theory and research? Philosophical perspectives: Choices prior to research activities or overarching debating and evaluation tools that may be put to use at various points during research?


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