October 15, 2015

More ontological and epistemological considerations

I am beginning to reject the notion of an objective reality and the notion that researchers should be as objective as possible when considering their research design. That probably caught your attention, so I shall rephrase that: I am beginning to reject the notion that most people can reach objective truth of reality; objective reality exists, but in ideological form rather than a realised form that is easily accessible. I suggest that everything that we know about reality, the way we come to know reality and the processes involved in developing our knowledge and understanding of reality is subjective, contextual, temporary and situated. Objective truth and the development of objective knowledge of this reality is impossible to attain because no human being can possess the totality of human knowledge and if any human being were capable of doing so, the total amount of all knowledge that exists and can be known is nowhere near as much as what is yet to be known. What is yet to be known could be described as being infinite: we simply cannot predict what we could know in the future, both on a personal level and on a wider, social, communal, global level.

I am therefore beginning to come to understand and believe that there is more to our role as junior and senior researchers than passively standing “objectively” aside, observing reality and collecting data of this reality and its behaviours using whatever data collection techniques we choose and analysing this data using whatever analytical models and methods we choose. There appears to be arguments, especially in the Social Science areas, that support the notion that the researcher’s perspectives, beliefs of reality, perspectives of knowledge and of knowledge acquirement and development influence the design of the research.

I have held a constructivist perspective for many years: I believe that we as individuals construct our own reality and have our own ways of acquiring knowledge of this reality. Cognitive Constructivism, advocated by Piaget, explains this from an individualist perspective whilst Social Constructivism, with its roots in Vygotskian theory, involves the construction of meaning and awareness of this reality within a social setting and is a very common Philosophical perspective of researching social learning. A sense of building a common consensus of objective meaning and knowledge of reality could be possible within a social learning setting but this could also be classed as subjective because the group would only be working with firstly the amount of knowledge and awareness that currently exists within the group, and the amount of extra awareness and knowledge that is obtained throughout that group’s timeframe of existence.

The following questions I have been thinking about and might consider developing answers and arguments for within the Ph.D. thesis:

Could a researcher, even within a Social Science discipline, really be objective?

Is a researcher drawn towards research methodologies more so because that methodology and methods match their framework of perceptions, beliefs, perspectives, values and attitudes of and towards reality?

Are we as individuals within our society really be able to reach or understand objective truth about reality, or will people forever be led by their own preconceptions, perspectives, values and attitudes of and towards reality?

What should be the extent or role of a researcher’s subjective framework of beliefs of reality play on their role of being a researcher and the development of their research design?

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