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The Crooked Relationship Between Method and Matter

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Part of the Theory and History in the Human and Social Sciences book series (THHSS)

Abstract

This chapter explores two themes running throughout the present volume. The first addresses the issues raised by an ever-growing rigidity and prescriptive nature in methodological approaches. While agreeing with this line of diagnosis, I further argue that these traits also go completely unquestioned by contemporary conceptions of science, breeding dangerous dogmatism. Secondly, this collection of studies deals with the consequences of using a language-like structure as a template to characterize all psychological phenomena. I point out the urgency to overcome a current trend of discursivism that the social sciences inherited from the twentieth-century linguistic turn. The studies contained in this book are in fact representative of an ongoing effort to address this matter.

Keywords

  • Methods
  • Discursivism
  • Personal knowledge
  • Pragmatism

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Kant’s basic argument is that mathematics points to the form of sense data. We perceive things in time and space even before we know what these things are about. According to Kant (2004), this kind of knowledge is synthetic (i.e., empirical) and a priori (i.e., not based on sensible experience): “Pure mathematics, as synthetic cognition [Erkenntnis] a priori, is possible only because it refers to no other objects than mere objects of the senses, the empirical intuition of which is based on a pure and indeed a priori intuition [Anschauung] (of space and time), and can be so based because this pure intuition is nothing but the mere form of sensibility, which precedes the actual appearance of objects, since it in fact first makes this appearance possible” (p. 35, added emphasis).

  2. 2.

    See APA’s reporting standards for qualitative studies (Levitt et al., 2018).

  3. 3.

    For a history of the use of Gilbert Ryle’s “thick description” in the social sciences see Ponterotto (2006).

  4. 4.

    I emphasize philosophical phenomenology because of its difference regarding a concomitant psychological phenomenology, represented by prominent psychologists such as Carl Stumpf (Husserl’s habilitation advisor), Theodor Lipps, Henri Bergson and Erwin Straus, among others. Although this tradition has been largely put aside by contemporary psychology, recent authors can well be considered to be its nourishers (Benetka & Joerchel, 2016; Rosenthal, 2019; Rojas, 2021).

  5. 5.

    It is interesting to look into Frege’s idiosyncratic use of psychological terms to refer to the technical terms he introduced (Frege, 1892). For instance, he used the German word for meaning [Bedeutung] to technically denote a signaled spatio-temporal object (which Russell rightly replaced for reference in his English translation of Frege’s classical article On sense and reference). Similarly, Frege used the German term for thought [Gedanke] to name what one technically refers to as a proposition. Far from being inadvertent mistakes, these and other ambiguities allowed logicians –two generations later– to sustain that the mind of actual people is but a calculus ratiocinator – a machine.

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Cornejo, C. (2022). The Crooked Relationship Between Method and Matter. In: Watzlawik, M., Salden, S. (eds) Courageous Methods in Cultural Psychology. Theory and History in the Human and Social Sciences. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-93535-1_1

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