Advertisement

Ontology and Epistemology

  • John D. Hathcoat
  • Cara Meixner
  • Mark C. Nicholas
Reference work entry

Abstract

Health social science is an area of study wherein the methodological techniques used within the social sciences are applied to the investigation of human health. Methodological techniques, however, are not philosophically agnostic. Philosophical positions indeed matter in that they result in a range of individual and societal consequences. Consequently, it is important for students and researchers interested in studying the social aspects of health to understand the role of philosophical positions within research. Philosophical positions partly consist of ontological and epistemological assumptions. Ontological issues pertain to what exists, whereas epistemology focuses on the nature, limitations, and justification of human knowledge. This chapter introduces the reader to how ontological and epistemological positions are embedded within the biomedical, biopsychosocial, and critical alternative models of human functioning. Situating each of these models in relevant vignettes, we suggest that philosophical positions serve a dual role within inquiry in that they inform, and are in some circumstances informed by, the methodological and interpretative decisions enacted by researchers.

Keywords

Ontology Epistemology Methods Biomedical Biopsychosocial Health Social Science 

References

  1. Armstrong T. ADD/ADHD alternatives in the classroom. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; 1999.Google Scholar
  2. Berkman LF, Kawachi I. A historical framework for social epidemiology. In: Berkman LF, Kawachi I, editors. Social epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press; 2000. p. 3–12.Google Scholar
  3. Biesta G. Pragmatism and the philosophical foundations of mixed methods research. In: Taskakkori A, Teddlie C, editors. Handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioral research. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 2010. p. 95–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bothwell LE, Podolsky SH. The emergence of the randomized, controlled trial. N Engl J Med. 2016;375(6):501–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Creswell JW. Mapping the field of mixed methods research. J Mixed Methods Res. 2009;3(2):95–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Creswell JW, PlanoClark VL. Designing and conducting mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 2011.Google Scholar
  7. Crotty M. The foundations of social research: meaning and perspective in the research process. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 1998.Google Scholar
  8. Denzin NK, Lincoln YS, editors. The Sage handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 2011.Google Scholar
  9. Engel GL. The need for a new medical model: a challenge for biomedicine. Science. 1977;196:129–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Englehardt TH Jr. The disease of masturbation: values and the concept of disease. Bull Hist Med. 1974;48(2):234–48.Google Scholar
  11. Fleck L. Genesis and development of a scientific fact. In: Trenn T, Merton RK, editors (F. Bradley & T. Trenn, Trans.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; 1935/1979.Google Scholar
  12. Foucault M. Madness and civilization: a history of insanity in the age of reason (R. Howard, Trans.). New York: Routledge; 1961/1989.Google Scholar
  13. Freire P. Pedagogy of the oppressed (M.B. Ramos, Trans.). New York: Bloomsbury Academic; 1970/2014.Google Scholar
  14. Gale JE, Dolbin-MacNab ML. Qualitative research for family therapy. In: Mille RB, Johnson LN, editors. Advanced methods in family therapy research: a focus on validity and change. New York: Routledge; 2014. p. 247–65.Google Scholar
  15. Greene JC. Mixed methods in social inquiry. San Francisco: Wiley; 2007.Google Scholar
  16. Guba E, Lincoln Y. Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In: Denzin N, Lincoln Y, editors. Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 1994. p. 105–17.Google Scholar
  17. Guba EG, Lincoln YS Paradigmatic Controversies, Contradictions, and Emerging Confluences. In: Denzin NK, Lincoln YS, editors. The Sage handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; 2005. pp. 191–215.Google Scholar
  18. Hathcoat JD, Meixner C. Pragmatism, factor analysis, and the conditional incompatibility thesis in mixed methods research. J Mixed Methods Res. 2017;11(4):433–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hathcoat JD, Nicholas M. Epistemology. In: Coghlan D, Brydon-Miller M, editors. The SAGE encyclopedia of action research (“E” entries, pp. 285–332). Washington, DC: Sage; 2014.Google Scholar
  20. Hausman DM. Health and well-being. In: Solomon M, Simon JR, Kincaid H, editors. The Routledge companion to philosophy of medicine. New York: Routledge; 2017. p. 27–35.Google Scholar
  21. Heidegger M. Being and time (J. Stambaugh, Trans.). New York: State University of New York Press; 1953/1996.Google Scholar
  22. Hoffman B. Disease, illness, and sickness. In: Solomon M, Simon JR, Kincaid H, editors. The Routledge companion to philosophy of medicine. New York: Routledge; 2017. p. 16–26.Google Scholar
  23. Hood SB. Psychological measurement and methodological realism. Erkenntnis. 2013;78:739–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Houghton C, Hunter A, Meskell P. Linking aims, paradigm and method in nursing research. Nurs Res. 2012;20(2):34–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Howe KR. Against the quantitative-qualitative incompatibility thesis or dogmas die hard. Educational researcher. 1988;17(8):10–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hsu JL. A brief history of vaccines: smallpox to the present. S D Med. 2013;33(7):3–37.Google Scholar
  27. Lovett BJ, Hood, SB. Comorbidity in child psychiatric diagnosis: Conceptual complications. In Perring C, Wells LA, editors. Diagnostic dilemmas in child and adolescent psychiatry: Philosophical perspectives. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2014. p. 80–97.Google Scholar
  28. Illich I. Medicine is a major threat to health. An interview by Sam Keen. Psychol Today. 1976;9(12):66–67.Google Scholar
  29. Koenig HG. Religion and medicine: historical background and reasons for separation. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2000;30(4):385–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kuhn T. The structure of scientific revolutions. 4th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; 1962/2012.Google Scholar
  31. Ladyman J. Understanding philosophy of science. New York: Routledge; 2002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lincoln Y, Guba E. Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park: Sage; 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Longino CF. The limits of scientific medicine. J Health Soc Policy. 1998;9(4):101–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lovett BJ, Hood SB. Realism and operationism in psychiatric diagnosis. Philos Psychol. 2011;24(2):207–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Low G. Thomas Sydenham: the English Hippocrates. Aust N Z J Surg. 1999;69:258–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Maxwell JA. Causal explanation, qualitative research, and scientific inquiry in education. Educ Res. 2004;33(2):3–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Moon K, Blackman D. A guide to understanding social science research for natural scientists. Conserv Biol. 2014;28(5):1167–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Morgan DL. Paradigms lost and pragmatism regained: methodological implications of combining quantitative and qualitative methods. J Mixed Methods Res. 2007;1(1):48–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Murray M. Social history of health psychology: context and textbooks. Health Psychol Rev. 2014;8(2):215–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nicholas M, Hathcoat JD. Ontology. In: Coghlan D, Brydon-Miller M, editors. The SAGE encyclopedia of action research (“O” entries, pp. 285–332). Washington, DC: Sage; 2014.Google Scholar
  41. Onwuegbuzie AJ, Johnson RB, Collins KMT. Call for mixed methods analysis: a philosophical framework for combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. Int J Mult Res Approaches. 2009;3:114–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Phillips DC. Philosophy, science, and social inquiry: contemporary methodological controversies in social science and related applied fields of research. Oxford: Pergamon; 1987.Google Scholar
  43. Poli R. Ontology: the categorical stance. In: Poli R, Seibt J, editors. Theory and application of ontology: philosophical perspectives. New York: Springer; 2010. p. 1–22.Google Scholar
  44. Quine WVO. Two dogmas of empiricism. In: Quine WVO, editor. From a logical point of view. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1953. p. 20–46.Google Scholar
  45. Robinson OC. The idiographic/nomothetic dichotomy: tracing historical origins of contemporary confusions. Hist Philos Psychol. 2011;13(2):32–9.Google Scholar
  46. Sandelowski M. Unmixed mixed-methods research. Res Nurs Health. 2014;37:3–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sisti D, Caplan AL. The concept of disease. In: Solomon M, Simon JR, Kincaid H, editors. The Routledge companion to philosophy of medicine. New York: Routledge; 2017. p. 5–15.Google Scholar
  48. Smith R. In search of “non-disease”. Br Med J. 2002;324:883–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith KA. Louis Pasteur, the father of immunology? Front Immunol. 2012;3:1–10.Google Scholar
  50. Suhrs J, Hammers D, Dobbins-Buckland K, Zimak E, Hughes CH. The relationship of malingering test failure to self-reported symptoms and neuropsychological findings in adults referred for ADHD evaluation. Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2008;23:521–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Suls J, Rothman A. Evolution of the biopsychosocial model: prospects and challenges for health psychology. Health Psychol. 2004;23:119–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sydeman T. Observationes Medicae circa Morgorum Acutorum Historiam et Curationem. London: Kettilby; 1676. As cited in Low G. Thomas Sydenham: the English Hippocrates. Aust N Z J Surg. 1999;69:258–62.Google Scholar
  53. Valtorta NK, Kanaan M, Gilbody S, Ronzi S, Hanratty B. Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies. Heart. 2016;102(13):1009–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Veatch RM. How philosophy of medicine has changed medical ethics. J Med Philos. 2006;31(6):585–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wade DT, Halligan PW. The biopsychosocial model of illness: a model whose time has come. Clin Rehabil. 2017;31(8):995–1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Weaver K, Olson JK. Understanding paradigms used for nursing research. J Adv Nurs. 2006;53(4):459–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. White K, Willis E. Positivism resurgent: the epistemological foundations of evidence-based medicine. Health Sociol Rev. 2002;11:5–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Whitley R. Global mental health: concepts, conflicts, and controversies. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2015;24(4):285–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Williams MJ. Problems of knowledge: a critical introduction to epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press; 2001.Google Scholar
  60. World Health Organization. Basic documents (48th ed.). Italy: World Health Organization; 1948/2014.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • John D. Hathcoat
    • 1
  • Cara Meixner
    • 2
  • Mark C. Nicholas
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Graduate Psychology, Center for Assessment and Research StudiesJames Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Graduate Psychology, Center for Faculty InnovationJames Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA
  3. 3.Framingham State UniversityFraminghamUSA

Personalised recommendations