This article addresses the interpretation and criticism of theoretical systems. Its particular focus is on how to assess the success of theories in dealing with some specific phenomenon. We are interested in how to differentiate between cases where a theory offers an unsatisfactory acknowledgment of a specified phenomenon and those where a theory offers a deeper, more systematic understanding. We address these metatheoretical issues by developing Parsons’s analysis of positive and residual categories in various respects, including a focus on mutual (...) support as the basis of positivity, differentiating synectic and antinomic residual categories, and distinguishing divisions that are central to systems from those between center and periphery. We also consider how this conceptual toolkit can be put into practice. (shrink)
The ‘cultural turn’ in social thought, and the rise of interpretive modes of social analysis, have raised the issue of how social criticism can legitimately be undertaken given the central role of actors’ understandings in constituting social reality. In this article I examine this issue by exploring debates around Winch’s interpretive approach. I suggest that Winch’s arguments usefully identify problems with external criticism, that is, criticism that attempts to contrast actors’ beliefs with the social world as it really is. However, (...) I also argue that Winch’s Wittgensteinian account of rule-following, on a plausible interpretation, places excessively strong restrictions on the possibility of internal criticism. In order to show the problems with such restrictions, I critically appraise two accounts of social criticism that are compatible with Winch’s arguments, those of Pleasants and Giddens, arguing that neither offers a satisfactory analysis. I then argue that if a viable notion of internal criticism is to be established Winch’s account of rule-following needs to be rejected. Having briefly offered an alternative, I suggest that it allows a more convincing conception of internal criticism, in which the understandings of actors can be criticized on the basis of their internal contradictions. The article then attempts to meet a possible objection to this position: that the logical judgements of contradiction and coherence required for immanent critique are not cross-culturally valid. I claim that such judgements are generally valid, and develop an argument for this position based on a critique of Lukes’s arguments. (shrink)
This article considers the `Strong Programme' account of scientific knowledge from a fresh perspective. It argues that insufficient attention has been paid to the Strong Programme's monistic intent, that is, its aim to unify considerations of instrumental adequacy and social interests in explanations of the development of scientific knowledge. Although sharing the judgment of many critics that the Strong Programme approach is flawed, the article diverges from standard criticisms by suggesting that the best alternative is not a dualistic framework but (...) a more adequate monistic approach. Key Words: Strong Programme interests monism finitism classification. (shrink)
Structure/agency theories presuppose that there is a unity to structure that distinguishes it from the (potential) diversity of agents' responses. In doing so they formally divide the robust social processes shaping the social world (structure) from contingent agential variation (agency). In this article we question this division by critically evaluating its application to the concept of role in critical realism and structural functionalism. We argue that Archer, Elder-Vass and Parsons all mistakenly understand a role to have a singular structural definition (...) which agents may then diverge from. Drawing on the work of Gross, Mason and McEachern we argue instead that if agents diverge in their conceptions of what role incumbents should do, there is no single role definition, but rather a range of diverse role-expectations. Acknowledging this can help us to understand variation in role behaviour, with different incumbents potentially being more exposed to some expectations than others. We argue that considering roles in this way can extend the ability of social scientists to identify robust social processes shaping role behaviour and decrease the extent to which they need to call on contingent factors in such explanations. (shrink)
This article explores the difficulties raised for social scientific investigation by the absence of experiment, critically reviewing realist responses to the problem such as those offered by Bhaskar, Collier and Sayer. It suggests that realist arguments for a shift from prediction to explanation, the use of abstraction, and reliance upon interpretive forms of investigation fail to demonstrate that these approaches compensate for the lack of experimental control. Instead, it is argued that the search for regularities, when suitably conceived, provides the (...) best alternative to experiment for the social sciences. (shrink)
This article evaluates the structural conception of interests developed by Margaret Archer as part of her dualist version of critical realism. It argues that this structural analysis of interests is untenable because, first, Archer’s account of the causal influence of interests on agents is contradictory and, second, Archer fails to offer a defensible account of her claim that interests influence agents by providing reasons for action. These problems are explored in relation to Archer’s theoretical and empirical work. I argue for (...) an alternative account of interests that focuses on agents’ understandings of their interests and problems with these understandings. (shrink)
Previous research has indicated an increase in stress levels and cognitive intrusions after natural disasters. These previous studies have not, however, assessed the impact disaster induced cognitive disruption has on human performance. In the present report, we investigated the impact of the 7.1 magnitude 2010 Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake on self-reported earthquake-induced cognitive disruption and its relationship to performance on the Sustained Attention to Response Task . Participants who self-reported greater cognitive disruption induced by the earthquake also had higher levels (...) of errors of commission during SART . This was even the case when controlling for earthquake-induced anxiety, depression, participant sex, and self-reported sleep amount. Post-disaster assessments need to include the impact of the events directly on cognitive self-regulation and conscious thoughts, in addition to more clinical constructs, such as anxiety and depression. (shrink)
Context: Ernst von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism has been very influential in education, particularly in mathematics and science education. Problem: There is limited guidance available for educational researchers who wish to design research that is consistent with constructivist thinking. Von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism, together with the theoretical perspectives outlined by constructivist educational researchers such as Guba and Lincoln, can be considered as a source of guidance. Method: The paper outlines a constructivist knowledge framework that could be adopted for educational research. The (...) discussion considers how judgement of what counts as knowledge could be made, and how the set of procedures chosen could enable the researcher to represent the findings of the inquiry as knowledge. Results: An argument is made for researchers to explicate the criteria for judging an inquiry. Each criterion can then be linked to the standards to be reached and the techniques for generating data. The joint satisfaction of criteria and techniques for a constructivist inquiry creates conditions that indicate the “trustworthiness” or “authenticity” of an educational research study. Implications: The illustration of how a constructivist inquiry could be judged recognises how the contribution of von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism can be used to inform the practice of educational research. Constructivist content: The argument presented in the paper links to radical constructivism and suggests ways in which it can be applied in the context of educational research. (shrink)
In 'No Apocalypse. Not Now' Derrida claims that 'literature produces its referent as a fictive or fabulous referent, which is itself dependent on the possibility of archivising...'. Taking the Kipling archive as its point of reference, this article considers the claims involved in the idea of a literary archive (with its appeals to authority, intention, origin, propri ety). In view of the continuing fascination with the details and events of Kipling's life (the interweaving of his public and private self, and (...) especially his connections with India and with Imperialism, and with Indian and English worlds and values), what does the history of Kipling's archive tell us, and how is this related to the location and repression of cultural anxieties (and, in particular, to notions of nation and national character). From the unacknowledged use of a quotation from 'If' in an advertisement for a patent tonic in 1919 to the appear ance of Kipling as hypertext in the 1997 Microsoft Word advertisement in the Sunday Supplements, which or whose 'Kipling' is in question in the iconicity of the continuing and contemporary representations of him. As in Derrida's description of De Man, Kipling is now a ghost of the culture. (shrink)
The predictive validity of the ultimatum game (UG) for cross-cultural differences in real-world behavior has not yet been established. We discuss results of a recent meta-analysis (Oosterbeek et al 2004), which examined UG behavior across large-scale societies and found that the mean percent offers rejected was positively correlated with social expenditure.
Does the interaction between climactic demands, monetary resources, and freedom suggest a more general relationship between the environmental challenges that human societies face and their resources to meet those challenges? Using data on press freedom (Van de Vliert 2011a), we found no evidence of a similar interaction with natural resources (as measured by oil exports) or risk for natural disasters.
Evolution would favor organisms that can make recurrent decisions in accordance with classical probability (CP) theory, because such choices would be optimal in the long run. This is illustrated by the base-rate fallacy and probability matching, where nonhumans choose optimally but humans do not. Quantum probability (QP) theory may be able to account for these species differences in terms of orthogonal versus nonorthogonal representations.
We make two major comments. First, negative reinforcement contingencies may generate some apparent “drug-like” aspects of money motivation, and the operant account, properly construed, is both a tool and drug theory. Second, according to Lea & Webley (L&W), one might expect that “near-money,” such as frequent-flyer miles, should have a stronger drug and a weaker tool aspect than regular money. Available evidence agrees with this prediction. (Published Online April 5 2006).
At the end of the sixth volume of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne’s irremediably digressive narrator looks back over the story he has told so far. He presents to the reader five horizontal lines drawn on the page, each of which is the line taken by the narrative in one of the preceding five volumes of the novel.1 Each of the lines is interrupted at intervals by a series of fantastical loops and squiggles, darting forward or (...) back for anticipations and flashbacks, dented by brief subplots, or ballooning outward in wild-goose chases, extended commentaries, and stories within stories. He claims his storytelling is improving: while his distraction in the first volume “led us a vagary some. (shrink)
A profound problem in viewing operant learning as selection appears to be the identification of replicators. Given the lack of consensus on what constitutes the appropriate unit of analysis for behavior, there may be multiple levels at which the metaphor of selection may be usefully applied. A final difficulty: The elements of selection in the evolution of species are objects. In behavior, they are events.
Spanning nearly two decades, from 1980 to 1996, this Reader investigates the debates which have best characterized feminist theory. Including such articles as Pornography and Fantasy, The Body and Cinema, Nature as Female, and A Manifesto for Cyborgs, the extracts examine thoughts on sexualtiy as a domain of exploration, the visual representation of women, what being a feminist means, and why feminists are increasingly involved in political struggles to negotiate the context and meaning of technological development. With writings by bell (...) hooks, Alice Jardine, and Andrea Dworkin, this mulit-cultural Reader reflects the dynamic nature of feminist debates and the genuine diversity within current feminist theory. Capturing the sense of the rapid movement within feminist theory and criticism, Feminisms is ideal for anyone interested in feminism and the history behind it. (shrink)
Unlike his contemporaries Virginia Woolf and Henry James, Kipling always denied he was a critic. But his letters, speeches, and stories are full of comments on writing and writers. This collection, including many formerly unpublished private letters and papers, details Kipling's response to the commercialisation of literature and the emerging role of the writer as celebrity in the turbulent literary world of the 1890s and beyond. They reveal a mind intensely concerned with questions of literary value, with language and imagination, (...) with truth, realism, and romanticism. Kipling's fame made him a significant spokesperson for important segments of the reading public - the soldiers, engineers, and functionaries central to Britain's imperial expansion. He profoundly influenced English literary language and our perception of English national character. This book offers access to the private and public history of a writer whose continuing influence is still a matter of fierce controversy. (shrink)
This article critically appraises David Bloor’s recent attempts to refute criticisms levelled at the Strong Programme’s social constructionist approach to scientific knowledge. Bloor has tried to argue, contrary to some critics, that the Strong Programme is not idealist in character, and it does not involve a challenge to the credibility of scientific knowledge. I argue that Bloor’s attempt to deflect the charge of idealism, which calls on the self-referential theory of social institutions, is partially successful. However, I suggest that although (...) the Strong Programme should not be accused of ‘strong idealism’, it is still vulnerable to the criticism that it entails a form of ‘weak idealism’. The article moves on to argue that, contrary to Bloor, constructionist approaches do challenge the credibility of the scientific knowledge that they analyse. I conclude the article by arguing that sociological analyses of scientific knowledge can be conducted without the weak idealism and the credibility-challenging assumptions of the Strong Programme approach.Keywords: Strong Programme; David Bloor; Social constructionism; Idealism; Self-reference; Scientific credibility. (shrink)
In this article I respond to the defences of the Strong Programme put forward by David Bloor and Márta Fehér in this issue. I dispute the claim that it is attention to only limited parts of the Strong Programme framework that allows me to argue that this approach: leads to weak idealism, undermines the idea that theories have varying levels of instrumental success, and challenges the theoretical claims of scientific actors. Rather, I argue that these problematic positions are entailed by (...) the constructionist tenets at the core of the Strong Programme.Keywords: Strong Programme; David Bloor; Social constructionism; Idealism; Self-Reference; Anomalies. (shrink)