Last updated: March 29, 1999
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General Philosophy and Philosophy of Science, Critical Realism, Personalism & Other Philosophical Resources
General Philosophy and the Philosophy of Science
Curd, M., & Cover, J. A. (Ed.). (1998). Philosophy of science: The central issues. New York: W. W. Norton.
Anthology of many foundational essays and articles in the field.
Fay, B. (1996). Contemporary philosophy of social science. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Wilson, E. O. (1998). Consilience: The unity of knowledge. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
The important (socio-)biologist, Edward O. Wilson, argues here that the Enlightenment basically got it right: scientific knowledge is advancing toward an eventual unification across disciplinary boundaries. The term he employs for the converging vectors of knowing is "consilience." He mounts a vigorous and very readable defense of positivism and the scientific method while challenging the social science and the humanities to respond to these movements in knowledge. His accessible and reasonable critique of the failure of the Enlightenment's first program and its aftermath, including Romanticism, Modernism, and Postmodernism (see chapter 2), ought to be read carefully by critics of science's methodology. He even acknowledges the value of postmodern criticism as an intellectual challenge to its defenders to explain science's value(s) far more cogently than they have.
Realism and Critical Realism
Aronson, J. L., Harré, R., & Way, E. C. (1995). Realism rescued: How scientific progress is possible. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
A comprehensive theory of scientific realism which adopts a "global-ontological relationalism" over "ontological atomism". Admits to nature as "collect[ing] properties into an underlying ordering of natural kinds...Instead of speaking of isolated substances and their properties, we speak of systems where the internal relations among properties determine the system as being of a particular type, captured by giving it a specific location in the type-hierarchy...The atomistic, non-contextual initial conditions of the old logicist or deductive-nomological approach are to be replaced by locating a system in a type-hierarchy." (p. 6)
Collier. A. (1994). Critical realism: An introduction to Roy Bhaskar's philosophy. London: Verso.
Fay, B. (1990). Critical realism. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20, 33-41
Conford, P. (Ed.). The personal world: John Macmurray on self and society. Edinburgh, UK: Floris Books.
A selection from the writings of Macmurray with commentary by their editor, Conford.
Creamer, D. G. (1996). Guides for the journey: John Macmurray, Bernard Lonergan, James Fowler. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Macmurray, J. (1983). Persons in relation. Atlantic Highlands, NJ & London, UK: Humanities Press International. (Original work published 1961)
Macmurray, J. (1991). The self as agent. Atlantic Highlands, NJ & London, UK: Humanities Press International. (Original work published 1957)
Social Constructionism, Constructivism, and "Postmodern Thought"
Durrheim, K. (1997). Social constructionism, discourse, and psychology. South African Journal of Psychology, 27, 175-182.
Gergen, K. J. (1985). The social constructionist movement in modern psychology. American Psychologist, 40, 266-275.
In this summary article, Gergen discusses the origins and viewpoints underlying the social constructionism turn in psychology (that he did so much to contribute to as well). He argues that psychology under a social constructionist hermeneutic moves beyond the traditional debate of empiricism versus rationalism which marks so much of psychology's history. Rather, this alternative movement in science calls for a grounding of knowledge in the context of social exchange or interaction which creates it in the first place.
Gergen, K. J. (1991). The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary life. New York: BasicBooks. [BF697.G39 1991]
Gergen's popular postmodern analysis of self-identity as it is shaped by the social and technological world and popular culture of the late 20th century. Facing forces never before impinging upon the processes of self development, the postmodern person experiences a plurality of selves, temporally- or spacially-limited interpersonal relationships, and an absence of pre-established meaning. Where identity might be constructed in this new world becomes the object of Gergen's consideration.
Gergen, K. J. (1994). Realities and relationships: Soundings in social construction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
In this well-received book, Gergen summarizes the rise of social constructionist thought, charts its principle tenets, and defends it vigorously against critics who contend that social constructionism holds no claim to be a scientific point of view and leads inevitably toward a relativist ethical or moral world of dubious attraction or intelligibility.
Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
This influential book focuses upon the self and the emergence of new mechanisms of self-identity that are shaped by-yet also shape-the institutions of modernity. Rather than using the term "postmodernism", Giddens prefers to speak about "high modernity" and its impact on the self, e.g., in the call for "pure relationships", the intense concerns for risk management in life, the sequestration of experience (such as madness, sickness, death), the privatization of passion, the rise of narcissism, the antimonies of self (unificaiton vs. fragmentation, powerlessness vs. appropriation, authority vs. uncertainty, personlized vs. commodified experience), and the emergence of what he calls "life politics".
Harvey, D. (1990). The condition of postmodernity: An enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. [CB428.H38 1989]
Is postmodernism about to die? Is postmodernism so distinct from "modernism" that it deserves to be considered as a novel form of societal organization (e.g., Gergen's "saturated" personal identity)? Harvey thinks "probably" to the first question and "no" to the second. This highly literate socioeconomic and political analysis from the Marxist perspective examines the capitalist underpinings of the postmodern and suggests that changes in time/space configurations of life over the last twenty years undergirds the postmodern thrust (rather than changes of an enduring and profound epistemological nature). In this powerful analysis, Harvey offers a sweeping and literate understanding of the project of modernity and the ways in which postmodern sensibilities remain linked to that project; ultimately Harvey rejects postmodernism as morally corrupt and culturally blind.
Levin, D. M. (1991). Psychology as a discursive formation: The postmodern crisis. Humanistic Psychologist, 19, 250-276.
This article explores where psychology finds itself presently and concludes that the postmodern world challenges psychology in broad fashion: to understand its own ontology (what is real?), epistemology (what can we know? What is it to know?), normativity (what values does it uphold?), and its approaches to scientific research.
Rosenau, P.-M. (1992). Post-modernism and the social sciences: Insights, inroads, and intrusions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. [HM73.R59 1991]
This is an absolutely first-rate introduction to the post-modern viewpoint and the various concepts it employs. Her opening "Glossary of Post-Modern Terms" provides a wealth of insight in a concentrated listing. [The following comes from the cover blurb:] Post-modernism offers a revolutionary approach to the study of society: in questioning the validity of modern science and the notion of objective knowledge, this movement discards history, rejects humanism, and resists any truth claims. In this comprehensive assessment of post-modernism, Pauline Rosenau traces its origins in the humanities and describes how its key concepts are today being applied to, and are restructuring, the social sciences. Neither hostile to the movement nor an apologist for it, she cuts through post-modernism's often incomprehensible jargon in order to offer all readers a lucid exposition of its propositions. /// Rosenau shows how the post-modern challenge to reason and rational organization radiates across academic fields. In psychology it questions the conscious, logical, coherent subject; in public administration it encourages a retreat from central planning and from reliance on specialists; in political science it calls into question the authority of hierarchical, bureaucratic decision-making structures that function in carefully defined spheres; in anthropology it inspires the protection of local, primitive cultures from First World attempts to reorganize them. In all of the social sciences, she argues, post-modernism repudiates representative democracy and plays havoc with the very meaning of "left-wing" and "right-wing." /// In weighing its strengths and weaknesses, the author examines two major tendencies within post-modernism, the largely European, skeptical form and the predominantly Anglo-North American form that suggests alternative political, social, and cultural projects.
Sokal, A. (May/June, 1996). A physicist experiements with cultural studies. Lingua Franca [on-line].
Alan Sokol, the NYU physicist and author of the (infamous) parodic essay, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity (Spring/Summer, 1996 in the journal, Social Text) discusses his experiences of creating a hoax by employing a language liberally flavored with postmodern concepts. The firestorm of controvery raised by this article and its aftermath are examined in the follow-up collection of comments, The Sokal Essay: A Forum and Mystery Science Theatre, the later includes an editorial rejoinder/essay by Bruce Robbins and Andrew Ross, co-editors of Social Text, (both July/August, 1996 in Lingua Franca). While reference to the Sokal hoax might be judged excessively inflammatory, it does provoke critical reflection upon certain aspects of the postmodern project.
Shawver, L. (1996). What postmodernism can do for psychoanalysis: A guide to the postmodern vision. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 56(4), 371-394.
Lois Shawver crafts a particularly open and sympathetic guide to key concepts in the postmodern critique, particularly those of Derrida, including decentering, differance, deconstruction, metaphysics of presence, erasure, trace, and fictionalism. She argues that critics have substituted vernacular homonyms for actual postmodern concepts and, then, used these homonymous terms as the object of their critical attack on postmodernism, e.g., that postmodern thought does not believe in the existence of reality. She is especially effective in describing the role of language from the postmodern viewpoint. While this article also ties the postmodernism to the psychoanalytic project, it can be read with great profit by anyone interested in better understanding postmodernism.
- See, also, Foucault in the Theorist's page
MFTC-L Dictionary for the Study of Michel Foucault [online]
Bernauer, J., & Keenan, T. (1988). The works of Michel Foucault, 1954-1984. In J. Bernauer & D. Rasmussen (Eds.). The final Foucault. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Dreyfus, H. L., & Rabinow, P. (1982). Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
An exegesis of this French postmodern thinker's works.
Miller, J. (1993). The passion of Michel Foucault. New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday. [B2438.F724M554 1994]
This penetrating and controversial "narrative account" details the life and thought of the extremely influential French postmodern thinker who died in 1984. Miller proposes that Foucault's sado-masochistic gay encounters in San Francisco after a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS may have been in search of "limit-experiences" and, morally, monstrous acts which temper how readers may evaluate his commitment to truth telling.
Paglia, C. (1991). Junk bonds and corporate raiders: Academe in the hour of the wolf. Arion, 1, 139-212.
A stinging attack on Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan ("the perfect prophets for the weak, anxious academic personality, trapped in verbal formulas and perennially defeated by circumstance") whom Ms. Paglia accuses of intellectual shallowness, indeed, an ignorance of the sweep of Western intellectual history beyond post-World War II France. In a characteristic Paglian turn, the vibrant cultural movements of America in the 1960s are praised and American academic supporters of the French trio accused of a diffident inability to deal with the radicalism and eroticism of those years. Reprinted in her 1992 volume: Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays (New York: Vintage). This article, adapted in much shorter form, can be found in: Ninnies, pedants, tyrants and other academics (New York Times Book Review, 96, May 5, 1991, p. 1+) [registration required]
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