Round 2A: Finding Objectivity and Causality in Pragmatism -- A Response to Held
Keywords:pragmatism, positivism, natural science, conventional science, objectivity, causality, perspectivism, pluralism
AbstractIn previous writings, I have set forth a rationale for the foundational knowledge value in psychology and psychotherapy of (a) the individual, systematic case study, and (b) inductive generalizations derived from databases of large numbers of such case studies. This rationale is build upon the epistemology and ontology of contemporary philosophical pragmatism and social constructionism as applied to psychology — what I have termed “pragmatic psychology.” Held (2006) challenges this rationale, claiming first, that a justification of case study methodology can be made within conventional, natural-science-oriented psychological science, i.e., independent of pragmatism and constructionism; and second, that in fact, by my adopting a social constructionist epistemology, I undermine two characteristics — objectivity and causality — that are only available in the conventional psychological science paradigm and that are crucial to the meaningful, inductive psychological generalizations from individual case studies that I am seeking. In responding to Held’s challenges, I point out their value in helping me to more explicitly articulate components of pragmatic psychology that have not been fully discussed in my previous publications. These components include: (a) pragmatic psychology’s capacity, in certain important contexts, to generate statements that are “objectively true” in Held’s definition of this term; and (b) pragmatic psychology’s embrace of causal mechanisms and principles when these are framed as “conceptual tools” for problem solving, not as ontological mirrors (or approximations of such mirrors) of external reality, as proposed by conventional, natural-science-oriented psychological science. The article ends with a call for accepting pluralism in psychology.
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