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Philosophies underlying quantitative and mixed methods Pre-Block 1

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Leon Benade

on 21 July 2016

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Transcript of Philosophies underlying quantitative and mixed methods Pre-Block 1

Rationalism vs empiricism
Paradigms and -isms
“Ignorance, the root and stem of every evil.”
DWM: Plato, Descartes and Hume
Philosophies underlying quantitative and mixed methods approaches to research
Educational Research: Pre-Block 1
Kuhn’s challenge
To what extent do we depend on sense experience to gain knowledge?

Rationalists say that our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience

Empiricists say that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge


The Intuition/Deduction Thesis:

• Some propositions are knowable by intuition alone
• Some are knowable by deduction from intuited propositions.
• this knowledge is a priori, or, before experience.

The Innate Knowledge Thesis:

• We have knowledge thanks to our rational nature.
• The knowledge has been with us all along.

The Innate Concept Thesis:

• We have concepts as part of our rational nature.
• The Innate Concept thesis is entailed by the Innate Knowledge Thesis


The Empiricism Thesis:

• We have no source of knowledge or concepts other than sense experience.

Empiricism rejects the Intuition/Deduction thesis and Innate Knowledge thesis.

Our knowledge is a posteriori, dependent upon sense experience.

Empiricists deny the Innate Concept thesis

Sense experience is our only source of ideas.

Plato's central doctrines

The sensory world is defective and filled with error

There is a more real and perfect realm, populated by entities (called “forms” or “ideas”)

They are a model for the structure and character of the sensory world

Among the most important of these abstract objects are goodness, beauty, equality, bigness, likeness, unity, being, sameness, difference, change, and changelessness.

Plato distinguishes the many observable objects that appear beautiful and the one object, Beauty

The many receive their names and characteristics from the Forms

What are the ethical and practical consequences of conceiving of reality in this bifurcated way?

We must recognise that the soul is a different from the body

It does not depend on the existence of the body for its functioning

It can grasp the forms when it is not attached to anything corporeal.

True philosophers recognise how important it is to distinguish the one from the many

They are ethically superior to unenlightened human beings

They have greater insight


Famously, Descartes defines knowledge in terms of doubt.

Descartes writes:

I distinguish the two as follows: there is conviction when there remains some reason which might lead us to doubt, but knowledge is conviction based on a reason so strong that it can never be shaken by any stronger reason. (1640 letter, AT 3:64–65)

Descartes understands doubt as the contrast of certainty.

Descartes seeks knowledge that requires, at least, unshakably certain conviction.

A traditional reading of Descartes is that rigorous philosophical inquiry must proceed via an inside-to-out strategy.

Ultimately, all judgments are grounded in an inspection of the mind's ideas.

Philosophical inquiry is, properly understood, an investigation of ideas

This places him in a rationalist tradition tracing back to Plato.

Knowledge of the nature of reality derives from ideas of the intellect, not the senses.

An important part of metaphysical inquiry therefore involves learning to think with the intellect.

Of his own methodology, Descartes writes:

Throughout my writings I have made it clear that my method imitates that of the architect. When an architect wants to build a house which is stable on ground where there is a sandy topsoil over underlying rock, or clay, or some other firm base, he begins by digging out a set of trenches from which he removes the sand, and anything resting on or mixed in with the sand, so that he can lay his foundations on firm soil. In the same way, I began by taking everything that was doubtful and throwing it out, like sand … (Replies 7, AT 7:537)

The central insight of foundationalism is to organise knowledge in the manner of a well-structured, architectural edifice.

A firm foundation and a superstructure of support beams firmly anchored to the foundation.

A system of justified beliefs might be organised by two analogous features:

• a foundation of unshakable first principles,
• and a superstructure of further propositions anchored to the foundation via unshakable inference.

David Hume

The most important philosopher ever to write in English, David Hume (1711-1776 was also well-known in his own time as an historian and essayist.

In An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, he says that he will “follow a very simple method” that will nonetheless bring about “a reformation in moral disquisitions”

To make progress in the moral sciences, we should “reject every system…however subtle or ingenious, which is not founded on fact and observation,” and “hearken to no arguments but those which are derived from experience” (EPM, 173-175).


Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Samuel Kuhn (1922–1996) is one of the most influential philosophers of science of the twentieth century

His 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the most cited academic books of all time.

Kuhn's contribution to the philosophy of science was to break with several key positivist doctrines

His account of the development of science held that science enjoys periods of stable growth punctuated by revisionary revolutions.

To this thesis, Kuhn added the controversial ‘incommensurability thesis’

Namely, theories from differing periods suffer from certain deep kinds of failure of comparability

A mature science experiences alternating phases of normal science and revolutions.

Normal science:

• the key theories are kept fixed
• this permits the cumulative generation of puzzle-solutions

Scientific revolution:

• the disciplinary matrix undergoes revision
• permits the solution of the more serious puzzles that disturbed the preceding period of normal science.

Paradigm = Exemplary scientific research

Exemplary instances of science are typically to be found in books and papers

Such texts contain not only the key theories and laws, and the applications of those theories in the solution of important problems

Widespread consensus permits agreement on fundamentals.

Consensus on the puzzle-solution leads to consensus on other aspects of a disciplinary matrix

A successful puzzle-solution becomes paradigm puzzle-solution

But it will not solve all problems.

Indeed, it will probably raise new puzzles.


The new paradigm displaces those that are no longer a competent guide to future research.

The change is so radical that the two paradigms can no longer be compared

They no longer share the same goals and methodological standards and values.

This leads to communication breakdown.

In effect, scientists on different sides of a paradigm debate “live in different worlds.”

Kuhn speaks of scientists experiencing a kind of gestalt switch or religious conversion experience.

The heated debate and social reorganisation resembles a political revolution.


Welcome to Educational Research
An outline of this prezi

1. The Study Guide

2. What is research?

3. Paradigms and the -isms
some important -isms
rationalism, empiricism, positivism, postpositivism

4. Forerunners of rationalism:Plato, Descartes and Hume

5. Rationalism vs empiricism

6. Empiricism, positivism and postpositivism

7. Kuhn's challenge
Why paradigm?
Paradigm: a worldview; underlies a methodology
What counts as research?
The -isms
Empiricism, positivism and postpositivism
Positivists recognise only the natural sciences and formal rational disciplines (such as logic and mathematics) as sources of legitimate knowledge.

Philosophy and social analysis confuse fact and value, descriptive and prescriptive

They lack the rigour of science and formal rationalism

“The job of the philosopher is to elucidate ethical discourse, not to make normative pronouncements” (p. 6)

The 20th century saw an optimistic ‘social science’ develop

A focus on clarifying the scientific status of social disciplines

There must be a logical ordering of the structure of social science

• Hypotheses (statements of how dependent variables will act under certain conditions)
• Models (the organisation of several hypotheses into a system)
• Theories (which bring models together into a theoretical framework)

The theorist and researcher should be disinterested

Be objective and neutral

Interpret the world, don’t change it

Theory must have predictive value

Precise and determinate theory is testable (Hypothetico-deductive model)

• inquiry proceeds by formulating a hypothesis
• can be falsified by testing against observable data to falsify or corroborate (confirm)
• Compare competing hypotheses by seeking the one most rigorously corroborated

Allows the making of law-like (nomological) statements

A critique
Philosophical commitments of post-positivist researchers
Full transcript