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BRM 2017 6 Research Philosophy and Paradigm

Clarifies the purpose of research philosophy and its place in your research and dissertation.

Kevin O'Gorman

on 27 May 2017

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Transcript of BRM 2017 6 Research Philosophy and Paradigm

Kevin D O’Gorman
Metaphysics: The branch of philosophy concerned with the ultimate nature of existence

Ontology: The branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being
The nature of reality that is being investigated in your dissertation

Epistemology: The branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity
The study of knowledge
Theories of what constitutes knowledge and understanding of phenomena
How we explain ourselves as knowers, how we arrive at our beliefs
Critical self-awareness and examination of beliefs and knowledge-claims
Need for conscious, reflexive thinking about our own thinking, and critique our pre-understandings, and their effect on our research

a priori argument: deriving a proof or using evidence to test a hypotheses

a posteriori argument, deriving knowledge from empirical investigation

Theoretical framework, within which research is conducted
Objective Reality
Essences that fit together in some system
May relate to laws
The truth holds, regardless of who the observer is
Aim = to discover what is there
Subjective Reality
No essences of reality
No absolute laws
The ‘truth’ varies depending on the observer
Aim = to understand people’s interpretations and perceptions
Harmonious Reality
Ultimately things fit together
Atomism: Understand the whole on the basis of the parts
Holism: understand the parts on the basis of the whole
Conflictual Reality
Ultimately things are in tension with each other
‘Harmony’ is only perceived by ignoring resistance, silence, exclusion, etc.
Power and knowledge are intrinsically linked
Comte (1840)
Reject dogma and bias and focus on the ‘positively given’ i.e. sensory perception
Aim for discovery, through reason and observation combined, of the actual laws that govern the succession and similarity of phenomena

Popper (1963)
It is commonly supposed that the best scientific theories are supported by considerable confirmatory evidence
Good theories are capable of failing they make sufficiently strong predictions that the can be found to be wrong
The criterion of scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability
Independence The observer is independent of what is being observed
Value-freedom The choice of subject and method can be made objectively, not based on beliefs or interests
Hypothetico-deductive hypothesise a law and deduct what kinds of observations will demonstrate its truth or falsify
Operationalization typically quantitative
Reductionism Break problems down into their smallest possible elements
Generalisation Sufficient samples should be selected in order to generalise to a population
Research aims to show how realities are socially produced and maintained through norms, rites, rituals and every day activities (Hackley 2001)
Socially constructed reality shaped by social, political, cultural, economic, ethnic and gender values; crystallized over time (Appadurai 1986)
Relativism i.e. multiple, local and specific ‘constructed’ realities
Emphasis on social as opposed to economic view of activities
Concerned to unravel aspects of social life that have not been systematised, institutionalised
People considered as sense-making subjects, rather than objects of study
All qualitative data is generated by observation, in depth interviewing and analysis of text
Discourse analysis
Images and metaphors are important reflections of cultural meanings and values
Politics of representation and role of observer
In consultation with your supervisor you should use the first few paragraphs of your methodology for:

Clearly stating, justifying and explaining the philosophical stance adopted in in relation to research topic.
Relating the ontological and epistemological stance to methodological approach and actual research methods selected
It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds.

Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero.

From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.
Research Philosophy
and Methods Map
Research Philosophy and Methods Map
“Firstly ... nothing exists;

secondly ... even if anything exists, it is incomprehensible by man;

thirdly.., even if anything is comprehensible, it is guaranteed to be inexpressible and incommunicable to one’s neighbour”

Gorgias (500BC) quoted in Aristotle (340BC)
De Melisso Xenophane Gorgia 980 a19-20
Incompleteness Problem
Inconsistency Problem

Whilst exploring the nature of knowledge claims

Its relative...
With apologies to Aristotle and Douglas Adams
A tram is running out of control down a track. In its path are 5 people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you can flip a switch which will lead the tram down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track.
Should you flip the switch?
As before, a tram is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by dropping a heavy weight in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you - your only way to stop the tram is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five.
Should you proceed?
A brilliant transplant surgeon has five patients, each in need of a different organ, each of whom will die without that organ. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of these five transplant operations. A healthy young traveller, just passing through the city the doctor works in, comes in for a routine check-up. In the course of doing the check-up, the doctor discovers that his organs are compatible with all five of his dying patients.

Suppose further that if the young man were to disappear, no one would suspect the doctor.
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