The story of my theorised applied dialectical method Recent blog posts

The story of my theorised applied dialectical method

The theorized applied dialectical method is embodied within my life story as a practitioner and a human being, time and space, values, body, and attunement.


I came to South Africa in June 2012 to develop and test empirically my theory of an applied dialectical method of conceptualising phenomena through working to qualitatively transform them and accounting for the transformation efforts and the learning that emerged in the process. I have worked out this idea and the different components of the method in theory and as an idea that I have put together through reading, thinking and reflecting, asking and discussing it with people and experimenting on myself. The theory of this applied dialectical method was established during my attempt to work out a more suitable method of conceptualising human existence and the meanings and implications of being human and human existence than the traditional propositional ways of doing it in the human, social, health and educational sciences. This was joined with my attempt to study myself in order for myself to really grow and develop, and learn to improve aspects of myself that I did not like and work out a better me that I like more. I wanted to transcend and shift the linguistic textual, disembodied and abstract propositions of the meanings of the phenomena of being human, the human subject, human existence and related human phenomena such as participative democracies of dignity, humanity, equality, wellbeing, growth and empowerment. This is to the actual praxis of human existence, the human subject and being human being studied, analysed and conceptualised directly through accounts of individuals who are working and learning, on their own and with other people, to qualitatively transform, their lives, wellbeing, growth, empowerment and societies and evaluate and account for how they have done this.


I spent the 1990s claiming and demonstrating the way the traditional propositional, abstract and disembodied, ways of studying and conceptualising the phenomena of the human subject and being human tend to dehumanise and abstract the human subject by reducing these phenomena to propositional linguistic assertions and abstractions that are either true, valid and reliable or false, invalid and unreliable.  The abstract propositional assertions are validated by invalidating the alternative assertions for the conceptualisation of the tested phenomenon as only one proposition can explain the tested phenomenon.  Thus, for that matter, the tested proposition assertion is invalidated by the alternative being shown to be valid. I argued that this logic of inflicting Either Or linguistic assertions on the conceptualisation of tested phenomena inclines to miss out on important epistemological claims and findings that are lost in the process. It is also responsible for the tendency of reducing the conceptualisation of the phenomenon of being human to a continuous shift of propositional assertions on the essence and meanings of being human. This means that at every moment of time, usually lasting a generation or so, a single propositional assertion dominates the understanding and conceptualisation of the phenomenon of being human until another linguistic assertion is shown to be more valid and in turn replaces it and eliminates it from the game of conceptualising the phenomenon. Hence, the attempts to use the traditional logic and methods of the natural sciences in the study and conceptualisation of the phenomena of being human and human existence and disembody, reduce and objectify these phenomena to propositional linguistic abstract assertions that are validated using the traditional Aristotelian logic of Either Or and if…then… incline to abstract, objectify and dehumanise human beings.


I began thinking about ways of re-humanising the studied and conceptualised person and phenomenon of being human and the traditional empirical methods of studying and conceptualising them from abstractions and linguistic propositional assertions that are replaced and shifted every generation to living, embodied, engaging and enquiring human being. I made a plea for the transformation of the propositional logic of linguistic assertions and Either Or argumentations and impositions to the dialectical logic and the dialectics of formulating enquiries into carefully designed questions for the understanding of phenomena, fusing and using contradictions and the tension that this fusion erupts and cycles of transforming and enriching personal reflections and reflective enquiries and accounts into and with dialogues and dialogical co-enquiries with other people in order to transform the conceptualising accounts and the tension that this transformation from the dialogues with oneself (reflection, reflective enquiries and self-reflection) to dialogues with other people. I concluded this stage of my work by becoming a dialectician and a pragmatic who is arguing that the question of the study of human beings is the dialectical question of how do I lead a more meaningful life of greater satisfaction and wellbeing and transform my ontological void and malaise to a more meaningful and satisfying life for me? The endeavours to study and conceptualise the meanings and implications of being human and human existence should be the enquiring into this question through critical reflection and dialogue and dialogical co-enquiring with critical friends. This became a life project that defined me and my practice, as well as an obsession that defines my wellbeing, growth, success and self-validation.


In the 2000s I worked out the idea and theory of a method of individuals’ accounting for their existence through reflective and dialogical enquiries into the question, How do I lead a more meaningful life and transform my experiences of dissatisfaction to a life of meaning, and personal satisfaction for me? They produce reflective accounts of their reflective enquiries and dialogue with critical friends in dialogical groups to transform and enrich their reflective accounts and create accounts of their idiosyncratic ontological experiences of responding to these questions. The accounts are discussed as a way of studying and conceptualising the phenomena of human existence and being human. In their dialectical enquiries, they identify particular areas in their life that dissatisfy them and they want to improve on in order to construct and benefit from a more satisfying life and practice. They build on the very tense dialectical tension of dealing with episodes where they experienced the nauseating and sickening realisation that their behaviour contradicted their intentions and values, with the feelings of self-disappointment and self-disgust that this entailed. The intense dialectical tension proceeds with the shift of the reflection and reflective enquiring into and accounts of these episodes and the methodological works to transform the nauseating experiences into experiences of cathartic released, calmness, ontological security and wellbeing and learning and educational, ontological and epistemological development, growth and transformation into dialogues and dialogical co-enquiring with critical friends on and into the reflective accounts and enquiring. The aggressive, harsh, tense and intense dialogue with critical friends also aims to lead to a cathartic release and qualitative transformation that aims to provide growth, qualitative transformation, wellbeing and learning and educational, ontological and epistemological transformation and development to the participants. Hence the intensity of the tension is double: once in the realisation of doing the exact opposite of one’s intentions and values and once in the co-enquiring and the transformation of the reflection to dialogue and co-enquiring with one’s critical friends.  I spent eight years working out and carrying out this theory of this method for myself, testing and validating it as part of my life as a person who is working out this idea as a PhD at the University of Bath, England as part of his personal and “bohemian” (living of a large family inheritance) attempt to grow. I went deep into this ontological self-enquiry and worked out the different components of the theory based on my needs and my work on myself. This constituted the basis of my PhD work at the University of Bath.


I then begun to test and develop it empirically and anthropologically in order to transform the theorised method into an actual empirical method. 


Posted by Alon Serper on 30 April 2014 16:00:12

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