Intellectual freedom and leniency Recent blog posts

Intellectual freedom and leniency

We encourage leniency and inventiveness that is backed up by evidence, sound argument and rationale and that is communicated well  (Habermas) and is easily and logically followed with and guided by specified and explicit criteria that is spelt out and easily comprehended.  Communication (Habermas) for conviction, scrutiny and testing (Popper), critical reflection, deconstruction and transformatory dialogue (Freire) is the key not winning arguments (Gadamer) and debates to the point of eliminating and expelling one side from the game in favour of another (Lyotard, 1984; Kuhn, 1962). 



Methodological inventiveness





Several researchers had pleaded for a methodological inventiveness, creativeness, autonomy, pluralism, diversity and freedom on the part of action and practitioner researchers and for greater latitude, variability creativity and pluralism in academic action and practitioner research.

Dadds and Hart’s (2001 p.167) contended that traditional empirical AR is just one of the viable and valid methodologies available to practitioners, alongside many others which have already been created and others which will, inevitably, be created and which have equal status and potential in their ability to help practitioners gain new insights into their field of practice, with a view to applying their new knowledge to the improvement of that practice. (ibid)

In the section on “The importance of methodological inventiveness” (bold in original), Dadds and Hart (2001 pp.166-7) suggested that for some practitioner researchers creating their own unique way through their research may be as important as their self-chosen research focus.

They admitted that whilst they “had understood for many years that substantive choice was fundamental to the motivation and effectiveness of practitioner research (Dadds 1995)” and “that what practitioners chose to research was important to their sense of engagement and purpose”, they had “understood far less well that how practitioners chose to research, and their sense of control over this, could be equally important to their motivation, their sense of identity within the research and their research outcomes.

Furthermore, Dadds and Hart contended that

If our aim is to create conditions that facilitate methodological inventiveness, we need to ensure as far as possible that our pedagogical approaches match the message that we seek to communicate as well as the awareness that, for some practitioner researchers, creating their own unique way through their research may be as important as their self-chosen research focus…and subsequently they should create enquiry approaches…that enable new, valid understandings to develop…understandings that empower practitioners to improve their work for the beneficiaries in their care.

They cited and recited Lomax and Parker’s (1995 p.302) plea for action and practitioner research to be pluralistic, rather than monolithic, and diverse, rather than constrained, so that they can celebrate the unique, personal, and subjective strengths of individual action research and help researchers display their own personal signatures.

Furthermore, on his part, Eisner’s (1988 p.20.) expressed his hope that we will be creative enough to invent methods and languages that do justice to what we have seen and that through such work, through the primacy of experience and the expansion of method, our politics will become a liberating force for both understanding and enhancing the educational process.

Similarly, the founder of the action research term,  Kurt Lewin (1946 p.44.), himself, pointed out that in social management, as in medicine, the practitioner will usually have the choice between various methods of treatment and he will require as much skill and ingenuity as the physician in regard to both diagnosis and treatment…Science gives more freedom and power to both the doctor and the murdered, to democracy and fascism. The social scientist should recognise his responsibility also in respect to this.


-  References

Dadds, M. (1995). Passionate Enquiry and School Development: A Story About Teacher Action Research. London: Falmer Press.

Dadds, M. and Hart, H. (2001). Doing Practitioner Research Differently. London: Routledge Falmer Press.

Eisner, E. W. (1988). The Primacy of Experience and the Politics of Method.Educational Researcher, Vol. 17, No. 5, 15-20.


Lewin, K. (1946). Action Research and Minority Problems. Journal of Social Issues 2(4): 34-46


Habermas' theory of communication

by Alon Serper - Monday, 2 June 2014, 7:38 AM


Habermas’ (1976) book commences with the point that he will develop the thesis that in order to act communicably in performing any speech action, what is required is the embracement of the following universal validity claims within a participative process of reaching understanding, and the supposition that they can be either vindicated or redeemed. Habermas listed these universal validity claims as follows:

1.Uttering something understandably.

2. Giving (the hearer) something to understand.

3. Making himself thereby understandable.

4. Coming to an understanding with another person.


Habermas then noted that this implies that the speaker must choose a comprehensible expression in order for both the speaker and the hearer to understand each other.  He added that the speaker must hold the intention of communicating a true proposition (or a propositional content, the existential presuppositions of which are satisfied) in order for the hearer to be able to share the knowledge of the speaker.  Furthermore, the speaker needs to be willing to express his intentions truthfully in order for the hearer to be able to believe the utterance of the speaker and to trust him/her.  Finally, the speaker must choose an utterance that is right in order for the hearer to be able to accept the utterance and for both the speaker and the hearer to be able to agree with one another on the utterance as far as the recognized normative background goes.  Moreover, communicative action can merely be carried on uninterruptedly as long as the participants presume that the validity claims that they jointly raise together are justified.

 Habermas’ (1987 p.383.) writing on The Theory of Communicative Action in order to rationalise the idea of a LET approach that is directly derived from an enquiry into the theoretician’s learning and reflective heuristic enquiring into his/her own learning:


In that chosen extract, Habermas noted that he has sought to free historical materialism from its philosophical ballast and needed the following two abstractions to do so:

i. The abstraction of the development of the cognitive structures from the  historical dynamic of events.

ii. The abstraction of the evolution of society from the historical concretion of forms of life.


He explained that these two abstractions have enabled him to transcend the confusion of basic philosophy of history categories and that a theory that is developed in this manner needs to adjust itself to the range of learning processes that is being opened up at a given time by a historically attained level of learning.  This is rather than starting by examining existing inherent ideals in traditional forms of life. He added that this theory could take up some of the intentions for which the interdisciplinary research programme of earlier critical theory remains informative.  This is whilst needing to abstain from critically evaluating and normatively ordering totalities, forms of life and cultures, and life-contexts and epochs as a whole.  Nonetheless, after making this point, Habermas also noted that this suggestion of his, though coming at the end of a complicated study of the main features of a theory of communicative action,could not even count as a "promissory note and is in fact less of a promise than a conjecture”.

 Habermas, J. (1976). Communication and the Evolution of Society. London: Routledge.

 Habermas, J. (1987). The Theory of Communicative Action. Volume Two:  The Critique of Functionalist Reason. Oxford: Polity.



Ionesco – Trois pieces – Three plays


La Cantatrice chauve – The bald primadonna


The play shows the deterioration of communication into sounds and fragments that mean nothing.  Two bourgeoisie English couples sit together, eat dinner and converse.  Little by little the communication takes the form of words and sounds that are being yelled with no order or structure, just utterance for the sake of utterance.



I draw on Gadamer for the argument that theories and ideas  should not be discarded in order to validate one's alternative theory as is the case in the propositional ways of communicating and generating and validating theories.

Theory is an explanation of a phenomenon.


The object is and the focus is on the qualitative transformation and improvement of rigour, wellbeing and prosperity not on winning arguments and debates.

In his most important seminal Truth and Method, Gadamer emphasised that those who are engaging in the dialectical dialogue should not try to “out-argue the other person, but that one really considers the weight of the other's opinion”.  And that the dialogue does not become a debate where one tries to convince his or audience that he or she and not his or her conversational partner is in the right and the partner is in the wrong.


“To conduct a conversation requires…that one does not try to out-argue the other person, but that one really considers the weight of the other's opinion.”



Gadamer (1975/ p. 330)


Gadamer, H. D. (1975). Truth and Method.  Sheed and Ward. London. 



Gadamer was a German philosopher who lived between 1900 and 2002.   He was committed to intellectual engagement and exchange and developed a distinctive and thoroughly dialogical approach which gave dialogue, discourse and conversation a central role.  He sought to uncover the nature of human understanding.  His interest was in hermeneutics that is the study of the interpretation of written texts, after Hermes, the mythological Greek deity whose role was that of the messenger of the Gods and an intermediary between worlds of the mortals and divines.  He sought to uncover the nature of human understanding and criticised the traditional and dominating approaches  to humanities and the human sciences.


Compare it with Popper's means/method of validating theories  that I described in earlier lessons.


I am using Schön here

Schön (1991, p. 348) noted that A more rigorous approach to testing the validity of a proposed account of reality…is the one for which Karl Popper is best known (Popper, 1968)…If we follow Popper’s line of thought, then, appropriate rigor in the study of practice will depend on the researcher’s ability to generate, compare, and discriminate among multiple representations of practice phenomena - that is, to formulate alternate causal stories of the phenomenon in question and test their competitive resistance to refutation. 



We can include the two alternative arguments dialectically in order to qualitatively transform our knowledge and practice of theorization and validating theories as we fuse (synthesise) the contradictions/alternatives and use the tension in the qualitative transformation and the construction of the dialectical theories.  But we cannot do this within the propositional logic  and the propositional way of constructing and validating propositional theories as Popper (1963, p. 317) dismissed the dialectical way of theorizing and constructing and validating theories as "based on nothing better than a loose and woolly way of speaking".



Gadamer, H. D. (1975). Truth and Method.  Sheed and Ward. London. 



   It makes use of Gadamer’s (1975 pp.330-3) definition of dialectics as both the art of conducting a real conversation, which require that one “does not try to out-argue the other person, but that one really considers the weight of the other's opinion” and the art of testing and questioning which implies laying open and, contrary to the solidity of opinions, making the object and all its possibility fluid. 


Freire (1996) perceived dialogue as “a fundamental precondition for…true humanization” in the course of which human beings “meet in order to “name” the world” (p.37), advising educators that “our role is…to dialogue with the people about their views and ours” (p. 77) and differentiating between a dialogical theory of education where “subjects meet in cooperation in order to transform the world” (p. 37) and an anti-dialogical theory of education where “a Subject…conquers another person and transforms her or him into a“thing.” He stressed that education and educational relationships “cannot be reduced to the act of one person’s “depositing” ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be “consumed by the discussants” and that “it is in speaking their word that people, by naming the word, transform it” and subsequently dialogue imposes itself as a way by which “they achieve significance as human beings.” Knowledge is not extended from those who consider that they know to those who consider that they do not know. Knowledge is built up in the relation between human beings and the world, relations of transformation, and perfects itself in the critical problematization of these relations. (p. 109)




Karl Popper(1963) Conjectures and Refutations The Growth of Scientific Knowledge :London. Routeledge and Kegan Paul


Popper sought to find a way to distinguish between science and pseudo-science and between a genuinely empirical method and a non-empirical or even a pseudo-empirical method-that is to say, a method which, although it appeals to observation and experiment, nevertheless does come up to scientific standards.  He came up with “the method of trial and error” as a way of providing, formulating and validating a scientific explanation (theory) whereby “it is most characteristic of the scientific method that scientists will spare no pains to criticize and test the theory in question. Criticizing and testing go hand in hand; the theory is criticized from very many different sides in order to bring out those points which may be vulnerable.  And the testing of the theory proceeds by exposing these vulnerable points to severe an examination as possible.  This, of course, is again a variant of the method of trial and error.  Theories are put forward tentatively and tried out.  If the outcome of a test shows that the theory is erroneous, then it is eliminated; the method of trial and error is essentially a method of elimination.  Its success depends mainly on three conditions, namely, that sufficiently numerous (and ingenious) theories should be offered, that the theories offered should be made.  In this way we may, if we are lucky, secure the survival of the fittest theory by the elimination of those which are less fit.  Hence, what makes a sound and valid scientific theory is the ability to criticize, refute and discard it.



Dismissing alternative theories




“Countless scientists have seen their ‘move’ ignored or repressed, sometimes for decades, because it too abruptly destabilized the accepted positions, not only in the university and scientific hierarchy, but also in the problematic. The stronger the ‘move’ the more likely it is to be denied the minimum consensus, precisely because it changes the rules of the game upon which the consensus has been based. But when the institution of knowledge functions in this manner, it is acting like an ordinary power center whose behaviour is governed by a principle of homeostasis.


Such behaviour is terrorist…. By terror I mean the efficiency gained by eliminating, or threatening to eliminate a player from the language game one shares with him. He is silenced or consents, not because he has been refuted, but because his ability to participate has been threatened (there are many ways to prevent someone from playing). The decision makers’ arrogance, which in principle has no equivalent in the sciences, consists of the exercise of terror. It says: “Adapt your aspirations to our ends – or else”. (Lyotard, p. 64. 1984)




Lyotard, J. F. (1984). The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press.





Kuhn (1962)


Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  The University of Chicago Press. Chicago.



The crises provide the opportunity to retool. The core of the crises is the observed inconsistencies between theory and facts. This blurs the paradigm and unties the rules for normal research. The awareness and acknowledgment that a crisis exists loosens theoretical stereotypes and provides the data necessary for a fundamental paradigm shift. Hence, progress and discovery begin with the awareness of an anomaly and crises. Perceiving an anomaly is essential for perceiving novelty. Fundamental novelties of fact and theory bring about paradigm change.


These paradigm shifts are described by Kuhn describes as scientific revolutions in which a new paradigm replaces the old one. The assimilation of either a new sort of phenomenon or a new scientific theory requires the rejection of an older paradigm. The rejection of a paradigm in turn necessitates the rejection of its fundamental assumptions and of its rules for doing science as they are incompatible with those of the new paradigm. “The successive transition from one paradigm to another via revolution is the usual developmental pattern of mature science" (page 12). 


A scientific revolution is a noncumulative developmental episode in which “an older paradigm is replaced in whole or in part by an incompatible new one” (page 92). Scientific revolutions come about when one paradigm displaces another after a period of paradigm-testing . A scientific revolution that results in paradigm change is analogous to a political revolution. This is in the sense that like political revolutions, it begins with a growing sense on the part of the members of the scientific community that existing institutions (the governing paradigm) had ceased to meet adequately the problems posed.  These are the anomaly and crisis. Nonetheless, this dissatisfaction with the dominating paradigm is generally restricted to a segment of the political community.  This is whilst one group of scientists is still loyal to and seeks to defend the old paradigm.


During scientific revolutions, scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before. Revolutions close with total victory for one of the two opposing camps. When it repudiates a paradigm, the scientific community simultaneously abandons most of the books and articles in which that paradigm had been expressed and regards this practice as progress. The process of scientific revolution is nevertheless a democratic one in the sense that the power to select between paradigms belong to the members of the community.


The emergence of a new theory is generated by the persistent failure of the puzzles of normal science to be solved as they should. “Failure of existing rules is the prelude to a search for new ones” (page 68). A competition takes place between two rival paradigms for the allegiance of the scientific community. The resolution of revolutions is the selection by conflict within the scientific community of the fittest way to practice future science.


The transition to a new paradigm constitutes a scientific revolution. The emergence of a new paradigm/theory breaks with an existing tradition of scientific practice that is perceived to have gone badly crooked.  It introduces a new tradition which is directed under different rules and within a different discourse. When a transition from a former to alternate paradigm is complete, there are usually significant shifts in the criteria determining the legitimacy of both problems and the proposed solutions to them, and subsequently the profession changes its view of the field, its methods, and its goals. After a revolution, scientists are responding to a different world.  They provide the data with a different framework. When paradigms change, the world itself changes with them.



Posted by Alon Serper on 24 June 2014 11:12:51
Filed under: theorisation, validity, rigour

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