Philosophical Wagers

I see ontology as being about how and what we believe about the nature of being and reality. This is a reasonably hard concept for me to wrap my head around because it is such a metaphysical concept and wants me to question notions that I always just assume as truths because you get into too much a spiral of breaking everything down into its components, and at the end of the day we’re all just a ton of atoms piled on top of each other and should a pile of atoms really question the essence of being and what is identifiable and what is knowable in the world. But, in reality, ontology is just that: a way to say what things are and how those things can be grouped.

Methodology is the process by which we get to a conclusion and the reason why we used that logic. Methodology also varies across disciplines and in daily life. In an academic setting, no matter what discipline, there is an expectation that you will record your procedures and methods and that there was a specific reason for the methodology you choose. This methodology selection is crucial because it allows people to understand how you got to the point that you did, and even if they disagree with the hypothesis or some of the assumptions made, they can understand how that impacted the data and results in certain ways. Methodology is also crucial because it dictates what we view as important versus unimportant, for example, large-n methodology doesn’t care about individual cases it’s looking at the overall patterns that emerge from the cases to tell a story whereas interpretivism cares very much individual cases rather than the overall trends.

I think that as humans, we can never be a true impartial observer of the social world because we enviably apply our own biases and life experiences to everything we see. But we can try to minimize our unobjectively by either accounting for it when we interpret our data, and we must also understand that there are several ways to account for bias. Some of these ways include substantiating your data against other similar data, have peers review your data and work, recognize different types of researcher bias and actively work to make sure they don’t infiltrate your work. But at the end of the day, we are inevitably a co-producer of the reality we inhabit. As Abbott discusses our positions in the social world very much affects our research, for example, if you are too self-confident that you will disregard the work others have done before you and the help your peers are likely to offer (1). I think that anything you can put into words and still have others understand what you’re talking about is something that can be measured. So, this means both visible and invisible phenomena are measurable.

  1. Andrew Abbott, Methods of Discovery (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004), 240.

3 thoughts on “Philosophical Wagers”

  1. Phoebe, you have a fascinating way to think about life when it comes to discussing the concept of ontology. When you mention how you think we essentially just are atoms piled upon each other, it makes me question on your philosophy coming into the class. For me, I know philosophical debates within myself have been driving many conversations at the beginning of this class. I think it would be valuable if you tried to unpack some of these concepts within yourself to understand your research better. As you mentioned in the last paragraph how we should try to eliminate our own biases, I think self-discovery is one of the most significant ways to do it. I would try to break down how you see some of these debates to obtain more rounded knowledge of the ideas. Let me know if you ever want to discuss any of these ideas!

  2. Phoebe, I completely agree with your last point. It is impossible to remain objective in research. As human beings, our minds are a essentially the culmination of everything we have learned thus far in life through our own learned experiences and readings. We implicitly apply our learned knowledge to most interactions on a daily basis. For example, oneway decide to walk on the left side of the road while walking down the street because they saw somewhere that it was safer. Or one may grab a certain type of coffee brew every day because someone told them it was stronger. Therefore, if you can’t remain unbiased when grabbing coffee or walking down the street, then how could you when discussing/investigating a topic you’re very passionate about. Obviously, I’m aware these examples are rather trivial, but they were just small scaled examples. Your post was very interesting; I’m glad we agreed!

  3. You have a good post, and a good discussion here, Phoebe. I would have appreciated some more direct connection to the course readings and various examples to sustain your claims, though (remember that justifying your choices with reference to literature is an essential part of all research writing!). I’d also be a bit careful with the idea of “bias” as you think about these debates. Bias itself is a concept that *only* makes sense in the neopositivist world where there is the assumption of an actual, separately existing truth against which we can test our explanations. Assumptions is probably a more accurate term. “Bias” implies some sort of deliberate slant, whereas our ontological and epistemological assumptions are more subconscious and involuntary.

    In thinking about your final claim — “…anything you can put into words and still have others understand what you’re talking about is something that can be measured. So, this means both visible and invisible phenomena are measurable.” — I would push you to think about that a bit more. How would you capture or measure invisible phenomena? How would you know that you’re actually capturing that thing–and that it a real thing and not just something imaginary that you have put into words?

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