In reading the material on philosophical assumptions, I realized that I was naturally placing myself on a continuum for each of the qualifying questions relating to the assumptions (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 21) . So I created this visual representation of where I find myself on the spectrum for each question:
Angela’s Philosophical Assumptions Matrix
In considering the first two questions of epistemological concern,……I find myself in the middle of the question of whether or not knowledge arises from experience, the nature or nurture question. I believe that there are some things that rise from experience, while there are certainly others that arise a priori (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 21). Our text gives the great example of the nature of language. Clearly, children are born for a capacity for language, in fact, a capacity for learning ANY human language (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 21), yet the meaning of the language comes from experience.
On the question of the extent to which knowledge can be certain, I fall strongly into the relativist spectrum. I do believe that there are some universal human laws, love being primary among them. Even so, I think that these “universal” laws may be beyond human language to express, so even in the cases where I may claim to have a universal stance, I still find myself heading back to the side of the argument against a universal reality.
On the four-part spectrum of the question of knowledge process, I’ve visually placed myself between constructivism (people construct knowledge for their own use) and social construction (society creates reality). I believe in most cases knowledge arises socially, and we are influenced by the social “knowledge” of our time and place. However, I believe that individuals can construct their own knowledge experience in opposition to the social constructed norm. (My views on ontology, the individual vs. the social, are reflected in this same belief.) This is one of my primary philosophical areas of interest.
For the final two questions regarding the holistic and explicit nature of knowledge, I find myself skewing more toward the middle on both, I believe that sometimes knowledge must be considered as part of a bigger whole; however, as a business analyst, I see how sometimes the parts are the critical components of the whole.
As to explicit vs. tacit: I believe that there is an inner knowing that surpasses words (thus my placement more toward tacit), but I believe there is great power in being able to put that knowledge into clearly articulated words. There is a power in naming that goes a long way toward knowing.
For the first two questions of ontology, I again find myself in the middle of the assumptions. Regarding choices, I’m in the middle between determinist and pragmatist. I believe that some of our choices are out of our control (back to the social construct of knowledge) and that others are well within our power. Further, I believe that we have the power to deconstruct the reasons for our choices and move our determinist choices more toward the pragmatist approach, thus influencing my placement on the continuum.
I’m also mostly in the middle on the question of human behavior. In the traits vs. states debate, I lean slightly more toward the states view, that human behavior is dynamic and subject to instability. However, I believe we have plenty of evidence that there are certain, common, stable traits experienced by most humans.
For the question of experience as individual or social, I’ve placed myself more toward the individual side, although I strongly believe that most of what we believe is socially influenced. I’ve placed myself on the human psyche side because I believe it is preferable; however, I believe that the power of socially constructed knowledge (see: Epistemoloy above) keeps us in a socially constructed reality that is difficult to escape.
As for the contextual nature of existence, I’m squarely in the middle, seeing how there can be both universal and situational factors at play in communication. I often feel like I live in multiple realities simultaneously based on the situation: family v. work v. friends. However, at the end of the day, I have a universal experience of reality that encompasses all of those realities, thus the placement of myself in the center.
As we move on to the value question, I see that for all three questions I’m skewing toward one side over the other. Beginning with the question of value-free theory, I really do believe that it’s difficult for the theorist/researcher to strip her personal values and biases out of research. However, I believe that there are ways to try to keep research neutral, even though it is most likely true that “any lens necessarily colors what is seen, making value-free inquiry possible” (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 23). Perhaps allowing room for neutrality is more wishful thinking than real, but I’ve allowed for it on this continuum.
As for the process of inquiry affecting the inquiry itself, I’m a believer in the observer effect, that the act of observing by definition changes the thing being observed. However, as in the previous question, I did allow a little room for the possibility of the “neutral observer.”
Finally, the question of critical theory, whether or not theory should be designed to achieve change. I became interested in communication theory in a desire to change my own self-perception, and I am drawn to those theories that take an advocacy position. However, as with the two earlier value issues, I’m allowing room for scholarship that exists in a neutral space. I believe that certain research should be done without an inherent advocacy position–allow the advocates to apply the interpretation.
Here ends my personal philosophical assumptions spectrum. I’m looking forward to seeing how these shift throughout the course and beyond.