What is your attitude toward empiricism? Is it possible to understand socially constructed knowledge through statistics? Or is empiricism more than statistics?
Passion and reason – Blyler and Charney. While Blyler passionately argues for radical, critical research, Charney takes the path of advocating a more rational, moderate, multi-method approach to research; one that acknowledges the shortcomings of each method in isolation, yet does not devalue any method in its entirety. During the reading of the passionately written, citation-heavy article by Blyler, I frequently was reminded of Foucault’s definition of discourse (read: rhetoric) as epistemic and as a form of social action. Blyler really calls for a sort of metadiscursive research approach that seems to have the ability to shed all discursive practice in which the researcher is embedded. To me that sounds super-human. Enter Nietzsche, alleging all truths to be allusions, a ‘fact’ (LOL) of which we are completely unaware, and, thus, rendering Blyler’s passionate call for the seeking of more accurate truths, founded in the realization of subjectivity and subject participation, also an allusion. Sigh.
I am not convinced that by acknowledging our own subjectivity, we produce more accurate truths. If truth is socially constructed and not absolute, then this happens regardless of who the main social actors are. Vilifying one approach over another will not solve the problem, it simply moves it (imagine pressing the air in a balloon stick from one end to the other). What I do take away from Blyler, who does make some excellent points, is the call for a metadiscourse about research methodology that should include the acknowledgement of discursive practice and resulting implications. What I don’t agree with is the absolute marginalizing of one over the other, i.e., the radical swing of the research pendulum. While I see great value in metadiscourse about anything (really!), overall, I felt myself more in agreement with Charney’s more logical, rational, moderate approach of contextualized multi-method research approaches because it seems to make a more balanced appeal to truth finding.
As for empiricism, I absolutely believe in it, because it is a way with which we CAN search for truth. It is one of the avenues that is open to us, albeit, we have to understand the implications and, most importantly our embeddedness in social and discourse practices. We, as researchers, are and always will be a product of norms and values, of traditions and culture, of micro and macro societal influences and of the prevalent epistemic processes. However, we do have the ability to recognize these influences and acknowledge them in our research which, in my opinion, is what distinguishes well thought out research from, hm, let’s call it discount research in which the researcher wears blinders (sort of like certain politicians).