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Thursday, 16 March 2006

Interpreting Qualitative Data - with David Byrne!!

This week: Naturalism: a soft foundationist argument....


A dangerous word has just been inserted into this text - natural. This opens up the possibility of arguments about the relationship between the social world, which is the product of human actions, and the natural world, which exists independently of them, or so it used to be said. In a world subject to the threat of global warming and profound ecological transformation as the product of human industrial activity, we really do need a story which links the natural and the social.

Traditionally, accounts which link the natural and the social have been reductionist and scientistic. By reductionist I mean that they have sought to explain social relations in terms of biological predilections - the current fad for evolutionary psychology is merely the latest and most sophisticated version of the game. It would be absurd to deny the biological character of human beings and equally ridiculous to ignore the role of evolutionary processes in the emergence of human consciousness and society - an emergence which was necessarily a single process. However, the key word is emergence. Emergent phenomena are not explicable in terms of that from which they emerge. The biological substrate is part of the story but by no means all, or even the most important part, of it.

Does anybody have any questions?


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