Changing pictures of social science theory and practice : a Wittgensteinian approach to human mind and experience

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Jones, Donald Earl, 1957-

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This dissertation argues that there is a set of assumptions--or a picture, in Wittgenstein's language--that influences our thinking about who we are as human beings and our relationships to the rest of the world. These assumptions have their origins in Cartesianism and function as unrecognized, unacknowledged foundations on which all of the rest of our thinking and acting takes place. My argument is that these assumptions are deeply problematic and that we need to both examine the impact of those assumptions and beginning building alternative perspectives. I draw primarily from scholars who build upon a Wittgensteinian perspective that draws upon the Philosophical investigations, On certainty, and other volumes of Wittgenstein's work that have been published since the Philosophical Investigations. These scholars include Taylor (2007), Williams (2002), Mulhall (2007), Canfield (2004, 2007), Moyal-Sharrock (2004), Travis (2006, 2007), Schatzki (1996, 2001), and Stroll (2002, 2004). Of particular interest to me is the inner-outer distinction--or in Taylor's terms, dualist sorting--of Cartesian dualism, whereby all mental processes are contained within individual human minds that are separate and distinct from the rest of the reality. Taylor, Williams, Schatzki, and other Wittgensteinian scholars argue that this assumption continues to be relatively unacknowledged and unchallenged despite a long history of philosophical challenges to the Cartesian perspective. These scholars argue that the inner-outer distinction is deeply mistaken and yet continues to have an impact on contemporary life that is both pervasive and negative. A key part of my approach builds on Taylor's (2007) argument about the connection between ontology and epistemology within the Cartesian picture. Taylor argues that we get to a new picture only by carefully investigating the influences of the Cartesian picture and then building a new perspective out of alternatives to each piece of the Cartesian picture. Canfield (2004) argues similarly, referring to this as a bottom-up approach. In this work, I look at both theoretical and applied issues within the social sciences. I investigate how a few concrete practices play out within specific contexts when considered from an alternative perspective that takes unmediated knowledge and embodied practices (Taylor, 2007), a social conception of mind (Williams, 2002), and a relational ontology (Slife, 2004) as foundational. And finally, I present specific examples drawn from the applied practices of the social sciences with a focus on the delivery of psychological services (including psychology, psychotherapy, and counseling) and the teaching of communication (including writing, speaking, and interpersonal communication). The purpose of these examples is to bring out some of the contradictions and problems that occur because of the unacknowledged assumptions of the Cartesian picture and to show the kinds of solutions that an alternative perspective can provide. My goal is to provide concrete suggestions for thinking and acting within the context of particular practices using psychotherapy and teaching as the primary sources for examples.



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