Objectivity, power and interests : a sociological analysis

Jacobz, Melville (2001-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2001.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Discourse about the human world has, since Socrates, been structured around the assumption that one view of a given matter is better than competing views, and that argumentation, if carried out correctly and systematically, will favour the view which has the preponderance of reasons and evidence on its side. If this supposition were dropped, the nature of social scientific inquiry would change significantly. For many commentators in the social sciences the ineliminable interpretative dimension of social inquiry and the standpoint-bound character of interpretation lead to the conclusion that we have to abandon any notion of objective truth in the social sciences. The central question raised in this thesis is whether this abandonment is inevitable or even plausible. Is it plausible to conflate objectivity and truth? Is objectivity a possible characteristic of the individual researcher or a characteristic of the scientific research process? Does the cultural environment of the researcher impact on the validity of research findings? If science is a social phenomenon, are scientific beliefs different from other beliefs? How do the interests of the individual researcher or the formal organisation of scientific practice impact on the validity of findings? What role does power play in the shaping of knowledge? These are the questions that will be addressed in the following thesis. The methodology of Max Weber serves as a point of departure and divergences and similarities to the work of Weber are explored in the writings of Kuhn, the Edinburgh School, Latour, Foucault, Habermas, as well as contemporary postmodernist and feminist writers. The analysis of these various concepts and approaches is not presented chronologically, but rather as an exposition of the contributors of various commentators in the fields of both the sociology of science and knowledge, and the philosophy of science.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Diskoers oor die menslike wêreld is, sedert Socrates, gestuktureer rondom die aanname dat een siening van 'n gegewe saak beter is as mededingende sienings, en dat argumentasie, indien korrek en sistematies uitgevoer, ten voordeel sal wees van die siening wat gesteun word deur die oormaat van redes en bewyse. As ons hierdie aanname sou laat vaar, sal die stand van sosiaal wetenskaplike ondersoek ingrypend verander. Vir menige kommentator in die sosiale wetenskappe lei die onafwendbare interpretatiewe dimensie van maatskaplike ondersoek, en die standpunt-gebonde aard van interpretasie, tot die gevolgtrekking dat ons enige opvatting van objektiwiteit in die sosiale wetenskappe moet laat vaar. Die kernvraag in hierdie tesis is of hierdie verskuiwing onvermydelik of selfs aanneemlik is. Is dit geldig om objektiwiteit en waarheid saam te snoer? Is objektiwiteit 'n moontlike eienskap van die individuele navorser, of 'n eienskap van die navorsingsproses? Watter impak het die kulturele omgewing van die navorser op die geldigheid van die navorsingsbevindinge? As wetenskap 'n sosiale fenomeen is, is wetenskaplike oortuigings enigsins anders as ander oortuigings? Watter impak het die belange van 'n individuele navorser, of die formele organsiasie van wetenskaplike praktyk, op die geldigheid van bevindings? Watter rol speel mag in die vorming en skepping van kennis? Hierdie is die vrae wat aangespreek word in dié tesis. Die metodologie van Max Weber dien as vertrekpunt, en ooreenkomste tot en afwykings van die sienings van Weber word ondersoek in die werk van Kuhn, die "Edinburgh School", Latour, Foucault, Habermas, sowel as kontemporêre postmoderne en feministiese skrywers. Die analise van hierdie verskeie konsepte en benaderings word nie kronologies aangebied nie, maar eerder as 'n uiteensetting van die bydraes van verskeie kommentators op die gebied van die sosiologie van die wetenskap en van kennis, sowel as die filosofie van wetenskap.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52376
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