Friday, 20 November 2015

Revisiting Eisner

Eisner was one of my Week 1 readings. As I gradually start to write the assignment, I find myself revisiting Sparkes etc., but have only just returned to Eisner.

See here for the original post.

My thoughts on this second reading are as follows. I've basically summarised each paragraph, in order t0 gather key points.

Eisner starts the paper by giving an overview of what is meant by objectivity - setting the coconuts up for him to later knock down. He discusses the hierarchy of objectivity over subjectivity - something he comes back to later, in relation to our culture and history. After discussing the struggle for objectivity, he sets his argument against it before defining objectivity in relation to ontology, and linking it to the correspondence theory of truth. Eisner brings in Rorty when he talks about there having to be a correspondence in perception, understanding and representation. Rorty is discussed by the use of his analogy of this representation being a mirror to nature.

Procedural objectivity is dismissed by Eisner, suggesting its inhumanity. He then summarises the argument against subjectivity, setting the argument up for attack in the following paragraph. How comes his argument - and how he will knock down the arguments for objectivity. He suggests that we cannot actually know that we know 'the truth'. Just because we can predict, doesn't mean that we know the truth.

It is important to realise that perception is always based on personal frameworks, so cannot be objective. Quote, p. 12: "What we come to see depends upon what we seek, and what we seek depends upon what we know how to say". This is something I'd like to discuss in the assignment.

The way we represent knowledge will also affect how it is perceived; whatever we do, we will conceal as well as reveal. Group perceptions of reality, through schemata, again  mean we cannot be objective. Procedural objectivity only suggests agreement rather than truth.

So, having destroyed the idea of objectivity, what does Eisner suggest?

Historically and culturally, we are programmed to see objectivity as a requirement and higher than subjectivity. He suggests we look for an alternative. Subjectivity is not 'anything goes' but is based on our personal frames of reference, from our own experiences that we make. If there is lack of a common framework, then communication will be impossible.

Eisner suggests that we should not be afraid of the plurality of worlds that his ideas suggest. Our understanding of truth changes as we make it. We can also consider alternative means fro perceiving truth, e.g. through fiction rather than 'science'.

He then starts to summarise his argument, that objectivity is unachievable. Science and the world have changed. We  must look to recognise the plurality of truth, and use reason to determine truth, not rely on correspondence.

My thoughts now:

I can use the quote and its surrounding information to support my view of subjectivity being appropriate and linked to the research paradigm I'm using. I can also bring in the frameworks area and link, perhaps to reflexivity.

I still can't find the original to Philips' work, but having re-read the blog post, it seems that there is a lot of agreement between Philips and Eisner. However, Philips is convinced that objectivity is achievable through peer review and effective procedures in research. The crux of the argument appears to be around the definition of objectivity, with Eisner linking it clearly to truth. Philips, on the other hand, talks about research being objective but not necessarily true. However, this is my interpretation of someone else's view of the paper, so I need to be careful.

It was useful to revisit this paper and to think about how I can apply the information to my research.

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