Free Essay About Not All Ideas Are Theories
Not all Ideas are Theories
This shows that in spite of the different viewpoints regarding theories and their different goals, none of them can manifest as a theory in the absence of ontology (what is knowable), epistemology (how knowledge is created and expanded), and axiology (the role of values in theory building). However, one may argue that theories like symbolic interactionism, narrative paradigm, and standpoint theory cannot be included within the above framework due to their leaning towards abstract ideas. Thus it would be pertinent to check whether symbolic interactionism contains the above three elements.
First formulated by Blumer and known as social behaviorism, this theory aims to define the role of communication in imbibing culture in humans and how culture shapes human experience. It may sound complex when George Herbert Mead, the proponent of this theory argues that symbols exchanged by humans actually transform the socialization process and make it free from the bonds of space and time or when it is learnt that its three core principles, such as meaning, language, and thought combine to generate conclusions regarding a person’s self and socializations within the bigger frame of a community. However, it can always to checked whether the above principles contain the basic three elements of a theory:
Meaning: Suggests that human acts toward people or other things are driven by the individual perception of people or other things. This can be related to ontology, since it banks on what is knowable;
Language: Takes it as an instrument of negotiating individual perceptions through symbols. This can be related to epistemology, since it acts towards creating and expanding the knowledge; and
Thought: Considered as a modifier of individual’s interpretation of symbols. This can be related to axiology, since it works towards adding value to individual action.
However, it still needs to be tested to decide whether it fulfills the preconditions of a theory.
Testing Symbolic Interactionism under the Lens of Chaffe and Berger
Chaffe and Berger provide seven ways to test a theory, such as explanatory power, predictive power, parsimony, falsifiability, internal consistency, heuristic provocativeness, and organizing power.
Explanatory power: Yes, since symbolic interaction delves deep into the causes of human actions, which makes it capable of providing a plausible explanations for its construct;
Predictive power: Yes, it is possible to predict the outcome, as it deals with a saturated level of information that covers both recent and past human experiences, which empowers it to envision the future;
Parsimony: No, since it deals with dynamic element such as human behavior, it has to deal with several nuances of the same, which are constantly changing with time;
Falsifiability: Yes, because it can be proved as false, since it deals with abstract and intangible elements such as human thoughts that cannot be empirically substantiated;
Internal consistency: Yes, since its elements such as meaning, language and thought are congruent with one another. It is perfectly logical to infer that thought provides meaning and language expresses the meaning;
Heuristic provocativeness: Yes, as it encourages additional hypotheses and the possibility of expanding knowledge, since meaning, language and thought are dynamic elements; and
Organizing power: Yes, it helps organizing existing knowledge, as it constantly roams between past and recent knowledge to decipher meaning, develop language, and refine the thought.
The above test shows that symbolic interactionism fulfills six preconditions of a theory out of seven, which enables this study to infer that symbolic interactionism is a powerful theory.
Developed by Walter Fisher, this theory uses storytelling as its instrument to achieve a meaningful communication. Thus it arranges both verbal and nonverbal interpretation logically to generate a meaning. Accordingly it works on two principles, such as coherence and fidelity, where coherence aims to increase the effectiveness of the communication, while fidelity aims to establish the validity of the narration. This can be considered as an improvised version of the ancient art of using anecdotes to highlight the cause-and effect regarding human actions.
Now it is to be seen whether it can pass the Chaffe and Berger’s seven-point test system of theories.
Explanatory power: Yes, since one of its principles, coherence works towards creating a an effective structure of the narration by incorporating credible characters and logical sequences;
Predictive power: No, since human responses emerge from unique individual perceptions regarding the world and its subjects, and therefore a certain story may evoke diverse response from the audience with diverse perceptions regarding the elements used in that story;
Parsimony: Yes, since coherence can work towards making the message simple and short, while fidelity can supplement the same with accurate information;
Falsifiability: Yes, because the premise of a narrative emanates from the viewpoint of the narrator and one may always challenge about credibility, or the essence of the message from another viewpoint;
Internal consistency: Yes, since coherence and fidelity together can work towards maintaining the internal consistency, where coherence could provide a logically sequenced structure with credible characters and fidelity could provide accurate facts, arguments, and reasoning;
Heuristic provocativeness: Yes, as it can generate additional hypotheses and the possibility of expanding knowledge, since a logical and credible moral of a story can generate new hypotheses and convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge;
Organizing power: Yes, the essence of a narrative with its credibility and generalizability can influence the audience to reorganize the existing knowledge base, especially if it deals with human experience of benefit.
The above test shows that narrative paradigm fulfills six preconditions of a theory out of seven, which enables this study to infer that it is a powerful theory. However, it appears that the success of this theory largely depends on the successful exploitation of its two principles, since humans tend to judge the credibility of a narrative by evaluating the reliability of the content used in the narrative and that judgment is guided by individual experiences. For example, one may it find it difficult to decipher the message packaged within a narrative that contains science fiction characters.
Historical evidences of marginalization of women or group of people and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s study on the standpoints of the people across the socio-economic classes formed the origin of this theory, which was later developed by Sandra Harding and Nancy Hartsock in their book, The feminist stand point: Developing ground for a specifically feminist historical materialism. Eventually it is now identified as a post-modernistic approach on people’s perception.
The central tenet of this theory is to understand the perspective of the marginalized society with special emphasis on the perspective of women, while taking both subjective and objective elements of perspectives into account. It suggests that the human standpoint may vary from person to person, but common environmental factors may create collectiveness in perspectives among the individuals who share the same environment. It defends its premise by citing the instances of marginalization of women in the past.
Now it is to be seen whether it can pass the Chaffe and Berger’s seven-point test system of theories.
Explanatory power: No, since it does not explicitly states its structure and ways to achieve its goal;
Predictive power: No, for more reasons. One, the lack of a credible preamble prevents it to take a generalizable action plan; two, its core principle forces it to get driven by a preconceived notion that a certain section of the society is marginalized is being marginalized by another section of the society. This state of affairs thus may create a distance between the accused section of the society and the proponents of this theory and create a communication gap between the communicator and the targeted audience;
Parsimony: No, since this theory does not go through the rigor of principles, it depends on the situational outcomes, which more often than not may become complex and raise the question of its validity;
Falsifiability: Yes, because the premise of standpoint can always be challenged by the instances where the perceived oppression of the privileged class did not take place at all or where the assumed marginalized class was found belying the truth;
Internal consistency: No, since it is not driven by the power of ontology and epistemology, and instead driven by situation. Alongside, it appears liable to succumb to knowledge gap and therefore cannot have any internal consistency;
Heuristic provocativeness: Yes, but on the wrong ground, such as a false allegation of marginalization can generate additional hypotheses and the possibility of expanding knowledge, which in turn may question its validity or generalizability; and
Organizing power: No, because the apparent knowledge gap in this theory provides no scope to encourage additional hypotheses or to expand the extant knowledge on marginalization.
The above test shows that standpoint theory fails to pass as many as six tests out of seven, which clearly shows that this cannot be a theory but a noble idea that at best can supplement the judiciary processes of any society. It is also liable to face the argument that the proponents of this theory have no scope to achieve their goal on their own, since any society has its judicial system to create and sustain an egalitarian society, and for that matter each such system has clear rules to intervene in cases of marginalization of women or any group. Thus at the most it can work toward create awareness among the marginalized people in a particular society and bring such instances to the notice of the appropriate judicial body.
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