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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: August 2018

7 - Dualism and Constitution: The Social Construction of Reality

from Part II - Ethnographic Fieldwork – The Focus On Constitution

Edit and interpret the conclusions of modern science as tenderly as we like, it is still quite impossible for us to regard man as the child of God for whom the earth was created as a temporary habitation…. Man is but a foundling in the cosmos, abandoned by the forces that created him. Unparented, unassisted and undirected by omniscient or benevolent authority, he must fend for himself, and with the aid of his own limited intelligence find his way about in the indifferent universe. Such is the world pattern that determines the character and direction of modern thinking.

Becker, 1932/1961, pp. 14–15

It seems common sense that each of us has a mind in which we construct conceptions of the world around us. Our “subjectivity” is not merely ideas in our heads; it is the way the whole world appears to us. The “mental” is taken to be something inner, personal, and subjective. In addition, an informationprocessing model is accepted throughout the social sciences. In this model, the brain is seen as a computer, actively processing data received through the sensory organs, forming complex internal models or theories about the external world, and deciding how to act on the basis of these models. This, too, has come to seem obvious and natural.

The problems with such views are not so obvious, but humans have not always thought about themselves in this way. Of course, no single person could be responsible for such a model, but one person in particular was a highly influential spokesperson: the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Although he wrote over 200 years ago, many still consider Kant the most important philosopher of all time. The accusation of dualism is usually directed towards Descartes (e.g., Burwood, Gilbert, & Lennon, 1999), but the model of human being that the social sciences assume, and the dualisms in which they have become caught, are due much more to Kant. This chapter explores Kant and his influence in order to see how this model arose and why, and how it both requires a process of “constitution” and trivializes this as something individual, primarily cognitive and intellectual.

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The Science of Qualitative Research
  • Online ISBN: 9781108264907
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