Types of Pluralism
W Watson (in a paper "Types of pluralism" in The Monist, 73(3):350-65, 1990) suggested that there are four types of pluralism:
(I thank Matthew Jones for his excellent exposition of Watson's taxonomy, in his paper "Mission impossible? Pluralism and multiparadigm IS research" given to the 1999 UK Association of Information Systems Conference, from which the above was formulated.)
- Perspectival pluralism suggests that individuals do not experience the same world, but we all experience our own reality. There is no common reality and different views may be genuinely incommensurable. "Anything goes".
- Pluralism of hypotheses suggests that there is a single reality but that we may hold different opinions about it. The differences may be incompatible, but they will disappear as 'the truth' is discovered. "Horses for courses".
- Methodological pluralism also suggests that there is one reality but that different perspectives provide only partial access to it, because of the different methods used in finding out about it. A mixture of methods is desirable and ultimately reconcilable, but there can be danger of philosophical inconsistency.
- Archic pluralism holds that reality is constituted by the inquirer, so that each philosophy has its own reality, but since it is all based on inquiry ('mind') and 'mind' is shared, we can understand each other. "Given the dialectic nature of things, we all need our opponents." (Geertz).
However Dooyeweerd has a strong notion of pluralism: a plurality of aspects of reality that are fundamentally (ontologically) irreducible to each other. Watson does not cover Dooyeweerd's type, which might be called 'ontological pluralism' (possibly because he was publishing in The Monist?) But it seems to me that Dooyeweerd's type can account for each of Watson's types.
Each aspect (e.g. quantitative, physical, biotic, analytical, lingual, economic, aesthetic, juridical, ethical, credal (which, interestingly, is the aspect of commitment, faith, vision)) has its own distinct:
We (human beings, animals, plants, etc.) function in all aspects, as subject or object, in an integrated manner, so that in pre-theoretic thinking the functioning is tacit. (e.g. as I write this to you, I am primarily functioning lingually, and also analytically in that I am making distinctions between what to say and what to leave out, and also e.g. biotically in breathing etc. but also I aim to be social and ethical, also economic of time, etc.)
- set of laws, which can be either determinative or normative
- epistemology: way of knowing, methods of research, etc.
- and various other things that need not concern us here
But, you might ask, how can this be? In brief, for two reasons. One is that for Dooyeweerd 'reality' (i.e. what is independent of us and of what we are part) is based in laws (of each aspect) rather than in entities (and their behaviour). The other is that theoretical thinking is no longer the 'ideal' way of knowing, but merely one way: that enabled by the analytical aspect. To Dooyeweerd, to some extent, pre-theoretical ('everyday') thinking is 'higher' than theoretical because it is integrative and richer, in that it combines all the aspects that are relevant to a situation while theoretical thinking divides them up.
- Perspectivial pluralism would be explained by which aspect a person finds most important or appealing. The possibility of genuine incommensurability stems from the radical irreducibility between the aspects. (There is also perhaps a weaker form of this based on the uniqueness of the individual, which Dooyeweerd holds with, but that would not explain incommensurability.)
- Hypothesis pluralism would be accounted for by the fact that different sciences study different aspects, which are not reducible to each other. So, a situation in which all aspects are valid may be studied from any science (e.g. statistics, biology, psychology, logic, economics, social science, etc.), and each would produce hypotheses and different opinions. Moreover, opinions from different aspects cannot be truly brought side by side. Hence hypothesis pluralism. However, the aspects are all of 'one reality' as this form of pluralism assumes. A full understanding of a situation requires the sets of hypotheses from all aspectual sciences.
- Methodological pluralism comes from the fact that each (aspect-centred) science has its own epistemology and therefore its own methods.
- Archic pluralism is explained, according to Dooyeweerd, by the fact that science and theoretical thinking involve the human functioning in the analytical aspect. We each make our own distinctions. Therefore, to this extent, *our theoretical knowledge of* reality is constituted by the inquirer. Yet reality itself is not so constituted.
This page is part of a collection of pages that links to various thinkers, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.
Copyright (c) 2010 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.
Written on the Amiga and Protext.
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