The Journal of Mind and Behavior
Volume 21, Numbers 3, Summer 2000
This paper summarizes the longstanding debate over psychology's fragmentation by illustrating two principal impediments to the fostering of consensus and unity. The paper then discusses the important benefits of past dialogue concerning these issues, suggesting that some progress has been made in dealing with problems of disunity and fragmentation, particularly at the metatheoretical and philosophical levels. This general discussion then forms the backdrop for the following articles, which together form a single argument in favor of a hermeneutic approach to the problem of fragmentation.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Stephen C. Yanchar, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article examines the relationship between unity and progress in psychology. It contends that psychologists have traditionally sought unity in order to fulfill positivistic criteria of progress and success. In accordance with innovations in the philosophy of science, and in accordance with recent trends toward methodological pluralism, such unity is neither required nor recommended. However, a problem that arises under the new philosophy of science &emdash; incommensurability &emdash; must also be addressed. It is argued that before psychology can be a coherent (though pluralistic) discipline, three important questions pertaining to incommensurability must be answered
Requests for reprints should be sent to Stephen C. Yanchar, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84604. E-mail: email@example.com.
The question of incommensurability is an overlooked issue that has profound consequences for our ability to understand relationships and utilize common standards for comparison, contrast, and evaluation in psychology. Are the differences among discourse communities so deep that there is no common "commensurate" &emdash; no common measuring stick for making comparisons among communities? If so, then the community of communities, the discipline of psychology, has no way to compare competing knowledge claims, and no way to effect disciplinary unity and coherence. Kuhn's distinction between incommensurability and incompatibility is described, along with its challenge to Enlightenment rationality and scientific method for brokering the relativity among discourse communities. Popper's misconception that this challenge implies an "anything goes" nihilism is also discussed, specifically his misconception that incompatibility and incommensurability mean incomparability. On the contrary, the article shows how recognizing the incommensurable is often the key to comparison, and thus disciplinary coherence and unity.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Brent D. Slife, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper argues that unification in the discipline of psychology cannot be achieved through appeals to objectivism or relativism. Objectivism fails because it bills itself as a value-free tool of inquiry, when in reality it is a value-laden metatheory. Relativism fails because it cannot make judgments among communities, and as such is a candidate for disunity, not unity. We argue that any attempt to unify the discipline must begin at the level of moral assumptions. Morality serves as the ground on which evaluations of divergent discourse communities can and must take place. A disciplinary conversation is required in which various moral systems are considered as unifying strategies. We outline how a productive conversation of this sort can take place.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Kristoffer B. Kristensen, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602.
Considerable fragmentation, and awareness of it, have characterized the field of psychology since its inception. It is suggested that over the years, efforts to reduce uncertainty and overcome fragmentation in psychology have clustered around two broad, opposite strategies which might be termed "scientism" and "constructionism." The first wishes to rely on secure methods and controlled experimentation, the second on a postmodern acceptance of radical heterogeneity and "no truth through method." Some of the shortcomings of these strategies are discussed. A hermeneutic approach centering on dialogue and the idea of social inquiry as a kind of ethical practice is outlined which, it is argued, might have success in incorporating some of the virtues and avoiding the pitfalls of other responses to the problem of fragmentation.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Frank C. Richardson, Ph.D., Department of Educational Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712. E-mail: email@example.com
In reaction to the other papers in this special issue, the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer is further clarified, especially with respect to the ethical sense evident in Gadamer's work, and in that of a younger generation of critical hermeneuts. This discussion sets the stage for a critical questioning of the ability of psychologists, given their past and current disciplinary and professional horizons, to engage a hermeneutic solution to the problem of fragmentation in psychology.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Jack Martin, Ph.D., Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada, V5A 1S6.
This article provides a broad outline of a hermeneutic unity of psychology, by way of a reply to Martin's comment (2000, this issue). It is argued that the metaphysical and ontological impasses that concern Martin may occur because of two reasons &emdash; genuine incomparability or the lack of motivation on the part of potential interlocutors. We argue that neither of these reasons necessarily precludes the dialogue and evaluation called for under this hermeneutic approach. We then show how a proper understanding of dialogue, as well as a group of psychologists to facilitate this dialogue &emdash; theoretical psychologists &emdash; are keys to a coherent and unified, yet pluralistic and responsive psychology.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Stephen C. Yanchar, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org