With just a few days to go, I’ve been making some notes on the argument. Here is one of them, about the process of getting from data to theory…
Reflection as an entity and our perception of it are both “occasions of experience”*. All occasions of experience have a temporal and historical duration and so are portions not wholes. The entity of reflection is, therefore, a part; a fragment in a much bigger picture. Because that big picture is a unified whole it cannot be reported in an analysis of a part.
In many examples of social science research it is only occasions of experience that are considered suitable as units of analysis, but this invites conclusions from fragmented description and it creates – as a minimum – a division between observed and the observer. This might be unavoidable, or avoidable only with considerable artistry, but the researcher’s decisions on where the boundaries are and where the description of an entity starts and stops is always an arbitrary one. Reading too much into our analyses is highly risky since that sort of understanding is inevitably limited by and to our capacity to observe. The occasion of experience, in all its subtlety and complexity, is never fully capturable in an epistemic model built to analyse the parts. In themselves, these occasions of experience aren’t ‘things’ but patterns of inseperable relationships.
I think it is essentially my thesis that something of the nature of these patterns of relationships that are about the wider story can, however, be inferred.
(*after C H Waddington)