As I read the chapters on ten different cultures of inquiry in Mindful Inquiry in Social Research, I was struck by the connections between many of the different working epistemologies. Some of the assumptions between the different cultures of inquiry were very similar. In other cases, the various working epistemologies seemed to either precede or succeed one another. And in yet other situations, they seemed to have influence or affect on one another. Viewing them as one whole helped me to see the connections between most of them.
For example, Phenomenology challenges our usual way of viewing the world by studying not only how things appear to us, but also how consciousness “is structured such that things appear to it in the ways that they do” (Bentz & Shapiro, p.97). Hermeneutic inquiry also tells us that we understand the world through eyes that are reflective of our own experiences, pointing out that “…the prejudgements that we bring to our understanding are largely culturally predetermined” (Bentz & Shapiro, p.107). Comparative-Historical inquirers believe that “human beings make their own history, but not in circumstances chosen by themselves” (p.138). And Critical Social Theory tries to make sense of “how the larger social system manifest itself in and reproduces itself through the individual phenomenon, while asking what the phenomenon adds to the social system” (Bentz & Shapiro, p.147).
All four of these cultures of inquiry acknowledge the affect the environment outside of the individual has on that individual’s ability to perceive the world. As such, choosing more than one of these working epistemologies would help to form a more complete picture of the “what,” “how,” and “why” of a particular issue. (For more examples, please see the attached Infographic.)
Image by Firkin. Retrieved from openclipart.org.
Bentz, V. M., Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful Inquiry in Social Research. Published by Sage Publications, Inc. (California, USA; London, United Kingdom; New Delhi, India), www.sagepub.com