Paradigm of Inquiry: Critical Theory and Constructivism



Understanding phenomena, continual inquiry and search for truth identify central rationales for human existence. Indeed, the very necessity of continual inquiry and searching for understanding provides indication of our limitations; the world we attempt to comprehend is opaque and our inquiries involve uncertainty and limited clarity. ‘Even the self is in many respects unknown and alien to itself; we are often confused and dismayed by our ignorance of our own motives and actions (Dillon 1997, p. 9). Both world and self ‘transcend us’; as we inquire we seek to ‘overcome the world’s otherness and our own self-estrangement’ (ibid.). Phenomenology concentrates on how we understand the world through experience, identifies social engagement and how this develops our understanding and worldviews. Phenomenology focuses on the way we experience certain events and how meaning is created through these experiences rather than the events themselves. ‘Phenomenology concentrates on the life-world and uncovering … what may be considered … trivial elements of human existence when developing interpretations and understanding human experience’ (Howell 2013, p. 56). ‘Consciousness and world are not separate entities but a holistic construction of lived experience … Through our personal histories, culture, language and environment individuals are provided with an understanding of the world’ (ibid.). In addition, we are also representations of others: ‘my own person is object for another and is therefore that other’s representation, and yet … I should exist even without the other representing me in his mind’ (Kant 1788/1997, p. 6). The other whose object I am is not an absolute subject, but a knowing entity, ‘therefore if he … did not exist’ or any other person exist other than myself ‘this would still by no means be the elimination of the subject in whose representation alone all objects exist’ (ibid.). Hegel (1807/1977) identified the naïve mind’s emergent comprehension of external reality. ‘Mind becomes aware of itself through subjective and objective self-consciousness. Subjective awareness of self is not enough … self needs an objective recognition of its own consciousness to provide an understanding of its own reality’ (Howell 2013, p. 8). Even though notions of reality become nebulous when assessed in terms of the relationship between subject and object one thing we can surely depend on is the notion of ‘facts’. Surely a fact is a fact and either something exists, something has happened or something has been done that is known about or knowable? However, this is incorrect; for example ‘every actual thing is inexhaustible and … every fact is subject to unlimited interpretation and re-interpretation. If one desires to grasp a fact in a determinate way, he will have to construct it. All facts are already theories’ (Jaspers 1995, p. 67).


Critical Theory Objective Self-consciousness Unlimited Interpretation Continual Research Limited Clarity 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of ManagementPlymouth UniversityPlymouthUK

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