Imperfectly Known or Socially Constructed? What is Truth Again?

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Campanario, Scott C; Yost, Paul R
psychology; post-positivism; social constructionism; philosophy of science; correspondence theory; coherence theory; pragmatism; epistemology; ontology; Psychology; Theory and Philosophy
article description
Contemporary psychology is once again at an inflection point with regard to its philosophical foundation. In this paper, we evaluate two prominent philosophies of science within the field of psychology—post-positivism and social constructionism—that are logically incompatible but often treated as equally valid by theorists, researchers, and practitioners. We discuss what each philosophy of science offers in terms of ontology, epistemology, and pragmatic justifications using the structure of a proposed argument, counterargument, and rebuttal. From this evaluation, we contend that post-positivism is a logically preferable philosophy of science for both the progress of collective knowledge and the sustainability of psychology as a science and therefore should guide future theory and research. We conclude by exploring implications for psychology including ways that social constructionist critiques can be employed to improve post-positivist approaches to psychology.