ERIC Number: ED335139
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
Should Developmental Psychologists Take Seriously the Hermeneutic Critique?
Kahn, Peter H., Jr.
Most developmental psychologists have encountered some version of the hermeneutic critique. Hermeneuticists assert that the traditional conception of social science research is fundamentally flawed in methodology, in its conception of the human person and human action, and in epistemology. Hermeneuticists maintain that hermeneutics should revolutionize psychological and educational research. How seriously should this argument be taken? First, consider the methodological argument. It has been claimed that hermeneutic inquiry calls in a unique way for analyses that are both perspectival and contextual. But such analyses are central to many developmental psychologists' research programs. Evidently, hermeneutics will not revolutionize psychological research methods. Now consider the epistemological argument. Hermeneuticists recognize that the understanding of human action requires detailed analyses of subjective psychological states; that knowledge of human subjectivity is valid; and that intersubjectivity, and not an objective foundation, establishes the validity of an interpretation. But acceptance of hermeneuticists' assumptions about subjective psychological states does not require developmentalists to abandon objective, truth-oriented theory. While developmental psychology can draw on the hermeneutic tradition to enrich qualitative methods and analyses, developmentalists should not accept any critique seeking to undermine the discipline's epistemic foundation as a social science. (RH)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Subjectivity; Theoretical Analysis; Theory Development
Note: Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (Seattle, WA, April 18-20, 1991).