Hermeneutic Constructivism: An Ontology for Qualitative Research

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Abstract

Qualitative research is entirely an operation with language, in language, and occasionally on language. This article suggests a tension between theoretical recognition of a multiplicity of human experience on one hand and a reliance upon practices of thematic representation that prioritize the common or the general over individualized experience. The fulcrum of this tension is the nature of language itself and its role in human experience and meaning-making. This article sets out the theoretical foundations of Hermeneutic Constructivism as one proposed approach to redress this problematic within many qualitative frameworks and open up an opportunity for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of human being. Within Hermeneutic Constructivism, a Fundamental Postulate and 11 elaborative corollaries detail a cogent relationship between language and the structures and processes of mental activity that support the human comportment toward understanding. The authors argue that this theoretical position is able to inform a model for qualitative research that makes possible an exploration of a person’s experience at a deeper level of abstraction and that may provide an avenue for overcoming this identified tension.

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