Section I - Section I Philosophy Knowledge and the Nature...

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Section I. Philosophy, Knowledge, and the Nature of "Knowing" There are no right or wrong decisions in research, only more or less defensible ones. Introduction The purpose of this section is to describe some basic viewpoints concerning the process of inquiry into communication phenomena. It addresses the common scientific/positivistic approach as well as the interpretive and critical philosophies and methodologies -- the so called "alternative paradigms". These alternative approaches are re-emerging in communication with some vigor, and there have been continuing debates over the utility, validity and suitability of the so-called "mainstream" positivist/ objectivist/scientific paradigm vs. these alternative interpretivist and critical/cultural paradigms . My hope is that these notes, textbook readings and class discussion will give you a basic understanding of the various ways of studying communication. We will be addressing these paradigms for the entire semester. It is my contention that there is not, nor will there be, a definitive answer to the question, "Which of these paradigms is the best for the study of communication?" I think that the different approaches are more or less appropriate for different communication questions and settings. Moreover, the pace of change is ever-quickening in the world and in the communication discipline; in these circumstances a scholar should not grasp any paradigm too firmly. Indeed, the mark of scholarship is an understanding of the various paradigms and a willingness to admit the follies of each and the frailties of science in general. Science/Scientific method A tool used to explain and predict phenomena Rather than discovery, science creates, or invents, explanations for observed phenomena The explanations that scientists create are called "theories" Science is interested in developing theories about ordered, reoccurring, observable phenomena in nature The purpose of science is to create theories which explain and predict patterned and repetitious phenomena through objective and replicable observation Criteria for judging products of the scientific method There are three major criteria used in judging the products of the scientific method: Utility: If a product of the scientific method can explain and predict, and is replicable, it has utility Symmetry: If a product of the scientific method makes logical sense it has symmetry Parsimony: also called "efficiency." That theoretic explanation or model that explains the phenomena of interest with the fewest assumptions and simplest structure is the most valued. Explaining the most with the least. Occam's razor.
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** If a product of the scientific method has both symmetry and parsimony it has elegance, or logical efficiency .
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