Saturday, February 11, 2017

Some Brief Thoughts on Social Constructionism

I wrote a research paper between November and December last year entitled Fringes and Folkways: Why Pharmaceutical Antidepressants are More Successful Than Herbal Medications. There's a section in that paper where I explain how the chemical imbalance theory, something that is on the pharmaceutical side of the spectrum, is a social construction. All I am claiming here is that this idea/common understanding that a chemical imbalance is a cause of depression or anxiety was something that came about through social processes. What I am not addressing in this section of the paper: a) the soundness of the chemical imbalance theory or b) the efficacy of pharmaceuticals. Scientific realists and their ilk complain that social constructionists contend that there is no such thing as objective reality, but I simply think that's an unfair assessment. All that social constructionists are really saying is that shared understandings of things are formed through social interaction - and clearly that is something quite different from saying that there would be no objective reality without socialization or our interpretations! At any rate, I wanted this to serve as a preamble to some future posts so that you know what my intentions are.

Also, I've been thinking about an epistemology that successfully combines objectivism and social constructionism. Plato wrote about the Forms, for instance, a perfect circle that exists in Heaven. Even if all the circles in the human world were erased, the perfect circle would still exist in Heaven. In fact, none of those this-world circles could exist without that perfect circle existing. Yes, humans have a part in shaping understandings of the world. Perhaps through our interaction we do not actually construct, but rather, we find things? It is by our own responsibility and work that we construct, but maybe our constructions are truly mere archetypes, pointing to the Forms. Humanly speaking, we do create, but metaphysically, we only discover.

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