On the actualities and possibilities of constructionism: towards deep empiricism

Paul Stenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing from the example of critical psychology, this paper examines how dissatisfaction with an existing scientific paradigm can stimulate interest in philosophy and social theory. The emergence of a social constructionist understanding of scientific knowledge in prominent dialects of critical psychology is related to a combination of scientific and political concerns, and briefly set in the context of three important strands of twentieth century philosophy: existential hermeneutics, ordinary language philosophy and poststructuralism. These strands agree on at least two issues: the rejection of metaphysics and the ontological foregrounding of the notion of discourse or language-in-use. These philosophies have influenced the development of discursive methods and constructionist epistemologies in special sciences such as psychology and sociology. It is suggested, however, that both the commitment against metaphysics and the prioritising of discourse are problematic, and that a process metaphysics based on the three pillars of possibility, mediation and actuality (or pattern, matrix and activity) might be articulated in order to overcome the bifurcation of nature tacitly accepted by the commitment to a discursive ontology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-210
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • p/m grammar distinction
  • social constructionism
  • constructivist metaphysics
  • potentiality
  • actuality


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