These are all pieces written during the last five years. Most of them were originally intended for a much longer version of the phenomenology book. Wiser counsels prevailed. I would still like to do something with them, but that will take quite a bit of work, and a fair amount of trimming and updating. In the meantime, comments are welcome, but please don’t quote without permission.

Incidentally, allow for the fact that these drafts have been only lightly revised since they were written, and still contain references to other (sometimes non-existent) chapters in the book, at a time when the planned structure was very different from the published version.

Links to pdfs will be added gradually, as I have a closer look at them and edit out the embarrassing bits.


Two concepts of ‘paradigm’

This was the first of two chapters on the ‘paradigm’ concept. The other is Basic beliefs. The dominant concept of a paradigm, in the context of qualitative research, is that associated with Lincoln & Guba. In a footnote to Chapter 1 of Naturalistic Inquiry, they suggest that their concept is consistent with Kuhn’s. This piece sets out to show that they are mistaken, and that Lincon & Guba’s understanding of ‘paradigm’ is not just different from, but effectively the opposite of, Kuhn’s conception in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  I take Kuhn’s concept to be still viable, subject to one important qualification; but I think Lincoln & Guba’s is borderline incoherent (in a way more fully explained in Basic beliefs).

Basic beliefs

This is an analysis of the arguments in Naturalistic Inquiry, primarily the first two chapters. I suggest that Lincoln & Guba introduce two different -in fact, mutually contradictory – conceptions of ‘paradigm’, and then splice them together. The resulting ‘Frankenstein paradigm’ (my expression, not theirs) gives them an epistemological free lunch: substantive empirical content, without any need to provide evidence or warrant. This is the ‘paradigm’ concept which is pretty much taken as read in methodological debate about qualitative methods. It has given rise to an extraordinary and wildly implausible claim, which  nevertheless appears to be widely accepted.

Scepticism about objectivity

This follows on from the previous two essays, but can be read independently. There is some overlap with a published paper: Paley J. (2005) Error and objectivity: cognitive illusions and qualitative research. Nursing Philosophy 6, 196-209. But there is also some new stuff. The basic argument is that many of the researchers who reject objectivity have misunderstood it. They think it means that the researcher must suppress or expunge their own attitudes, values, emotions, preconceptions, and so on, and adopt a completely “neutral/detached” perspective instead. Since this is impossible, objectivity is impossible as well. However, the “view that scientific objectivity rests on the mental or psychological attitude of the individual scientist” is one which Popper provided compelling arguments against many decades ago. If that is not what objectivity is, the arguments against it fail.


What is experience?

Generalising from small samples

Giorgi’s scientific phenomenology

Interpretation and the fore-structure of understanding