…thoughts on and about my PhD journey and beyond…

Detail of The School of Athens

Plato and Aristotle. Image via Wikipedia

I’m concentrating on writing my research design chapter at the moment and so I am thinking about my philosophical disposition and how this notion is treated in theses.  No doubt it depends on the very things that make up the  philosophical disposition–the metatheories of epistemology, ontology and axiology– whether we 1) think about them at all, 2) understand them and claim them as our own, and 3) make these understandings explixit or keep them silent in the actual thesis.  In any event I figure if I’m doing a philosophy degree I should at least consider what this means.

While we can be plural and cross disciplinary in our theoretical frameworks, methodology and methods, I contend that it is impossible to be philosophically plural.  Our philosophical dispositions aren’t really choices in the same sense as choosing appropriate theory, methodology and methods for a particular piece of research, but rather are a statement of our understandings of  our way of knowing, our way of being and what we value.  It is therefore important to be clear and keep true to these dispositions in order to build a strong and authentic framework to make all the other decisions that need to occur in the conduct of research.

Whilst these insights about philosophy are all very well, they are not reason enough to be made explicit in the thesis.   The statements I make concerning my philosophical disposition will be included in my thesis to provide some background because I am positioning myself in the inquiry as one of the research instruments and therefore it is necessary to acknowledge “a critical self-awareness of [my] own subjectivity, vested interests, predilections and assumptions and to be conscious of how these might impact on the research process and findings” (Finlay 2008, p. 17).  They also influence the choices I have made to conduct a qualitative interpretive inquiry and so are explicated to locate my  philosophical, theoretical and methodological standpoints within the wider philosophical and research domains.

It will probably not surprise readers to learn that my philosophical disposition is one of an interpretivist epistemology, relativist ontology and values laden axiology.  Now that sounds easy enough, but it has taken me nearly three years to be able to say that out loud.  In fact, up until a month ago I thought my epistemological standpoint was constructivist!!

So how about you?  What is your philosophical disposition? Do you intend to write it in to your thesis and what are the reasons for this decision?


Finlay, L. 2008. A dance between the reduction and reflexivity: Explicating the “phenomenological psychological attitute”. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology,  39, pp. 1-32.


Comments on: "Pardon, my philosophical disposition is showing…" (4)

  1. Malba Barahona said:

    I like your post Heather! Keep on thinking and writing!



  2. I agree that it is important to uncover the philosophical inclinations that underlie our commitments. A difficulty arises, however, in determining whether philosophical positions give rise to theoretical commitments or visa versa. Interesting post!


  3. A useful reminder that it’s impossible to be silent on our position. Of course, it’s interesting to note how our philisopical basis shifts and changes (in subtle or dramatic ways) as we interact with ideas, activities and others. This philisopical shift for me is one indicator of learning, otherwise our work is in danger of being a manifesto! Love the blog, all the best.


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