I don’t think I’m alone in struggling with getting my head around where I (and my research) sit in terms of ontology and epistemology. Trying to dig down and make visible to yourself the kinds of beliefs that you’ve tended to take for granted is difficult. So, I’ve been reading a lot on the topic and starting to feel as though I have some kind of (very loose) grip on it. But, as soon as I start to feel as though I might understand it I think, “Well, if I feel like I understand it then I’m obviously missing something and don’t really understand it at all”. i.e. My default position seems to be, if I can understand it then I’ve obviously misunderstood it. Not helpful!
So, to try to reassure myself that I have at least grasped the basics I find myself googling [search term] + “for dummies”.
My recent search for “ontology for dummies” lead me to this blog entry by Eddie Chauncy and I was so glad. The style of explanation he uses is based on this scenario: your ontological view is revealed through your answer to the question “What can be said to really exist, or be?” And BLAMMO! an answer immediately pops into your head (or, at least for me it did). My internal voice says something like, “Well nothing, really; it’s relative”.
And then your answer to the question for epistemology is going to flow on from that. “So, how can I learn about reality?” And I answer, “Well, I think reality is relative- different people will have different concepts of what is real that is shaped by who, when, and where they are- so, for me, gaining knowledge about what is real has to be done by exploring those different interpretations and constructions of reality but, simultaneously, I’m one of those people making their own version of reality as well … so I can only know reality as my story/construction of other people’s stories/constructions.”
And then I can see that I have more things in common with particular ontological and epistemology categories (i.e. relativism and constructivism). And I do feel reassured. However, I also start thinking about how what I believe is being shaped by the discourses of ontology and epistemology and what I’ve read and what the identified ‘categories’ are … and chicken, egg, chicken, egg, etc. And then I take a break to play some Candy Crush because my brain starts to hurt…
But, it’s one more step. And next time I’ll hopefully be able to take one more again. And so the learning continues :)