Are there ever 'answers' and the problem of truth.
It was once said of Bertrand Russell that you may not agree with
his arguments but you always knew what it was he was arguing about.
In a paraphrasing of this position an aim in this work is to ensure
first that the questions and issues are clear and precise.
Theoretical physics is a respected discipline. Yet theoretical
social science is yet to emerge as a discipline at all. The physicist
immerses his or her self in the core tools of the discipline,
slowly reaching a proficiency and insight enabling original contributions.
What are the core tools of a theoretical social science? Are they
Throughout my involvement with psychology and human development
I have always seen the use of statistics as an escape from wrestling
with the actual problems of theory construction. The relationship
between theory and statistics I have always seen as follows.
Imagine a set of datum as below. And imagine some statistical
charting of a line through the points to give a best possible
It is tempting to see the 'theory' as the line through the points.
I always saw the theory as the box that contained all the points
and explained the position of each without resorting to statistical
methods. This position is not argued as a philosophical position,
rather it was and still is a frame of mind. An orientation to
the issues frequently encountered in social science and the assumption
that the diffuse nature of the data hid the 'real situation' which
was uncovered with statistics. There was some philosophical views
underlying the position to the extent that I believed, or certainly
suspected that the spread of data inevitably encountered was in
fact real. This of course implied that each point was a unique
instance of a theory of a much broader nature and scope. It also
means that any statistical relationships are of unique observations,
and, any averages or means, merely relating to this particular
set of data under these particular circumstances and having no
The problem was how to create such a theory? This question pre-empting
any concern with a theory of psychology or society.
The precision sought is of three types. First, preciseness of
the variables used. It is far from simple to achieve this precision.
Fundamental issues such as "what is a variable?" quickly overpower
the obvious issues such as how do we distinguish between dependent
and independent variables? Second preciseness of the relations
between variables. In physics this is taken for granted and managed
broadly within the rules of mathematics. It is far less obvious
in social science where too often diagrams are offered where the
variables are ill defined and the arrows between the variables
not defined at all. Third, and finally, what is sought is a fundamental
base to the whole process of theory creation. In the sequence:
reality -> perception -> creation of knowledge -> conceptualisation
and theory creation, each step is understood and defined such
that each step builds on the one before in a defined and understood
manner. There is to be a linear progression beginning with the
most fundamental position possible. This does assume that this
is a valid sequence, not a fixed or rigid sequence, but if we
are seeking explanation of some reality beyond knowledge, then
this sequence has a crucial part in the process.
The concepts emerging from the reflection above must be of a
standard such that they are science and not philosophy. Accepting
at this stage that science itself is to be defined in the process,
but accepting for now the broad notions of science in terms of
conceptual precision and empirical validity not typical of philosophical
discussions. At one time the study of the nature was philosophical,
then was absorbed by chemistry and physics. Human nature and society
were themselves philosophical subjects then absorbed by psychology
and sociology. Part of the task of this book is to shift epistemology
from a philosophy to the beginnings of a science, showing how
it is part of the study of our cognition, and providing an initial
system of concepts having the precision and fundamental structure
The final comment on the search for precision is on the method.
The circularity outlined in the earlier section took many years
to unravel as the reflections first sought a theory of psychology,
then one of knowledge, then a solution to the problem of cause,
until finally understanding of the intertwined nature of the issues
dawned. How to break this cycle? It simply was not possible to
begin in one place and move systematically forward secure on that
left behind on each step forward. This, because the answers at
one step influenced the options and answers at all other steps.
So one could not be sure that the solution to the issues being
wrestled with, say the problem of the knowledge, would not alter
the problem that was thought to be resolved, say the theory of
The process adopted was iterative. That is, to create some set
of solutions then work them around all the questions to see if
the solution did fit together to form a coherent whole. When examining
a solution, the frame of mind was questioning. Each time the process
was completed, more had been learned of the details implicated
in the system of problems and the details that had to be addressed
by any valid solution.
An important aspect of the intellectual philosophy on which this
site is based is ...