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Reclaiming Metaphysical Truth for Educational Research

Robert Willmott
British Journal of Educational Studies
Vol. 50, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 339-362
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3122482
Page Count: 24
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Reclaiming Metaphysical Truth for Educational Research
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Abstract

It is not uncommon in educational research and social science in general either to eschew the word truth or to put it in scare quotes in order to signify scepticism about it. After the initial wave of relativism in the philosophy of natural science, a second wave has developed in social science with the rise of postmodernism and poststructuralism. The tendency here is to relativise truth or to bracket out questions of truth. In contradistinction, this paper revindicates the metaphysical nature of truth. Truth is a transcendental precondition of educational inquiry and is best understood as a formal, regulative norm. Realism about truth enjoins a defence of the correspondence theory, which is provided here. At the same time, however, the development of realism in the social sciences has ironically followed the postmodernists in its scepticism about truth and its rejection of the correspondence theory. This paper critically appraises such recent developments, since all research is unintelligible without realism about the social world and whether our substantive knowledge-claims correspond with it.

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