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Action Research and Epistemology : Some Remarks Concerning the Activity-Relatedness and Contextuality of Human Language


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It is argued that more attention should be paid to the epistemological foundations of action research. Doing this from a pragmatic point of view, the author points to the decisive role of human practices regarding such fundamental issues as the constitution of meaningful signs, the application of concepts as rule-following, the contextuality of knowledge, and the marginal relevance of theory. The concept of practice not only points to the ways in which our concepts are established, it also comprises the skills involved in handling the conceptualized phenomena, our pre-reflective familiarity with them, expressed in the sureness of our behavior towards them, and the discernment exercised in applying or withholding a given concept on a particular occasion. These factors are all relevant to the establishment of knowledge, but they cannot themselves be fully and straightforwardly articulated by verbal means. Nevertheless, they represent what we go by when we apply concepts and other types of rules.

Keywords: Concept Formation; Describing a Practice; Epistemology of Action Research; Human Practices as means of Sense-making; Linguistic Turn; Linguistic Understanding; Nature of Concepts; Nature of Practices; Reflecting on a Practice; Rule Following

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1996

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  • International Journal of Action Research and Organizational Renewal
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