Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Retrieving a Philosophy of Practical Knowing for Action Research/Recuperando Una Filosofía del Saber Práctico Para la Investigación Acción

Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Retrieving a Philosophy of Practical Knowing for Action Research/Recuperando Una Filosofía del Saber Práctico Para la Investigación Acción

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

At the Academy of Management meeting in 2011 I attended a session on the topic of useful research. The session was led by the editors and authors of the revised edition of the book of that name (Mohrman, Lawler, & Associates, 2011). I attended, not only because of the general interest in the revised edition of book and the respective work of its authors, but also because I had been engaging in my own inquiry to articulate a personal philosophy for my Action Research work. The presentations and discussion followed a welltrodden path, namely that of the questionable relevance of much organisational and management research and the general exclusion of usefulness as a value in the formation and education of researchers. For many years I have been influenced by Susman and Evered (1978) who argue that the crisis in the organisational sciences is not an issue of relevance or usefulness but is one of epistemology. I contributed to the discussion and offered the participants, that, in my view, one of the sources of the problem was that research students were exposed to only one philosophy of science and that framing a philosophy of practical knowing, for example, in the work of Aristotle, was work that needed to be done in courses on the philosophy of science. This article is an output of my inquiry that followed from that session.

The starting point is to locate practical knowing in everyday living. Most of our lives are spent engaging with the continuous and endless sets of practical issues, meeting the exigencies that arise in the concrete course of our personal and professional lives, where we seek to apply intelligence in the service of practice. A particular focus of attention is how we apply conscious intentionality to issues of concern, where we seek to address worthwhile issues, solve problems and change structures and patterns of behaviour. Thereby we may contribute both to more effective action and to our knowledge of structures, behaviours and the process of changing them. This is the realm of practical knowing.

The theory and practice of Action Research are grounded in embedded engagement, where contextual knowledge emerges interactively and collaboratively through cycles of action and reflection, and where Action Researchers are actors in the process. Action Research is a form of social science that is experientially rooted, practice-oriented, actor based and self reflective. Action Research builds on a range of philosophical viewpoints: Aristotelian praxis, hermeneutics, constructivism, social constructionism, critical theory, existentialism, pragmatism, process philosophies and phenomenology (Sage Encyclopedia of Action Research, 2014). A question arises about how we may conceptualise our engagement in addressing the worthwhile, and the practical of the everyday, in a manner that has some quality and rigour, and which may be considered 'scholarly'. The primary focus of this article is to offer a third person contribution to the theory and practice of Action Research by exploring and framing a philosophy of practical knowing to help those who teach Action Research, and who write about it in dissertations and other publications, and for those who practice it. This contribution is important in the context of our developing exploration of Action Research's growth in its own self-understanding. I seek to locate practical knowing philosophically and to frame its components so that practical knowing can be conceptualised as well as be used. The article is structured as follows. First I remind Action Researchers of different forms of knowing as expressed in the extended epistemology. Second, I introduce practical knowing and, thirdly, locate explorations of it in Aristotle, Husserl, Schutz, Dewey and Lonergan. Fourthly, I draw four characteristics from the works of these philosophers. I explore how interiority enables us to work with different forms of knowing. Then I bring practical knowing and Action Research together for theory and practice. …

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