Re: rommetviet intros

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Thu Aug 05 2004 - 04:25:37 PDT

Now that looks *really, really* silly - if you can work out what I just
did! Oh well, the ensuing discussion will be the Intro discussion, too!

On Aug 5, 2004, at 5:58 PM, Phil Chappell wrote:

> This may also be useful, in Vol 10 No. 3 of MCA.
> Phil
> On the Dialogical Basis of Meaning: Inquiries into Ragnar Rommetveit’s
> Writings on Language, Thought, and Communication
> Bente Eriksen Hagtvet
> Astri Heen Wold
> Given the complexity of cognitive and language development, and given
> that most scholars consider humans to be products of
> biological-individual and socio-cultural forces, the tendency to study
> language and cognition as either primarily a socio-cultural or
> primarily a biological-psychological phenomenon, is striking. This
> tendency to compartmentalize research is not unique to the study of
> language and cognition. Rather, academic systems tend to organize
> their activities in dichotomies, for example natural scientific versus
> humanistic research paradigms, quantitative versus qualitative
> research, modern versus post-modern conceptualizations. A position may
> in rare cases reflect theoretically based convictions, but more
> typically there "seem to be few bases other than personal preference
> or disciplinary affiliation for making a selection among the
> alternatives" (Wertsch, 1995, p. 58). In fact, both ethical and
> scientific considerations make dichotomies inadequate for dealing with
> multifaceted, complex reality.
> Ragnar Rommetveit represents an alternative to research approaches
> that enhance the segmentation of insights into language, thought, and
> communication, rather than their integration. The aim of this article
> is to explore some crucial dimensions of Rommetveit’s thought in order
> to demonstrate their relevance and importance to scientific
> disciplines, in particular to the study of language and communication
> in psychology and education.
> In his research writings and academic life as an adviser and
> lecturer, Rommetveit has advocated an open position towards
> methodological issues as well as towards theoretical paradigms and
> scientific traditions. For example, he has used experimental
> methodology in studies of reading under conditions of binocular
> rivalry (Rommetveit & Blakar, 1973) and has used humanistically
> oriented discourse analysis in examining the opening dialogue between
> Nora and Helmer in Henrik Ibsen’s Doll House (Rommetveit, 1991a).
> Thus, experimental and humanistic methods are viewed not in
> opposition, but as complementary tools representing different
> perspectives on mental activities and human interaction.
> To gain deeper insights into a complex and multifaceted world (cf.
> Linell, this issue), Rommetveit consistently argues, for example, that
> descriptions of reality are dependent on the perspective adopted by
> the communicators, and also that a word’s meaning is dependent on its
> context of use. Yet at the same time he discards the post-modern idea
> that all perspectives are equally acceptable. Influenced by
> theoretical traditions like Gestalt psychology, European continental
> phenomenology, and socio-cultural theories from the former Soviet
> Union, Rommetveit’s theoretical framework is truly interdisciplinary.
> This broad scope of mind and range of perspectives have given
> numerous students and colleagues–including ourselves–valuable insights
> into a reality that appears less orderly and simple, but more real
> than the one portrayed in more traditional approaches. At the same
> time we appreciate that the implications of Rommetveit’s approach are
> often difficult to understand in depth. What is the basis of
> scientific truth if scientific results are dependent on the
> perspective chosen by the researcher? Are some perspectives more
> acceptable than others? Where do truth and morality enter the scene
> when nothing is objective? How may children learn the meaning of words
> when "literal meaning" does not exist? Does his openness imply a
> nihilistic position where everything goes and there are no ways to
> evaluate scientific results and everyday descriptions as good or bad,
> right or wrong? Is Rommetveit’s world a pre-modern version of
> post-modernism–"an orgy in pluralism," as some of his colleagues have
> argued in friendly conversations with him?
> Underneath Rommetveit’s pluralistic approach, however, there are clear
> restrictions, presuppositions, and principles that direct scientific
> work and set limits for possible interpretations. These restrictions
> may be harder to detect than are the multitude of potentially
> "chaotic" perspectives. Also, Rommetveit has himself shown a greater
> dedication to arguing against what he sees as wrongly perceived
> objectivism and "literal meanings" in mainstream psychology and
> linguistics than in making restrictions on openness explicit.
> In this article we foreground these restrictions. First, however, we
> will focus on dimensions that open and expand the paradigm by
> discussing some concepts of crucial importance to Rommetveit’s
> thinking–concepts like "perspective," "position," and "aspect," and
> also the related notion of word meaning in terms of "meaning
> potentials." Second, we will elaborate on concepts that impose
> restrictions on perspectival pluralism by means of the notions of
> "dialogue," "truth," and "values." We have analyzed these restrictions
> in a series of discussions with Ragnar Rommetveit while writing this
> article. In addition, we are drawing upon research seminars, lunch
> conversations, and readings over a span of more than thirty years.

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