Education | Foundations of Educational Inquiry
H510 | 6081 | Dr. Phil Carspecken

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to the philosophical foundations
of the social sciences.   The topic is vast and thus the emphases
pursued this semester must be selective so as to narrow our attention
to manageable dimensions.  I have decided to begin with a basic
overview of Western thought about knowledge and its pursuit, covering
the rise of rationalism, empiricism, Enlightenment ideas about science
and society and the beginnings of a counter-Enlightenment tradition
that remains important to us today.  Next we will examine modern forms
of empiricism in the social and political sciences alongside the
so-called post-empiricist revolution that began roughly in the 1950s.
We will then proceed to study the complex dialectic between
Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment thought that may be found
within the hermeneutic and interpretive traditions, on the one hand,
and Marxist, critical and neo-Marxist theory, on the other.  Moving
fairly swiftly, we should complete this part of the course by,
roughly, mid-semester.

The second half of the semester will initially concern itself with
contemporary efforts to synthesize and modify the various traditions
discussed during the first half.  Bernstein's attempt to synthesize
post-empiricist theories of knowledge with hermeneutics, praxis theory
and critical theory will first be discussed.  This will end with a new
appreciation of rationalism; specifically, with an understanding of
how Enlightenment answers to the question, "What is rational?" are
limited, and how new theories of rationality are called for.  This
will prepare us for the final four weeks of the course during which we
will read portions of The Theory of Communicative Action by Jurgen
Habermas.  Habermas's theory of communicative action is an impressive
contemporary attempt at developing a comprehensive theory of
rationality that is synthesized with substantive concepts in human
development theory, semantic and pragmatic linguistic theory, social
ontology, a theory of history, and research methodology.  As the
course will reveal, methodological theory, the foundations of inquiry,
is not autonomous from theories that concern these other areas of the
human and social sciences.

This is a very relevant course to all who plan to conduct research in
any of the human and social sciences, from literary criticism through
psychology to anthropological sociology.  Educational research is
practiced, always, as social research and is distinguished from other
sorts of research in the human and social sciences only by its
empirical focus, not its methodology.  A philosophical debate taking
place today promises to result in the development and introduction of
new research methods in, perhaps, the near future.  This course will
raise your awareness of existing research methods that are alternative
to the mainstream, increase your understanding of the possibility for
new methods to be developed in the future, and provide you with a
better understanding of the significance of findings produced through
traditional research methods.

Advice to Students

Do not expect this course to be easy!  It will be challenging in many
ways.  The readings will be intimidating to some of you, especially
when we start reading Habermas.  There will be periods of time during
which many of you will feel a bit lost and lacking in confidence.  I
expect you to work at the readings.  Read the assigned material more
than once.   Use the study guides I will supply for both Bernstein
books and the book by Habermas.  Take notes.  You will have to work
hard to gain an understanding of the course material.

At the same time, do not allow yourself to become too discouraged.  I
do not expect full mastery of the readings.  Material in the Bernstein
and Habermas texts will not be easy for most of you to fully grasp but
you can continue your studies just the same to pick up much of the
central imagery and conceptual frameworks.  It is better to partially
understand ideas that are large and go deep to the heart of things
than to totally master small ideas.  Think of this experience as
learning to swim by being tossed into the middle of a swimming
pool-not really the deep end but definitely not the toddlers' area
either.  The only way to begin to appreciate good philosophy is to do
it this way: dive in, feel like you are drowning at times, but slowly
find that this or that stroke is going to work for you.  There is no
step-by-step process leading up to the understanding of philosophy.  I
will be dedicated to giving you all the support I can.


I plan to require three papers from you, due September 23rd,  October
28th, and November 25th.  These papers will consist of an essay
response to one of several suggested questions I present to you.
Sources for your answers will be the assigned texts.  You are free to
pursue other texts to supplement your answers but you will not be
required to do so.  The questions will ask you to synthesize ideas
across the readings and class lectures and I will be interested in
your grasp of fundamental concepts rather than the breadth of your
reading.  I expect to have some of you rewrite essays based on my
comments and I will attempt to design essay questions for the 2nd and
3rd papers, as well as the take-home final, individually; based on
what I learn about each of you from class discussions and previous

The final examination is expected to consist of two essay questions,
one of which will be standard and given to all of you (probably I will
generate three or four such questions so that you may choose one) and
one of which will be individualized, based on what I know of your
previous work and interests.  That makes a total of four required
products, three papers and a take-home essay examination.  The first
paper will be simply pass/fail.  I will comment on your response so
that you will get a better idea of what I am looking for in my
assignments.  If you "fail" you will be asked to rewrite the paper
until you pass.  The other three pieces of work will each count for
one third of your final grade.

All course work must be submitted electronically by attaching it to an
email sent either to my hotmail or my IU account.

Assessment Criteria

I will look for two things in assigning grades to your work:
improvement and quality.  "Quality" will be taken to mean:

"the extent to which a piece of work correctly expresses philosophical
ideas and themes discussed in class and read in texts,

"the extent to which arguments made follow sound reasoning,

"the degree of creative thought expressed in student essays,

"the degree of difficulty of the problems explored in written work,

"and the thoroughness with which a topic is treated.

Required books

There are five required texts:

Bernstein, Richard (1978).  The Restructuring of Social and Political
Theory.  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Bernstein, Richard (1983).  Beyond Objectivism and Relativism;
Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis.  Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press.

Delanty, Gerard (1997).  Social Science; Beyond Constructivism and
Realism.  Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press.

Habermas, Jurgen (1984).  The Theory of Communicative Action; Volume
One: Reason and the Rationalization of Society.  Boston: Beacon Press.

Hollis, Martin (1994).  The Philosophy of Social Science; An
Introduction.  Cambridge, U.K.:  Cambridge University Press.

The Delanty book is the easiest to read and understand.  It will be
used mainly for providing background and historical information.  I
find that I do not agree with a number of things that Delanty writes
so you must bear in mind, while reading him, that his perspective is a
limited one and his reading of various authors like Gadamer, Hegel,
Marx and so on is not definitive.

The Hollis book is a bit more difficult than Delanty's.  Hollis has
developed a scheme providing us with four basic approaches to social
science by crossing the distinction between holism and individualism
with the distinction between explanation (external regularities
between empirical phenomena) and interpretation (internal connections
between meanings).  We will use his scheme to a limited extent
ourselves when seeking to understand and compare the various theories
of inquiry reviewed in Bernstein and developed by Habermas.  Hollis's
book is strong on empiricist approaches (though very much
introductory) but weaker when it comes to interpretive theory and
critical theory.

Bernstein's two books are more challenging than those of Delanty and
Hollis.  Bernstein reviews trends in contemporary thinking about
meaning, validity, knowledge and methodology.  In addition, Bernstein
continuously critiques the authors he reviews and suggests a view of
his own in each book, though it is a view that he does not fully

I will supply "question guides" for both Bernstein books through
email.  They should help you focus on the issues that I believe most
important to understand.

Finally, Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action is a very difficult
book for most students and for many professors.  The advantage in
studying it is that you will here be exposed to some real
philosophizing and not just to one author's summary of the work of
others.  Habermas's work does address all the issues that will be
raised in the readings and course lectures that come before.  You
should attain a genuinely different way of looking at the world (and
yourself!) by reading Habermas.  I will supply detailed notes on the
sections of Habermas that we will read and I urge you to read both the
notes I shall supply and the assigned sections of Habermas more than

Planned classes and reading assignments

September 2nd: Introduction and Overview

September 9th: Positivism, Rationalism, Empiricism	

Delanty, Ch.1
Hollis, Chs. 1-4

September 16th:  No Class, Carspecken at Oxford Conference

September 23rd:  Empiricism and Post-empiricism

Hollis, Chs. 5-6					
First Paper Due
Bernstein 1978, Ch. 1
Bernstein 1983, Ch. 1

September 30th:  Post-empiricism and the Linguistic Turn

Bernstein 1983, Ch. 2

October 7th:  Hermeneutics

Delanty, Ch. 2
Hollis, Chs. 7-8
Bernstein 1978, Ch. 2

October 14th:  Hermeneutics and Praxis

Bernstein 1983, Ch. 3				

October 21st:  No class, Fall Break

October 28th: Critical Theory

Delanty, Chs. 3-4	
Second Paper Due
Hollis, Ch. 9 (optional)
Bernstein 1978, Ch. 4

November 4th:  More Critical Theory		

Bernstein 1983, Ch. 4
Delanty, Ch. 5
Hollis, Chs. 10-11 (optional)

November 8th: Summary and Synthesis

November 18th:  Introduction to The Theory of Communicative Action

Habermas, pages 1-42
Carspecken's notes to pages 1-42

November 25th:  More TCA

Habermas, pages 43-101		
Third Paper Due
Carspecken's notes to pages 43-101

December 2nd:  More TCA

Habermas, pages 102-142
Carspecken's notes to pages 102-142

December 12th  (Thursday)  Final Examinations Due		
Final Exam Due