Fallibilism and Organizational Research: The Third Epistemology

Powell, Thomas C (2001) Fallibilism and Organizational Research: The Third Epistemology. Journal of Management Research, 1 (4). pp. 201-219.

Abstract

Epistemology is the study of knowledge - of what is known and how we know it. Organizational epistemology is dominated by the dualist opposition of objectivist and subjectivist philosophies of science. Objectivists accept knowledge claims as potentially true and warranted on objective evidence, whereas subjectivists ground knowledge in perception, phenomenology and social construction. Though these two perspectives differ in their ontologies (the reality of constructs and relations) and methodologies (how these relations can be observed), both views accept that reliable organizational knowledge is possible. This paper introduces a third epistemological perspective fallibilism - and shows how neglect of this third epistemology has constrained advance in the objectivist-subjectivist debate. Fallibilism, which challenges the foundations and reliability of knowledge claims, occupies a significant place in every major philosophical tradition, but contradicts the prevailing rhetoric of knowledge-claiming in organizational research, and has been systematically excluded from the debate. In this article we present the foundations and precepts of fallibilism, show how its absence has invited divisive and sectarian dogmatism, and explore its potential contributions to organizational research.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Fallibilism; Organizational research; Dogmatism; Epistemology
Subject(s): Strategy; Entrepreneurship & Global business
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2012 20:03
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2017 11:06
Funders: N/A
URI: http://eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk/id/eprint/1939

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