Theories and Explanation - Ontologies and Epistemology

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Theories and explanation - Ontology and epistemology We cannot talk about knowledge and how we know without first tackling our belief(s) about the nature of reality. The belief(s) about the nature of reality is the domain of ontology. Oxford dictionary of sociology explains ontology as “any way of understanding the world, or some part of it, must make assumptions (which may be implicit or explicit) about what kinds of things do or can exist in that domain, and what might be their conditions of existence, relations of dependency, and so on. Such an inventory of kinds of being and their relations is an ontology” (1998:465). Particularly striking in this conception is the notion of inventory, which suggests multiple ontologies and the need to collate. The assumptions about the nature of the world in sociology can be classified into two broad orientations, realism and social constructivism. Realism posits the existence of an objective reality independent of human thoughts and beliefs. Contrary to this position, social constructionism is of the view that reality is not independent of human thoughts and beliefs; rather, it is socially constructed (Oxford dictionary of sociology, 552-553, 609). Berger and Luckmann (1967:15-22) argue that social relativity is inherent in reality and knowledge, hence, its collection is defined by social contexts imperative for sociological analysis. They contend that analysis should be conscious of varieties of knowledge in human societies to maintain their position on the social construction of reality. For them, there is a relationship between human thoughts, history and social context. They draw on Mannheim’s work that society is imperative for the content of human ideas to argue that knowledge is always from a particular position. The influence of ideology can only be mitigated by the analysis of diverse socially
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