Reactions and Observations from Neuman reading, Chapter 4.
The Nature of Reality
A long time ago in an undergraduate Criminology class I engaged in a presentation of Chaos Theory for my tutorial group. I found Chaos Theory intriguing because it was the first theory I came across that described the nature of reality as dynamic and subject to interpretation. I have lost the initial notes and references, but what stayed with me was an image of a reality that was fractured, yet whole.
I conceptualized this reality like this:
Imagine an object that is placed in the center of a room. The room is shaped like a decagon and on each wall there is a mirror.
Each mirror reflects an image of the object in the center.
Each mirror reflects a truth, a side, an image, which is part of the greater whole.
In and of itself, each reflection is incomplete, but taken together, all the reflections comprise the whole.
What I like about this image was that it illustrated the concept and value of subjective truth. Each mirror projects its own image, which although not a reflection of the whole, the image does reflect one side, one truth. There is value to this truth, even if it does not give us the entire picture.
In the readings for this week (Neuman, 2000. Chapter 4: The Meanings of Methodology), the discussion of CSS and layers of reality reminded of the above image. I wondered if I could find these layers of reality within the concept of reality I had imagined.
It looks like this:
The letters represent different people and X represents that which we are looking at. Person A is shown in two different positions, representing the fluid nature of our observations and how our opinions and observations can change over time or be informed from multiple perspectives.
For example, if Person A is both a student and a mother. X can be viewed in two very different ways.
Here, X is the Actual Reality and our individual perceptions of X are the Empirical Reality, which not only are passively observed, but serve to actively construct what X actually represents to us.
The Real Reality is the inner, unseen structure of X. This structure has real effects on those who observe it and thus would affect the Empirical Reality that people experience (Neuman, 2000).
I find the distinctions between various types of reality presented in the CSS perceptive useful in understanding the concept of a constructed reality. Personally, I think there is an objective reality that does exist, but I do not think it is possible or preferred for everyone to be able to uncover this reality. Objective reality may exist, but everyone has a different experience of this reality.
According to Neuman (2000), CSS asserts that there is only one (or perhaps very few) correct point of view that is ultimately tied to one’s values and morality.
While I find the active and socially conscious aspects of CSS quite valuable, I am disturbed by the notion that there is, or should be, one moral code or set of values to inform all study of the social world.
The concept of morality is highly subjective. I would like to have seen more discussion and clarity on this issue in the text.