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Social Constructionism (9): Ideas have Legs

For within the framework of men’s bodies is generated the most powerful explosive force known in history—the explosive force of ideas. …Ideas change men. Ideas shape nations. So many ideas bid for the allegiance of each human heart as it takes its journey from the womb to the tomb. And when millions of ordinary men and women begin to follow the same star history is molded. Great Britain’s Peter Howard wrote this shortly after World War II in his book Ideas...

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Social Constructionism (8): Knowledge is Constructed

Over the last seven posts, I have attempted to shed light on the postmodern epistemology known as social constructionism. The first couple posts set the scene and context. These last couple posts have highlighted the characteristics of this philosophy. The first characteristic is that this philosophy insists that we take a critical stance toward taken-for-granted knowledge. This causes society to doubt everything; certainty finds no home here. The second characteristic is that knowledge and understanding are always specific to a culture...

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Social Constructionism (7): Knowledge and Understanding are Historically and Culturally Relative

The second characteristic of social constructionism is that human knowledge and understanding are historically and culturally relative. Relative here is best understood by examining the differences between relativism and realism. Realism asserts that there is a world—a cosmos—that exists independent from our representations of it. For example, we may go to an art dealer and purchase a $1,000 oil painting of Mount Everest, but that painting is only a representation of reality. The reality, of course, is Mount Everest itself. Relativism,...

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Social Constructionism (6): Shaping a worldview of doubt and uncertainty

In my reading, I’m usually not attracted to articles written in a series. For starters, I want the option of reading everything the author has to say in one sitting. Secondly, unless the author can produce new installments on a timely basis, I don’t have the patience to wait four months before I read the next article. This lamentably leads me to my opening point: I’ve done everything in this series of posts that I dislike as a reader. Mea Culpa....

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Social Constructionism (5) What is it?

In the last four posts, I attempted to shed some light on the context of the theory known as social constructionism. It is a theory that dramatically shifts man's understanding of knowledge. It is a reaction to the modern positivist understanding of knowledge. In the positivist school of thought, knowledge is only gained through scientific methods or our senses (humans discover knowledge). Social constructionism presents the post-modern theory of knowledge. For social constructionism, knowledge no longer has a separate existence, but...

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Social Constructionism (4)

There is a section in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers I enjoy. A little lapse into this story may prove instructive. The section I’m referring to is the Battle of the Hornburg. The forces of the malevolent wizard Saruman have gathered before the great Hornburg fortress of King Theoden at Helm’s Deep. Seeking safety behind these great walls are the good people of Rohan. At first, the evil orcs and the Uruk-hai take a head...

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Social Constructionism (3)

We are living in a transition period. For those of us who live in America, think about the deep changes that have taken place in the last decade. Some of these changes are specific to Americans, but often they represent changes experienced across the globe. We may be surprised to be reminded of the following: In 2000, California approved Proposition 22 which restricted marriage to one man and one woman. This passed by 61% of voters supporting the bill! Even the...

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Social Constructionism (2)

Last time we defined social constructionism and showed that it falls into the category of postmodernism. Our goal with this series is to understand the layers of social constructionism so that we might be aware of its dangers as Reformed Christians. To peel away the first layer of the social constructionist onion, let’s begin by understanding our place in history. Throughout the history of the world there have been great time periods which are marked by common and stable characteristics. Historians...

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