Transdisciplinary Research on Individuals
The Transdisciplinary Philosophy-of-Science Paradigm for Research on Individuals (TPS Paradigm)
- Philosophical assumptions -
All research is done by humans
The TPS Paradigm explicitly considers that all research is done by humans and that, consequently, all scientific endeavours are inextricably entwined with and thus limited by human's perceptual and conceptual abilities.
Research on individuals encounters further intricate challenges because researchers themselves are always individuals with their own particular viewpoints and abilities that determine and limit their interests in and opportunities for exploring the "world".
Therefore and unlike scientists in other fields, researchers exploring individuals
are not independent from their particular objects of study. This entails particular risks for
all kinds of biases and fallacies of the human mind.
Three metatheoretical properties
Given that all science is done by humans, the TPS Paradigm defines as a phenomenon anything that humans can perceive or can make perceptible (e.g., using technical means) and/or that humans can conceive of - a notion that differs from various philosophical traditions of thought (e.g., of Kant).
At its core, the TPS Paradigm considers three metatheoretical properties that can be conceived in different forms for each given phenomenon. These particular properties are considered because they determine a given phenomenon's perceptibility by humans in everyday life - and thus also by researchers.
These properties are
Importantly, these properties are conceived on levels of abstraction that are commonly not considered in everyday life and most research. But because these abstract properties generally determine a phenomenon's accessibility
to humans, they also determine the accessibility of many further properties that can be perceived in the phenomena under study (e.g.,
colour) or can be inferred from them (e.g., causal mechanisms) and that are
largely within the focus of research.
Therefore, these three metatheoretical properties also determine the methodologies
and methods required for explorations.
In the psyche-physicality (body-mind) problem, the TPS Paradigm adopts the presuppositions of epistemological complementarity, which takes a metaphysically neutral position without making either monistic or dualistic presuppositions. Epistemological complementarity, originally introduced in quantum physics as a solution for the wave-particle dilemma in research on the nature of light, highlights that by using different methods, ostensibly incompatible information can be obtained about the properties of the same object. These properties seem to be maximally incompatible with one another but are both equally essential for an exhaustive account of the results obtained, and may therefore be regarded as complementary to one another.
The TPS Paradigm builds on the principle of complementarity in several
ways, such as in the conception of "non-physical" properties of
psychical phenomena and the rejection of methodological compromises while implying no limitations to the application of methods. Instead, the
TPS Paradigm argues for analysing the presuppositions and the appropriateness of the conceptual structures involved and for conceiving
categorically different and mutually complementary
frames of reference for the different properties under study,
which are all essential for exploring the particular object of research.
Individuals as complex living systems
The TPS Paradigm explicitly considers the fact that individuals are living organisms and builds on various concepts of complexity that are rooted in thermodynamics, the physics of life, philosophy, theoretical biology, medicine, and psychology. That is, it rejects assumptions on universal determinism and the principles of reduction and disjunction, according to which phenomena can be explored by dissecting, isolating, and separating their elements from another based on the idea that any composite can be known simply by knowing its constituent elements.
Instead, the TPS Paradigm considers that living individuals can be conceived of as
open nested systems that function at each hierarchical level as organized wholes and in which new properties emerge
that could not have been predicted from knowledge of their constituents and the interrelations between them (the
principle of emergence). To explore this interconnectedness across different levels of organismal organization, the
TPS Paradigm differentiates various kinds of phenomena from one another.
Differentiation of various kinds of phenomena
On the basis of the specific and different constellations of forms with regard to these metatheoretical properties that can be conceived of for each given kind of phenomenon, the TPS Paradigm makes distinctions between various kinds of phenomena explored in individuals.
These are the phenomena of morphology (e.g., bones), physiology (e.g., nerve potentials), behaviour (e.g., vocalising) and the psyche (e.g., thinking, feeling). They are called basic kinds of phenomena because they are inseparable from the intact body of the individual under study; separations can be made only conceptually as done in the TPS Paradigm.
Furthermore, the TPS paradigm differentiates between the phenomena of semiotic
representations (e.g., language), artificially modified outer
appearance (e.g., clothing) and contexts (e.g.,
situations). These are conceived as composite kinds of phenomena that
each comprise several different kinds of phenomena and that are therefore more heterogeneous
and complex than basic kinds of phenomena.
Principles of phenomenon-methodology matching
Central to any science is the development of methodologies that enable researchers to explore the particular phenomena under study. Many controversies have ensued about this problem, such as the controversies between quantitative and qualitative methodologies and between nomothetic and ideographic approaches in research on individuals.
But under which particular conditions can a particular methodology actually be considered to be "appropriate" and under which ones should it be considered a "serious problem" as is often voiced in these debates? What specifically does "appropriate" mean? What constitutes a "serious problem"? Hence, what specific properties must a methodology have, and what should it enable researchers to do? Pertinent debates are surprisingly vague in providing answers to these fundamental questions.
The TPS Paradigm elaborates clear-cut criteria and basic principles that researchers can use to decide whether and how a particular methodology can be matched to a particular phenomenon under study. These criteria are derived from the three metatheoretical properties that it considers. Their particular constellations of forms establish for each kind of phenomenon a particular frame of reference that is applicable to the other kinds of phenomena only to a certain degree, if at all. Insufficient consideration of these frames of reference may therefore entail mismatches with the methodologies used for explorations.
Specifically, momentary phenomena can be perceived only in the particular moments of their occurrence. This requires methods enabling real-time records, which are called nunc-ipsum methods in the TPS Paradigm.
A phenomenon's location in relation to the studied individual's body determines whether it can be directly perceived (e.g., outer morphology, behaviours) or whether invasive or technical means are needed to make it perceptible (e.g., surgery or ultrasound to perceive inner organs). However, this is possible only for physical phenomena because they are spatially extended. It is not possible for the immaterial phenomena of the psyche for which spatial properties cannot be conceived and that can be perceived only by each individual him or herself.
Procedures for exploring phenomena that are or can be made perceptible
by multiple individuals are called extroquestive methods in
the TPS Paradigm. All procedures for exploring phenomena that cannot be
perceived by multiple individuals in principle, i.e., psychical phenomena,
are called introquestive methods.
More information is provided in Uher (2016, 2015a,b,c,d) and the Science Blogs "A new scientific paradigm for research on individuals" and "What is philosophy-of-science? And why is this needed?"