Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 12.2 Practical wisdom

12.2 Practical wisdom

Ramírez (1995) discusses how we attain a clear reflective form of knowledge, scientific knowledge (Greek: episteme), through theoretical activity, and practical wisdom (knowledge) (Greek: phronesis) through long-term reflective action (which can be understood as co-constructing meaning together with others). We gain competence and skills (Greek: techne) by doing something productive, by working with something creative in an existing reality. Acting is not the same as doing, but it is through what we do that our actions can be seen and understood. Our skills (e.g. the skill of interviewing) differ from scientific knowledge, but at the same time they are a form of scientific knowledge, because they can explain, and help us in a productive activity. Explaining what one does can also be viewed as scientific knowledge. Theory and scientific knowledge are both activities and thereby capabilities which can be learned. Theory and scientific knowledge are forms of productive activity. According to Aristotle, the most important ability we need in order to live a good life is the ability to act using practical wisdom (Ramírez 1995).

One of the participants gives a good illustration of what practical wisdom means for her in conversations with sexually abused users of the incest centre.

Sally:                          I believe that when one has one’s own experience, then one can go so much further (.). Umm, so I really think that one can stand there in quite a different manner than someone who has never been there. That’s something I believe our users also notice. And that’s why they choose to use us, because we can use our experience. I can only speak for myself, but the fact  that I have my experience and can use it in my conversations with others, and the fact that they might not have spoken to me about their experiences of shame if they hadn’t known about my experience, takes something negative and turns (.) it upside down so that one can use it in a positive way.
Sally has gained her experience through a lived life and built up the capacity to use it in specific situations; this demonstrates how practical wisdom can be used. Scientific knowledge can also be viewed as the ability to know, while skills are the ability to carry out productive activity. It is the concept of action (an understanding-creative activity) which leads to the practical wisdom that brings forth both the knowledge and skills needed to create a meaningful life. Gubrium and Holstein (1997) argue that the art of scientific research has to do with “the adroitness of practical reasoning” (Gubrium and Holstein 1997: 135). Practical wisdom does not dictate the outcome of a dialog with others, but appeals to outside rhetorical resources; participants become story telling and creative subjects, linking “together aspects of experience and thereby meaningfully articulate the stories they tell…Meaning, in other words, is a linkage” (Gubrium and Holstein 1997: 148). Latour (1987) also recommends that “if you want to understand what draws things together, then look at what draws things together” (Latour 1987: 60).  Denzin (2002) writes that the search for meaning should be made in the stories people tell about themselves, because meaning is felt in the streams of experience of the individual.

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