Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 12.6 A hermeneutical dialogical process

12.6 A hermeneutical dialectical process

These five steps are deeply rooted in the naturalistic inquiry (Lincoln and Guba 1985) of the Chicago school tradition which means studying what people in specific social worlds do over time and gaining intimate familiarity with the topic (Blumer 1969/1986). Guba and Lincoln (1989) explain that it is necessary to use a hermeneutic dialectical process in this constructivist perspective. Hermeneutics has to do with the process of interpretation, traditionally understood as the interpretation of written texts, but text can also mean discourse (Gadamer 1960/1975) and action (Ricoeur 1971). Kvale (1983) writes that the process of interpretation involves a gradual unfolding of implicit meaning. The interview text is produced within a given situation and must be understood as context bound. The process is also dialectical because “it represents a comparison and contrast of divergent views with a view to achieving a higher-level synthesis of them all, in a Hegelian sense” (Guba and Lincoln 1989: 149). Active interviews do not necessarily aim for agreement between researcher and respondent or between the respondents. The process exposes and clarifies the different views that the respondents have and creates a starting point for dialog.

This gives active interviews a greater transparency of the power relations and represents a way of obtaining ethical responsible knowledge in the current cultural situation…and serves to counter-reinforce soft forms of domination in today’s consumerist interview societies (Brinkman and Kvale 2005: 174)

The way Aristotle has described shame in Rhetoric is in my opinion helpful because of the way he describes not only shame but also the context it appears in. He describes shame within the different situations it can appear and says that understanding shame depends on understanding the context. Aristotle uses several pages in Rhetoric (Aristotle 1984) to describe shame and the different contexts it appears in.
Shame may be defined as pain or disturbance in regard to bad things, whether  present, past, or future, which seem likely to involve us in discredit…If this definition be granted, it follows that we feel shame at such bad things as we think are disgraceful to ourselves or to those we care for… shame is the imagination of disgrace, in which we shrink from the disgrace itself and not from its consequences, and we only care what opinion is held of us because of the people who form that opinion, it follows that the people before whom we feel shame are those whose opinion matters to us… For this reason we feel most shame before those who will always be with us and those who notice what we do, since in both cases eyes are upon us (Rhetoric in The Complete Works of Aristotle 1984: 2204-2207).

Jon Elster (1999) argues that we must remember that the world implied in Aristotle’s account of the emotions in Rhetoric is one “in which everybody knows that they are constantly being judged, nobody hides that they are constantly being judged, nobody hides that they are acting like judges, and nobody hides that they seek to be judged positively” (Elster 1999: 75). Aristotle also argues in Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle 1984) that shame (ancient Greek: aidòs[1]) is not a virtue (ancient Greek: areté) and that it should be understood more as a passion than a state of being. He goes on to describe shame as:

A kind of fear or disrepute and produces an effect similar to that produced by fear of danger; for people who feel disgraced blush and those who fear turn pale. Both, therefore, seem to be in a sense bodily conditions, which is thought to be characteristic of passion rather than of a state. (Nicomachean Ethics in The Complete Works of Aristotle 1984: 1781)

[1] Aidòs can have several seemingly contrasting meanings in the ancient Greek language; a sense of shame, shame, modesty, self-respect, regard for others, respect, reverence (Liddell and Scott 1899/2000). In Greek mythology the goddess Aidós was the female personification of modesty and respect, but also for the feeling of reverence or shame which restrains people from wrong (Konstan 2003). Cairns (1993) defines aidòs as an inhibitory emotion based on sensitivity to and protectiveness of one’s self-image and says that the verbal form of aidòs (aideomai) means being abashed (Carins 1993: 3). Riezler (1943) explains that aidòs is shame that derives from reverence, whereas aiskhuné is shame that derives from immorality. Scheff (1997b) also differentiates the Greek terms aischyné (disgrace) and aidòs (modesty) (Tabel 2).

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