Ontological, Epistemological and Methodological Positioning in Philosophy


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Ontology ascribes to what exits, herein as references the researchers investigation of reality (Healy & Perry, 2000). Following this revelation, this study ascribes to the critical realism tenets, as postulated by Sayer (1992, 2000) and Easton (2010). Under these tenets, an existence of reality is espoused that is bereft of observers. Hence, the world is considered to be partially socially constructed, in that, in varied occasions/occurrences – the “real” world intervenes and “destroys” the complex stories that we could create to aid us to comprehend and document the phenomena that we research (Easton, 2010).

Critical realism elaborates upon the actual experiences that transpire in the real world and the empirical events that we could concretely deduce and store (Easton, 2010). Under these prevailing circumstances, the nature of the real would bear a predominant speculative disposition. The underlying argument herein is that we strive to interpret the real through the investigation of empirical events. Accordingly, in this study, I have striven to comprehend and document the endogenous entrepreneurial processes (i.e., micro-foundations) – of building dynamic alliance portfolio management capabilities that heterogeneously enhance the sustained entrepreneurial growth of E.F.SMEs, by delving into concrete events and occurrences amongst the case enterprises. These empirical developments undergird my discussions about abstract events that could deepen the understanding of the investigated phenomenon. As a reference, for instance, as concerns dynamic capabilities tenets that abstractly exists, in the absence of individual cognition.

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Epistemological Positioning

Epistemology ascribes to knowledge, that is, what is known, and how (and to what extent) an occurrence is known. Herein, this occurrence relates to the relationship between the reality and an occurrence, and how it is known to the researcher (Healy & Perry, 2000). Critical realists acknowledge that the world, to a reasonable extent, is partially socially constructed, however, also proffer the existence of a “real” world that intervenes and “destroys” the complex stories that we could create to aid us to comprehend and document the phenomena that we research (Easton, 2010). Thus, individuals “envision”, the world as opposed to “constructing” it (). This perceived envisioning of the world references the critical realism paradigm, such that, it accepts that social phenomena are intrinsically pertinent, and therefore, interpretation is not exclusively external to them, however, also constitutive of them (acknowledging also that material constituents are present). It is paramount that comprehensions of phenomena is grasped, and not measured or counted. Therefore, acknowledging the innate presence of an interpretative and/or hermeneutic element in social science. Following these affirmations, herein, a concerted interpretative effort is given to comprehending and documenting upon the endogenous entrepreneurial processes (i.e., micro-foundations) – of building dynamic alliance portfolio management capabilities that heterogeneously enhance the sustained entrepreneurial growth of E.F.SMEs. I have thus, moved back and forth between the empirical data and the integrated theories, by abiding to a hermeneutic cycle. Scanning the phenomenon under scrutiny through a variety of perspectives and theoretical underpinnings has as such, guided me towards an “eventual” interpretation of the underlying phenomenon. Critical realists acknowledge the differing elements between the empirical, the actual (i.e., interpretable) and the real. Herein, the gathered data reflected varied elements pertaining to both individuals and concrete objects. Subsequently, I admit that my postulations, like other corresponding ones, are interpretative in nature (Easton, 2010). In this vein, and in line with scholars aligning the critical realist paradigm, I strove to gather additional data, with the aim of aiding in delineating between differing postulations, and thereafter –critically juxtapose the data with perceptively supporting literature. Following and, I assert that by it is through the juxtaposition of data with perceptively supporting literature that would yield a more ameliorated view of reality (i.e., the “real” world).

As a more elaborate depiction as to why this study’s positioning within a critical realists paradigm contrasts a purely social constructivism paradigm, I highlight the pertinent fact that- the possibility of knowing “the truth” is completely rebutted by social constructionists. Conversely, critical realists partially with caution, that it is indeed possible know “the truth” (Easton, 2010). Nonetheless, it is inevitable that the observation of reality is fallible, and therefore, it is unlikely to entirely reveal itself and as a result, gain a full interpretation of the underlying social phenomena

(Easton, 2010). Nevertheless, this occurrence does not entirely preclude insights that observations convey.

Methodological Positioning

Methodology ascribes to the integrated technique that the researcher utilises to investigate reality (Healy & Perry, 2000). Of importance, methodology should not be merely regarded as a means for choosing amongst differing methods of data production and analysis. Rather, it should abide to choose amongst competing methods of theorising (Sayer, 1992). In strategy and entrepreneurship based research as the one, herein, four differing means of theorising are customarily adopted, whilst executing case study methodological designs (Welch et al. in press), namely: (i) inductive theory-building, (ii) natural experimentation, (iii) interpretative sensemaking, and (iv) contextualised explanation. Figure…depicts these differing means of theorising (Welch et al. in press).

Accordingly, three out of these four means of theorising, that is: inductive theory-building, natural experimentation, and interpretative sensemaking – are well-established within case study methodological designs. In relation to contextualised explanation, which is herein adopted – is a more infrequently adopted, therein (Welch et al. in press). In this view, in inductive theory building, emphasis is placed upon the utility of a case study to induce new theory from empirical data, as a result, be capable of generating testable theoretical propositions – via quantitative methodological designs. Hence, this development strives to establish regularities, as opposed to the reasons underlying them. Natural experimentation references a deductive logic, whereby forwarded propositions are tested and as a result – perceptively calibrate existing theories and establish causal relationships (Yin, 1994, 2009). Interpretative sensemaking references context, narratives and personal engagement. Thus particularisation is regarded as a case study’s core objective, that is, the comprehending the perceived uniqueness of the case study in its entirety (e.g., Stake, 1995).

By amalgamating the preceding argumentation, it becomes apparent that a trend towards decontextualisation has been prevalent amongst case study researches. Hence, theorising endeavours moving towards generalisation and to a further proximity from context (Welch et al. in press). On the contrary, in essence, case studies are inherently rich in context, are therefore, provide a robust potential for comprehensively calibrating case study research – via rigorous contextual explanations (Welch et al. in press). Following this contention, a well-established body of literature within the critical realist domain postulates that the explication of social phenomena as simultaneously being causal (referencing the positivistic view) and interpretative (referring the hermeneutics view) (Bhaskar, 1998). In this line of thought, then, Bhaskar, (1998) emphasises upon the pertinence of both explanation and interpretation – in the operationalization of research endeavours. Put differently, causality does feature within this line of thought, which could be conveyed as “contextual explanations”. Nonetheless, the pertinence of causation should not be considered as the predominating trajectory for the search of event regularities. Rather, researchers are required to surmount these predominating event regularities and as such, enable the comprehension of objects in their natural state, and also decipher the fact that – cause-effect relationships do not constantly induce regularities in an open system (Welch et al. in press).

In line with these affirmations, and as hitherto conveyed, a critical realist case study methodological design has been adopted. Comprehensively, case methodological research involves the investigation of one or a smaller number of social entities and/or occurrence, whereby data is collected through the utilisation of multiple sources and thereafter – develop a holistic depiction via an iterative research trajectory (Easton, 2010). Relating to this depiction, a critical realist case study methodological design, an overriding research question tackles a core phenomena of interest being researched, as guided by discernible events, and probes what causes them to transpire (Easton, 2010). Herein, this concerns deepening the understanding of the endogenous entrepreneurial processes (i.e., micro-foundations) – of building dynamic alliance portfolio management capabilities that heterogeneously enhance the sustained entrepreneurial growth of E.F.SMEs. As it would entail, the phenomenon being addressed is complex in nature. Hence, the application of multiple cases enabled and buttressed the possibility of identifying subtle similarities and differences – within an assemblage of cases (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1997; Eisenhardt, 1989b; Yin, 1994).

Herein, the predominant theorising strategy is grounded in contextualised explanation, with the objective of simultaneously enabling the comprehension and documentation of the underlying phenomenon. Nevertheless, instances of inductive theory building are present, therein – which is a further reflection of the adopted research strategy, wherein research rigour would further be enhanced (Eisenhardt & Graebner , 2007). Thus, this dissertation further strives to both develop and refine the integrated theoretical lenses.

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