The role of theory-constitutive metaphor in nursing science

Greenwood, Jennifer, and Bonner, Ann (2008) The role of theory-constitutive metaphor in nursing science. Nursing philosophy, 9 (3). pp. 154-168.

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Abstract

The current view of theoretical statements in science is that they should be literal and precise; ambiguous and metaphorical statements are useful only as pre-theoretical, exegetical, and heuristic devices and as pedagogical tools. In this paper we argue that this view is mistaken. Literal, precise statements apply to those experiential phenomena which can be defined either conventionally by criterial attribution or by internal atomic constitution. Experiential phenomena which are defined relationally and/or functionally, like nursing, in virtue of their nature, require metaphorical description and explanation. In such cases, metaphor is theory-constitutive. Using insights from the philosophies of language and mind, and examples from nursing practice, education, and our own empirical research, we explore the nature of metaphor and its role in theory constitution. We argue that the apparent resistance of certain experiential phenomena to literal description and explanation is not necessarily indicative of pre-theoretic linguistic imprecision. We suggest, rather, that such resistance provides useful insights into the nature of such experiential phenomena. We also suggest that the aim of scientific theory should be methodological or epistemological precision and not merely linguistic precision.

Item ID: 6971
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: metaphor; research & development; homeostatic property cluster phenomena
ISSN: 1466-769X
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2010 06:04
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1199 Other Medical and Health Sciences > 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9299 Other Health > 929999 Health not elsewhere classified @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 2
Downloads: Total: 3
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