The poet John Donne wrote (1623, p.87 see Guibbory (ed.) 2006, p.159) ”No Man is an Island, intire of it self; every man is a peece of the Continent, A part of the maine. [ …] ”
Donnes words of human interdependency is a fitting introduction to Fay (1996 Contemporary Philosophy of Social Science) and his discussion of the perspective view and multicultural science theory. Fay talks about how science historically has been based on natural science, consistent with positivism that previously dominated the approach, believing in objective knowledge. There was a prevailing belief that scientists with unspoiled minds could perform quantitative studies, observations and measurements and obtain concrete rational facts, the truth. When this no longer dominates the scientific basis due to modern times with the individuals more access to knowledge in general and not the same confidence in authorities, Fay argues the need for a new perspective for understanding the modern society and culture. The approach assumes that one has their own framework built by social class, generation, gender, experiences, memories, education, political agenda, norms and ideals of the culture we live in and it is from this perspective we see the world, we can never see reality as it is, just as it looks in our eyes with our subjective interpretation. It’s not what happened that counts, it’s who is interpreting the event that will determine what is the significance and the importance it has. Fay sees the humanities and social sciences not as data, the typical positivist stance, but it is important to understand and explain. The central question says Fay is if one can even understand each other and if so, how? The perspective approach claims we need our experience and context to be able to sort the data to see and communicate the importance of this. He argues that the reality looks different depending on which of these views you have, everything in society is built on the basis of these positions, nothing needs to be worth more than the other.
Multiculturalism is according to Fay the essence of the modern world: the experience that people are significantly different from each other and to share this world with these individuals, groups, cultures, societies. He sees this as filled with opportunities but also risks. We are in constant contact and it can easily cause conflicts when we don’t understand each other. It is therefore important to have a scientific basis and approach in order to promote understanding and tolerance. The backbone of multiculturalism, and social sciences, is built of questions about the meaning and significance. What does it mean when someone is in a certain way? Could it have other meanings than what it would have meant if I did so? What is the deeper meaning behind
the plot? It calls for uncovering rationality, according to the prevailing culture’s beliefs behind the behaviors and traditions that may seem apart.
Multiculturalism has now come to focus on celebrating differences. But we then encounter a problem: how is it possible to understand others, if we live in our own world with our perspective and others in his? If we can not understand others, we do not seek knowledge, multiculturalism, and in extension science loses its purpose. Fay also sees dangers in the skeptical age we live in that truth, objectivity, knowledge and understanding of others questioned and criticized, as the basis is sound but Fay is scared of it developing into cynicism. He sees a world where there is no longer any confidence in the analyzes. How can you make social changes necessary in such a society? The politicians will not dare to debate the social and the individual becomes increasingly egocentric.
The book Contemporary Philosophy of Social Science wants to focus on the relationship between cause and effect, meaning, interpretation, and objectivity. This is where we have to ask the right questions, it is the questions that are asked which makes the starting point multicultural. Can we understand others? Are we created by our culture? We are back to the above mentioned structure. An important point of Fay is that it is not about fixed units but all the time it’s a process. Culture, self and interpretation, he invites us to see the concepts as a verb, not a noun. The point of this approach is the possibility it offers to communicate, to understand others better, which in turn means that we can understand ourselves better, and to improve our imagination in an ethical manner and in extension enrich our own lives.
Fay talks about the need to redefine multiculturalism and relativism, a fitting way to watch and be a part out, multicultural world he believes to be dialectical. He has a vision in which the interaction is central, the term he uses is ”interactionism”.
Fay is a wonderful and entertaining path into the world of communication! He will also let you dive into your inner struggles of reflecting about yourself without the myths or guidance of self-help mantras, something we might tend to forget in our everyday work.