1st Edition

Constructivism and the Metaphysics of Qualitative Research

By John Paley Copyright 2025
    338 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    338 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book challenges the widespread assumption that a necessary preliminary to qualitative research is the formulation of ontological and epistemological beliefs. It argues that the metaphysical claims which supposedly underpin different approaches to social research do not make sense. Literally. Sentences such as ‘There is a single objective reality’ and ‘There are multiple constructed realities’ fail to make information-providing statements. They do not refer or describe. Despite appearances, they say nothing about reality (or realities) at a fundamental level, so they cannot be used to justify, ground, or align with, methodological decisions. The ‘necessary preliminary’ turns out not to be necessary at all; and we can dispense with, not just ‘paradigms’, but metaphysical underpinnings in general, whether structured as paradigms or not.


    Drawing on Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, Carnap’s metametaphysics, and contemporary linguistics, the book suggests that the metaphysical claims of qualitative texts can be reinterpreted as performative. Ontological and epistemological beliefs are resolutions and proposals, recommendations for the use of language. They form part of a creed by means of which researchers enact the joining of an academic community. Written in Paley’s trademark clear, accessible and conversational style, the book points to a revolution in our understanding of the relation between metaphysics and social research. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in qualitative research and its philosophical foundations.

    1. Introduction: Terms and Conditions Apply;  Part I: The Key Players  2. Lincoln & Guba’s Paradigms  3. Wittgenstein’s Metaphilosophy  4. Carnap’s Metametaphysics;  Part II: The Key Concepts  5. ‘There Is’, ‘There Exist’  6. ‘Single Reality’, ‘Multiple Realities’  7. ‘Constructed’, ‘Socially Constructed’  8. ‘The Knower’ and ‘The Known’  9. ‘Objective’  10. ‘Cause’ and Causal Language  11. ‘True’ and ‘Truth’  12. ‘Experience’


    John Paley was formerly senior lecturer at the University of Stirling, and is currently Honorary Fellow at the University of Worcester. He is the author of two previous books for Routledge: Phenomenology as Qualitative Research: A Critical Analysis of Meaning Attribution and Concept Analysis in Nursing: A New Approach.

    "Provocative and persuasive. Its uniqueness and importance leap from the page. Anyone interested in qualitative research, and its relation to ontology and epistemology, should read this outstanding book." -- Martin Lipscomb, University of Worcester, UK.

    "Thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable. Qualitative researchers of all methodological stripes will be challenged to think again by this excellent book." -- Peter Allmark, University of Sheffield, UK.

    "This is a wonderful book! I wish more authors in the qualitative space wrote with such clarity, deliberateness, and honesty." -- James Salvo, Wayne State University, UK.