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Dictionary

ONTOLOGY

Lee Barron

A concept concerned with the existence of, and relationship between different aspects of society, such as social actors, cultural norms and social structures. Commentators on the process of social research generally concede that any instance of social inquiry is based upon the dual fundamental principles of epistemology and ontology. Epistemology deals with the issue of knowledge, and specifically, who can be a ‘knower’. For example, within feminist research, Sandra Harding (1987) argues that women have been systematically excluded as ‘knowers’ from ‘masculine’ sociology and therefore must establish a feminist ‘standpoint’, and legitimate female epistemological knowledge. However, ontological issues are concerned with questions pertaining to the kinds of things that exist within society. Again using feminist thought as an example, ontological issues concern the idea of ‘being’, and would stress the existence of patriarchal social relations and the negative implications these have for women. The issue of ontology within social thought ...

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