A philosophical account of interventions and causal representation in nursing research: a discussion paper

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T1 - A philosophical account of interventions and causal representation in nursing research

T2 - a discussion paper

AU - Persson, Johannes

AU - Sahlin, Nils-Eric

PY - 2009

Y1 - 2009

N2 - BACKGROUND: Representing is about theories and theory formation. Philosophy of science has a long-standing interest in representing. At least since Ian Hacking's modern classic Representing and Intervening (1983) analytical philosophers have struggled to combine that interest with a study of the roles of intervention studies. With few exceptions this focus of philosophy of science has been on physics and other natural sciences. In particular, there have been few attempts to analyse the use of the notion of intervention in other disciplines where intervention studies are important, such as in nursing research. One unintended consequence of this is that the relations between representing and intervening tend to be less understood outside the natural sciences. OBJECTIVES AND DESIGN: This article highlights a number of possible topics on which nursing science and analytic philosophy of science can fruitfully interact. The basic idea is simple. Building on a characterisation of interventions in terms of (i) what is intervened on and (ii) with respect to what, we suggest that interventions in nursing research typically are a blend of varieties belonging to the three dimensions of agency, epistemology, and ontology. The details of the blend determine the relation of the particular intervention study to traditional representational categories such as inductivism and hypothetico-deductive method, and have a bearing on its explanatory power and other more theory independent features of research as well. The framework we suggest should be relevant for nurse researchers who want to adopt a more general and analytically entrenched perspective on representing and intervening than the methodological boundaries in nursing research typically allow.

AB - BACKGROUND: Representing is about theories and theory formation. Philosophy of science has a long-standing interest in representing. At least since Ian Hacking's modern classic Representing and Intervening (1983) analytical philosophers have struggled to combine that interest with a study of the roles of intervention studies. With few exceptions this focus of philosophy of science has been on physics and other natural sciences. In particular, there have been few attempts to analyse the use of the notion of intervention in other disciplines where intervention studies are important, such as in nursing research. One unintended consequence of this is that the relations between representing and intervening tend to be less understood outside the natural sciences. OBJECTIVES AND DESIGN: This article highlights a number of possible topics on which nursing science and analytic philosophy of science can fruitfully interact. The basic idea is simple. Building on a characterisation of interventions in terms of (i) what is intervened on and (ii) with respect to what, we suggest that interventions in nursing research typically are a blend of varieties belonging to the three dimensions of agency, epistemology, and ontology. The details of the blend determine the relation of the particular intervention study to traditional representational categories such as inductivism and hypothetico-deductive method, and have a bearing on its explanatory power and other more theory independent features of research as well. The framework we suggest should be relevant for nurse researchers who want to adopt a more general and analytically entrenched perspective on representing and intervening than the methodological boundaries in nursing research typically allow.

KW - Intervention

KW - Induction

KW - Hypothetico-deductive method

KW - Explanation

KW - Philosophy of science

KW - Theory

U2 - 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2008.11.008

DO - 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2008.11.008

M3 - Article

VL - 46

SP - 547

EP - 556

JO - International Journal of Nursing Studies

JF - International Journal of Nursing Studies

SN - 1873-491X

IS - 4

ER -