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Analytic philosophy and organization theory: philosophical problems and scientific solutions

Philosophy and Organization Theory

ISBN: 978-0-85724-595-3, eISBN: 978-0-85724-596-0

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 7 February 2011


In this chapter, we present a critical assessment of contemporary organization theory variously described as either multiperspectival or fragmented. We argue that analytic philosophy as one of the major tools used for theorizing about organizations has had a major influence on the development of organization theory and largely explains the current state of affairs. At its core, we argue, is a fundamental methodological fissure in analytic philosophy itself: the distinction between descriptive and revisionary methods. The principal focus of descriptive analysis in organization theory is how agents use everyday language in organizational contexts, often by invoking language games. In contrast, revisionary approaches, concerned about the privileging of theories embedded in everyday language, as well as the complexity and ambiguity of ordinary-language use, aim for explicit theory evaluation and greater clarity by recasting ordinary language in formal systems, such as scientific, especially empiricist, theories, characteristic of the mainstream of theorizing about organizations from the 1940s onward. For a number of theoretical and epistemological reasons logical empiricism or positivism is no longer a widely held view either in the philosophy of science or in the organization theory. We examine some critical issues regarding logical empiricist epistemological foundations and propose a methodological naturalistic framework that supports the ongoing growth of knowledge in organization theory, naturalistic coherentism. In developing this new conception of science we thus opt for a revisionary methodology, but one that is beholden to neither the traditional logical empiricist/positivist conception of (organization) science nor the relativism and conservatism of postmodernist theory, widely considered to be the successor of positivist organization theory.



Lakomski, G. and Evers, C.W. (2011), "Analytic philosophy and organization theory: philosophical problems and scientific solutions", Tsoukas, H. and Chia, R. (Ed.) Philosophy and Organization Theory (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 32), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 23-54.



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