Gergen's social constructionism, logical positivism and the continuity of error Part 2


FJ Hibberd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


This paper provides further evidence for the thesis that K.J. Gergen's social constructionism and logical positivism are not antithetical. Gergen's metatheory, the later version of Schlick's verificationism and the operationism of Bridgman and S.S. Stevens, each in their own way, incorporate forms of the meaning-as-use thesis. Schlick and Gergen, in particular, are heirs of Wittgenstein's legacy. Yet the identification of meaning with use involves an incomplete characterization of meaning. It is inconsistent with the fact that the intension of any genuine term is always a set of general characteristics. Not surprisingly, the semantic similarities between logical positivism and social constructionism are driven by a common epistemology. Despite surface differences, both retain Kant's belief that the constituents of reality are not directly knowable. To the extent that positivism, operationism and social constructionism have influenced psychology, psychology has been aligned with anti-realist metatheory and has not progressed. Yet these three 'schools' admit implicitly the realist views that they deny explicitly. This demonstrates the unavoidability of certain realist assumptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-346
Number of pages24
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • history
  • meaning-as-use
  • metatheory
  • philosophy of science
  • positivism
  • psychology
  • social constructionism

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