Gergen's social constructionism, logical positivism and the continuity of error Part 1: Conventionalism

FJ Hibberd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


It is the received wisdom that K.J. Gergen's postmodernist metatheory of psychological science - social constructionism - is the antithesis of positivist philosophy of science. If by 'antithetical' it is meant that the two Share nothing that is central to each, this view is mistaken. One of the links between social constructionism and logical positivism is that both embody conventionalism. This is not a minor similarity between two otherwise different theories. Conventionalism involves the claim that theories (or certain parts of theories) are non-empirical because they are not forced on us by nature but adopted for non-epistemic reasons. Despite differences in the way social constructionism and logical positivism conceptualize conventionalism, certain features of Gergen's theory are clearly evident in the theories of Schlick, Reichenbach and Carnap. The logical positivists' difficulty in consistently maintaining a conventionalist account of scientific theory is repeated by Gergen, though camouflaged by the modern-day flavour of his metatheory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-321
Number of pages25
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • conventionalism
  • history
  • metatheory
  • philosophy of science
  • positivism
  • social constructionism


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