Objectivism VS Social Constructivism for Personality

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Objectivism VS Social Constructivism for Personality
theemezz0
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Posted Jul 9, 2013 - 9:33 AM:
Subject: Realism VS Social Constructivism for Personality
I'm struggling with developing my thoughts on this, so I have came to you guys curious about what you think.

During social interaction it is indispensable and advantageous to make accurate judgments of self and others - whether they're judgments concerning emotion, personality, intentions, etc. For the sake of this discussion and my current interest, I would like to focus on judgments of personality? If we can accurately judge personality traits, are we able to do so because personality traits are 'real' (i.e. really exist out there in the world)? Or are personality traits just a social construction and 'real' in the sense of a social reality? If personality is the latter, then does accuracy just consist in the agreement between self and other and consensus among others? For example, if X views his/herself as introspective and intelligent, while everyone else (i.e. the social consensus) views X as not introspective and intelligent, is this enough to infer that X did not make an accurate judgment of his/her personality, while others did? If it's not enough, then what is needed as a criterion for accuracy, if such a thing can be achieved?

QuantumIguana
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Posted Jul 9, 2013 - 9:51 AM:

It is quite beneficial to be able to observe people's traits correctly. Most of us would rather associate with people who are intelligent, honest and kind rather than people who are stupid, dishonest and cruel.
onthisforum
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Posted Jul 9, 2013 - 10:41 AM:

QuantumIguana wrote:
It is quite beneficial to be able to observe people's traits correctly. Most of us would rather associate with people who are intelligent, honest and kind rather than people who are stupid, dishonest and cruel.


Though this doesn't answer the OP's question, those aren't two strict categories. You could also be stupid, honest and kind or intelligent, dishonest and cruel. The world has all sorts of people.

Edited by onthisforum on Jul 26, 2013 - 3:15 AM
theemezz0
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Posted Jul 9, 2013 - 5:14 PM:

Neither one of you have addressed my question/concern...
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Posted Jul 9, 2013 - 5:34 PM:

onthisforum wrote:

Though this doesn't answer OP's question, those aren't two strict categories. You could also be stupid, honest and kind or intelligent, dishonest and cruel. The world has all sorts of people.
To this I would add that the same person might be perceived as stupid, honest and kind in one situation and intelligent honest and cruel in another situation.

To take it a step further, person A might be perceived by person B as stupid, honest and kind in situation X, yet be perceived by person C as intelligent, dishonest and cruel in the same situation X.

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Posted Jul 9, 2013 - 10:00 PM:

theemezz0 wrote:

If we can accurately judge personality traits, are we able to do so because personality traits are 'real' (i.e. really exist out there in the world)?

Or are personality traits just a social construction and 'real' in the sense of a social reality? If personality is the latter, then does accuracy just consist in the agreement between self and other and consensus among others?

For example, if X views his/herself as introspective and intelligent, while everyone else (i.e. the social consensus) views X as not introspective and intelligent, is this enough to infer that X did not make an accurate judgment of his/her personality, while others did? If it's not enough, then what is needed as a criterion for accuracy, if such a thing can be achieved?

You're question is a little confusing; you titled it "Realism vs. Social Constructivism for Personality" which means the personality that is developed either through the learning and interaction within a group or independent from the group. You, however, are discussing the 'assessment' of personality traits, which makes it a little difficult to answer because we cannot yet conclude whether our assessments themselves are realist or social constructs. A criterion for accuracy can only follow if you select one or the other and yet selecting one or the other is, in my opinion inaccurate.

I personally think it is both but as to whether or not I can assure you of this, well, that is obviously a problem. Essentially, most assessments or judgements are a set of abstract ideas often utilising generalizations because most people simply do not have the intelligence to approach the discipline without bias. To establish a "science" of the abovementioned - i.e. accurate criterion - is difficult.

I guess before I continue, maybe you can clarify the question with specificity to an author or scientist, perhaps.
Chris.topherr
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Posted Jul 10, 2013 - 3:23 AM:

If we can accurately judge personality traits, are we able to do so because personality traits are 'real' (i.e. really exist out there in the world)? Or are personality traits just a social construction and 'real' in the sense of a social reality? If personality is the latter, then does accuracy just consist in the agreement between self and other and consensus among others? For example, if X views his/herself as introspective and intelligent, while everyone else (i.e. the social consensus) views X as not introspective and intelligent, is this enough to infer that X did not make an accurate judgment of his/her personality, while others did? If it's not enough, then what is needed as a criterion for accuracy, if such a thing can be achieved?


Your final understanding of the broader issue is going to reflect whatever metaphysical conception of the world that you accept. By this I mean that, operating under a metaphysical framework that accepts transcendent essences as a standard by which things like intelligence or introspectiveness can be measured and judged, it would make sense to say that a person is introspective and intelligent if and only if he meets the conditions of being introspective and intelligent prescribed by your metaphysics. Such a metaphysics would provide a universal and necessary standard by which such traits could be judged--a standard that would exist, in a sense, "out there". If this metaphysics truly provided a sound and accurate description of reality, then the person aforementioned's intelligence and intropsectiveness would exist "out there in the world". This is what a philosophically realist interpretation of the issue would look like.

If you're disinclined to accept that there is such a thing as a transcendent standard relative to which one can measure intelligence or introspeciveness, then it makes sense to ask, as you have, "are personality traits just a social construction and 'real' in the sense of [being] a social reality?", and, "what is needed as a criterion for [judging personality traits accurately], if such a thing can be achieved?". I think that a universally valid way of measuring such traits is impossible in principle. This is because one cannot free oneself from the prejudiced modes of interpretation, the result of being brought up in a specific society with a specific context, with which one would attempt to develop a universally sound system of measurement for such traits. That being said, I think that one can indeed make accurate judgements regarding personality traits within the context of one's own society, provided that one has a sound interpretation and understanding of that society. More on this in a moment. For now, let me explain what I meant when I said that one cannot free oneself from a prejudiced mode of interpretation.

One could attempt to anchor the definitions of traits such as intelligence and introspectiveness in a non-transcendent foundation. This, for example, could involve applying the relevant aspects of some science (physics, chemistry, biology), to human behavior: this is, I take it, what something like neuroscience attempts to do. The problem is, even if one tries to ground such traits as intelligence or introspectiveness in something as ostensibly concrete as biochemistry, one ultimately ends up with a bunch of empirical data that must be interpreted. This data will inevitably be interpreted in the light of one's consciously or unconsciously inherited, and intrinsically socially-biased, understanding of the world. One then applies this biased interpretation to both oneself and others, mistakenly believing that one is being objective-- measuring such things as personality traits solely relative to some stable and unbiased discipline and the concrete data it has provided one with. However, what appears to be a universally-sound standard relative to which judgements about personality traits can be made is actually quite tainted with the standard-maker's inherited prejudices. This is why a universally-sound standard is, in principle, impossible: one cannot genuinely look objectively at the world, and make sense of it with pure philosophical detachment; one is always subject to the prejudices of one's society which one has inherited.

If you accept that accurate judgements about personality traits can be accurate insofar as they conform to the standard provided by one's society, then I believe that one can indeed make accurate, or inaccurate, judgements about such things. By this I mean the following.

Accurate judgements about one's own personality traits and those of others are possible only if 1) one has an accurate interpretation of the society in which one exists (this includes having a genuine understanding of all of the implicit and explicit rules, values, standards, etc., of the society of which one is a part), and 2) one is able to accurately and adequately interpret oneself and others in the light of this accurate interpretation of one's society.

This amounts to a kind of societal relativism where things like personality traits are implicitly defined by their society's pervasive, but biased, interpretation of them. As such, an accurate judgement about personality traits is in a sense possible (this would of course be accurate only within the context of one's own society); however, specifying the concrete criteria for making such a judgement is not possible. This is because society's understanding of itself is fluid and dynamic, and, also, one's understanding of society is not something that can be articulated--rather, this understanding one simply inherits and unconsciously takes for granted in all of one's experiences. If society's relative standard is always changing, and one's accurate interpretation of that society and its standards is founded upon inherited prejudices about which one is unconscious, or perhaps conscious yet still subject to, it only makes sense that one could not possibly create a definitive definition of, or list of criteria for, what constitutes any given personality trait.

Edited by Chris.topherr on Jul 11, 2013 - 8:29 PM
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Posted Jul 10, 2013 - 7:05 AM:

Chris.topherr wrote:

Your final understanding of the broader issue is going to reflect whatever metaphysical conception of the world that you accept. By this I mean that, operating under a metaphysical framework that accepts transcendent essences as a standard by which things like intelligence or introspectiveness can be measured and judged, it would make sense to say that a person is introspective and intelligent if and only if he meets the conditions of being introspective and intelligent prescribed by your metaphysics. Such a metaphysics would provide a universal and necessary standard by which such traits could be judged--a standard that would exist, in a sense, "out there". If this metaphysics truly provided a sound and accurate description of reality, then the person aforementioned's intelligence and intropsectiveness would exist "out there in the world".

I think she/he is discussing the social science element of personality, i.e. social constructivism rather than metaphysical or what appears transcendental arguments? I could be wrong, but it is in the social sciences forum. I personally prefer quality over quantity, just so the joy of communicating doesn't sink. wink

Chris.topherr wrote:
I think that a universally valid way of measuring such traits is impossible in principle. This is because one cannot free oneself from the prejudiced modes of interpretation, the result of being brought up in a specific society with a specific context, with which one would attempt to develop a universally sound system of measurement for such traits. That being said, I think that one can indeed make accurate judgements regarding personality traits within the context of one's own society, provided that one has a sound interpretation and understanding of that society.

Most social constructs are based loosely around moral behaviour and beliefs involving the correct mode of living and behaving. What do you think of say Kantian ethics and a universal criterion for assessing personality viz. moral behaviour?


Chris.topherr wrote:
One could attempt to anchor the definitions of traits such as intelligence and introspectiveness in a non-transcendent foundation. This, for example, could involve applying the relevant aspects of some science (physics, chemistry, biology), to human behavior: this is, I take it, what something like neuroscience attempts to do.


Again, I don't think the OP wants to go that deep.

Chris.topherr wrote:
However, what appears to be a universally-sound standard relative to which judgements about personality traits can be made is actually quite tainted with the standard-maker's inherited prejudices. This is why a universally-sound standard is, in principle, impossible: one cannot genuinely look objectively at the world, and make sense of it with pure philosophical detachment; one is always subject to the prejudices of one's society which one has inherited..

I don't think this is true; are you saying that we cannot look objectively at the world and come to realise that our socially constructed ideals are perhaps wrong? While we are motivated to believe in socially constructed ideals, we also have our own intrinsic motivation that drives our own individual behaviour and it does not necessarily have to reflect the society or community we learn/ed from [though it still can]. Again, I don't want to go down the whole philosophy of mind argument about knowledge and what not, I am talking about the social sciences and indeed it is possible to be conscious of your prejudices, enough to know whether it is right or wrong.

Chris.topherr wrote:
one's understanding of society is not something that can be articulated--rather, this understanding one simply inherits and unconsciously takes for granted in all of one's experiences.


Again, I disagree. Mostly, yes, but "unconsciously" purports a certain lack of capacity and I think that is wrong. We can be conscious of our experiences.
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Posted Jul 10, 2013 - 12:50 PM:

TimeLine wrote:

I personally prefer quality over quantity, just so the joy of communicating doesn't sink. wink


Amazingly, there was such a substantive level of "quality" (as opposed to mere superfluous quantity) in your response that after reading it I really felt the awe and wonder of the sheer "joy of communicating". Thanks wink

TimeLine wrote:

Most social constructs are based loosely around moral behaviour and beliefs involving the correct mode of living and behaving.


I'm not sure what it is you mean by "behaviour and beliefs involving the correct mode of living and behaving". Are you saying here that there actually is such an intrinsically correct mode of human life around which social constructs are built, or are you saying that such a correct mode is merely a manifestation of socially-relative "behaviour and beliefs". I take it that you mean the former. If that is the case, would you mind explaining to me how one determines the "correct mode of living", as this seems to me to be rooted in a metaphysical belief that involves some unwavering standard by which such things can be judged. The reason I was speaking about metaphysics initially was so that we could move forward without such essentialist notions dominating the discussion.

TimeLine wrote:

I don't think this is true; are you saying that we cannot look objectively at the world and come to realise that our socially constructed ideals are perhaps wrong?

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Your way of thinking is riddled with metaphysical assumptions about right and wrong. How could "socially constructed ideals" be either right or wrong in themselves? Whence comes such a purely objective standard by which such things can be judged? One could base such a claim on some philosophically realist metaphysics, or, one could claim that we can make value judgements like right and wrong relative to concrete things like the sciences. But even this, as I mentioned earlier, ultimately requires an interpretation, which is doomed, as is all interpretation, to reinforce the prejudices that one is trying to avoid.

TimeLine wrote:

While we are motivated to believe in socially constructed ideals, we also have our own intrinsic motivation that drives our own individual behaviour

This makes a lot of assumptions about human nature. Where does something like "intrinsic motivation" come from? How does it develop independently, as you imply, of "the society or community we learn/ed [it] from"?

TimeLine wrote:
I am talking about the social sciences and indeed it is possible to be conscious of your prejudices, enough to know whether it is right or wrong.

As far as the ability of having an objective grasp of the context of shared meaning that pervades any society goes, I suggest you look into hermeneutics, and apply the idea of the hermeneutical circle to human beings and the way that they interpret both themselves and the world. Also, feel free to explain to me what objective standard that you use to determine how one can actually know about the intrinsic value ("whether it is right or wrong") of any of their prejudices, even if they do somehow become aware of all of them.

TimeLine wrote:

Again, I disagree. Mostly, yes, but "unconsciously" purports a certain lack of capacity and I think that is wrong. We can be conscious of our experiences.

I never said we couldn't be conscious of experience. What I am saying is that our preconscious biases, the resources from which we draw to make sense of any of our experiences, are themselves only rarely held in consciousness. Even if we were able to become conscious about some of them, we could never free ourselves from our entire preconscious framework. There will always be some part of us that is prevented from being purely objective.

All that said, I understand that I got a little bit carried away with some of the ideas, and I may not have presented my position with the clarity with which I understand it. I just opted to make an attempt at a filled out answer to the question as I understood it, as opposed to stating vacuous things like "I personally think it is both but as to whether or not I can assure you of this, well, that is obviously a problem", and "To establish a "science" of the abovementioned - i.e. accurate criterion - is difficult."

Edited by Chris.topherr on Jul 10, 2013 - 4:54 PM
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Posted Jul 10, 2013 - 2:52 PM:

The real value is in predicting behaviours. Judgements of personality are often based on very limited data, and models of personality tend to be simplistic.

Take two commonly described personality traits; extroversion and introversion. It seems to me that most people display both traits, though not simultaneously, depending on the social dynamic in play at the time. The subject may seem extroverted in one group, yet introverted in a different group.


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