Date of Award

8-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Howard R. Pollio

Committee Members

Jack Barlow, Allen Dunn, Lowell Gaertner

Abstract

The present project focuses on some of the similarities between social cognition, transcendental phenomenology, literary theory, and epistemological hermeneutics. I argue that developments in hermeneutic theory call into question the view that interpretation is a cognitive process residing within the minds of individuals. Drawing on Heidegger’s project for a fundamental ontology, I suggest that hermeneutic phenomenology provides a radical critique of social cognition’s view of the nature of social reality. I also introduce the concept of practice as an alternative to psychology’s focus on subjectivity.

These theoretical explorations provide a foundation for investigating the practices that embody an interpretation of political reality. Using open-ended qualitative interviews, I ask participants to describe in as much detail as possible, salient political situations. I categorize these situations into three broad areas: (1) media (2) conventional political activities and (3) political socialization. Within each of these categories, I discuss variations in the way people understand political life.

Finally, I explore the implications of these practices for our understanding of democracy. I discuss how the movement from epistemology to ontology calls into question the role of subjectivity in contemporary democratic societies.

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