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Examples and Exemplification

Plato's Cave

A «category» is an idea, so you can know it but you cannot observe it in the conventional sense. It is therefore Platonic in nature. You can only observe examples of categories. So, once a THEE Framework is accepted, observational certainty is often possible e.g. outsiders can know whether or not a particular form of purpose (like a priority) has been specified in a planning document.

As in that example, a THEE entity is a psychosocial category that has a name assigned. However, psychosocial categories or their names must be used in an external world that is intrinsically messy or impure (scientifically).


Any assumed or believed observation of a particular entity-category is best thought of as an «example» or «exemplification» of the entity. So it is an epistemological error to make brute observation of psychosocial phenomena, and expect precision from such studies. They cannot capture the deeper nature of THEE entities: reality is too messy.

Reality is Messy

In the arena of human experience and social phenomena, reality is just too complex for brute empiricism. Any person involved in committed action activates various disparate THEE entities. Some are obvious and others are difficult to perceive.

Recording and analysis of many instances (i.e. examples) can serious mislead because:

The Taxonomy Precedes Examples

Examples are tricky. Looking at data alone will never reveal the Taxonomy. Conventional scientific observational methods find psychosocial realities far too complicated and open. Shadows are measured as a substitute for the real thing: see graphic above.

The reverse, however, is quite possible. If the THEE-entity is well-formulated and validated and its properties are well-known, then it is not too difficult to find examples in the world. Sensible research of a conventional sort can then be carried out. Such research has occurred in regard to systems of decision-making and ethical choice.

Originally posted: August 2009; Last updated 2-Feb-2014.

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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