Taking off from what Drew writes in his last comment on “A Serious Question,” I offer the following quote from The SAGE Handbook of Case-Based Methods for our consideration.
From a trans-disciplinary perspective, what unites different kinds of cases, regardless of the discipline, is that all cases are complex and multi-dimensional objects of study. Furthermore, all cases are situated in time and space, as are the disciplines within which they might be situated. Arguably, therefore all cases, as objects of study, need to be described in an ever-increasing and changing variety of ways, and each of these ways may in fact be representing something ‘real’ about the object of study as well (2009: 141-142)
The proposition as I read it is that the traditional modernist gesture of scientific inquiry — abstracting variables from a complex situation for incorporation in a simplified but testable model — results in findings comparable to those of the blind men in the story in which they touch different parts of the elephant. They thus wind up with totally different ideas about what an elephant is. The proposal offered here suggests that the blind men might talk with each other, bracketing claims that one or the other perspective is wrong, and consider the richer model produced when multiple views are superimposed. Personally, I find this approach attractive, especially for those of us in the social sciences and humanities, where our task is more often assembling fragments of information into compelling stories than testing well-defined hypotheses.
What do you think?