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Wisdom beyond language in research and the place of narrative

Gough, A.Martin (2009) Wisdom beyond language in research and the place of narrative. In: European Society for Research on the Education of Adults Life History and Biographical Research Network Conference “Wisdom and knowledge in researching and learning lives: diversity, differences and commonalities”, 12-15 March 2009, Società Umanitaria, Milano, Italy. (Unpublished) (KAR id:25299)

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My aim in this paper is chiefly one of conceptual clarification, linking with issues arising within certain current debates. I propose a typology to underpin the various applications of the “tacit” and the “non-discursive” for describing our state of knowledge as regards respectively both the practice (the phronesis) and the object of research.

The tacit/explicit dichotomy is a different one from the non-discursive/discursive (or non-linguistic/linguistic) one. This is key if we are to understand how the process of learning to research, as well as learning most practices, occurs. The UK national research training agenda is crystallized in the 2001 document “Skills training requirements for research students: joint statement by the research councils/AHRB”. This is an attempt to lay out in generic terms the categories of skills that researchers should develop during their course of study. It is meant to be applicable to all subjects and therefore to educational and other social science and humanities newer researchers. Critics, such as Stephen Rowland, of the national policy point out that aiming to teach skills conceived generically out of context is a flawed approach. This is true but misses the point that codifications of practice inevitably fail to capture the practice in its entirety. This is for two reasons. The first is a function of the informal and non-discursive components of any practice, the particular actions of more experienced researchers which may need no discursive explanation for the novice to be able to pick them up in context, “on the job”. The point is not that this is essentially tacit knowledge, learnt unwittingly (tacitly?). Rather, it may or may not be explicitly recognized and considered by the learner, even in the “hot action” workplace scenario (Eraut, Beckett & Hager), but it is effectively non-discursive.

2) But this gives us a clue to how we may answer yes to the question. Research is not just the uncovering of what is previously covered up but is the process of making sense of it. Even the PhD thesis in Chemistry must embody a narrative. The turning into sense of what is at first indeterminate is a function of narrative and is also a version of Kant’s epistemology insofar as he describes how we make cognitive judgements about the phenomenon at issue. Although this account of the biographical research process does push us towards turning people into ideal types rather than particulars, it does also allow us permanently to posit that there may be something as yet beyond the articulated phenomenon, something sitting tacitly in the noumenal world, perhaps the self and its possibilities, which cannot be fully captured by the narrative articulation.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy
Divisions: Divisions > Directorate of Education > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
Depositing User: Martin Gough
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2010 13:41 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 12:36 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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