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The discursive turn, socialconstructionism, and dementia 

The discursive turn, socialconstructionism, and dementia
The discursive turn, socialconstructionism, and dementia

Tim Thornton

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date: 23 February 2018

The structure of this chapter is as follows. In the first section, I characterize discursive psychology as, in part, an attempt to sidestep a worry about the privacy of meaning, which may have advantages in approaching dementia. I stress the importance of a constitutive claim it makes and show how social constructionism might underpin that constitutive claim.

In the central philosophical section of the chapter I outline objections to the constructionism that often underpins the discursive turn. Constructionism has been defended through an interpretation of Wittgenstein but there are, in fact, Wittgensteinian reasons to be suspicious of it. I go on to suggest that constructionism can still be present in interpretations of Wittgenstein that explicitly aim to avoid social constructionism.

In the final section I suggest an alternative approach to fill out the constitutive claim, which invokes the irreducible role of rationality rather than social construction. I suggest that this can be used to help interpret the speech and actions of dementia sufferers. But I suggest that, although false, a constructionist approach to meaning may play a positive heuristic role in making sense of dementia sufferers—even though it carries with it a danger of abuse.

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