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Philosophical Foundations of Coaching: Ontology

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Dynamic Constructivism: Contextual Interactions

While the objectivist perspective was prevalent during the modern era, and is still influencing our notions about “being,” the static constructivist perspective often played a role as counter-point in 20th century social discourse. This static constructivism has been a source of many challenges that have upset the modernist stance on epistemology and ethics. The static constructivists have encouraged or even forced many of us to move from an absolute set of principles to a more situation-based relativism. Even greater challenges, however, are present. A dynamic constructivism moves well beyond the stability of broad-based societal and cultural perspectives. The emergence of a dynamic constructivist perspective represents a revolutionary change in the true sense of the term.

Language, narratives and self

Story and performance are hallmarks of dynamic constructivism. We live in a world of constructed realities that are constantly shifting. We live in a world of language, semiotics and narratives. Language is no longer considered simply a handmaiden for reality, as the objectivists would suggest, nor does it construct a permanent or at least resistant reality as the traditional social constructivists would argue. Furthermore, language is not a secondary vehicle we must employ when commenting on the reality that underlies and is the reference point for this language. The dynamic constructivists often take this analysis one step further by proposing that language is itself the primary reality in our daily life experiences. Language, originally and primarily relationship-based, assumes its own reality, and ceases to be an abstract sign that substitutes for the “real” things. Our cave is filled with language and conversations. This is reality—there is nothing outside the cave (or perhaps the cave doesn’t even exist).

While objectivism is based on the assumption that there is a constant reality to which one can refer (through the use of language and other symbol/sign systems) and static constructivism is based on the assumption that there is a constant societal base for our constructions of reality, dynamic constructivism is based on the assumption that the mode and content of discourse and the relationship(s) that underlie this discourse are the closest thing we have to a reality. We are constantly reconstructing our reality because this reality is based on the specific relationship through which we are engaged via our discourse. We need not stay within Plato’s cave, because the relationship and the discourse is itself reality—it is not just a reflection of the reality. The inside and outside of the cave are one in the same thing. The cave doesn’t exist. Consequently, the process of coaching becomes a powerful (even critical) process, for it can alter reality for both the client and coach.

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