Is conceptual vagueness an asset? Arguments from philosophy of science applied to the concept of resilience
Is conceptual vagueness an asset or a liability? By weighing arguments from philosophy of science and applying them to the concept of resilience, I address this question. I first sketch the wide spectrum of resilience concepts that ranges from concise concepts to the vague perspective of “resilience thinking”. Subsequently, I set out the methodological arguments in favor and against conceptual vagueness. While traditional philosophy of science emphasizes precision and conceptual clarity as precondition for empirical science, alternative views highlight vagueness as fuel for creative and pragmatic problem-solving. Reviewing this discussion, I argue that a trade-off between vagueness and precision exists, which is to be solved differently depending on the research context. In some contexts research benefits from conceptual vagueness while in others it depends on precision. Assessing the specific example of “resilience thinking” in detail, I propose a restructuring of the conceptual framework which explicitly distinguishes descriptive, evaluative and transformative aspects.
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- Hirsch Hadorn, Gertrude & Bradley, David & Pohl, Christian & Rist, Stephan & Wiesmann, Urs, 2006. "Implications of transdisciplinarity for sustainability research," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 119-128, November.
- Frame, Bob & Brown, Judy, 2008. "Developing post-normal technologies for sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 225-241, April.
- Derissen, Sandra & Quaas, Martin F. & Baumgärtner, Stefan, 2011. "The relationship between resilience and sustainability of ecological-economic systems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(6), pages 1121-1128, April.
- Common, Mick & Perrings, Charles, 1992. "Towards an ecological economics of sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 7-34, July.
- Brian Walker & Leonie Pearson & Michael Harris & Karl-Göran Maler & Chuan-Zhong Li & Reinette Biggs & Tim Baynes, 2010. "Incorporating Resilience in the Assessment of Inclusive Wealth: An Example from South East Australia," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 45(2), pages 183-202, February.
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