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CSCXXX10.1177/1532708616636147Cultural Studies <span class="symbol" cstyle="symbol"></span> Critical MethodologiesSt. Pierre

Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies
2016, Vol. 16(2) 111124
2016 SAGE Publications
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DOI: 10.1177/1532708616636147

The Empirical and the

New Empiricisms
Elizabeth A. St. Pierre1

The premise of this article is that social science researchers often rush to application, to empirical method and methodology,
before studying the history, philosophy, and politics of various empiricisms. Because there are incompatibilities between
the empiricisms of different systems of thought, it is dangerous to attempt new empirical work without having studied
the old empiricisms, lest those incompatibilities produce weak, fundamentally flawed scholarship. To help prevent such
confusions, this article briefly describes two empiricisms commonly used in social science researchlogical empiricism
and the empiricism of phenomenologyas well as Deleuze and Guattaris transcendental empiricism, which is being used
in much new empirical inquiry.
empiricism, logical empiricism, phenomenology, transcendental empiricism
As I began reading scholarship grounded in what Clough
(2009) called the new empiricism, I wondered what was
new about its empiricism, which led me to think about the
old empiricism (as if the old empiricism is one thing), and I
realized I had never actually studied empiricism per se, so
how could I differentiate the new from the old? I had studied what Ive called conventional humanist qualitative
methodology as a doctoral student and had taught that
empirical methodology and its methods for over 20 years,
but my course syllabi did not begin with the history or philosophy or politics of empiricism. Why had I skipped that
step? I wondered whether anyone at my university taught
empiricism straight on. Curiouser and curiouser, I searched
my universitys curriculum bulletin (searching course titles
and brief course descriptions) and retrieved only one course
focused on empiricism, an undergraduate philosophy course
on the British empiricists (see St. Pierre, in press-a). I speculated that philosophers must believe the study of empiricism is foundational given that they teach it at the
undergraduate level. But philosophers dont typically do
empirical researchthey dont go out to natural settings in
the field and do messy human subjects researchso why do
they teach empiricism? Why is empiricism the province of
philosophy? After all, its we social scientists who are
charged with accomplishing empirical research, with collecting data about everything, with measuring even what
cannot be measured, with making meaning (producing
knowledge) that gets to the bottom of things once and for
all, with filling all those gaps in knowledge so that our foundations are secure, steady, and true and we can claim to

have made real progress in solving the problems of human

I decided I was not as well-trained an empirical researcher
as I had thought and should back up and study empiricism.
I recognized once again the effects of that everlasting theory/practice binary that seems to structure not only the
applied social sciences but also how we teach their methodologies. It demands, whether we are ready or not, that we
get data and produce knowledge. In the name of practice, in
the leap to application, I think we pay short shrift to the
theoretical and conceptual systems in which various empiricism are thinkable. Fay (1987) called this practicalism, a
view that rests on the belief in the primacy of practice
because it resists the claim that rational reflection can be a
principal factor in the change from one sort of practice to
another (p. 60). One could argue that our practices have
been normalized by dominant theoretical formations and
that there must be much to do we havent yet been able to
think. But privileging practice over thought has a long history and is dominant in applied fields like education.
Aristotle, for example, was much concerned about practice,
believing that ones practices must be ethical or the knowledge one produced could not be true. Descartes upended

University of Georgia, Athens, USA

Corresponding Author:
Elizabeth A. St.Pierre, Professor, Department of Educational Theory and
Practice, University of Georgia, 604E Aderhold Hall, Athens, GA 30602,

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Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies 16(2)

that age-old belief by claiming that through the right use of
reason anyone, whether ethical or not, can produce true
knowledge. He also invented the cogito whose existence
depends on knowing (thought), and in his work to be
became equated with to know. Descartes knowing subject
is at the center of modern science. Lyotard (1979/1984),
however, would later write that knowledge is not the same
as science (p. 18), but it is this knowing subjectthis particular onto-epistemological inventionthat is the lynchpin
of modern science and that is now at stake in the new
At any rate, I think the old theory/practice binary is dangerous because it perpetuates the modern separation of philosophy and science, though the natural sciences were once
a philosophical matter. The idea that theory and practice are
separate has been much critiqued, especially by those who
reject binary oppositions. Althusser (1970/1971) wrote that
an ideology always exists in an apparatus, and its practice
or practices. This existence is material (p. 166) and, further, the ideas of a human subject exist in his actions (p.
168). Foucault (1994/1997), too, took this position:
Thought, understood in this way, then, is not to be sought
only in theoretical formulations such as those of philosophy or
science; it can and must be analyzed in every manner of
speaking, doing, or behaving in which the individual appears
and acts as a knowing subject, as ethical or juridical subject, as
subject conscious of himself and others. In this sense thought is
understood as the very form of action. (pp. 200-201)

Deleuze and Foucault (1972/1977) together wrote that

practice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to
another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another
(p. 206). The idea that theory and practice are inseparable
one might write them together as theorypracticeand
material as well is crucial in the new empiricism.
But the press to practice and methods-driven research in
the social sciences distracts us from first attending to the
onto-epistemological formations in which empirical practices are possible, and I think the rush to application is tripping us up now as we try to do this new work. The
structure of our humanist research methodologies simply
cannot accommodate this new work. One cant carelessly
use a concept from one grid of intelligibility or system
of thought in another because the concept brings with it the
entire structure in which it is imbricated with all that structures assumptions about the nature of the world. For example, if, with Deleuze and Guattari, one can no longer think
the human person as either a subject or an object, how does
one do human subjects research based on the methodological individualism of human subjects research? More seriously, following Deleuze, how does one avoid putting the
human subject at the beginning or center of inquiry?
Murphy (1998) explained that

to assume the subject as transcendentally given is to assume

what you would explain; to transfer a conditioned empirical
figure onto the transcendental conditions that render it actual is
to invert their true relation . . . the subject will be constituted,
but as one of many possible effects that can arise from the
principles of Deleuzes ontology. (p. 217)

Furthermore, Murphy askedand this is keyIf one does

not begin thinking with the fact of the thinking subject, as
Descartes and Kant (and their followers) did, with what
does one begin? (p. 217, emphasis added). In her troubling
of the cogito, Butler (1992) wrote that the epistemological
point of departure [including empiricism, which is a theory
of knowledge] is no longer adequate (p. 8). If we no longer
believe the individual, the person, the knowing subject of
humanist empiricisms can be the point of departure in our
inquiry, I am at a loss to see how anything weve learned
about humanist empirical social science research is possible
in the new empiricism. But Nietzsche told us this long
before Murphy and Butler. He wrote, But there is no such
sub-stratum; there is no being behind doing, effecting,
becoming; the doer is merely a fiction added to the deed
(Nietzsche, 1887/1992, p. 481).
The profound difference between, for example, Deleuzes
transcendental empiricism and logical empiricism and the
empiricism of phenomenology, which I briefly describe
later, is evident in Deleuzes (2006) statement about
Multiplicities are reality itself [emphasis added]. They do not
presuppose unity of any kind, do not add up to a totality, and do
not refer to a subject [emphasis added]. Subjectivations,
totalizations, and unifications are in fact processes which are
produced and appear in multiplicities. The main features of
multiplicities are: their elements, which are singularities; their
relations, which are becomings; their events, which are
haecceities (in other words, subjectless individuations); their
space-time, which is smooth spaces and times; their model of
actualization, which is the rhizome (as opposed to the tree as
model); their plane of composition, which is a plateau
(continuous zones of intensity); and the vectors which traverse
them, constituting territories and degrees of deterritorialization.
(p. 310)

In the ontology of this system of thoughtreality without a

subjectis it likely that concepts like research design and
data and practices like interviewing and data analysis are
thinkable? Is ethnography, which is grounded in cultural
difference, possible when Deleuzes difference is not understood as difference from but as pure difference, ontological
difference, difference in itself? Indeed, with what does one
begin? Where does one begin? Does the verb begin even
work? Perhaps the best we can do is read and study these
systems of thought and let them overtake us and deterritorialize what we take for granted about social science inquiry

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St. Pierre
before we too casually use a concept like assemblage in an
interview study with human subjects, before we attempt any
kind of new empirical inquiry. The best advice may well be
to postpone the leap to application. As I noted earlier, I recommend studying the old empiricisms before we imagine
new empiricisms and/or new methodologies.
This article is my first attempt to do that, to take on the
empirical before imagining new methodologies for new
empirical work, though I suspect methodology as we know
it is unthinkable in the new empiricisms of this ontological
turn. I begin with a general discussion of empiricism and
then sketch, in turn, the empiricisms of logical empiricism
and phenomenology, which ground most empirical social
science research. I then briefly describe Deleuze and
Guattaris transcendental empiricism (see also, St. Pierre, in
press-b), which, I argue, does not align with existing social
science research methodologies including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods methodologies. How we think
of being, of human being, and of inquiry in the new empiricisms of the ontological turn will be our challenge and will
probably require some forgetting of what weve learned,
what we think is true and real about empirical research, and
how to do it.

Within epistemology, the branch of philosophy concerned
with the nature, source, and limits of knowledge, empiricism is usually defined against rationalism in a debate about
how dependent knowledge is on sense experience. The conventional view of empiricism holds that the contents of our
minds, our consciousness, and the source of knowledge of
real existence (existence independent of thought) must be
derived from and justified by sense-based observations of
experience. Primacy of sensation, then, the given, what is, is
the source of our ideas, of knowledge. In other words, we
cannot claim to know anything not given in our experiencespeculation about what might be cannot be a criterion of truth. In this way, empiricism is not only a theory of
knowledge but also a methodology.
Though the labels empiricism and rationalism did not
exist during the 16th and early 17th centuries, they have
since been used to differentiate between the work, during
that period, of Francis Bacon who has been called the father
of empiricism and of the scientific method and the work of
Descartes, who is typically described as a rationalist and the
father of modern philosophy. Having little reverence for the
past and believing classical ideas impeded progress, Bacon
was central is separating philosophy from theology and reason from faith, but he is generally thought of as a methodologist who insisted that any experimental method that
claims to produce knowledge must be carefully described
and that the systematic and proper use of method can guarantee valid knowledge. His methodology was grounded in

the painstaking, methodical, and systematic observation of

the natural world, in the listing and cataloging of facts, and
on induction.
In the history of empiricism, the 17th century British
empiricists, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, are typically
opposed to Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, the Continental
rationalists. The British empiricists proposed that empiricism and rationalism hold incompatible views about both
the source of knowledge and how to justify knowledge.
Again, in the empirical tradition, knowledge cant simply
be thought; it cant come from divine revelation or institutional authority; it cannot be mere speculation. As Aune
(1970) noted, it [empiricism] requires all knowledge of
matters of fact and existence to be founded on observation,
memory, and inductive generalization (p. 99).
These empiricisms, then, privilege experience as the primary source of and justification for knowledge. Conceptempiricists argue that the concepts we do have are acquired
as we learn language and are based on or evoked by experiences someone has had at some time. Belief-empiricists
argue that in order for beliefs to have truth value, they must
be related to someones experience. Empiricists generally
deny a priori knowledge and follow the guiding principle of
empiricism: nihil in intellectu nisi prius in sensu (Latin,
nothing in the intellect unless first in sense). Empiricists
insist on facts supported by sense impressions or brute
datum found through careful observation of experience
(experiment) to justify knowledge claims. Therefore, an
empiricist would let the facts speak for themselves,
believing that facts are brute, foundational, and exist outside an a priori interpretive framework, even though philosophers of science have long shown there is no such thing
as direct inference from data (Leonelli, 2014, p. 1). But the
idea is that because a fact is a fact and not an interpretation,
it cannot be re-interpreted and is, thus, foundational.
Empiricism provides a framework, a methodology, for a
science of human nature. In this methodology, the senses
function as faithful recording devices, placing before the
minds eye exact replicas of that which exists in the external world, without cultural or linguistic mediation
(Hawkesworth, 2014, p. 29). The claim is that the observer
who uses the so-called neutral methods of statistical analysis, systematic experiments, and induction can be objective,
unbiased, and can capture and then re-present in words
things in the world as they really are. As Law (2004)
reminded us, the practices of science are quite obsessively
textual (p. 30), and an assumption of empirical science is
that language can be clear, precise, and factual.
Conventional rationalism, on the other hand, holds that
the contents of our minds, our consciousness, and the
source of knowledge of real existence can be derived from
rational thought independent of sense experience. Like
empiricism, rationalism has a complex history and has
been used to describe a range of views. A rationalist would

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Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies 16(2)

argue that our knowledge often transcends what can be justified through observation of the external world; for example, we have a priori, innate concepts and ideas that come
from intuition and deduction that are not found in experience. Descartes believed we begin from first principles
known directly by reason or intuition (I think, therefore I
am.) and build knowledge from there. Descartes advised
that we doubt knowledge obtained by our senses because
such knowledge is always temporal, uncertain, and contingent. Here we see the mind/external world, Self/Other
dualisms at work. Likewise, a Platonic Form, which is
transcendentPlatos poisoned gift of transcendence
(Rajchman, 2001, p. 110)cannot be found in real existence, is pure, unchanging, perfect, eternal, and a product
of reason. Rationalism relies on epistemic foundationalism, the claim that ideas derived from pure reason require
no other justification, no justification through sense experience. The rationalist claim that our minds come with preexisting concepts and categories persists, for example, in
the analytic philosophy of Chomskyan linguistics, which
claims that the structure of language is biologically determined and so innate in the human mind.
The rationalist/empiricist debate in epistemology
extends to metaphysics where philosophers are concerned
with questions about first causes, being as such, and things
that do not change, for example, the nature of reality
questions that cannot be resolved by science. Metaphysics,
then, is broader and more fundamental than science. An
early focus of metaphysics was, for example, the existence
of non-physical entities like God. One of the basic questions of metaphysics is whether entities (anything real) are
only material (materialism) or are mental (idealism). Hume,
the British empiricist, is famous for dismissing metaphysics
because it deals with issues that cannot be warranted by scientific, empirical evidence. He wrote as follows:
If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school
metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any
abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does
it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of
fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it
contains nothing but sophistry and illusion. (Hume, 1748/1955,
p. 184)

By the 20th century, interest shifted from metaphysics

transcendence in the sense of what is beyond existence,
logos or Godto immanence, what is within the world, not
transcendent to or outside it. For example, Derridas deconstruction was a critique of metaphysics. Deleuze wrote that
he was not concerned with going beyond metaphysics but
that his style of metaphysics was more like that of Whitehead
than Kant.
Ontology is a branch of metaphysics concerned with
what exists and the basic categories of existence or reality,

which have always been debated. Widder (2012) provided

some historical context for ontology as follows:
The Latin ontologia originates in seventeenth-century
scholastic writings, but the ideas and questions associated with
ontology are found in key statements in ancient philosophy,
including Aristotles definition of metaphysics as the science of
being qua being: the declaration in Platos Sophist, which
opens Heideggers Being and Time, that the meaning of being
remains perplexing; and the pre-Socratic Parmenidess claims
that only the one being is and that nothingness does not exist.
(p. 1)

Theories have different ontological commitments to what

exists (being) and does not exist (non-being) and how
what exists should be categorized. As Blackburn (1994)
explained, Philosophers characteristically charge each
other with reifying things improperly, and in the history of
philosophy every kind of thing will at one time or another
have been thought to be the fictitious result of an ontological mistake (p. 270).
How we think about the relation of the mind and the
world has changed throughout history. Bordo (1986) wrote
that for the medieval aesthetic and philosophical imagination, the categories of self and word, inner and outer, human
and natural were not as rigorously opposed as they came to
be during the Cartesian era (p. 446). Descartes established
a new ontological order of things in which ontology is separated from and dominated by epistemology. To preserve that
order, the separation of epistemology from ontology must
be maintained to prevent an epistemological threat, the fear
that an object might withdraw itself from scientific analysis
(from being known) by slipping across the border that separates words and things, human and non-human. Descartes
ontological order requires that things, objects, be stable,
inert, or dead in order to be subject to the scientific gaze of
empirical science. Objectivity must be maintained for
empirical science to function.
But in poststructuralism, the new materialisms, the new
empiricisms, and the posthuman, the separation of ontology
from epistemology that Descartes required is refused, and
that refusal can be represented by Barads (2007) terms
onto-epistem-ology and ethico-onto-epistem-ology, which
resonate with Deleuzes transcendental empiricism, to be
discussed later (but see Hein, in press for the difference
between Barad and Deleuze).

Much social science research, including humanist qualitative research, focuses on the phenomenology of lived experience, though some might agree with Rorty (1979) who
noted that phenomenology gradually became transformed
into what Husserl despairingly called mere anthropology

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St. Pierre
(p. 167). Phenomenology, taken up in the social sciences,
could be considered an example of a complex philosophical
movement being reduced to a how to, methods-driven
empirical approach to knowledge production.
But phenomenology has a long history in which it moves
between the empiricist-rationalist poles. In general, phenomenology is the study of phenomena, things in themselves, essences, as they appear to us in our consciousness.
Some phenomenologists, like Husserl, focused on epistemological issues, while others, like Heidegger, focused on
ontological concerns.
I focus here on Husserl who refused the standards, methods, and foundations of the science of his day, which
explained the nature of reality and so bracketed or disconnected any a priori from his analysis and began phenomenology, which he called the science of the essence of
consciousness, with the pure consciousness of the individual person, the I, the Ego. He wrote as follows:
Consciousness in itself has a being of its own which in its
absolute uniqueness of nature remains unaffected by the
phenomenological disconnexion (Husserl, 1931/1952, p.
113). Pure consciousness, then, can be separated not only
from whatever might distract it mentally but also from natural reality. In Husserls pure phenomenology, the natural
world in its ordered being as a spatial present that reaches
rather in a fixed order of being into the limitless beyond
exists in a dimly apprehended depth or fringe of indeterminate reality (p. 102). This dim world of natural experience
is separate from pure human consciousness, but human consciousness, which has bracketed all that is a priori and
might interfere with the phenomenological gaze can pierce
it with rays from the illuminating focus of attention with
varying success (p. 102).
Husserl used the term intentionality to describe the consciousness of the individual directed toward something in
the world, the mental look (Husserl, 1931/1952, p. 117).
The title of the problem which in its scope covers phenomenology in its entirety is Intentionality. This indeed
expresses the fundamental property of consciousness
(p. 404). We are conscious of something in perception but
also in recollections and representations that remind us of
prior perceptions. In this way, Husserl attempted to disrupt
the Cartesian mind/body dualism by joining human consciousness to the objects that exist in the material world that
help us form experience.
In addition to intentionality, epoch or the suspension of
judgment is a key concept in phenomenological analysis.
The phenomenologist must bracket or suspend assumptions about what she thinks she sees, eliminating all mediating influences like language and culture, and instead see
what shows itself to her, what is given or self-evident in
experience. Husserl (1901/1970) made the case that there
is an a priori necessity of essence (p. 443), pure essences
that are self-evidently truenon-empirical, universal,

and unconditionally valid (p. 446). In his understanding,

essence does not lie behind a given thing but is that which
is most self-evident about it. Husserl (1931/1952) wrote as
What is the perceived as such? . . . We win the reply to our
question as we wait, in pure surrender, on what is essentially
given. We can then describe that which appears as such
faithfully and in the light of perfect self-evidence. (p. 260)

In this way, self-evidence is that which validates knowledge

and is the basis of Husserls epistemology, which could be
called a science of essences.
In the empiricism of phenomenology, phenomena exist
in the world as pure essences and present themselves in
their givenness, in a pure, a priori state to an individuals
consciousness that has bracketed all else that is a priori. For
the social scientist who uses phenomenology, the final step
is to describe the phenomenological experience textually. In
his book on phenomenological research methods, Moustakas
(1994), following Husserl, claimed that the subject and
object are integrated (p. 59), but it appears that the object,
first, must and can be separated out from everything else so
it can present itself in its unique essence to the consciousness of the individual meaning-making, intentional subject who has also bracketed out the a priori.
In phenomenological social science research, empirical
data are most often collected through face-to-face interviews with research participants as they make meaning of
and describe their lived experiences. In some approaches to
analysis, its purpose is to produce a description of those
experiences that stays close to the data and does not interpret it using a priori theories. One might say that the point
is to tell it like it really is, to stick to the essence of the phenomenon and not interpret it or theorize. The goal is to
reproduce the research participants experiences of the
object of her intentionality and the meaning she attaches to
that object through scrupulous examination of and reflection on her consciousness. Here, we see the famous conscious phenomenological gazethe mental look, mentioned
above, of both the research participant who is called on to
reflect on and describe the phenomenon and also of the
researcher who must do the same in subsequent description.
In other approaches to analysis, some interpretation is
allowed. Giorgi (1970), Moustakas (1994), Dahlberg and
Dahlberg (2003), Van Manen (1990), and Vagle (2014)
have all described differently how one might do empirical
phenomenological research in the social sciences.
The poststructuralists mounted a sustained critique of
phenomenology. In his early work, Deleuze (1969/1990)
was suspicious of what presented itself to the phenomenological gaze as good sense and common sense. Later,
Foucault (1985/1988) wrote that phenomenology expected
lived experience to supply the originary meaning of every

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Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies 16(2)

act of knowledge (p. 475). Deleuze and Guattari
(1991/1994) together followed with the critique that phenomenology is grounded in the primordial lived (p. 150)
that supposedly exists before language, culture, and interpretation. Derrida (1993/1994), too, critiqued the phenomenological good sense of the thing itself, of the immediately
visible commodity, in flesh and blood: as what it is at first
sight (p. 150). And, of course, Sellars (1956/1997) is
famous for his critique of what he called the Myth of the
Given in traditional empiricism that claims that the perceptually given is the foundation of empirical knowledge
(p. 77) in an attempt to break out of discourse to an arch
beyond discourse (p. 117). The feminist scholar Scott
(1991) provided a powerful critique of basing knowledge
on experience, explaining, rather, that experience (common
sense, the given) is that which must be explained.
But conventional humanist qualitative methodology is
steeped in phenomenology when researchers base their
epistemological claims on lived experience, when they
insist on preserving the phenomenon exactly as described
by participants in careful word-for-word transcriptions of
interviews, when they let the data speak for itself and
refuse to theorize in analysis, and when their research
reports only describe, as if description is not an interpretation. Of course, lived experience matters, and how people
describe their lives matters, and there is something to be
said for trying to come to the world fresh, with as few preconceptions as possible.

Logical Empiricism/Logical Positivism

The Vienna Circle included Hans Han, Phillip Frank, Otto
Neurath, Ernst Mach, Moritz Schlick, A. J. Ayer, and othersEuropean mathematicians, philosophers, sociologists,
economists, and scientistswho met in Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century to discuss philosophy of science
and epistemology (see St. Pierre, 2012). In the rush up to
World War II, they fled the Nazis and Europe and were welcomed in British and American universities where their
ideas took hold and spread across the social sciences. The
goal of logical empiricism/logical positivism, which followed in the empirical tradition of Bacon, Locke, and
Hume, was to reconceptualize empiricism by ridding it of
the metaphysics they believed had contributed to the disasters of early 20th-century Europe and, instead, grounding
empiricism in mathematics, supposedly free of wooly
speculative philosophy. Logical empiricism strongly influenced natural science, social science, and philosophy in the
United States until the 1960s when its premises were critiqued, for example, by interpretivism, social constructionism, critical theories, and the posts, and it fell out of favor.
The saying goes that no one wants to be called a positivist. However, logical empiricism returned with a vengeance in U.S. education with a neopositivist description of

scientifically based research in education (see St. Pierre,

2006) written into the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, and
it now dominates educational research and practice. Some
social science disciplinespsychology, political science,
economicshave always been mostly positivist.
The Vienna Circle proposed a unified theory of science
that claims that all disciplines that are true sciences use the
same philosophy of knowledge and the same methods of
scientific investigation. By extension, the logical empiricists prescribed methodological maxims for any rational
procedure of inquiry, scientific or otherwise. For that reason, logical empiricism is critiqued for scientizing everything (e.g., education). Methodological scientism is the idea
that social science phenomena can, indeed, be studied using
the methods of the natural sciences. In logical empiricisms
unity of science, then, there is no epistemic difference
between the natural and the social sciences. The presumption is that humans can be treated as any other object in the
empirical world. Ironically, the hard science soft social
scientists emulate is a simulacrum as Hayek (1952)explained:
The methods which scientists or men fascinated by the natural
sciences have so often tried to force upon the social sciences
were not necessarily those which the scientists in fact followed
in their own field, but rather those which they believed that
they employed. (p. 22)

Nonetheless, the goal of this early 20th century new logic

of science was to decontaminate science of metaphysics
and to submit all concepts and statements of science to a
rigorous, logical analysis. In this way, speculative philosophy is rejected, and philosophy becomes analytic. The verifiability principle of meaning assumes that anything that
cannot be seen or measured is consigned to the realm of
speculation, and a distinction is made between the context
of discovery (when a problem is identified in the subjective
realm) and the context of justification (when the problem is
submitted to objective analysis). Descriptive, qualitative
research that supposedly functions in the context of discovery is considered pre-scientific. The emphasis on measurement in logical empiricism makes a distinction between
epistemology and evidence and assumes that measurements
can be precise and are not theory-laden and subject to further interpretation. A measurement is brute data, the final
evidence, irrefutable proof.
Importantly, it is assumed that scientific methods can not
only identify and describe existing laws in both the natural
and social worlds using the same rigorous methods but can
also predict new laws not yet observed. Predictive capacity
using causal relations and context-free theories is a mark of
logical empiricism. The narrative of logical empiricism
(though logical empiricism rejects narrative as not verifiable by empirical fact) is to measure, explain, predict, and
then control.

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St. Pierre
Another tenet of logical empiricism is incrementalism,
the idea that knowledge steadily accumulates and corrects
itself over time producing a secure, uniform foundation of
scientific truththus does science progress. From incrementalism comes the threat of a gap in knowledge, a
breach in its foundation that science must fill. We use logical empiricism when we ask students to identity a gap in the
literature their studies will address. Ironically, in the
Structure of Scientific Revolutionsthe last of the 19 volumes of the logical empiricists imposing Encyclopedia of
Unified Science, Kuhn (1962/1970) discredited incrementalismalong with logical empiricism itself and the idea of
unified science more broadlyexplaining that the persistent tendency to make the history of science look linear or
cumulative (p. 140) is problematic and mostly an effect of
textbooks that describe science in a narrative like the following: One by one, in a process often compared to the
addition of bricks to a building, scientists have added
another fact, concept, law, or theory to the body of information supplied in the contemporary science text (p. 140). In
other words, as the history of science is written and re-written, it ignores conflict and failure and inconsistency. What
was a scientific fact in the normal science of one paradigm
is no longer thinkable in another.
In logical empiricism, language, too, must be objective,
and scientists are expected to use exact, precise, scientific
language that unambiguously represents the empirical fact
observed (see Ayer, 1936). Haack (2007) described early
logical empiricisms understanding of language as follows:
There are only two kinds of meaningful statement: the analytic,
including the statements of logic and mathematics, and the
empirically verifiable, including the statements of empirical
science. Anything else is, cognitively speaking, nonsense, an
expression of emotion at best. Much of traditional philosophy
metaphysics, ethics, aestheticswas discarded, along with
theology, as meaningless verbiage or bad poetry. If philosophy
was not to be abandoned altogether, it had to be re-invented;
and so it was, as the logic of science. (p. 32)

Under the influence of this new logic, logical empiricism

was organized as philosophy of science during the middle of
the 20th century.
It is always dangerous to group scholars who disagree
with each other under a single rubric like logical empiricism; however, as I have written (St. Pierre, 2006), the following ideas appear across their work:
The rejection of metaphysics (non-observable, non-measurable,
speculative and critical ideas such as those of Freud and Marx);
that methodology should demarcate scientific reasoning
(positive, context of justification) from non-scientific reasoning
(normative, context of discovery); the use of unambiguous
language; the use of prescribed, exact, formal methods,
preferably mathematical; a belief in a unified theory of science

that rejects a division between the natural and social sciences

(logical positivism posits that the methodological procedures
of natural science may be directly applied to the social
sciences); the idea that the purpose of science is to provide new
laws that help make new predictions; that observability entails
objective, re-producible experiments; a belief in incrementalism,
the idea that knowledge steadily accumulates, and the
verifiability principle of meaning (the idea that only that which
can be seen and measured is valuablee.g. a sense datum, a
brute datum that is not subject to further interpretation,
judgment, or contingency). (p. 493)

In addition, logical empiricism relies heavily on the objectivity of the Cartesian cogito, rational procedure, sanctioned research practices, clarification of whatever appears
confused, and, importantly, the assumption that the human
is separate from and superior to the non-human. In logical
empiricism, the world exists separate from human beings
as an objective entity that can be known in its entirety.
Science can test theories using independent empirical evidence and can identify phenomenon through observation
and measurement and then describe them using unambiguous scientific language. Sensory experience, not speculation, is the basis for knowledge. At the beginning of his
critique of positivism, Habermas (1968/1971) wrote that,
though empiricism is classified as a form of epistemology,
logical positivism/logical empiricism separated itself from
Positivism marks the end of the theory of knowledge
[epistemology]. In its place emerges the philosophy of science
. . . Positivism is philosophical only insofar as it is necessary
for the immunization of the sciences against philosophy . . . [it]
stands and falls with the principle of scientism, that is that the
meaning of knowledge is defined by what the sciences do and
can thus be adequately explicated through the methodological
analysis of scientific procedures. (p. 67)

In effect, science becomes the final arbiter of knowledge

and removes itself from epistemological self-reflection.
Habermas believed that, in that move, positivism succumbed to the same sentence of extravagance and meaninglessness that it once passed on metaphysics (p. 67).
From a Marxist standpoint, Novack (1968) wrote that logical empiricism impoverished empiricism, and he called it
the degradation of empirical philosophy (p. 107).
As I wrote earlier, conventional humanist qualitative
methodology draws heavily on phenomenology. However,
its methods-driven approach also draws heavily on logical
empiricism. When qualitative researchers write subjectivity statements to identity their bias, when they employ
triangulation to hone in on the truth, and when they believe
that member checks will correct discrepancies in their interpretations, they rely on logical empiricisms presumed
objectivity to produce truth. When they use the concept

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Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies 16(2)

data collection, they assume that data are somehow independent of them such that they can be collected, thus
adopting the human/non-human divide of logical empiricism. When they code data, they assume that words can
contain and close off meaning (essences) that can be identified and subsumed into categories, adopting logical empiricisms view of language. When they forego narrative and
description in their social science research reports and present data as one would in a natural science report, they emulate logical positivism.
It is ironic that qualitative methodology, which was
invented as an interpretive critique of logical empiricism,
should now be shot through with positivist concepts and
practices. It is especially troublesome that within one qualitative study, a researcher will mobilize the incompatible
approaches of both phenomenology and logical empiricism,
which, I believe, speaks to our failure to teach and study
empiricism. When philosophy is separated from science,
when inquiry is reduced to methodology and method to
technique, when one has determined how to proceed before
one begins, it is not surprising that the results are too often
inconsequential, low-level, impoverished findings that
have little explanatory power.
But the ideas described in both phenomenology and logical empiricism, with which we are so familiar, the ideas we
are taught in social science research methodology courses
and read in methodology textbooks, are not thinkable in the
image of thought Deleuze and Guattari called transcendental empiricism.

Transcendental Empiricism
Unlike the logical empiricists who rejected metaphysics
and scholars like Derrida who wanted to overthrow metaphysics, Smith (2012) explained that Deleuze said in an
interview, I consider myself to be a pure metaphysician
(p. 182). Deleuze wanted to rethink metaphysics entirely,
and he certainly rethought empiricism. The name of his
empiricismtranscendental empiricism or superior empiricism or radical empiricismdescribed in Difference and
Repetition (1968/1994) and The Logic of Sense (1969/1990)
can be misleading because it refers neither to transcendental
philosophies like those of Plato and Kant nor to the abstract
thought of classical empiricism. Plato argued that if we find
justice in the imperfect, temporal, empirical world of sensation, there must be a perfect, eternal, abstract form, Justice,
which gives justice its meaning. In this model, Justice is the
essence of all material, transient, imperfect instantiations of
justice. In his transcendental philosophy, Kant argued that
rather than assuming that objects conform to our own, to
human, cognitionthat human synthesis of the empirical
produces the worldwe could analyze a priori (transcendental) structures or categories of the mind (intuition) that
condition sense experience. Bryant (2009) wrote that for

Kant, the aim is both to discover all the conditions for all
possible experience and the limits of knowledge (p. 29).
The problem for Deleuze was that both Plato and Kant
traced the transcendental from the empirical; in other words,
the transcendental is in the image of, and in resemblance
to, that which it is supposed to ground (p. 31). Deleuze did
not believe this transcendental empirical doubling
(Rajchman, 2001, p. 17)this mimetic link, this repetition,
the copy theory of truth, the logic of representation
allowed the production of something different, something
new. For Deleuze, this transcendental was a closed system
and not transcendental enough (Bryant, 2008, p. 22).
Unlike Kant, Deleuze (1968/1994) was interested in the
conditions of real experience (p. 154) in all its peculiarities and in how specific phenomena are generated without
the human, without the synthesizing rationality of the
human subjects reliance on a priori categories or concepts
to identify/sense something in the worldthat is, the model
of recognition that grounds the logic of representation. It is
also a static model, which assumes that the conditions of
the thing resemble the thing (Bryant, 2009, p. 36). Deleuze
broke the link of resemblance in the law of representation
and posited genetic conditions that do not resemble what
they produce in order to enable something new to come
into existence.
For this reason, he is credited with the restoration of the
empiricalwith attending to the concrete richness of the
sensible (Deleuze & Parnet, 1977/1987, p. 54) as it exists
for-itself, not in relation to the human or to a priori categories. Bryant (2008) wrote that, in Deleuzes empiricism,
the conditions of experience are no broader than that which
they condition, they are unique to that which they condition.
Finally, it follows from this that they are conditions of real
rather than all possible experience, since they are no broader
than that which they condition. (p. 62)

In classical empiricism, the given (sensation) is primary and

the source of truth; but in Deleuzes transcendental empiricism, the focus shifts to the conditions that make it given.
So Deleuzes different model of genetic conditions that
produce the real refutes the representational model of
thought in which the real exists because the human subject
recognizes it based on a transcendent version of the real.
Thus, Deleuzes empirical model refuses the double conditioning of the transcendent/real, essence/appearance model
in which the transcendent and the real are always linked,
always conditioning each other, always bound to each
other. That model is based on internal relations in which
the transcendent and the real mirror each othera model
of identity.
In Deleuzes transcendental empiricism, things come
into existence in external relations under different genetic
conditions. Deleuzes genetic conditions are movements,

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St. Pierre
speeds, and intensities that come together like the toss of
the dice (Deleuze, 2006, p. 351), never to exist again. They
produce empirical events, what Stagoll (2010) called the
potential immanent within a particular confluence of forces
(p. 90). As Baugh (1992) explained,

Deleuze (1968/1994) explained that difference is

behind everything, but behind difference there is nothing
(p. 57). Difference is primary and does not rely on any relation for its existence. Deleuze wrote,

coming into existence is not a transition from the possible (the

concept) to the real (its instantiation), but the production of
something new by already existing forces entering into new
relations through chance encounters, where these encounters
are nevertheless the extrinsically determined effects of previous
encounters. (p. 139)

Difference is not diversity. Diversity is given, but difference is

that by which the given is given, that by which the given is
given as diverse . . . Every phenomenon refers to an inequality
by which it is conditioned. Everything which happens and
everything which appears is correlated with orders of
difference: differences of level, temperature, pressure, tension,
potential, difference of intensity. (p. 222)

This is an example of Deleuzes project to invent an experimentalism, which, instead of asking for conditions of possible experience, would look for the conditions under which
something new, as yet unthought, arises (Rajchman, 2001,
p. 17).
The focus shifts from identifying the characteristics of the
thing (what is this?) to its genetic conditions (how is this possible?) and from a closed system that relies on internal relations that establish resemblance and identity to an open system
of external relations that enable difference through chance and
unstable connections. Deleuze was interested in genetic conditions grounded in the conjunction and and external relations, connections that are unpredictable (anything could
connect to anything) rather than in the verb to be that
requires a stable internal relation to establish identitythis is
that (so another relation is not possible, for example, this cannot be that).
But how is it possible to imagine genetic, productive conditions of external relations that enable difference and the
possibility of the new? First, Deleuze rethought difference.
He did not accept the classical description of difference in
which difference is subordinated to the Same, the Similar,
to the Opposed or to the Analogous (Deleuze, 1968/1994,
p. xvi). He imagined a different difference, not difference
from something else (a negative relation between already
existing things), nor difference in relation to identity, nor difference subordinated to resemblanceall internal relationsbut pure difference (Deleuze, 1968/1994, p. xx),
difference in itself (p. xix), ontological Difference (p.
ix), difference without negation (p. xx), absolute difference (p. 9). This difference does not refer to transcendence
nor is it based on representational logic. It is difference that
has become independent of the negative and liberated from
the identical (Deleuze, 1968/1994, p. xx). This difference is
internal to every aspect of reality, what makes an entity particular or unique, given but new and different. In Deleuzes
transcendental empiricism, every moment, every individual, every event is absolutely new and singular: Being is different, that is, it is the inexhaustible creation of difference,
the constant production of the new, the incessant genesis of
the singular (Smith, 2012, p. 185).

It is through intensity, intensity in an encounter, a conjunction (Deleuze & Guattari, 1991/1994, p. 93) that thought
comes to us. Forces in the world overtake us in an encounter, and something in the world forces us to think
(Deleuze, 1968/1994, p. 139). Thought does not originate in
human recognition nor can an established method compel
us to think. The reason of the sensible, the condition of that
which appears, is not space and time but the Unequal in
itself, disparateness as it is determined and comprised in
difference of intensity, of intensity as difference (p. 223).
Where are pure difference and intensity as difference to
be found? For Deleuze (1969/1990), presubjective, prepersonal intensities exist on an immanent transcendental
field (p. 98) that is no longer of the form, but neither is it
that of the formless: it is rather of the unformed (p. 107)
but still determinable. Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987)
make it very clear that in no sense, of course, is unformed
matter chaos of any kind (p. 56). Deleuze and Deleuze
with Guattari together called this field, variously, the plane
of immanence, plane of consistency, pure difference, body
without organs, abstract machine, and so on. Deleuze
(1983/1986) also called it the plane of matter (p. 61). In
What Is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari (1991/1994)
described philosophy as the creation of concepts, like those
listed above, and the laying out of a plane (p. 36, emphasis added) that calls forth new concepts.
As already explained, unlike Descartes, they did not lay
out a plane that begins from the point of view of a subjective certainty (I think; therefore, I am). They asked, first,
does thought have to begin at all? Second, they asked, Can
thought as such be the verb of an I? (p. 27)does all begin
with the human? Instead of assuming there is a beginning, a
point of origin, Deleuze (1970/1988) wrote, one never
commences; one never has a tabula rasa; one slips in, enters
in the middle; one takes up or lays down rhythms (p. 123).
The plane of immanence, then, does not begin with the
necessity of human consciousness, human thought, or of
any necessity. Again, it is pre-individual, pre-consciousness, pre-conceptual, formless, depthlessbut not inert. It
is an extensive continuum of movement, forces, speeds, and
intensities of the virtual that has not yet become actual. For

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Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies 16(2)

Deleuze, the virtual and actual are both real. Importantly,
this transcendental plane, the plane of immanence, is not
immanent to anything. If it were, it would reinstate the transcendent and the model of representation. The plane of
immanence has no outside. It is destratified, decoded,
absolutely deterritorialized matter (Bogue, 1989, p. 132)
everywhere present, everywhere first and primary, always
immanent (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 70). The
plane of immanence is prior to subjects and objects, prephilosophical, a-conceptualpure differencean absolute
immanent milieu from which differentiation occurs, providing the conditions under which something new is produced (Deleuze & Parnet, 1977/1987, p. vii).
The plane of immanence is constituted of nomadic singularities and thus of anti-generalities, which are however
impersonal and pre-individual, [and] must serve as our
hypothesis for the determination of this domain and its
genetic power [emphasis added] (Deleuze, 1969/1990, p.
99). Here, a singularity is opposed to a generality. The distributions and reshufflings of singularities (p. 175) or free
intensities (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 40) or spatiotemporal haecceities (p. 405) on this transcendental
field provide the genetic conditions for the individuation of
individuals. An individual is any entityconsciousness,
matter, a person, a concept, a time of day, a rose, weather, a
flock of sheep, a landscape. Deleuze avoided the problem of
tracing the transcendent from the empirical because singularities or potentials are nomadic movements that are contingent and unstable. In the topology of the flat plane of
immanence, a singularity is a point on its surface, an intensity that has the potential to actualize an entity. Each singularity is the source of a series extending in a determined
direction right up to the vicinity of another singularity
(Deleuze, 1969/1990, p. 53) and a world therefore is constituted on the condition that series converge (p. 110). The
movements of singularities, chance concatenations of
forces (Baugh, 1992, p. 140), are the genetic conditions of
the entity but bear no resemblance to what is individuated
and actualized because the conditions immediately disappear in movementthey cannot be replicated. The chance
movements of intensities by which actuality is produced
are, then, its genetic history, its difference.
Again, these genetic, empirical conditions, constellations of singularities, chance encounters of unformed matter of pure speeds and intensities at the limits of
deterritorialization, produce a particular actuality, the
thing itself, and then disappear. But we do not have two
separate ontological realmsa transcendental realm and
an empirical realm. The transcendental field is composed
of external relations of the unformed that are expressed in
empirical states of affairsall exist on the same plane of
Once an entity is actualized, it is at risk of being captured
by strata, of being normalized, stratifiedbecoming

ordinary. Deleuze does not oppose the true and the false but
the singular and the ordinary.
The plane of consistency knows nothing of differences in level,
orders of magnitude, or distances. It knows nothing of the
distinction between contents and expressions, or that between
forms and formed substances; these things exist only by means
of and in relation to the strata. (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987,
pp. 69-70)

Mechanisms or apparatuses of capture (Deleuze & Guattari,

1980/1987) territorialize the new and singular. Unifications
and totalizations, massifications, mimetic mechanisms signifying power takeovers and subjective attributions (p. 13)
take place on strata, which Deleuze and Guattari describe as
Layers, Belts. They consist of giving form to matters, of
imprisoning intensities or locking singularities into systems
of resonance and redundancy (p. 40) even though strata are
always cracking and crumbling.
Assemblages, mulitplicities or aggregates of intensities (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 15), are in danger
of being captured by strata. One side of the assemblage
faces the strata, which tries to signify and totalize it, and the
other side faces the body without organs or plane of immanence, which constantly dismantles whatever is being stratified. Because strata separate us from the plane of
immanence, Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987) recommended we tip the most favorable assemblage from its side
facing the strata to its side facing the plane of consistency or
the body without organs (p. 134) or the plane of immanence in order to destratify, deterritorialize, and let intensities circulate once again. Our task is to follow lines of flight
that blow apart strata, cut roots, and make new connections (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 15). They wrote,
Experiment, dont signify and interpret! (p. 139). Avoid
the strata that stratify thought and being; instead, let thought
and being unfurl on the plane of immanence where anything
can happen.
Precisely because the plane of immanence is prephilosophical
and does not immediately take effect with concepts, it implies
a sort of groping experimentation [emphasis added]and its
layout resorts to measures that are not very respectable,
rational, or reasonable. These measures belong to the order of
dream, of pathological processes, esoteric experiences,
drunkenness, and excess. We head for the horizon, on the plane
of immanence, and we return with bloodshot eyes, yet they are
the eyes of the mind. (Deleuze & Guattari, 1991/1994, p. 41)

Deleuzes and Deleuze with Guattaris topological ontology, their flat plane of existence, the plane of immanence
they laid out, called forth many concepts. Some we recognizerhizome, singularity, transcendental, eventbut their
meaning is different because they are used in a different ontological arrangement and in a different empiricism. Other

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St. Pierre
concepts may be new or unfamiliarbody without organs,
abstract machine, lines of flight. Deleuze and Guattari did not
define concepts, and they often used concepts interchangeably, as illustrated by all the different concepts listed earlier
for plane of immanence. This practice is similar to Derridas
refusal to privilege a signifier into transcendencein his
case difference itselfby using a chain of words where each
may be substituted for the other, but not exactly: . . . trace,
difference, reserve, supplement, dissemination, hymen,
greffe, pharmakon, pareregon (Spivak, 1974, p. lxx).
Furthermore, a concept that appears primary in one text, like
sense in The Logic of Sense (Deleuze, 1969/1990), mostly
disappears from later work.
But it is important to remember that Deleuzes and
Deleuze with Guattaris concepts should not be used casually because each brings with it the entire system of thought
in which it is thinkable. In other words, concepts enabled by
one plane will not work on a different plane. For example,
using rhizome, a concept from transcendental empiricism,
to code data, a conceptual practice of logical empiricism,
just doesnt work and, I believe, indicates epistemological
and empirical confusion, even incommensurability.
Likewise, trying to identify parts that make up an assemblage would indicate a misunderstanding of that concept.
Most importantly, transcendental empiricism is a radical empiricism because it is not an epistemological project.
As Hein (2015) explained, it is the experience of the plane
of immanence (p. 7). Again, classical empiricism is an
epistemology that claims that sensation, the given, is the
origin of ideas and that knowledge is built up through our
impressions of the sensory world. But, as Baugh (1992)
explained, if the empirical is pure actuality, the pure here
and now that falls outside of the concept and outside of the
Idea [outside the given], then it is without content from the
standpoint of conceptual knowledge (p. 135). In fact,
Deleuze seldom used the word epistemology in his work.
So it would not make sense for a researcher to begin (as
if one begins) a study using transcendental empiricism with
the aim of producing new knowledge that will fill a gap in
existing knowledge. That would be the aim of logical
empiricism. Nor would one design (are research designs
thinkable?) a transcendental empirical study whose aim is
to study things in themselves, the given, as they appear to us
in and are conditioned by our consciousness. That would be
the aim of phenomenology. It seems to me that our conventional social science research methodologies do not encourage the kind of experimentation Deleuze and Deleuze with
Guattari recommended. Unfortunately, it is typical for
social science researchers to reduce the complexity of a
study to fit existing categories of a pre-existing, systematic,
legitimate research process. One cannot experiment as long
as one is tried to a dogmatic image of thought (Deleuze,
1962/1983, p. 103) that supports the view that thought
needs a method, an artifice which enables the thinker to

ward off error . . . there is no basis for a conception of

method (Patton, 2000, p. 19). Method belongs to the strata.

Thoughts About Empiricisms

In this article, I explained that, in epistemology, empiricism
is set against rationalism as opposing approaches to producing knowledge. Rationalists believe knowledge can be produced through thought alone, but empiricists believe
knowledge must be grounded in sensation. I then briefly
described two empiricisms commonly used in social science research, the empiricism of phenomenology and logical empiricism. I argued that these empiricisms and their
research methodologies have become normalized and
accepted as legitimate approaches to producing valid
knowledge. I also observed that, even though they are
incommensurable, they are often used together in a single
qualitative research study or in a single mixed methods
I speculated that these confusions are possible because,
given the instrumental demands of neoliberalism and neopositivism and resulting pressure to get data and produce
knowledge, social science researchers bypass the study of
the history and politics of empiricism, epistemology more
generally, and ontology in their rush to application. In other
words, social science researchers apply empiricisms before
they understand the assumptions and limits of the larger
systems of thought in which they exist. Methods-driven
research seems to be the norm as discipline after discipline
is scientized, perpetuating the distinction between philosophy and science. Social science disciplines such as psychology, economics, political science, and sociology have long
been scientized, else why would these bodies of knowledge
and practice focused on people be called social sciences?
Educationwhich has never quite been a social science
was, nonetheless, scientized at the beginning of the 21st
century during a neopositivist restoration. What Stewart
(2015) recently called the horrible social sciences seem
determined to focus on knowledge productionand a particular kind of knowledgeno matter what.
The tendency to rush to application is especially problematic in the recent ontological turn, especially because
much of the work uses, or tries to use, Deleuzes and
Deleuze with Guattaris transcendental empiricism, the
third empiricism I briefly reviewed in this article. Given
that Deleuzes transcendental empiricism is an attempt to
formalize an ontology (Bryant, 2008, p. 12), this empiricism is not an epistemological projectit is not even an
empiricism in the traditional senseand it cannot be used
in conventional ways in conventional social science
research methodologies. Thus, it is imperative to study
Deleuzes and Deleuze with Guattaris philosophy before
applying transcendental empiricism. In fact, the relation
between transcendental empiricism, which is not grounded

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Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies 16(2)

in the human subject of humanism, and conventional
humanist social science research is not at all clear. It is difficult to imagine how the normalized concepts and conceptual practices of humanist research methodologies can be
thought together with Deleuzian concepts premised on preindividual, impersonal, pre-conscious, formless, virtual
forces and intensities. The idea that one can design a study
using Deleuzian concepts appears nonsensical. Typical
social science research methods and practices (e.g., experiment, interview, observation) are also dependent on the
humanist subject, not the Deleuzian subject whose goal is to
become imperceptible. Typical social science research concepts (e.g., data, research design, data analysis, measurement, researcher) are also grounded in the humanist subject.
In Deleuzian empiricism, such normalized concepts and
practices condition a study in advance and tie it to the strata.
In transcendental empiricism, concepts and practices are
invented in encounters of events in the context of the problem whose conditions they determine (Deleuze, 1969/1990,
p. 54) and so cannot be determined in advance.
It seems to me that transcendental empiricism insists we
study Deleuzes and Deleuze with Guattaris philosophy,
demands that we read and read and read until its concepts
overtake us and help us lay out a plane that enables lines of
flight to what we have not yet been able to think and live.
How we do this different kind of inquiry is not at all clear,
but I doubt it resembles conventional social science
research. I expect it looks more like philosophy.
It also seems to me that those of us who have been welltrained as social science researchers using the empiricisms
of phenomenology and of logical empiricism will have to
try to forget our training. No doubt, that will be difficult
initially. But here I am reminded of Foucaults (as cited in
Racevskis, 1987) comment that we need to free thought
from what it thinks silently and to allow it to think otherwise (p. 22). Rather than relying on thought already
thought or on method already determined, we might follow
Deleuze (1968/1994) and trust that something in the world
forces us to think (p. 139) and that such an encounter might
bring into being that which does not yet exist (there is no
other work, all the rest is arbitrary, mere decoration) (p.
147). The assumptions and milieu of this image of thought
might enable the new that is everywhere, immanent but
not yet actualized.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with
respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this

The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Author Biography
Elizabeth A. St. Pierre is Professor of Critical Studies in the
Educational Theory and Practice Department and Affiliated
Professor of both the Interdisciplinary Qualitative Research Program
and the Institute of Womens Studies at the University of Georgia.
Her work focuses on theories of language and the subject from critical and poststructural theories in what she has called post qualitative
inquirywhat might come after conventional humanist qualitative
research methodology. Shes especially interested in the new empiricisms and new materialisms enabled by the ontological turn.

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