Rom Harré. Biografia

Rom Harré è nato in Nuova Zelanda il 18 dicembre del 1927. Ha completato i propri studi all’Università di Auckland ed ha svolto la funzione di istruttore di fisica presso il King's College, dal 1948 al 1953. Nel 1956 ad Oxford, dove ha condotto i propri studi post universitari in filosofia, ha ottenuto il proprio B.Phil.. Fino al 1960 Harré ha insegnato matematica e scienze in numerose scuole inglesi e pachistane, anno in cui è entrato nel dipartimento di filosofia e scienza di Oxford. Harré svolge inoltre la funzione di professore aggiunto presso la cattedra di Psicologia della Georgetown University di Washington.

(da narrative psychology)

As a student in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Robin Hodgkin remembers joining her peers at Oxford to hear lectures by a brilliant philosophy don, Rom Harré. In those days of cultural shifts and political dissent -- both student-led and government-inspired -- Harré warned of a different upheaval, a "Kuhnian revolution (`Copernican', he said) that was beginning to undermine our current positivist, mechanistic understanding of science. The crisis had become most acute in the social sciences and so we must free ourselves from the chains which this kind of thinking about people and society imposed. Instead of men and women and children being seen primarily as `subjects' whose behaviour was caused by two or three measurable variables we, sapient organisms, should be seen and studied as agents or persons with unique (but problematic) potentialities, hopes, liabilities, interests. Further, we enrich ourselves and our communities by giving `accounts'--stories--about our lives and our imaginings." (Hodgkin, 1992, p. 101). In reviewing the Festschrift assembled to honor Harré two decades later (Bhaskar, 1990), Hodgkin here points to his early prophetic and insightful role as one of the crucial figures who fostered the shift of thinking toward a narratively-attuned psychology.

Harré's scholarly program in both philosophy and psychology is simply too large to summarize here. As recalled by Hodgkin (1992) and germane to this guide, he outlined the contours and implications of the "discursive turn" in social science from his perspective as a philosopher and historian of modern science. He dates the emergence of the discursive perspective to the late 1980s (Harré & Gillett, 1994, p. vii); yet, he notes that the broad intellectual work leading to this position stretches back at least to the early 1920s to figures like G. H. Mead. He characterizes the turn as a "second cognitive revolution" in which psychology returned to "the study of active people, singly or in groups, using material and symbolic tools to accomplishy all sorts of projects according to local standards of correctness" (Harré, 1995, p. 144; see Harré & Gillett, 1994, pp. 18-36 for a fuller description of this "second cognitive revolution."). In another place his argument is more succinct: "in this universe, there are people performing discursive acts and there are material poles and charges. That is all." (Harré, 2002, p. 144).

Discourse which Harré understands expansively not only as language but a host of symbolic and gestural activities is what people do. He criticizes many social theorists for dichotomizing the world into discursive descriptions of social life on one side and a collection of reified social objects so described on the other. This practice stems from what he terms the fallacies of "misplaced efficacy" and "projection". Thus, the fact that we can fashion concepts which summarily describe regularities of social life does not mean that those concepts (e.g., social structure, class status, etc.) cause or affect individuals or groups to do anything. On the contrary, following the lead of Wittgenstein, "[w]ords, the bearers of concepts, are not related to our experience as names are to things. Rather they are to be studied as instruments or tools; used in complex practical activities through which our experiences are expressed in public conduct." (Harré, 1995, pp. 148-149)