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According to O'Hara and Anderson (1991, p. 20), postmodern consciousness has been raised by "the cumulative effect of pluralism, democracy, religious freedom, consumerism, mobility, and increasing access to news and entertainment". As a consequence of these emerging global awareness, it becomes increasingly difficult to deny that there are many different worldviews, and that it is not at all clear why one's own should be better.

Polkinghorne (1992) defines postmodern thought as a reaction to the limits of modernist epistemology. Polkinghorne's notion of postmodern epistemology includes the following four basic themes:
(a) foundationlessness,
(b) fragmentariness,
(c) constructivism, and
(d) neopragmatism.
Foundationlessness, according to Polkinghorne (1992), refers to the notion that we human beings have no direct access to reality, but only to the product of our constructions. Thus, human knowledge is inevitably speculative, since we have no definite epistemic foundation on which to build it. This notion is a cornerstone of Kelly’s Psychology of Personal Constructs.

Fragmentariness refers to the postmodern emphasis on the local and situated, instead of the general and totalizing. According to Polkinghorne (1992, p. 149), "knowledge should be concerned with these local and specific occurrences, not with the search for context-free general laws". This point is also visible in PCP’s interest in personal meanings instead of general and disembodied notions.

Constructivism as Polkinghorne (1992) uses the term is closely related to foudationlessness, and refers to the notion that:
Human knowledge is not a mirrored reflection of reality, neither the reality of surface chaos nor that of (if they exist) universal structures. "Human knowledge is a construction built from the cognitive processes (which mainly operate out of awareness) and embodied interactions with the world of material objects, others and the self." (Polkinghorne, 1992, p. 150).

Neopragmatism according to Polkinghorne (1992) concentrates on local and applied knowledge. Polkinghorne's emphasis on pragmatic and situated knowledge is common to other proponents of a postmodern psychology, such as Gergen (1992), and Kvale (1992). The neopragmatic question is not whether a given proposition is true (i.e., is it an accurate representation of reality?) but whether accepting it as if it were true leads to the anticipated outcome. This point is also visible in PCP’s notion of anticipation.


Gergen, K.J. (1992). Toward a postmodern psychology. In S. Kvale (Ed.), Psychology and postmodernism (pp. 17-30). London: Sage.
Kvale, S. (1992). Postmodern psychology: A contradiction in terms? In S. Kvale (Ed.), Psychology and postmodernism (pp. 31-57). London: Sage.
O'Hara, M., & Anderson, W.T. (1991, September/October). Welcome to the postmodern world. Family Therapy Networker, 19-25.
Polkinghorne, D.E. (1992). Postmodern epistemology of practice. In S. Kvale (Ed.), Psychology and postmodernism (pp. 146-165). London: Sage.

Luis Botella

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004