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Knowable opportunities in an unknowable future?: On the epistemological paradoxes of entrepreneurship theory

Knowable opportunities in an unknowable future?: On the epistemological paradoxes of entrepreneurship theory
Knowable opportunities in an unknowable future?: On the epistemological paradoxes of entrepreneurship theory
It is often assumed that opportunities can be known ex ante in spite of the fact that the future is simultaneously acknowledged to be unknowable. This paper endeavors to resolve this epistemological paradox in a manner that facilitates a more meaningful treatment of the knowledge problems of entrepreneurship. To this end, we draw from linguistic philosophy and undertake three interrelated analytical steps at the conceptual foundations of entrepreneurship theory. First, we clarify subtle logical aspects underlying the meaningful use of the word “uncertainty” qua unknowability. When properly used, uncertainty reflects the epistemological assessment that enterprising actors may only believe – not know – that new ventures can succeed. When incorrectly used, uncertainty is misrepresented as an obstacle that can be overcome by some and not others. Second, we explain how prevalent linguistic practices (“opportunity discovery”, “opportunity recognition”) lie at the root of epistemological tensions in opportunity theory. They act as a distorting mirror that trivializes the unknowability of the future and nourishes impressions of mental agencies allowing entrepreneurs to know the unknowable. Third, we urge a more nuanced understanding of the knowledge problems of entrepreneurship. On the one hand, we submit that opportunities are ineliminably unknowable. On the other hand, however, we argue that there exist knowable Opportunity-Ingredients (OIs) whose knowability varies across contexts. These analytical developments further contribute to the ongoing “opportunity wars”, strengthen the epistemological foundations of opportunity-actualization, improve construct clarity, and reveal new possibilities for research.
Knightian uncertainty, Knowledge problems, Linguistic philosophy, Ontology/epistemology, Opportunity Ingredients, Opportunity actualization, Opportunity discovery, Principle of ineliminable unknowability
0883-9026
Ramoglou, Stratos
f3fffbf5-0f1f-46e1-93af-a13e18945610
Ramoglou, Stratos
f3fffbf5-0f1f-46e1-93af-a13e18945610

Ramoglou, Stratos (2021) Knowable opportunities in an unknowable future?: On the epistemological paradoxes of entrepreneurship theory. Journal of Business Venturing, 36 (2), [106090]. (doi:10.1016/j.jbusvent.2020.106090).

Record type: Article

Abstract

It is often assumed that opportunities can be known ex ante in spite of the fact that the future is simultaneously acknowledged to be unknowable. This paper endeavors to resolve this epistemological paradox in a manner that facilitates a more meaningful treatment of the knowledge problems of entrepreneurship. To this end, we draw from linguistic philosophy and undertake three interrelated analytical steps at the conceptual foundations of entrepreneurship theory. First, we clarify subtle logical aspects underlying the meaningful use of the word “uncertainty” qua unknowability. When properly used, uncertainty reflects the epistemological assessment that enterprising actors may only believe – not know – that new ventures can succeed. When incorrectly used, uncertainty is misrepresented as an obstacle that can be overcome by some and not others. Second, we explain how prevalent linguistic practices (“opportunity discovery”, “opportunity recognition”) lie at the root of epistemological tensions in opportunity theory. They act as a distorting mirror that trivializes the unknowability of the future and nourishes impressions of mental agencies allowing entrepreneurs to know the unknowable. Third, we urge a more nuanced understanding of the knowledge problems of entrepreneurship. On the one hand, we submit that opportunities are ineliminably unknowable. On the other hand, however, we argue that there exist knowable Opportunity-Ingredients (OIs) whose knowability varies across contexts. These analytical developments further contribute to the ongoing “opportunity wars”, strengthen the epistemological foundations of opportunity-actualization, improve construct clarity, and reveal new possibilities for research.

Text
JBV accepted 16.12.2020 - Accepted Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only until 30 January 2023.
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 16 December 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 30 January 2021
Published date: March 2021
Keywords: Knightian uncertainty, Knowledge problems, Linguistic philosophy, Ontology/epistemology, Opportunity Ingredients, Opportunity actualization, Opportunity discovery, Principle of ineliminable unknowability

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 445601
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/445601
ISSN: 0883-9026
PURE UUID: 7502f2e3-06db-4b36-ab14-e46371bb46c8
ORCID for Stratos Ramoglou: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-5134-5525

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 17 Dec 2020 17:31
Last modified: 10 Jan 2022 03:02

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