Overview[ edit ] Bhaskar developed a general philosophy of science that he described as transcendental realism and a special philosophy of the human sciences that he called critical naturalism. The two terms were combined by other authors to form the umbrella term critical realism. Transcendental realism attempts to establish that in order for scientific investigation to take place, the object of that investigation must have real, manipulable, internal mechanisms that can be actualized to produce particular outcomes. This is what we do when we conduct experiments.
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For a short introduction see: Margaret Archer, Claire Decoteau. Philip Gorski. Perspectives, , 38, 2 , pp. It does so through an inverted Kantian transcendental argument which asks, what must the world be like for knowledge of the world to be possible? So, in order to maintain the intelligibility of scientific understanding, particularly the fallibility and transformation of human knowledge, it holds we must separate epistemology knowledge, systems, thoughts, ideas, theories, language… from ontology being, things, ontics, existents, reality, objects of investigation.
Against this, Bhaskar not only argues for the need to do ontology, but for a structured and differentiated ontology which is necessarily presupposed by scientific practice, and in particular, the practice of scientific experimentation.
The basic tenets and logic of this argument are simple enough, but the implications extend to a radical revision of the nature of causal laws as expressing the transfactual tendencies of things, and science as investigating mechanisms and not events in an open, and not closed world. Real structures exists independently of, and are out of phase with, actual patterns of events necessitating the need to perform experimentation so that scientists might make sense of their operation in a controlled and non-complex environment that is a relatively closed environment.
This is true of closed systems in which event 2 always follows from event 1. Most of reality is not a closed system, it is what we call an open-system. In the open system, constant conjunctions are not always forthcoming. Event 2 does not always follow event 1: we simply need to consider history and social situations to realise this, however it is also true in science. Reality does not conform to the constant conjunction of events.
Similarly reality does not conform to our experience of events. What is happening now, has happened, or will happen, is not exhausted by our knowledge or experience, nor does it exhaust the categories and possibilities of reality. Reality is complex, temporal, and changing. Causality is thereby understood as operating transfactually, that is the ongoing operation of, and endurance of, these mechanisms apart from the experimentally closed conditions in which they are observed and identified.
The basis of causal law lay in the generative mechanisms of nature, of which we do not have direct, only mediated, experience. These mechanisms are said to operate in both open and closed systems but are of course more identifiable in closed systems and may also be exercised without being manifest RTS It is thus the powers and potentials of objects i.
My strategy in developing an answer to this question will be effectively based on a pincer movement. But in deploying the pincer I shall concentrate first on the ontological question of the properties that societies possess, before shifting to the epistemological question of how these properties make them possible objects of knowledge for us.
This is not an arbitrary order of development. It reflects the condition that, for transcendental realism, it is the nature of objects that determines their cognitive possibilities for us; that, in nature, it is humanity that is contingent and knowledge, so to speak, accidental.
PON 25 In particular, critical naturalism seeks to resolve the dualisms prevalent in social science, namely, structure and agency, collectivism and individualism, reification and voluntarism, causes and reason, body and mind, facts and values.
Regarding structure and agency, and following Durkheim, critical realism holds structure precedes human agency in so far as it provides the material causes of human action. We are always thrown into a socio-linguistic-epistemic context in which we must act. But following Weber, the structures of society must not be reified, but operate through the mediation of human agency and social activity.
And praxis is both work, that is, conscious production, and normally unconscious reproduction of the conditions of production, that is society. One could refer to the former as the duality of structure, and the later as the duality of praxis PN People do not simply create society, for it pre-exists them and is the necessary condition for their activity.
The champion of the day, structuration theory, sought to unite certain functionalist and interactive traditions without derogating the lay actor. However as Archer was to highlight this attempt at duality resulted in an uncontrolled oscillation between moments of structural determinism in which the agent appeared as powerless and passive, and moments of extreme voluntarism in which the agent appeared as completely self-created.
At the heart of this was a collapse of analytic dualism which can be represented as an immediacy or a lack of distance and differentiation between moments in which structures are reproduced and moments in which structures are transformed.
Notably, in Giddens this meant structures were by and large atemporal and synchronic without much thought given to how the transformation of social structures by agents is possible. Archer argued that the morphogenetic approach coupled with an analytic dualism was a much better footing for social theory. Given any particular problem, understood temporally , the three lines all extend equally backwards and forwards, connecting up with other morphogenetic cycles. This approach has been refined and further developed by Archer in her many works, elaborating the mechanisms of social transformation, the vital role of the internal conversation, and the analytic necessity of understand the social world as consisting of structure, agency, and culture SAC , and most recently, the role of reflexivity in the modern world.
Notably, in 20th century philosophy, this finds expression in the linguistic fallacy which brackets off being to questions about language. They are said to be transfactual because they can be isolated and express themselves within a closed system structured by human intervention, when they may not act, or act differently within open systems.
Key Texts Margaret Archer et.
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The Possibility of Naturalism : A philosophical critique of the contemporary human sciences
Critical realism (philosophy of the social sciences)