Critical Realism

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Defining Critical Realism

"Critical Realism" is a philosophical system that seeks to transform a "common-sense, down-to-earth, naturalistic" worldview into a defensible and useful technically correct (self-consistent) philosophy. It is an antidote to the absurdities and ridiculousness of relativist, deconstructionist Postmodernism. It is an endeavour, begun in the 1970s by Roy Bhaskar to develop a Realist philosophy free from the defects of "traditional", (naive) reductive, empirical realism. The original aims of (what became known as) Critical Realism, were set out in 1975 by Bhaskar as:

   1) To re-establish a realist view of being in the ontological domain while accepting the relativism of knowledge 
   as socially and historically conditioned in the epistemological domain.
   2) To argue for a critical naturalism in social science.

The phrase "relativism of knowledge as socially and historically conditioned" refers to the observation made by Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and others that, contrary to popular misconception, scientific knowledge is not the objective product of an objective, observation-based process. In fact, contrary to inductivist dogma, theory precedes empirical observation and every experiment or observation is "theory-laden" - ie presupposes a theory. This makes knowledge a cultural product formed by groups of "researchers" - a sociological product dependent on the group intersubjectivity. In this sense it - knowledge - is relative to the group or community that produced it - and not some pseudo-objective generalised observation produced by a person-independent process. This also makes such knowledge "path-history" dependent - ie on how the ideas have developed within the group.

Critical Realism or Transcendental Realism

Critical realism or Critical Naturalism

Critical Realism's Ontic Domains

In Bhaskar's "A Realist Theory Of Science", he identifies three "Domains of The Real" as a part of the fundamental ontology. These are depicted in the diagram below.

The EMPIRICAL: Events that are actually observed and experiencedThe ACTUAL: Events (and Non-Events) that are generated by the...The REAL: Mechanisms and Structures with Enduring PropertiesUNDEFINED
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The point of this conception is to exhibit human experience as having direct access to a very limited part of reality.