What is critical realism?

What is critical realism?

Bhaskar’s critical realism emerged from the vision of realising an adequate realist philosophy of science, of social science, and of explanatory critique. As this unfolds in critical realism, it proceeds according to a two-fold critique against established positions. Firstly, against empirical realism (positivism) and transcendental idealism (constructivism), critical realism argues for the necessity of ontology. Being realist about ontology means being able to speak and understand being apart from human thought and language. It establishes that things exists apart from our experience and knowledge of those things.  Secondly, against the implicit ontology of the empiricists and idealists, it argues for a structured and differentiated account of reality in which difference, stratification and change is central. In short, critical realism argues for ontology, and for a new ontology.

Critical realism thus attempts to steer between the Scylla of naive realism on the one hand, and the Charybdis of idealism on the other.  Given this dynamism, it has become one of the major strands of scientific and social scientific methodology rivalling positivism, empiricism,  post structuralism, relativism, and interpretivism (hermeneuticism).  

It is generally maintained that there are three movements of critical realism so far,

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