critical realism

(2014) – 7 min video of roy bhaskar talking about critical realism:

cr is first/foremost a philosophy concerned w ontology which is the study of being

so this concern to argue that you couldn’t reduce statements about the world (ontology).. to statements about our knowledge of the world (epistemology).. and the attempt to do so was called the epistemic fallacy

at the same time it argues against the implicit ontology of mainstream philosophy .. which pictured the world as unstructured, unindifferentiated, and unchanging.. it put forward a view of reality as structured, differentiated and changing

1 min – turing to the social sciences.. it argued that social structure was a necessary conditions and always preexisted any round of agency but human agency was necessary.. in turn .. for the reproduction/transformation of social structure

the concept of agency itself is very important to cr’s they see mind as an emergent part of matter.. and reasons as causally efficacious in producing actions

2 min – the conception of society was further developed thru the notion of full play in a social being.. which is the idea that all social events occur simultaneously.. on four plains.. these are the plains with nature.. social interactions between people.. social structure.. and the stratification of the embodied personality

einstein’s dreams et al..

what we need is  a leap.. to getback/to  simultaneous  spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..

if you think about the four plains today.. see that we’re obviously in crisis at all four plains

this is why we need to let go enough to see deeper..

and the crisis at these 4 plains provides one of the themes.. for this year’s conference .. which i’ll discuss w you at the end

so we’ve discussed cr as a philosophy of science and and a philosophy of social science.. but ontology was developed thru a notion thru 7 levels of ontology.. and i just want to focus on two in particular

level 2: dialectical cr.. notions of absence/negativity/change came to the fore.. and cr’s argued that these are real.. this was against a doctrine which could be ontological montevelance.. which has underpinned the whole trajectory of western philosophy.. since the time of parmenides

level 7: metareality.. cr argues that the world school calls demireality.. the world of illusion and oppression.. is actually underpinned by an unrecognized realm of trust and solidarity.. it argues these qualities and action at this metareality level sustains the whole of social reality.. (cut to a repeat section).. allows us to identify here/now.. a world which can form the basis for a society of universal human flourishing

5 min – if there’s one them that unites the diff theories/developments in the philosophy of cr.. it is the idea of seriousness.. that is of the unity of theory and practice.. and what cr tends to do is to give us a philosophy that we can act upon.. in contradiction from much of current western philosophy..

6 min – to find out more about it i suggest: come to next annual conference.. theme: from the anatomy the global crisis.. to the ontology of human flourishing.. which is far far better than the one we currently have..


Critical realism is a philosophical approach to understanding science initially developed by Roy Bhaskar (1944–2014). It combines a general philosophy of science (transcendental realism) with a philosophy of social science (critical naturalism). It specifically opposes forms of empiricism and positivism by viewing science as concerned with identifying causal mechanisms. In the last decades of the twentieth century it also stood against various forms of postmodernism and poststructuralism by insisting on the reality of objective existence. In contrast to positivism’s methodological foundation, and poststructuralism’s epistemological foundation, critical realism insists that (social) science should be built from an explicit ontology. Critical realism is one of a range of types of philosophical realism, as well as forms of realism advocated within social science such as analytic realism and subtle realism


Since Bhaskar made the first big steps in popularising the theory of critical realism in the 1970s, it has become one of the major strands of social scientific method, rivalling positivism/empiricism, and post-structuralism/relativism/interpretivism.

After his development of critical realism, Bhaskar went on to develop a philosophical system he calls dialectical critical realism, which is most clearly outlined in his weighty book, Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom.

David Graeber relies on critical realism, which he understands as a form of ‘heraclitean’ philosophy, emphasizing flux and change over stable essences, in his anthropological book on the concept of value, Toward an anthropological theory of value: the false coin of our own dreams.