BHASKAR: REDISCOVERY OF REALITY
HANS.DESPAIN at m.cc.utah.edu
Wed Sep 6 19:49:29 MDT 1995
First I must agree with Hans E., Bhaskar is quite original, especially in
his *Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom* 1993. Bhaskar writes from a
philosophy of (for) science perspective, much of this has not been
expounded in this forum.
Moreover, Bhaskar is making transcendental arugments, this means that
much of his work is a "systhesis" (or a metacritic) of seemingly polar
opposite traditions. This may make Bhaskar appear less original than
he really is (Collier's book is weak on transcendentalism; its place in
Bhaskar philosophy is found in his *Dialectic* and his *On the Possibity
of Naturalism* 1978).
The primal squeeze, (as Hans E. said one of the "unholy trinity," or
metaphysical mistakes of irrealism) is defined: "The squeeze between the
domains of metaphysics (cf. the speculative illusion) and the a priori,
and those of experience (cf. the positivistic illusion ) and the
posteriori, ruling out empirically controlled scientific theory and
natural necessity alike" (Bhaskar 1993:402).
The speculative illusion is "the reduction of science, or its
incorporation within, philosophy" (Bhaskar *Scientific Realism and
Human Emancipation* 1986:23); while the postivistic illusion is "its
converse," namely "involving the reduction of philosophy to, or its
abnegation in exclusive favour of, science" (ibid).
Bhaskar argues that the differentiation of the sciences (e.g. philosophy
and science; psychology and sociology; biology and chemistry; etc.)
merely reflects a "real" differentiation or the stratum of the world.
Whereby, reductionism will always fail as an approach to knowledge.
Hence what here is at stake (or what is missing in positivist
and speculative accounts) is what Bhaskar as dubbed the intransative
dimension. That is the real structure and entities of the world.
That is, whereas, the transative dimension captures the historical
sociology of knowledge (e.g. Kuhn, Popper, etc.) the intransative dimension
captures (in concept) the real structures which science (and philosophy)
attempt to describe in its theories and models (e.g. Harre, Hesse,
Polyani, Toulmin, etc.).
The transitive dimension is "the social production of knowledge by means
of knowledge." The production of knowledge requires scientific training:
"The necessity for a scientific training show that knwoledge is a social
product and cannot be conceived as purely individual acquistion. For it
always stand to the individual as something that must be acquired to be
used (for scientific work)" (*A Realist Theory of Science* 1975).
The intransivite dimension is the furniture of the universe, which
"ground" Bhaksar's claim to natural necessity. Their are five main
Bhaskarian terms which define this (realist) dimension; powers,
liablities, structures, tendencies, and generative mechanisms. In short,
the intransitive dimension is Bhaskar's realist commitment. Science
reflects this dimension, with its need for "models, paradigms, heuristic,
conceptual schemata or regulative ideals -- which are irreducible to
syntactical operations upon sense-experience and yet indispensable for
the inteligibiity and empirical extension of theory. In this way such
items function, as it were, as social surrogates for natural necessity"
Or as Harre puts it: "Science follows the generative [Bhaskarian] rather
than the successionist [Humean-Popperian] theory of causality.
The discovery of the mechansims by which cause produce or generate
their effects is a central part of a scientific investigation. The
discoveries of the mechanism of chemical reactions, of the mechanism of
inheritance, and so many more, are examples of the fulfilment of his
search. ... in the absence of complete
knowledge of a phenomenon, scientists will settle for the statistics of
the conditions its occurrence, rather than go on in total ignorance.
[with emphasis added...] But it is an aim of scientific explanation not
only to know how things happen and in what order, that is, to know the
laws of nature, but to know why they happen as they do, that is, to
understand the natures of things and processes so that it can be seen why
those laws of nature which we have discovered have the content and form
they do" (Harre *The Philosophies of Science* 1972:118).
The "primal squeeze," therefore "involves the elimination of the middle
term of scientific theory or, more importantly, its intransitive object
and ontolgical counterpart, natural necessity. The reduction of
philosophy and theory, inter alia, i.e. the positivistic illusion, to a
presumed, naturalistically given sense-experience and the reduction of
science and social life, inter alia, in the speculative illusion, to a
presumed, pathognetically self-generating philosophy both substitute for
empirically controlled critical scientific theory" (Bhaskar 1993:90). It
in effect takes the science out of scientific; or it is the move from
realism to a form of idealism; alia empiricism\positivism or
Thus, in Bhaskar's (complete, though not oringinal) critique of the
traditional philosophies of science (e.g. empiricism, critical
rationalism and transcendental idealism) there is an ontological switch from
events (or Humean constant conjectures) to mechanisms (the real entities
and structure of the world).
Moreover, ontology is explictly (transcendentally) argued for
philosophically. It is in this spirit which Collier says the choice is
not "philosophy" or "no philosophy", but "good philosophy" or "bad
philosophy" (Collier 1994)
Much of Bhaskar may be very fimilar to Marxists, however, the (strong)
Marxian presence is only one philosophical moment found in Bhaksar. For:
"The development of transcendental or critical realism presupposes a
philosophical method imbued with Aristotelian, Baconian, Lockean,
Leibnizian, Kantian, Hegelian and Marixan moments. And it consists in an
account of science developed in three main dimensions: intransivive,
transitive and metacritical" (Bhaskar *Philosophy and the Idea of
Finally I will just mention that deep realism is the stratification of
the domain of the real; domain of the actual; and the domain of the
empirical; and the differentiation of mechanism; events; and
experiences. Bhaskar gives a full account of his arugment in his Realist
Theory of Science; and Collier give a very nice summary on pages 42-50 of
his *Introduction to Roy Bhaskar's Philosophy* 1994.
despain at econ.sbs.utah.edu
hans.despain at m.cc.utah.edu
--- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---
More information about the Marxism