These notes are intended to acquaint those new to Bhaskar's works with some of the basic concepts Bhaskar uses to formulate his positions, not to state the positions themselves, and I hope they will be useful as an entry point for new readers. One aim is to state the concepts as clearly as possible in order to enable new readers to orient themselves, therefore many nuances are not addressed. An attempt has been made to state the point of a concept and relate it to the philosophical tradition and/or to other of Bhaskar's concepts.
I cannot pretend to be completely successful in these aims. The material is not meant as a comprehensive glossary nor to cover the same ground as those which Bhaskar provides in Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom and Plato Etc., which vary in their difficulty. It is more in the nature of a primer.
Finally, I should stress that these notes represent my own particular background and path into critical realism and may not be entirely congenial to those with a different background, especially those who prefer historical approaches to concepts.
I welcome suggestions, corrections and criticisms regarding both accuracy, nuances, and the points of concepts. Please feel free to distribute these notes to whomever you wish, as long as they are preceded by this paragraph. This version is an incomplete draft based on my marginalia and includes page references to specific works which will be excised in later versions as I correct errors. References to The Possibility of Naturalism and Philosophy and the Idea of Freedom are lacking, because the former is unavailable to me and I have not had time to read the latter.
Works by Roy Bhaskar referenced in the Glossary:
- RTS = A Realist Theory of Science
- PON = The Possibility of Naturalism
- SRHE = Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation
- RR = Reclaiming Reality
- PIF = Philosophy and the Idea of Freedom
- DPF = Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom
- PE = Plato Etc.
Bhaskar argues that the world cannot be conceived without absences, to which we constantly refer and presuppose. The idea is not that we add fictional entities like Santa Claus, unicorns or caloric to the presences that we already recognize in our factual discourse; it is rather that reality even at the everyday level is inundated with absences (an empty glass, a missing wallet, the failure of a monsoon to have effect, etc.) (PE 56-7). Bhaskar does recognize fictional entities as part of fictional as opposed to factual discourse, but even in factual discourse we do not have to accord existence in the form of absence to things we talk about, such as caloric (DPF 40-41). Generally, absences are causally efficacious, such as the absence of health, in contrast, say, to the non-existence of caloric.
Bhaskar understands absences both as product (something not there) and process (making something absent, or "absenting"). He also uses iterable hybrids of these: process-in-product (for example, the causal efficacy of the past or things at a distance), product-in-process (the exercise of causal powers, as in ongoing social activity) (DPF 39; PE 55-6).
Bhaskar argues that absence is a concept that is alien to the classical conception of the world which strived to ensure that all action takes place by contiguous contact, yet that conception is incoherent without absence (PE 57). For example, the transfer of momentum from one billiard ball to another requires spaces in between them. More generally, absence is closely related to change and hence to cause. For a change in something is the absence of something that was present, or the presence of something that was absent; and to cause something is to make a change, either of the first sort, which is what Bhaskar calls "absenting" something, or of the second sort, which Bhaskar calls "absenting absence." Either way, to cause something is to make something -- either a presence or an absence -- absent (PE 56).
Now there might appear to be a symmetry between absence and presence, so that every absence can be regarded as the presence of something else, and vice versa. The absence of hair would be regarded as the presence of baldness, etc. Even this trivial example lacks symmetry, because we understand "baldness" as meaning absence of hair, whereas we do not understand "hair" as meaning absence of baldness. Non-trivial examples, such as the absence of health, bring out deeper asymmetries. In a narrow sense the absence of health, say TB, could mean the presence of certain microbes, such as is occurring in America's inner cities, but as in the baldness example the symmetry breaks down: we do not understand the presence of those specific microbes as meaning the absence of TB (we could identify them in an independent fashion).
There is a broader asymmetry as well, because the absence of health in general cannot be equated with the presence of disease. The presence of disease manifests itself in a number of ways, such as the presence of microbes, viruses, carcinogens, etc.; however, these presences are caused by the absence of health practices, which is in turn tied to politics. Consider another example: the absence of freedom equated to the presence of oppression. The equation breaks down, because the presence of oppression is manifested in many ways (death squads, disappearances, jails, etc.), but the underlying causes of those manifestations can only be described as an absence of freedom.
The reduction of causal laws to patterns of events, a position associated with Hume and classical empiricism. Bhaskar holds by contrast that causal laws have a real existence as tendencies which generate the phenomena (events and situations) in which patterns are detected and which are subject to empirical observation or verification. The patterns are reflections of the tendencies, but the latter cannot be reduced to the former.
Bhaskar designates phenomena generated by real mechanisms and tendencies as "actual," but such mechanisms and tendencies may or may not manifest themselves in actual phenomena, depending on what else occurs (and such manifestations may or may not be empirically ascertained). The distinction between real and actual pertains to positivism, the distinction between actual and empirical pertains to subject/object identity. This is a key concept for Bhaskar and is closely related to stratification. (See Differentiation and Stratification; see also, Closed and Open Systems, Strong and Weak Actualism, and Facts.)
Bhaskar uses this term in a technical, rather than everyday, sense. Underlying the everyday assertion "There has been a change in the weather," some philosophical theories see no change involved even if the statement is true. Yesterday's weather, today's weather, and tomorrow's weather are viewed as events which exist outside time and thus are "eternal." At most, a statement that there has been a change in the weather involves a switch in subjective attention from one eternal event (yesterday's weather) to another (today's weather), or from one aspect of a single unchanging Parmenidean one to another.
Bhaskar wants to reinstate the temporal aspects of reality, and he characterizes such theories as unable to conceptualize change, which requires viewing the significant elements of reality as tensed processes comprising irreducible internal and external temporal relations (DPF 45). The absence of change shows up in a number of ways in different theories. Token monism is the view that the world consists of unchanging tokens, each one a monad, an isolated Parmenidean one (DPF 44). For example, indexicalism (the world as a series of atomistic experiences), punctualism (the world as a set of atomistic events or facts), blockism (the world as a closed set of all past, present and future facts, all equally determinate) (DPF 252-4). Type monism is the view that the world consists of unchanging types and hence does not admit emergence.
Closed and Open Systems (SRHE 27)
A closed system is one restricted in such a way that laws have uniform effects. An open system is one that is not closed. Closed systems do not usually occur spontaneously in nature and generally require human intervention, such as in laboratory experiments. All sorts of intervening causes may prevent a causal mechanism or tendency from having its normal effect. The concept of closure plays an important role in refuting determinism, because a determinist case cannot be sustained without the regularity that comes with closed systems, and ultimately it is shown that the assumption of closure is an article of faith.
Classical field theories in physics (gravity, electromagnetism, mechanics) assumed a pure world containing only a single field and showed how, given any initial state of the field, all subsequent states of the field were determined. The question of what happens when several of the fields are assumed to exist and interact created problems for the determinism that was irrefutable under the assumption that only a single field exists and is operative. Laplacean determinism extrapolated this narrow truth to all of reality. Closure is also closely connected to the understanding of laws other than as merely patterns of events: that identity can be sustained only so long as systems are assumed to be closed.
It is important to realize that a closed system is not the same as a spatially isolated system. To achieve closure one must assure that there are no countervailing causes (of a kind pertaining to the phenomena being investigated). Being cut off from external influences is in general insufficient to rule out internal countervailing causes. For example, a system free of external influences is nevertheless open in respect to Newtonian mechanisms if it contains quantum phenomena (RTS 69). Quantum phenomena are treated by determinists as irrelevant at some macro level.
Counterexamples like a switch that is thrown and thereby causing some macro event if and only if a geiger counter shows an even number at a designated time are considered exceptions: determinism applies only in closed systems, which will by (circular) definition exclude such example situations. A potential field is deterministic, other things being equal, that is, excluding quantum phenomena, not to say other potential fields which are also deterministic! (See Differentiation and Stratification and Strong and Weak Actualism.)
A completed science would mean that no further cognitive transformation is needed to acquire whatever scientific knowledge is available (RTS 58). This does not mean that everything would be already known, merely that there is a universal, objective, and unchanging set of concepts sufficient for all knowledge acquisition.
A dialectical structure in which a part of reality is seen to be a component of a broader, encompassing reality (DPF 19). Bhaskar speaks of an emergent entity as being constellationally identical with the ground from which it emerged. A constellational closure means closure of the totality constituting a constellation of phenomena. According to Bhaskar, Hegel made matter a determinant constituent of a closed spiritual totality. Since nothing can emerge from a closed totality, matter has to be present (or at least determined) from the start (DPF 24). Bhaskar by contrast views mind as having emerged from an open material totality.
Critique and Transcendental Argument
On Bhaskar's view, philosophy is not the result of pure cognitive activity; it is, like all knowledge, a social institution (see Transitive and Intransitive Dimensions) and relies on presuppositions about the nature of the world in which it is embedded. Philosophical dilemmas are sustained by presuppositions, whose exposure can lead to their rejection and the dissolution of the dilemmas (PE 9-11). Such resolution is an example of what Bhaskar terms "explanatory critique," which is a form of transcendental argument.
A transcendental argument establishes a categorical necessity as a presupposition of existing practices (PE 39). Bhaskar focuses on what he terms denegation: affirming in practice what is denied in theory, to deny in a theory something whose truth is presupposed by the theory (SRHE 297-8). Bhaskar views theories as social constructs whose existence have presuppositions. For example, the simple theory "Nothing exists" could be true only if it is false, because the existence of the theory is a counter example to what the theory asserts. More generally, human activity includes theory construction, so the existence of theories about human activity may have presuppositions that conflict with what the theory asserts about humans and theory construction. A trivial example of this would be the theory "Human theory does not exist." More generally yet, human activity includes attempts to understand human activity, so the existence of theories about human activity may have presuppositions that conflict with what the theory asserts about humans and their self-understanding. An example would be "Human activity and knowledge is completely determined by the laws of physics." This example is not trivial like the other two and requires arguing that the construction of such a theory about human action require that reasons be causes (see Reasons as Causes), something denied by the theory.
Critiques are different forms of transcendental arguments. An immanent critique is the refutation of a theory by showing that practices presupposed by the theory are in conflict with the practices described by the theory (SRHW 14). Such conflicts are termed axiological inconsistencies (SRHE 16). By orienting critiques to axiological inconsistencies, Bhaskar avoids the Hegelian idealist view of the world as a developing self-contained system of thought (SRHE 15). Bhaskar sees philosophy as dependent upon extra-philosophical commitments (axiological standpoints and interests) which are required to form subjective beliefs and the broader supporting discourses (SRHE 18). A metacritique is the identification of "causally significant absences" in theories which lead to transformation of the practices that sustain them (SRHE 25) A metacritique may or may not include an explanation of the absence. If so, then an explanatory critique may follow on to lead to a negative evaluation on the causes and so lead to corrective action (see Fact/Value). An Achilles Heel critique is a metacritique that not only explains why there is an absence, but also explains why the theory is blind to the absence.
Determinism (RR 161-2)
Ubiquity determinism is the view that every event has a real cause (RTS 70). Regularity determinism (SRHE 218) is the view that every event of a given type has an effect of a related type (RTS 70, where he seems to get it backwards). Regularity determinism can only be supported by the assumption of closed systems, which ensures a regular pattern of conjunction of event types. Bhaskar supports ubiquity determinism, but he stresses that the fact that an event was caused does not entail that the event was predetermined. Although in fact, say, event y caused event x, between the occurrences of y and x there could have been some other event which would have inhibited y from causing x. Regularity determinism has to assume that there are no phenomena which could inhibit y from causing x, so it has to take the future at the time of y (and hence the future at any time) to be fixed and determinate. Taking the future in this way, though, is simply to assume predetermination. The inference of predetermination from ubiquity determinism would require the additional assumption of closed systems. Does the world consist of just regularities, or does it also include mechanisms which cause regularities, and which permit the manifestation of regularities to be defeated?
It is useful to contrast the structure of a type with the activity of its tokens. The structure of a type may be completely determined by the structure of its components, such as liquidity is determined by the chemical properties of water. That kind of determination is ordinary scientific explanation and takes place at the level of the real. What Bhaskar objects to is the assumption that such scientific explanations entail that the activity of tokens of a type are predetermined. What happens to this particular quantity of water may have very little to do with its chemical composition, for example the diversion of rivers in the Western U.S. to California due to political decisions. Freedom and agency are explained by unactualized tendencies which are real properties of the world but whose effects are not determined by currently actual phenomena (see Actualism).
Bhaskar provides a fornal description of dialectic as a "process of conceptual or social ... conflict, interconnection and change" (DPF 3). Bhaskar views dialectics as a real process which results in the removal of causally efficacious obstacles to human flourishing. Such obstacles are analyzed as "absences" which must be "absented" in a real, contingent dialectical process of emancipatory critique or "absenting absences" (see Absence). Ontological dialectics is concerned with reality, epistemological dialectics is concerned with what is known about reality, and relational dialectics metacritically situates our knowledge in relation to what is known (DPF 3).
Bhaskar sees humanity as sharing a core human nature (subject to change) which manifests itself differently under different conditions via various mediations. Humanity manifests itself in different ways under conditions of poverty and conditions of wealth. The core humanity grounds a core equality, deviations from which must be justified by particular mediations in concrete individuals (PE 113, 149). Things are dialectically equal if there are no differences justified by particular mediations that could justify treating them unequally, and dialectical universalizability requires treating dialectical equals equally. Bhaskar sees theory/practice inconsistencies (see Critique and Transcendental Argument) as arising from the lack of dialectical universalizability (PE 135).
Differentiation and Stratification
Stratification is the layering of ontology into the levels of the real, the actual, and the empirical. The real consists of real mechanisms which generate phenomena at the level of the actual, which may or may not be observed at the level of the empirical (SRHE 27). More generally, stratification refers to the simultaneous causal efficacy of different emergent levels (see Emergence). Stratification is associated with a vertical analogy Bhaskar deploys throughout his works and is related to causal structure. Stratification also applies in the transitive domain of knowledge as well as the intransitive domain, such as a piece of knowledge vs. the cognitive structures which generates knowledges by transforming anterior knowledges (SRHE 60).
Differentiation is the existence of open as well as closed systems. Differentiation implies that laws and actions do not have uniform effects, hence the origin of the term. The distinction between mechanisms and the events they generate (or can generate), which is stratification, is necessary to account for why the world is differentiated (RTS 19). Differentiation is associated with a horizontal analogy Bhaskar deploys throughout his work, specifically in regard to the causal efficacy of generative mechanisms in open and closed systems (SRHE 40). Such causal efficacy is termed "transfactual."
Emergence (RTS 113)
The origin of things with a degree of causal autonomy from the existing causal level from which they arose. Causal autonomy prevents the emergent entities from being reducible to that from which they emerged. The properties of an emergent thing are not predictable from properties at the lower level (SRHE 104). For example, social properties in general can only be explained in terms of other social properties. There may be laws about biology that are not reducible to laws of physics. This does not require some special mental or spiritual substance which has properties over and above physical properties. It requires merely that biological entities have properties that cannot be entirely reduced to mechanical properties, nor to electromagnetic properties, nor to gravitational properties, etc., but are formed from complex interactions of these. All these physical phenomena can interfere with the effects of the others, as when a magnet prevents something from falling. Biological entities may be able to exploit real possibilities in nature that are not available to entities subject to mechanics alone, or to electromagnetics alone, etc. The complex properties from all the separate physical phenomena may collude in a way that transcends the effects of any one or several of them without having to posit any other mysterious force.
Emergent properties exploit possibilities in nature that were not being exploited at the lower level from which these properties emerged. In the same way, atomic structure involves the actualization of forces of nature (the weak and strong forces in the nucleus) that were not involved in the component protons and neutrons prior to the formation of atoms. New powers that emerge are only possible in virtue of the higher level of organization of matter that evolves (DPF 51).
A transcendental argument from our experience shows this to be correct in regard to the irreducibility of social activity. It is the condition for the existence of our social products that we be causal agents whose reasons are autonomous causes. The origins of human actions can be explained only by reference to social forms; the effects of human actions can be explained only by reference to the causal effects of beliefs.
Note that reductionism here is not the same as determinism: reduction turns on which level of causal mechanisms (physical, biological, etc.) are operative, while determinism turns on whether those mechanisms operate in open or closed systems (RR 114). Emergence is consistent with a diachronic causal account of how the emergent entity develops from a pre-emergent level of the world. The rise of social reality can be traced in a causal chain from the pre-existing non-social reality, but once it exists, social reality cannot be synchronously reduced to the non-social part of reality (SRHE 113). Autonomy is exemplified by the fact that explanation of certain physical states (namely, ones that are the result of intentional human activity) requires irreducible reference to beliefs (SRHE 117).
Epistemic and Ontic Fallacies
In the epistemic fallacy, statements about being are to be interpreted as statements about knowledge (SRHE 6). Basically, being is understood as perceived being, something that is unperceived being a thing-in-itself at best (and neither real nor actual at worst). In the ontic fallacy, knowledge is analyzed as a direct, unmediated relation between a subject and being. The ontic fallacy ignores the cognitive and social mechanisms by which knowledge is produced from antecedent knowledge, leaving an ontology of empirical knowledge events (raw perceptions) and a de-socialized epistemology (SRHE 23, 253).
Bhaskar sees a close relation between these two fallacies, especially in relation to classical empiricism. The epistemic fallacy first projects the external world onto a subjective phenomenal map, then the ontic fallacy projects the phenomenal entities of that subjective map back out on the world as objective sense data, of which we have direct perceptual knowledge. So reality independent of thought is first subjectified, then the subjectified elements are objectified to explain and justify our knowledge.
Epistemic Relativism and Judgmental Rationality
Epistemic relativism turns on the issue whether science has a universal, objective and unchanging set of concepts that serve as its absolute foundation (SRHE 43). Its opposite is termed "monism." Bhaskar says it does not and hence plumps for epistemic relativism. He believes that all our concepts and beliefs are historically generated and conditioned and so relative to a perspective and subject to change. He combines this view with judgmental rationality, which asserts that science is not arbitrary and that there are rational criteria for judging some theories as better and more explanatory than others.
Epistemic relativism, of course, does not say that our conceptual toolkit is arbitrary, a view no doubt supported by judgmental rationality. This concept also permits an understanding of changing conceptual framework as well as the accretion of knowledge in an unchanged conceptual framework (SRHE 52). Bhaskar often refers to changing and unchanging knowledge, but he appears to mean conceptual frameworks rather than the aggregate of what is known.
Ethical Naturalism and Moral Realism
This distinction in many ways mirrors that of "epistemic relativism and judgmental rationality." Bhaskar contrasts a relative and developing ethical naturalism with a rational moral realism. Ethical naturalism is at the level of moral rules designed to guide actions, and these change over time with changes in our ethical concepts (for example, "slave," "person"). Underlying these is a moral realism which grounds our ethics and which can be rationally discovered via analysis of the changing nature of ourselves, our needs and our society. Bhaskar speaks of "ethical alethia, ultimately grounded in conceptions of human nature" (DPF 211). It is moral realism that prevents ethical naturalism from being an arbitrary matter internal to a culture.
Bhaskar distinguishes theoretical and practical explanations (SRHE 68, 107-8; DPF 109-110; PE 24-25, 27-28). Theoretical explanation involves the detection of real, underlying structures and mechanisms which generate observable phenomena in a three-tiered process with a Humean level pertaining to the recognition of regularities, a Lockean level pertaining to the conceptualization of causal structure, and a Leibnizian level pertaining to the empirical detection of real structure. Practical explanation involves examining a complex conjuncture and analyzing it into component structures and mechanisms (already detected by theoretical explanation).
Bhaskar views facts as social constructions that are conceptualizations of the world and exist in what he terms the transitive dimension of science (RTS 57, 196; RR 9, 60; SRHE 94-5, 283). Bhaskar conceives the world as containing mechanisms at the ontological level of the real that generate phenomena (events and situations) at the ontological level of the actual, and we conceptualize these events and situations into transitive facts, which are social products and subject to conceptual change. Thus facts, unlike events and situations, cannot exist in a world without intelligent beings.
As our conceptual toolkit changes, so does the way we conceptualize events and situations. Critical realism conceptualizes events and situations in relation to the real mechanisms which generate them, rather than conceiving them as atoms that determine our knowledge of them without any kind of mediation. (See Epistemic and Ontic Fallacies.) Facts are not given to us in experience, they are established through a social process. (See Transitive and Intransitive Dimensions.) "Facts are paradigm social institutions: they are possibilities inherent in the cognitive structures that human agents reproduce and transform but do not create" (RR 60). This view of facts contrasts with "the positivistic concept of a fact as what is more or less immediately apprehended in sense-perception" (SRHE 95).
Now if we want to claim that all facts are relative to a perspective, then it may seem that we have to ignore the relativity of the perspective from which the claim is advanced, which is termed "Nietschean forgetting." Bhaskar resolves this antinomy by holding that perspectives are real (PE 77) and are parts of totalities in which agents are embedded. The perspective from which the claim about perspectives is made is part of a totality essentially relating the real perspectives the claim is about. This totality is the stratified self, and its structure eliminates the need for "forgetting" the perspective from which one makes the claim that all perspectives are relative (PE 80, 198-9).
Bhaskar questions both the scientistic assertion that factual propositions are value-free in content and the positivist denial that value propositions can be derived from factual propositions. The first denies that factual discourse can be about values, the second denies that factual discourse can lead to values (SRHE 174). The scientistic assertion, conjoined with an extensional theory of meaning, leads to the positivist denial: value-free semantic atoms plus the construction of meanings from extensional functions of these can only lead to value-free propositions (RR 99). Bhaskar's view is that facts are social constructs in the transitive dimension and so are bound to incorporate values implicit in social relations (SRHE 174).
Against Hume's law that fact/value derivations are impossible, Bhaskar notes that the exposure of a source of untruth leads to a negative evaluation of it and a commitment to eliminate it. It might be objected that Bhaskar is himself illicitly importing the value of commitment to truth, but Hume's law really says that following a commitment to truth can never legitimately lead to a value commitment (other than to truth) (RR 105, SRHE 184ff). A commitment to truth thus leads to prescriptions for action, what Bhaskar calls the axiological commitments of truth. The transition from fact to value does not reduce values to facts, because the transition is possible only if values have a real existence.
The breakdown between facts and values leads to a theory of emancipation. The domain of a social science includes both a social object (say, a social structure) and a belief about that object (our understanding of the social structure in question), and one of the questions for social science is the match between the two. The answer will be found in internal relations between them (SRHE 153, 176). How much does our understanding (or misunderstanding) of a social structure reinforce its existence, and vice versa? The answer can lead to negative evaluations of the social structure (SRHE 153, DPF 259, PE 109). Bhaskar claims that a structure of emancipation is implicit in all our discourse and practice.
Causal laws are distinguished from patterns of events. This position relies on the distinction between open and closed systems. The position is established by transcendental argument based on the existence of experimental activity, in which a scientist is a causal agent who interferes with the course of nature" (RTS 54). The empiricist conception views laws as always actualized in empirical regularities. The CR view is that causal laws are real tendencies which may not be manifested (made actual) and typically manifest themselves as empirical regularities only via experimental activity in closed systems artificially created (RR 16-17). From the point of view of causal patterns of events, then, Bhaskar believes that all laws are most honored in the breach.
Bhaskar understands this term in two Kantian strands: an immanent metaphysics primarily concerned with what our knowledge presupposes about reality, and a descriptive metaphysics concerned with the conceptual frameworks in terms of which reality is thought (SRHE 10-11, 21). It is important to keep in mind that Bhaskar views knowledge in a very practical manner, so an immanent metaphysics analyzes what our existing conceptual practices presuppose about the world (see Critique and Transcendental Argument), while a descriptive metaphysics analyzes the categories deployed in those conceptual practices.
Unlike Kant, who thought geometry, for example, was an immanent feature of our conceptual structure, Bhaskar holds that a descriptive metaphysics cannot be derived from an immanent metaphysics. Bhaskar sees immanent metaphysics as an "underlaborer" for social practices ranging from scientific activity to emancipatory practices. Descriptive metaphysics can "decode and decipher the conceptual schemes informing those practices" (SRHE 22).
Traditional extensionalism can be viewed as taking a fixed set of atoms of some sort that are part of a closed system yielding actualist generalities. In a logically extensional language the atoms are atomic sentences which enter into truth-functional relations. For example, 'p&q' is true if and only if p is true and q is true. Truth as a whole can be given a purely extensional definition along these lines. A major problem is that language tends to be highly recalcitrant when you try to interpret it in exclusively extensional terms.
This example is at the level of epistemology, but Bhaskar sees the same sort of thing occurring at the level of ontology and hence his phrase. The world is reduced to atomistic states, and laws are sustained as valid by the tacit assumption of closure. In opposing such an atomistice view, RB of course wants to view totalities as other than atoms bound together by external relations. The concept of absence as essential to this picture.
The thesis that there is only one type of existence, namely presence, comprising phenomena which essentially are experienced, or at least experiencable. With no concept of absence, there can be no concept of a stratified world involving generative mechanisms whose effects may not be present. Under that constraint the only realism which can be affirmed is a form of actualism. Actualists or empiricists do not deny the reality of, say, atomic structure; however, they analyze that structure in terms of actual or possible experience of the effects of atomic structure, so they recognize no transfactual activity that occurs independently of intellection. At a higher level, Kant understood space and time as presuppositions for the very possibility of experience, but he placed them in the structure of mind as organizing principles for managing the actualist stream of events.
By monovalence there is no absenting and hence no change; there is merely a set of eternalized facts -- past, present, future -- which exist once and for all in a closed set (blockism). Alternatively, there is merely a set of features of an unchanging Parmenidean one (punctualism, indexicalism -- see Change). Bhaskar sees ontological monovalence as blocking the raising of what he terms "existential questions": if tautologically everything exists, there is no way to say something does not exist, much less to claim that its absence is causally efficacious (DPF 234). For example, the absence of resources for self-development is a constraint on freedom (DPF 280). Ontological monovalence prevents the recognition of the existence of such a constraint, which cannot be produced. Politically, legally, and morally a monovalent society sees nothing that prevents a person living in poverty from becoming a millionaire, and freedom is understood as the absence of a legalist prohibition, which is the narrower concept of liberty or negative freedom.
Although Bhaskar views absences as real and apparently subscribes to the view that everything is real, the quantifier "everything" has to be understood as ranging over whatever is real, not simply over whatever exists, at least if "exists" refers to presences and not absences. With existence, reality, and quantifiers understood this way, the answer to the question of what exists is narrower than the answer to the question of what is real.
Reasons as Causes (SRHE 17)
If the mental could be reduced to the physical, then reasons would be irrelevant to causal explanations, because the reduced level would explain everything without the need to refer to reasons. Therefore, if reasons are causes, the mental cannot be reduced to the physical (RR 164-5). The legitimacy of the scientific enterprise requires the causal efficacy of reasons, because "in an experiment scientists co-determine an empirical result which, but for their intentional causal agency, would not have occurred" (DPF 52). This constitutes an immanent critique of reductive materialism.
Now it may be objected that if the mental could be reduced to the physical, reasons could still be real and causally efficacious, because one part of physical reality would be causally efficacious on other parts. Bhaskar's view does require an additional component: it is not just the reality and causal efficacy of reasons that prevent their reduction to the physical, they must be in some sense partly autonomous of the physical, which is to say that they are emergent (see Emergence).
It is possible to explain physical phenomena prior to the emergence of mental phenomena without reference to beliefs and intentional activity, but once mental activity has emerged and causally interacted with the physical world, explanation of physical phenomena requires ineliminable reference to intentional activity. It is this difference in explaining pre- and post-emergent physical phenomena that establishes the causal efficacy of reasons in a non-reductive sense. What is said here about mental phenomena carries over to the wider social bases of actions.
Strong and Weak Actualism
There are two strategies to which empiricist accounts of causal laws are forced to resort in the face of open systems. Strong actualism is the view that complete state descriptions supporting causal laws exist, and are universal, but are not known. The empiricist analysis of laws thus becomes a regulative ideal, an unachieved empiricism (SRHE 29). Weak actualism is the view that causal laws only apply in closed systems, so laws are known but not universal (SRHE 28-9). Weak actualism is an empiricism that can be achieved in practice, but it leaves phenomena in open systems unexplained.
The inference from observed to unobserved things. Transdiction has the following forms. Induction is the inference from past to future, transduction is the inference from closed to open systems, retroduction is the inference from actual phenomena to structural causes, and retrodiction is the inference from events to antecedent causes (DPF 232). Retrodiction is the transition in practical explanation from resolved components of a complex to antecedent causes (SRHE 108). The ability to retrodict causes presupposes theoretical explanation and retroduction. Retroduction is the transition in theoretical explanation from manifest phenomena to their generating mechanisms (SRHE 108). Transduction pertains to the applicability of laws discovered in closed systems to open systems (SRHE 30).
Transitive and Intransitive Dimensions
The intransitive dimension in the philosophy of science corresponds roughly to ontology and the transitive dimension roughly to epistemology (SRHE 24-5). This tells us little, since every philosophy has an ontology and an epistemology. It is the rejection of subject/object identity which requires a special understanding of their relation for critical realism. Knowledge exists as a real social object in the transitive dimension and is about real objects in the intransitive dimension, which exists independently of mental activity. Intransitive objects exist and act independently of our knowledge of them (except when we use our knowledge to intervene), so knowledge is irreducible to what it is about and constitutes an object with its own level of social causality (SRHE 51-2).
Note that knowledge has both intransitive objects, namely what knowledge is about, and transitive objects, namely the antecedently existing knowledge from which new knowledge is formed (SRHE 54). Transitivity represents the social character of science and thus is in opposition to solipsism, while intransitivity is tied to the existence of causal structures and is in opposition to phenomenalism (RTS 24, 26).
It should be kept in mind that the transitive/intransitive distinction applies both to reality and to our knowledge of reality. Within reality there is a distinction between intransitive features of reality and the transitive production of knowledge, which is a component of reality. Within that part of reality comprising the transitive production of knowledge, one can find the philosophy of science with a distinction between the intransitive dimension (ontology) and the transitive dimension (epistemology). One can also find a metacritical dimension which scrutinizes the philosophy of science containing those dimensions. So the intransitive, transitive, and metacritical dimensions are all found within the transitive process of knowledge construction, which is itself a part of a broader intransitive reality (SRHE 24-25).
A correspondence theory of truth (a proposition is true if and only if it corresponds to the facts) is substantive only if propositions and facts are independently identifiable. If they are not, then the assertion of correspondence becomes a trivial platitude, a guiding form for a genuine theory of truth (SRHE 100). Since facts are social constructs (see Facts), a correspondence theory would be subjective and trivial as an explanation of truth, since we will always ensure that our transitive propositions and facts are correlated (see Transitive and Intransitive Dimensions).
A correspondence theory could be framed differently, though: a proposition is true if and only if it corresponds to the intransitive events and situations it describes. Since events and situations exist at the level of the actual and are generated by a deeper level of real structures and mechanisms (see Actualism), an adequate theory of truth is surely tied to the level of the real, unlike the reformulated correspondence theory which is actualist in nature.[Note: To download the entire glossary as a plain text file, click here and then select "File > Save As" in your Web browser.]