SCIENCE, that is, knowledge of consequences; which is called also
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan1
Without contraries is no progression.
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell2
Criticalrealism: the painted veil of dialectics3
Criticalrealism attempted to ground dialectics in realism. Roy Bhaskar dealt
extensively with the issue, and challenged Kant’s critique of science, empiricism and positivism throughout his work. He insisted on presenting the
epistemological validity of structures or mechanisms which
Epistemology should be the axe that breaks the ice of a traditionalism that covers and obstructs scientific enlightenment. This book explores the arguments between critical theory and epistemology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Focusing on the first and second generations of critical theorists and Luhmann's systems theory, it examines how each approaches epistemology. The book offers a critique of the Kantian base of critical theory's epistemology in conjunction with the latter's endeavour to define political potential through the social function of science. The concept of dialectics is explored as the negation of the irrational and, furthermore, as the open field of epistemological conflict between rationality and irrationality. The book traces the course of arguments that begin with Dilthey's philosophy of a rigorous science, develop with Husserl's phenomenology, Simmel's and Weber's interest in the scientific element within the social concerns of scientific advance. In structuralism, the fear of dialogue prevails. The book discusses the epistemological thought of Pierre Bourdieu and Gilles Deleuze in terms of their persistence in constructing an epistemological understanding of social practice free from the burdens of dialectics, reason and rationality. It also enquires into issues of normativity and modernity within a comparative perspective on modernism, postmodernism and critical theory. Whether in relation to communication deriving from the threefold schema of utterance- information- understanding or in relation to self- reflexivity, systems theory fails to define the bearer or the actor of the previous structural processes. Critical realism attempted to ground dialectics in realism.
his book has aimed to examine dialectics in modern epistemology and to
compare it with critical theory, not ‘in order to’ but ‘because’ the latter can
offer innovative means of dialectical theorizing. In this way, critical theory has
the potential to advance twenty-first-century epistemology.
The prevailing idea in criticalrealism, as elaborated in the final chapter, was
that dialectics can provide the best path to innovation in the science. The book
attempted to avoid old and traditional modes such as ‘biographies’ of scientific
articulated by phenomenology, structuralism, poststructuralism, modernists
and postmodernists, systems theory and criticalrealism, can certainly be considered ‘modern’ in historical terms, but in essence their concerns are of a pre-
modern and pre-scientific nature. The following chapters elucidate this critique.
Critical theory situated science within the quest for social and political
rationality. It indicated that science’s normativity –which answers the question ‘what should science do?’ –orients itself in relation to the a priori potential
of society. The latter
autonomy is clearly different from this again. His is a form of criticalrealism when it comes to the question of autonomy. Modernist artists, for instance, really are autonomous in some respects. But this autonomy is also problematic and illusory: not in Adorno’s sense, not because it is compromised by its opposite and the existence of what it rejects – the culture industries in his case. Rather, autonomy is problematic and illusory for Bourdieu because it sublimates itself away from the social world. For Bourdieu, autonomy is always the resultant of a social operation
criticalrealism. Such a discussion remains for the
next chapter to analyse and criticize.
1 Niklas Luhmann, Introduction to Systems Theory (Cambridge: Polity Press,
2 ‘There are no sufficient indications for the exhaustion of what is possible, for rationalization. We live, as we know since the earthquake in Lisbon, not in the best possible world, but in a world full of better possibilities.’ Author’s translation from Jürgen
Habermas and Niklas Luhmann, Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie –
Was leistet die Systemforschung? (Frankfurt