Roy Bhaskar explicitly identified himself as a moral realist, and offered several different justifications for this in the course of his work. Some critical realists accept all of those justifications, some are ambivalent or selective about which they accept, and others like Andrew Sayer and myself, for example, reject moral realism outright. This post focuses on one of Bhaskar’s arguments: the theory of explanatory critique.
One of the many ways in which critical realism goes beyond positivism is in rejecting the idea that social science can or should be ethically neutral. Like most critical realists, I see it as part of the role of the social scientist to criticise unjust social arrangements. But for philosophically oriented social scientists, critique cannot come from nowhere – it requires an ethical justification and that justification must be coherent with our wider ontology.
In the first couple of substantive posts on this blog I pinned my colours firmly to a materialist perspective on the social sciences. But what does this ‘materialism’ actually mean?