Critical Realism

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Nicholas H. Hedlund-de Witt:

"CR holds that the world is characterized by a kind of duality inwhich (intransitive) objects (in a general categorical and dispositional sense) have their own existence (and agency) outside of human knowledge and interpretation, but can only be known in their specific contents, richtextures, and nuances in and through (transitive) scientific inquiry and human interpretation/construction." (


CR and the Integral Approach

Nicholas H. Hedlund-de Witt:

"Critical Realism (CR) is an integrative metatheory founded in the 1970s by the British philosopher RoyBhaskar with the publication of seminal works in the philosophy of science and social science, such as A Realist Theory of Science, The Possibility of Naturalism, and Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation. Many integral scholars now regard CR, alongside Integral Theory (IT), as among the most comprehensive and sophisticated integrative metatheories developed to date. Numerous concepts and distinctions within CR share an uncanny resemblance to ideas within IT. For example, Bhaskar’s notion of “four-planar social being” and his emergent levels or strata clearly echo IT’s own all-quadrants, all-levels approach. Thus, viewed through thelens of IT, CR develops a robust approach that in some sense accounts for all quadrants and all levels of reality but arguably does so with a level of academic rigor unparalleled in IT as it is currently articulated. As such, CR is a sphere of theory and practice that can be deeply instructive for Integral Theory as it continues to develop into a compelling academic field, particularly with respect to key ontological and epistemic considerations as well as other important distinctions and integral principles. For example, CR has developed a sophisticated depth ontology as part of its philosophy of sciencecalled “transcendental realism,” which goes beyond positivism and constructivism alike. CR, like IT, identifies itself as an emergent intellectual formation arising in the wake of postmodernism—and it claims to do so by sublating (transcending and synthesizing) the partial truths of modernism and postmodernism.

CR and IT are also resonant in that they are both imbued with a dialectical logic, and both include a spiritual dimension.Furthermore, CR is a kind of panoptic or comprehensive metatheory that has been applied to a wide range of disciplines in a similar way to Integral Theory.

With all of the aforementioned resonance in mind, leading integral scholar-practitioner Sean Esbjörn-Hargens has stated that “Critical Realism is a viable integral alternative to Integral Theory and as such integral scholar-practitioners will benet from a more direct engagement with its distinctions and applications.”

However, while CR and IT share many points of convergence or commonground, there are also a number of points of divergence. Yet, as was the predominant view emerging from the2011 Critical Realism & Integral Theory four-day symposium at John F. Kennedy University (which was at- tended by Roy Bhaskar), the strengths of each often seem to coincide with the deciencies, or areas in needof further theoretical reection and development, in the other. This feature thus suggests the possibility of amutually enriching engagement between these approaches—and highlights the potential for a rich and generative dialogical encounter." (