Powers and Tendencies Revisited

Journal of Critical Realism 10 (1):80-99 (2011)
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While powers and tendencies are among the most fundamen- tal concepts of critical realism, there are several problems with these concepts that have been ignored, avoided or glossed. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to tease out these problems and provide clarification and consistency where possible. In the first section of the paper I sketch the existing critical realist conceptualization of tendencies by identifying eight distinct moments in a causal chain, denoted tendency1 to tendency8. In section two I ask: Is there a difference between powers and tendencies? The answer, controversially perhaps, is: ‘No’. In section three I ask: What is the difference between tendency1 and tendency2? The answer considers two possible arguments accounting for the difference, and initiates a re-think of some of the terminology used to discuss tendencies as distinct moments in a causal chain. I conclude by raising the possibility that tendencies or powers are not of an either/or, discrete, dichotomous or discontinuous nature, but are continuous. This raises the further possibility that powers or tendencies can come in stronger and weaker forms



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Steve Fleetwood
University of the West of England

Citations of this work

The Ontic Account of Scientific Explanation.Carl F. Craver - 2014 - In Marie I. Kaiser, Oliver R. Scholz, Daniel Plenge & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Explanation in the Special Sciences: The Case of Biology and History. Springer Verlag. pp. 27-52.
The critical realist conception of open and closed systems.Steve Fleetwood - 2017 - Journal of Economic Methodology 24 (1):41-68.
The Ontology of Things, Properties and Powers.Steve Fleetwood - 2009 - Journal of Critical Realism 8 (3):343-366.

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References found in this work

A realist theory of science.Roy Bhaskar - 1975 - New York: Routledge.
Causal powers: a theory of natural necessity.Rom Harré & Edward H. Madden - 1975 - Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield. Edited by Edward H. Madden.
Dialectic: the pulse of freedom.Roy Bhaskar - 2008 - New York: Routledge.
Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom.Roy Bhaskar - 1993 - New York: Routledge.

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