Exploring the concept of causal power in a critical realist tradition

Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 37 (1):63–87 (2007)
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This article analyses and evaluates the uses of the concept of causal power in the critical realist tradition, which is based on Roy Bhaskar's philosophy of science. The concept of causal power that appears in the early works of Rom Harré and his associates is compared to Bhaskar's account of this concept and its uses in the critical realist social ontology. It is argued that the concept of emergence should be incorporated to any adequate notion of causal power. The concept of emergence used in Bhaskar and other critical realists’ works is shown to be ambiguous. It is also pointed out that the concept of causal power should be analysed in an anti-essentialist way. Ontological and methodological problems that vitiate Bhaskar's transcendental account of the concept of causal power are examined. Moreover, it is argued that the applications of the concept of causal power to mental powers, reasons, and social structures in the critical realist social ontology are problematic. The paper shows how these problems might be avoided without giving up the concept of causal power and the notion of structural social causation



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Tuukka Kaidesoja
University of Helsinki

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.
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Social structure and social relations.Dave Elder-Vass - 2007 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 37 (4):463–477.
Bhaskar and Bunge on Social Emergence.Tuukka Kaidesoja - 2009 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 39 (3):300-322.

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