The article discusses the relevance of ontology, the metaphysical study of being, in social sciences through a comparison of three distinct outlooks: Roy Bhaskar's version of critical realism, a pragmatic realist approach the most renowned representatives of which are Rom Harré and Hilary Putnam, and the authors’ own synthesis of the pragmatist John Dewey's and the neopragmatist Richard Rorty's ideas, here called methodological relationalism. The Bhaskarian critical realism is committed to the heavy ontological furniture of metaphysical transcendentalism, resting on essentialist presumptions of causality and social structures, tacitly creating a dualism between individuals and society. Pragmatic realists, for their part, carry much lighter metaphysical baggage than critical realists and, much in a pragmatist vein, accept the idea that social scientists should study society by studying social life—the interwoven activities of individuals. Nevertheless, pragmatic realists only reluctantly, if at all, renounce the subject–object dualism and its ontological implications. Drawing on the ideas of Donald Davidson and Richard Rorty, the writers outline their own antirepresentationalist, antiessentialist approach to social sciences. The proposed methodological relationalism is a pragmatist approach of Deweyan origin. Based on a Darwinian understanding of human beings as organisms trying to cope with their environment, it emphasises the insight that one can neither step outside one's own action, nor withdraw from the actor's point of view, just as one cannot cognitively step outside language
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.0021-8308.2004.00246.x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,437
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Concept of Mind.Gilbert Ryle - 1949 - Hutchinson & Co.
Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.Richard Rorty - 1989 - Cambridge University Press.
From an Ontological Point of View.John Heil - 2003 - Oxford University Press.

View all 48 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Theoretical Procedures and Elder-Vass’s Critical Realist Ontology.Leonidas Tsilipakos - 2014 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 44 (6):0048393112461055.
Realist Social Theory and Its Losing Battle with Concepts.Leonidas Tsilipakos - 2015 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 45 (1):26-52.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
46 ( #232,411 of 2,449,142 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #298,981 of 2,449,142 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes