Critical Realism and Causality: Tracing the Aristotelian Legacy

Rom Harré's generative account of causality has been drawn on heavily by advocates of critical realism. Yet Harré argues that critical realists often exaggerate the extent to which powerful causal explanations of social phenomena can be developed. Certain proponents of critical realism have responded to Harré's criticisms by suggesting that it is useful to consider the relevant issues in relation to the familiar Aristotelian classification of four causes. In this paper I contribute to this debate and pursue a similar strategy. The paper adds to existing contributions in two ways. Firstly, I outline how Harré sees his generative account of causality as linking up with Aristotelian themes. It emerges that Harré at times conceives of his generative theory as part of an alternative to the Aristotelian system while at other times he draws connections between it and a reformulated account of formal causality. Secondly, I argue that when we consider the positions of Harré and proponents of critical realism on the scope of causal explanation in the social realm in relation to the interpretation of final causes offered by another philosopher profoundly influenced by the Aristotelian tradition, namely Charles Peirce, we can see both as limited in certain respects
Keywords Aristotle  powerful particulars  rules  final causes  Peirce  Harré  Causality  critical realism
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1468-5914.2009.00400.x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 48,997
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Peirce's Theory of Signs.T. L. Short - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 34 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

An Evolutionary Approach to Emergence and Social Causation.Nuno Martins - 2011 - Journal of Critical Realism 10 (2):192-218.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
28 ( #342,227 of 2,310,437 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #202,451 of 2,310,437 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature