Critical Realism and Causality: Tracing the Aristotelian Legacy


Abstract
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
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-5914.2009.00400.x
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Peirce's Theory of Signs.T. L. Short - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.

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

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