Reclaiming Rational Theory Choice as Central: A Critique of Methodological Applications of Critical Realism

Journal of Critical Realism 15 (3):245-262 (2016)

Abstract

My central claim is that texts introducing and explaining critical realism focus on its ontological insights, and even though issues of judgemental rationality and theory choice are central to research these often become peripheral and/or are not stated in the way Bhaskar presented them. This claim is defended by comparing Bhaskar's statements and arguments about theory choice to texts introducing critical realism and its potential research implications. The method of rational theory choice and the key criterion for it are presented: immanent critique combined with retroduction to determine whether a theory has greater explanatory power than its rivals, where greater explanatory power is defined as having greater epistemic credibility because it can explain more significant phenomena and has a greater ability to integrate knowledge; and multitheoretic-linguality as a prerequisite for applying the criterion of greater explanatory power. Greater explanatory power may be assigned to competing theories, metatheories and interpretations. Lastly, a more detailed example of the disparity between Bhaskar's specifications for rational theory choice and those found in a methodology text is provided.

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