"Powers and Capacities in Philosophy" is designed to stake out an emerging, discipline-spanning neo-Aristotelian framework grounded in realism about causal powers. The volume brings together for the first time original essays by leading philosophers working on powers in relation to metaphysics, philosophy of natural and social science, philosophy of mind and action, epistemology, ethics and social and political philosophy. In each area, the concern is to show how a commitment to real causal powers affects discussion at the level in question. (...) In metaphysics, for example, realism about powers is now recognized as providing an alternative to orthodox accounts of causation, modality, properties and laws. Dispositional realist philosophers of science, meanwhile, argue that a powers ontology allows for a proper account of the nature of scientific explanation. In the philosophy of mind there is the suggestion that agency is best understood in terms of the distinctive powers of human beings. Those who take virtue theoretic approaches in epistemology and ethics have long been interested in the powers that allow for knowledge and/or moral excellence. In social and political philosophy, finally, powers theorists are interested in the powers of sociological phenomena such as collectivities, institutions, roles and/or social relations, but also in the conditions of possibility for the cultivation of the powers of individuals. The book will be of interest to philosophers working in any of these areas, as well as to historians of philosophy, political theorists and critical realists. (shrink)
In this interview, Ruth Groff discusses how she came to be a realist, her role as a community organizer, her relationship to critical realism, and various issues arising from her published work over the years. Discussion ranges across the nature of positivism and its legacy, the concept of falsehood, realism about causal powers, mind-independent reality, the history of philosophy, and the underlying interest in ideology-critique that runs through her thinking.
Groff defends 'realism about causality' through close discussions of Kant, Hilary Putnam, Brian Ellis and Charles Taylor, among others. In so doing she affirms critical realism, but with several important qualifications. In particular, she rejects the theory of truth advanced by Roy Bhaskar. She also attempts to both clarify and correct earlier critical realist attempts to apply realism about causality to the social sciences. By connecting issues in metaphysics and philosophy of science to the problem of relativism, Groff bridges the (...) gap between the philosophical literature and broader debates surrounding socio-political theory and poststructuralist thought. This unique approach will make the book of interest to philosophers and socio-political theorists alike. (shrink)
Talk of powers is muddled. Building upon Powers and capacities in philosophy: The new aristotelianism, Routledge, London, 2012a, pp 207–227), I disambiguate four senses of the term: powers construed as activity, as capacity/potentiality, as essence and as necessity, respectively, in an attempt to clarify what it is that realists about causal powers take themselves to be realists about.
I argue that realism about causal powers sublates the passivist, Humean-inflected free will problematic. In the first part of the paper I show that adopting what I call ‘powers-non-determinism’ reconfigures the conceptual terrain with respect to the causation component of the contemporary problematic. In part two I show how adopting ‘powers-non-determinism’ significantly alters the nature of the discussion with respect to the agency component of the problematic. In part three I compare ‘powers-non-determinism’ to an otherwise- Humean agent causal position.
Ontology. Revisited. Groff's argument cuts against a familiar anti-metaphysical grain. Social and political philosophy, she maintains, is not as metaphysically neutral as it may seem. Even the most deontological of theories connects up with a ...
I argue that a powers-based metaphysics radically reconfigures the existing free will problematic. This is different from claiming that such an approach solves the ill-conceived problems that emerge from Humean-Kantian default commitments.
The concept of the three domains of reality is widely used in empirical critical realist research. However, there has been little scrutiny of how the domains are conceptualized and what they contribute to critical realism and how they should be applied in empirical research. This paper involves four arguments. First, Tom Fryer and Cristián Navarrete argue that the three domains of reality are redundant, confusing, and unsupported by Bhaskar’s theorizing. Second, Dave Elder-Vass argues that the three domains schema embodies a (...) distinction between the actual and the non-actual real. Regardless of whether we call them domains we need to retain this distinction. Third, Tobin Nellhaus argues that there are several reasons to uphold the three domains, but ‘the empirical’ is flawed and must be enfolded within a more encompassing theory. Fourth, Ruth Groff argues that the metaphor of ontological stratification is a problem when readers take it literally, often misconstruing the actual metaphysical content that it is meant to capture. (shrink)
A realist, powers‐based metaphysics is very much on the table in contemporary metaphysics, and is beginning to take hold in philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. On this picture, causality is (roughly) a matter of the powers that things have to effect change(s) in other things. The realist view is at odds with every version of Humeanism, according to all of which causation is not, in the end, about the exercise of powers, but rather, in one way or another, (...) about regular sequences. The chapter has two parts. In the first part the chapter considers how it is that analytic philosophers of social science have been able thus far to side‐step the critique of Humeanism. In the second part, the chapter considers how analytic philosophy of social science might look different, were Humeanism no longer to be its tacit metaphysics. (shrink)
Lack of clarity about underlying philosophical commitments leads to lack of clarity at other levels of analysis. Here I show that the literature on so-called “causal mechanisms” is rife with conceptual problems, stemming from insufficient rigor with respect to the metaphysics of causation.
I argue that critical realists think pretty much what Tukka Kaidesoja says that he himself thinks, but also that Kaidesoja’s objections to the views that he attributes to critical realists are not persuasive.
I argue that Aristotelians who are sympathetic to the critique of liberal moral categories put forward by Alasdair MacIntyre ought to avail themselves of Marx's analysis of capitalism in Capital, Volume 1. Broadly speaking, there are two reasons for such a recommendation. First, Marx's account shows capitalism to be the sociological substrate for the evisceration of particularity that so concerns MacIntyre and other Aristotelians. I offer an explanation for why MacIntyre seems not to appreciate this. Second, Marx's own thinking is (...) markedly Aristotelian, in ways that I specify. (shrink)
In this lecture I argue that it is not possible for social scientists or others engaged in making causal claims about the world to be neutral with respect to the question of what causation is. One need not be in possession of a full-blown account, but one must know whether or not, in saying that something is the cause of a given outcome, one intends to say that it has actively produced or generated that outcome. Following Brian Ellis, I refer (...) to accounts according to which the answer would be ‘No’ as ‘passivist’. One is free to be a passivist, but it is not possible to be neither a passivist nor an anti-passivist. (shrink)
Subject & Object is a thematic collection of classic works by Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse, designed to foreground the authors' philosophical concerns, especially in the areas of epistemology, ontology, and method. The volume, which includes lucid introductions to all of the selections, illustrates Frankfurt School approaches to questions such as the nature of reason; the limits of empiricism, pragmatism and Kantian transcendental idealism; the case for materialism; the difficulty of thinking counterfactually; and the ideological character of mainstream (...) social science. Many of the pieces in the volume are otherwise out of print. Subject & Object will be a resource for social, political, and cultural theorists who may be less familiar with the philosophical aspects of the Frankfurt School, for analytic philosophers who may not have had previous exposure to their work at all, and for anyone wanting access to these seminal texts. (shrink)
The following is an assessment of critical realism, a philosophy of science advanced in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s by Roy Bhaskar. My contention is that critical realism points toward a way out of the post-positivist intellectual morass in which we currently find ourselves. ;I identify two challenges posed by proponents of what I refer to as post-positivist perspectivism: epistemic relativism and the anti-realism that relativism presupposes. I take these challenges to have political implications, in that both undermine our capacity to (...) talk seriously about falsehood. I argue that critical realism is most valuable as a non-Humean account of causality. As such it provides for a direct counter to anti-realism and an indirect counter to epistemic relativism. ;I attempt to determine the significance of critical realism by engaging with a set of representative interlocutors: Kant, Hilary Putnam, Charles Varela and Rom Harre, Brian Ellis and, to a limited extent, Charles Taylor. Following an introductory chapter, in which I set out Bhaskar's position, I devote a chapter to Kant's transcendental idealism, a chapter to Hilary Putnam's internal realism, a chapter to Bhaskar's theory of truth and a chapter to Bhaskar's extension of his views to the social and psychological sciences. In the chapter on Bhaskar's philosophy of social and psychological science I respond to objections raised by Charles Varela and Rom Harre in relation to the causal efficacy of social structures, and to objections raised to the general position, articulated by Brian Ellis. I also raise certain concerns of my own regarding Bhaskar's conceptualization of the efficacy of reasons and his treatment of actions. I conclude by reflecting, in a final chapter, on the significance of Bhaskar's work in relation to the challenges of relativism and anti-realism. (shrink)
Wholes, parts, form and powers Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9585-6 Authors Ruth Porter Groff, Department of Political Science, Saint Louis University, 3750 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108-3412, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.