Anti-foundationalism and social ontology : towards a realist sociology
Cruickshank, Justin, 1969- (2000) Anti-foundationalism and social ontology : towards a realist sociology. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.
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Official URL: http://webcat.warwick.ac.uk/record=b1370986~S1
My concern in this thesis is with the transcendental question concerning the condition of
possibility for social science. I argue that for social scientific knowledge to obtain one
must: (1) have a conception of knowledge formation as theoretically mediated and
fallible; and (2), social scientific knowledge claims must be about an object of study
which conceptualises social structure as an enablement as well as an external constraint
upon agency. This means: (1) arguing for an anti-foundational epistemology, which
avoids becoming truth-relativism, by being complemented with a metaphysical realist
ontology (giving us the position of 'realist anti-foundationalism'); and (2), using a social
realist meta-theory of emergent properties to explain how methodology (i. e. the
construction of specific theories and empirical research) has a conceptually mediated and
fallible access to social reality.
Developing a critical (i. e. transcendental) examination of the presuppositions of social
scientific knowledge also means, afortiori, using realism as an underlabourer. The
negative underlabouring role is to proscribe theories based on some form of epistemic
immediacy, or being-knowing identity. It therefore means rejecting positivist, empiricist
and essentialist versions of social science. The form of essentialism dealt with is called
the sociological logic of immediacy, and this pertains to definitive ontologies of social
structures or human being. Whereas the use of positivist and empiricist epistemology as a
positive underlabourer produces a methodology that conflates the real into the 'actual'
(i.e. decontextualised empirical 'facts'), the use of an essentialist ontology makes
methodology either redundant (as the ontology mirrors all the essential properties which
determine human behaviour), or an exercise in arbitrary verificationism. Against this,
realist anti-foundationalism can act as apositive underlabourer for the social sciences if it
is complemented by a social realist ontology of emergent properties, to act as a metatheory
which guides methodology.
In developing this argument my chief concern is to show that realism (as developed by
Archer and Bhaskar) is a more adequate position than post-Wittgensteinian positions
which focus on 'practices' and how people 'go on' in 'forms of life'. 'Adequacy' in this
sense pertains to epistemological discussions about the status of knowledge, together with
ramifications of post-Wittgensteinianism for knowledge of the socio-political realm. This
means providing a critique of Rorty and Giddens, after dealing with the issue of
empiricism. Although Rorty's critique of 'postmodernism' as essentialist is accepted.
Whereas realism can explain how we have a conceptually mediated and fallible
knowledge of reality, including social reality, post-Wittgensteinian positions fall into
truth-relativism and essentialist conceptions of human being and social structures.
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)|
|Subjects:||B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Social sciences -- Philosophy, Ontology, Realism|
|Official Date:||February 2000|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||Department of Sociology|
|Supervisor(s)/Advisor:||Archer, Margaret Scotford ; Trigg, Roger|
|Extent:||vi, 304 leaves|
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