uu.seUppsala University Publications
Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Types of System and Models of Explanation
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2004 (English)In: 2004 Annual Conference of the International Association for Critical Realism, Cambridge, UK, 17-19 August, 2004Conference paper (Other (popular scientific, debate etc.))
Abstract [en]

The aim of the paper is to substantiate dialectical critical realism, by furnishing the subsequent, supervenient moments of its dialectic from 1M to 4D (5C), by the insights from General Systems Theory and from the discussion in the aftermath of Althusserian structural Marxism regarding structural causality, regional and particular theories. While the general tendency in the later writings of Bhaskar has been to encompass all processes and mechanisms of determination under the umbrella concept of dialectic, which then is virtually reduced to the logic of absence, I reinstate the essential distinctions between emergence and causality, between horizontal and vertical determination and between synchronic and diachronic emergence at the centre of DCR.

By merging the DCR account, which stresses the centrality of concepts/processes such as ontological stratification, emergence, constellationality etc with systems theory, with central themes as (neg)entropy, feedback, homeostasis, adaptation etc and further with metaphors and analogies from evolutionary theory, the concepts of constellationality and rhythmics get a more substantial content. By this token I distinguish between three modes of systems; equilibrial, homeostatic, and processual, as outlined by Walter Buckley. The paradigm forms of explanation applicable to these three types of system are often held to be causal, functional and intentional respectively. I am partly challenging this assumption, and hold that we should see these three types of systems as part of a stratified but essentially unified world in which various forms of determination apply.

It is my contention that a synthesis of critical realism and a systems approach would be valuable in providing a bridge between philosophical and scientific ontologies and between pure and applied research, and, to use the terms of Poulantzas, between regional and particular theories within a more encompassing general theoretical frame. This provides also means for linking taxonomic and nomothetic knowledge.

I argue for the conception of a fourth domain, situated at the intersection of the domains of the real and the actual, which I denominate the domain of the real2 or the domain of structurata. This fourth ‘domain’ of reality has to be added to the Bhaskarian trinity: the domain of the real2, which in some sense ‘stands between’ the domains of the real and the actual in Bhaskar’s writings. This domain is described as that of more ephemerally laminated or dynamic structures, distinct both from the domain of the real (in the sense that these dynamic aspects have no real or better radically transfactual status, but are in essence products of, but nevertheless irreducible to, the transfactual, structural causal mechanisms in the domain of the real) and from the domain of the actual (in that they are the immediate ‘producers’ of the (f)actual flux of events). In borrowing the terminology of Bunge, we could say that the two domains of the real would then coincide in cases of disjunctive pluralities of causes, but in cases of conjunctive plurality of causes, the domain of the real2 would act as a mediator between the real1 (Bhaskar’s domain of the real) and the actual. However, the real2, while causally efficacious on the domain of the actual, could very well be seen as emergentally efficacious ‘back’ on the domain of the real1. Here Archer’s concept of ‘elaboration’ is used as the key to the ‘routinisation’ of such real2 structures into real1 structures, thus bridging between diachronic and synchronic emergence.

I then incorporate the notion of (natural/social) selection (in the sense of evolutionary theory) into the morphogenetic approach of Margaret Archer (with the elaboration provided by the notion of real2 or laminated systems) and posit these real2-structures as societal ‘probes’ for the possible ‘routinisation’ into real1-objects/structures. Those real2-structures (or parts or aspects of them) that prove to be beneficial for the survival of the group or of the rationalisation of the life-world tend to be routinised and ‘ossified’ into the more stable and unchanging real1-structures (rules, resources, practices, roles, class-positions etc) and mechanisms.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Dialectical Critical Realism, Systems Theory, Emergence, Reduction, Elaboration, Scientific Explanation
National Category
Philosophy Sociology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-81641OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-81641DiVA: diva2:109556
Available from: 2006-08-29 Created: 2006-08-29

Open Access in DiVA

No full text

Other links


Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Engholm, Pär
By organisation
Department of Sociology

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Total: 213 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link