Critical Realism

Authored by: Justin Cruickshank

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Social Science

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138825758
eBook ISBN: 9781315410098
Adobe ISBN: 9781315410081


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In social science, realism often gets juxtaposed with positions deemed relativist, namely social constructionism, post-structuralism, and postmodernism, but the accurate distinctions are: relativism versus universalism and realism versus idealism. Idealism holds that reality consists entirely of minds and ideas. Realism, by contrast, stresses the independence of reality from us. While our ideas of reality are part of reality, reality exceeds those ideas and cannot exist in an isomorphic relation to them, with ideas being exact “copies” of objects. It is useful to distinguish between “metaphysical realism” and what is termed here “substantive realism”.

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