Thursday, 21 July 2005

Benefits of Critical Realism

In my previous post I noted that many theological and biblical scholars today are seeking to appropriate a “critical realist” method, but so far not many Christian scholars have engaged with the formative philosophical work of Roy Bhaskar. I think that in particular Bhaskar’s work allows us to see very sharply both the potential benefits and the unresolved problems of a critical realist method.

Based on my own reading of Bhaskar, here are some of potential benefits that I think critical realism might offer theology today:

  • Critical realism shows that we are actively and creatively involved in the production of knowledge.

  • It suggests that the production of knowledge involves responsibility to reality.

  • It claims that there is a basic methodological unity between the various academic disciplines.

  • It promises a basic method of inquiry which can be applied to any field of study.

  • It justifies the distinctiveness of the academic disciplines; each discipline needs its own methods and conceptuality, since each is concerned with a specific and unique reality.

  • It makes dialogue between traditions and discourses possible, since all discourses are in principle open towards the structures of reality.

  • It ties ethical action to knowledge, and it claims that the goal of knowledge-production is human emancipation.

    In my next post I will try to identify some of the unresolved problems which face a theological engagement with critical realism.
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