File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1996/96-05-20.182, message 82

Date: Thu, 22 Feb 1996 10:27:51 +0200 SAST
Subject: Bhaskar Glossary

|                                                         |
|                    BHASKAR GLOSSARY                     |
|                                                         |
|               Maintained by David Spurrett              |
|              <>             |
      1) Introduction
      2) The Glossary
      3) Nominated terms, pending entries
      4) List of contributors

---(1)------------------------------------- Introduction ---

  The Bhaskar Glossary  is not intended  to serve as  a dic-
tionary, which is to say that its primary purpose is not the
provision of  definitions.   Rather it  is intended  to give
short discussions of the most important terms in the  philo-
sophical vocabulary of Roy Bhaskar.  Many of these terms are
in  normal  philosophical  usage,  but  are used in novel or
specific ways, some are  neologisms of one sort  or another,
while  in  many  cases  he  repeatedly  uses  terms which he
defines sketchily at best, and usually in difficult to  find
corners of his texts.   In almost all cases there  are ques-
tions  of  interpretation  and  tenability.    The  glossary
entries aim to satisfy the needs arising from this state  of
  Where Bhaskar does provide  a definition his version  will
be included, but not as  a replacement to the discussion  of
the term in question.
  This glossary is  a work in  progress, and criticisms  of,
and suggestions about existing  entries are no less  welcome
than proposed new entries.

  I propose to make a glossary "business posting" about once
a  month  listing  the  terms  in  the  glossary,  and those
awaiting entries, and only to send copies of the glossary in
response to requests for it.  In due course we could perhaps
find an FTP home for the thing.

---(2)------------------------------------- The Glossary ---


      (Not in general philosophical usage)

      RTS: (64): "I shall use the term `actualism' to  refer
      to the doctrine of the actuality of causal laws;  that
      is, to the idea that laws are relations between events
      or states of affairs."

          Although actualism  allows that  the causal  link,
      insofar as there is one, obtains between _events_ (un-
      like   empiricism   which   would   restrict   it   to
      _experiences_) it is susceptible to the same  attacks,
      and for Bhaskar's purposes is often regarded as equiv-
      alent to empiricism.  For an actualist a constant con-
      junction is necessary for  the ascription of a  causal

CLOSURE ("Closed" and "Open" systems)

      (Not in general philosophical usage)

      RTS: (70): "... I will define a `closed system' simply
      as one in which  a constant conjunction of  events ob-
      tains; i.e. in which an event of type a is  invariably
      accompanied by an event of  type b.  Clearly the  pos-
      sibility of  such a  system does  not depend  upon the
      truth of regularity determinism.  Nor need such a sys-
      tem be `closed' in  any more picturesque sense  of the

      "Open"  systems  are  simply  systems  which  are  not
      closed, i.e. where constant conjunctions do not occur.

      Bhaskar's  division  of  the  world  into  "open"  and
      "closed" systems  in central  to his  justification of
      transcendental realism.   He marks the  distinction by
      referring to the world as "differentiated."  The  sup-
      posed fact of  the differentiation of  the world is  a
      crucial part  of the  argument that  empiricism is in-
      adequate to the task of sustaining the intelligibility
      of science,  so it  is rather  disappointing that  the
      concept of closure is so poorly fleshed out in RTS.

      A  major  difficulty  arising  with  the  concept of a
      closure is that in terms of the transcendetal  realist
      philosophical  ontology  described  by  Bhaskar in RTS
      closure should be virtually impossible.  This would be
      as a consequence  of the irreducibility,  autonomy and
      non-additive organisational principles of the  various
      parts of  the world.   That  said it  is essential for
      Bhaskar's account  of experimental  science that  con-
      stant  conjunctions  _do_  sometimes  occur, i.e. that
      some systems sometimes  be closed.   He thus needs  to
      say both that closure cannot occur, and that it  must.
      I do not think that the distinction drawn in RTS chap-
      ter 2 between the epistemically dominant and recessive
      versions of  the conditions  for closure  enables this
      difficulty to be disposed of.

      It would seem that in order to surmount this  conflict
      Bhaskar needs to be more picturesque, or at least more
      precise,  in  his  stipulation  of  what   constitutes
      closure, and what its role is in science.


      By  this  term  Bhaskar  marks his distinction between
      open and closed  systems.  He  takes the fact  of this
      differentiation to be pretty unquestionable, since  it
      is easy enough to see that in many cases constant con-
      junctions between events do not in fact occur.   Since
      a closed system  is defined simply  as one in  which a
      constant  conjunction  of  does  occur, and given that
      constant conjunctions  do not  _generally_ occur,  the
      differentiation of the world follows almost by defini-


      Generally:  (From   Gk;  `empeiria'   =  `experience')
      Empiricism  is  the  philosophical  theory which holds
      that all knowledge is derived from experience.

          Bhaskar  does  not  give  his  own  definition  of
      empiricism, but following his definition of  actualism
      (RTS 64) we could say something like:   "[`Empiricism'
      refers] to  the doctrine  of the  empiricity of causal
      laws; that is, to the idea that laws are relations be-
      tween experiences."

          In practice Bhaskar  often regards empiricism  and
      actualism as equivalent, and where it relies upon what
      he calls  the "Humean  theory of  causal laws"  trans-
      cendental idealism gets lumped in as well.

          For  Bhaskar  empiricism  has  several  other sig-
      nificant features:

      1) Experiences  must be  atomistic, ie  independent of
      one another.

      2) Since knowedge is purely derived from sense experi-
      ence  there  is  no  social  aspect to knowlede, which
      means that empiricism implies epistemic individualism.


      (Not in general philosophical usage)

      RTS: (36) "[The  `epistemic fallacy'] consists  in the
      view that statements about being can be reduced to  or
      analysed in  terms of  statements about  knowledge; ie
      that ontological  questions can  always be  transposed
      into epistemological ones."


      Generally:  Traditionally ontology as a branch of phi-
      losophy  is  that  part  of  metaphyscis  which sudies
      being, or existence itself, apart from the  properties
      of any particular existent.

      Bhaskar  distinguishes  between  `philosophical'   and
      `scientific' ontologies.  A philosophical ontology de-
      scribes "the kind of world presupposed by a philosoph-
      ical account  of science"  (RTS 29,  index incorrectly
      refers to  26) while  a scientific  ontology describes
      "the particular entities  and processes postulated  by
      some substantive scientific  theory." (ibid)   The two
      tasks do not overlap, so it "is the task of philosophy
      of science  to capture  science's essential  movement,
      not to guess its eventual destination." (RTS 147)

      The purpose  of this  distinction is  to establish the
      working parameters for criticism of the beliefs  which
      function  as  regulative  principles  for science (and
      therefore for scientific ontologies) which by  defini-
      tion do not admit  of scientific or empirical  refuta-


      Generally: ?

      Bhaskar uses this term in his analysis of the ontology
      presupposed by  actualism to  designate the  "research
      programme" (RTS 77) of positivistic science which  at-
      tempts to  reduce the  object of  study to individuals
      with no internal  structure, which in  Bhaskar's words
      "include nothing" (ibid).

      Bhaskar  is  also  concerned  to refute the suggestion
      that various sciences could be reduced into one anoth-


      RTS: (24)  "Science ... is a social activity whose aim
      is the production  of the knowledge  of the kinds  and
      ways of  acting of  independently existing  and active

      RTS: (148)  "Science ... is an ongoing social activity
      which   pre-exists   any   particular   generation  of
      scientists  and  any  particular  moment of conscious-

      Bhaskar's  insistence  upon  the  social  character of
      science is in keeping with  much C20 work in the  phi-
      losophy of science,  what is unusual  is to find  this
      tied to an equally strong insistence upon realism  and
      upon  the  rationality  and  the progressive nature of


      By  this  term  Bhaskar  marks his distinction between
      events and the  generative mechanisms which  give rise
      to the events.

TRANSITIVE/INTRANSITIVE (objects of knowledge)

The Transitive objects of knowledge:

      RTS: (21) "...knowledge ...  is a social product  like
      any other, which is no more independent of its produc-
      tion and the men who produce it than motor cars,  arm-
      chairs or  books, which  has its  own craftsmen, tech-
      nicians, publicists, standards and skills and which is
      no less subject to change than any other commodity."

The Intransitive objects of knowledge:

      RTS: (21) "...knowledge is `_of_' things which are not
      produced by men at  all: the specific gravity  of mer-
      cury, the  process of  electrolysis, the  mechanism of
      light propogation.  None  of these `objects of  knowl-
      edge' depend upon human activity."

---(3)-------------------------------- `Undefined' Terms ---

  TENDENCY - Possessed,Exercised,Realised,Detected/Percieved
---(4)------------------------------------- Contributors ---

This is a first draft, so is all the work of yours truly. As
time goes by I'll keep a record of those who suggest entries
or who point out errors, etc.


The "Instant Intellectual"
(just add funding)
 Say that you do no work,
 and that you will live forever.
                    - Ezra Pound



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