File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9802, message 43

Subject: Re: BHA: Aristotle and all that
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 09:46:12 +0000

Hi Howard,

Perhaps we are talking at cross purposes here, but I don't understand your
comment to me:

 And for life of me, Colin, I don't see how we can finesse 
>the question by saying PON is about society and so we have to leave 
>the lessons of RTS or Harre and Madden behind.  

I wasn't aware that I had ever said such a thing. PON _isn't_ (and I never
said it was) just about society as my defence of Bhaskar's chapter on agency
should have made clear. My disagreement is not about the content of what you
are arguing, but about the valididty of Aristotle's framework. That's all.
And part and parcel of the problem is one of perspective. That is depending
upon one's transitive objects different intransitive objects will appear to
be different types of cause (in an Aristotelian framework).

The key question, as you note is about agency. But I will say this again
(although I have no wish to get into a debate about it again, nor the time);
like Bhaskar, in the social world, when I use the term agency I refer to
human agency. This is not to say that agent is not a term that can be
usefully applied in the natural sciences (the chemical agent, for example).
But the agent-structure problem arises out of a concern, as Harre puts it,
to 'reinsert the agent into the story, the one who, in some way is
significant in giving meaning to what he or she does and who they are.'
(Harre, 1979, p.3)

Now as anyone who has grappled with this problem will know, as soon as one
says anything like this, some people are tempted to think that the
affirmation of human agency is the same thing as the denial of structure. Of
course, nothing of the kind follows. I also insist on the causal efficacy,
and reality, of social structures. The point is, is that there is an
'ontological hiatus' between agents and structures. Agents possess certain
powers which structures do not. Are these differences susceptible to an
Aristotleian causal analysis? Maybe, I'm just not convinced.

But I don't see how you can move from my concerns (which I have admitted may
be more based on my ignorance of Aristotle's framewok) on this issue to say
that I am attempting to finesse the question by saying its only a question
about society. Society after all consists of people. (And before anyone says
anything, this does not mean that it consists _ONLY_ of people).



Dr. Colin Wight
Department of International Politics
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Tel: (01970) 621769


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