File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0110, message 8

Date: Tue, 02 Oct 2001 21:46:48 +0100
Subject: Re: BHA: metaphors (e.g. ills)

on 2/10/01 10:20 am, Hans Puehretmayer at

> Hi all,
> can somebody explain why Bhaskar permanently uses the medical word
> "ills" for every non-ideal social and individual process (see f.e. SRHE
> 191: cognitive ills, practical ills, psycho-social ills, socio-economic
> ills, communicative ills, etc.)?
> There are two questions:
> a: Does it make sense to have only one concept (which is not even a
> theoretical concept) for qualitatively very different processes?
> b: Isn't it problematic to use a medical metaphor (the picture of
> society as an organism?!) for social injustices and individual
> difficulties?

I don't think "ill" is used here in a medical sense at all.

As the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has it:

B. substantive (the adjective used absolutely) 1. = EVIL, sb. (i)a the
opposite of good ...

This is followed by a number of other more particular senses.

One has economic and social ills just as one can speak of economic and
social goods.

Bhaskar does have a very particular sense of the good, connected to his idea
of human flourishing, which far from being untheorised is at the heart of
his project. 

Surely a great deal (most, all?) of Bhaskar's later argument is precisely
intended to show that there is something that unites different ills, which
for him are absences and constraints on human action (and flourishing)? That
they share similar structures, and are generated (some of them) by the same

If I were more confident of my own grasp, I should simply say "Read on, all
will become clear!"

But then it mightn't...

Dafydd Roberts

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