quarta-feira, 17 de setembro de 2008
Roy Bhaskar entrevistado por Christopher Norris (parte 1)
Pouco conhecido no Brasil, Roy Bhaskar é um dos filósofos mais criativos da contemporaneidade. Seu trabalho pioneiro na filosofia da ciência deu origem a um movimento internacional e interdisciplinar chamado Realismo Crítico, que tem inspirado trabalhos em áreas tão distintas quanto a inteligência artificial, a enfermagem, a psiquiatria, a economia, a psicologia, a sociologia, a antropologia e o direito. Dentre os sociólogos mais conhecidos ligados ao realismo crítico encontram-se William Outhwaite, Margaret Archer, Ted Benton, John Urry e Doug Porpora. Entre aqueles não diretamente associados ao realismo crítico, mas cujas obras são especialmente compatíveis com esta abordagem filosófica, podemos citar Anthony Giddens e Pierre Bourdieu.
Embora nenhum dos livros de Bhaskar tenha sido traduzido para o português, algumas de suas idéias podem ser encontradas nos diversos verbetes que escreveu para o Dicionário do Pensamento Marxista (editado por Tom Bottomore) e para o Dicionário do Pensamento Social do Século XX (editado por William Outhwaite e Tom Bottomore). Para uma introdução em português ao Realismo Crítico, remeto a um artigo que publiquei há alguns anos.
A entrevista abaixo, publicada originalmente no número 8 da The Philosopher’s Magazine (linkada ao lado), foi gentilmente cedida ao Cazzo pelo editor da revista, Jeremy Stangroom.
C.N. You have been thinking and writing about issues in the philosophy of science for around twenty five years. Can you tell us what originally took you into this area and why it has remained such a central preoccupation?
R.B. I got a scholarship to Oxford to study PPE and I was equally interested in all three subjects, but it seemed to me in the mid to late sixties that clearly the most important problem facing mankind was that of world poverty. It also seemed to me that economic theory had very little of relevance to say about this, so I started writing a PhD thesis on the relevance of economic theory for under-developed countries, the answer to which, if it had been written, would probably have been very little, probably nil. But in order to elaborate this intuition it was necessary for me to go back to issues in the philosophy of social science and further back into the philosophy of science. I found the philosophy of social science to be dominated by a very unrewarding dispute between positivism and hermeneutics, and they all seemed to be dominated by an empiricist philosophy of science.
About this time, there was a very vigorous theoretical debate generated by Kuhn, Feyerabend, Lakatos and so on. I found this extremely stimulating. These theorists called into question standard empiricist orthodoxies in what I call the transitive or epistemological dimension of science. They had virtually nothing to say, except by implication, about ontology, that is, the theory of being. They basically left the empiricist ontology intact, so they could not sustain their rational intuitions or insights. I found some clues about a possible alternative ontology from the works of people like Rom Harré, who were moving in a realist direction. Now they didn't have very much to say about the transitive dimension as such, but they were very critical about the deductive, nomological model of explanation. Implicitly they called into question the sufficiency of the Humean, Hempelian, Popperian orthodoxy. What I was doing in A Realist Theory of Science and related works was to call into question the necessity of these theories which dominated empiricism and anti-empiricism. In particular, I did this by re-thematising ontology and giving it a certain new content or shape. Really the whole of my work has stemmed from this essay into ontology. I should just say that within a year or so I was teaching economics, but I had changed my research topic to philosophy. After two years, I switched to become a full-time philosopher, which I realised was the true love of my life.
C.N. Can you tell us what is distinctive about critical realism as compared with other realist epistemologies and philosophies of science?
R.B. The answer to this question would take an interview in its own right! But very briefly, it used a transcendental method of argument, which most philosophies of science didn't use, and then the transcendental argument became a dialectical one in which the force was immanent critique. Secondly, it had the various propositions about ontology, about the necessity of ontology, about the particular place or shape of ontology - that the nature of the world is presupposed by science – which it explicitly thematised, and it was shown that rival philosophies of science tacitly secreted or implicitly presupposed some distinctive, normally Humean, ontology that was quite inadequate to the real nature of being and the true character of science. The sort of ontology I was arguing for was the kind of ontology in which the world was seen as structured, differentiated and changing. And science was seen as a process in motion attempting to capture ever deeper and more basic strata of a reality at any moment of time unknown to us and perhaps not even empirically manifest.
So this created a radically new world view and this world view was taken into the philosophy of social science, into ethics, into politics to a small extent, into other branches of philosophy, into the history of philosophy, and above all into the area of dialectic.
Now there is a third thing besides the content of the particular thesis at issue at any particular stage in the development of critical realism. Through and through critical realism has been critical of what we can call the nature of reality itself. Not the nature of absolute reality, or the absolute structure of being - to be critical of that is to put oneself into the position of God or the creator of the universe - but rather it is to be critical of the nature of actual, currently existing, social reality, or of our understandings of social and natural reality. It has always taken epistemologies, philosophical thesis, etc., as reflections of the society in which they are generated and sustained. And as far as these theses are misleading, they point to deep categorial confusions and errors inherent in the very structure of social reality itself. So it was natural to find an identification between people who were influenced by critical realism and left-wing socialist, Marxist and other critical currents of thought in the 1970s and through on into the 1990s.
And so I would say that the three major distinctive things about critical realism are: its transcendental and dialectical character; the content of its particular theses; and the fact that it is critical of the nature of reality itself, in the first instance social reality, including the impact of human beings upon the natural world in which they are embedded and in which they are at present creating so much havoc.
C.N. How do you see your work as having changed and developed in the period since your first book, A Realist Theory of Science, appeared in 1975.
R.B. I think looking at it over the last 25 years or so, there have been four major benchmarks and I'm now working on initiating a fifth. These can be associated with particular books: 'transcendental realism' with A Realist Theory of Science; 'critical naturalism', first promulgated in The Possibility of Naturalism; Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation, which forefronted the notion of 'explanatory critiques' and the refutation of 'Hume's Law'; and the 'dialectical turn', initiated in Dialectic: the pulse of freedom and recapitulated in Plato etc. Just to summarise briefly what I take to be the salient features of this development.
A Realist Theory of Science re-thematised ontology, argued for its necessity and irreducibility in any account of science, and gave it a radically different shape or context. In particular, it argued against the epistemic fallacy, that is the idea that one can reduce or analyse knowledge in terms of being. It was argued that being was an absolutely irreducible and necessary category.
The Possibility of Naturalism argued against the dualisms and splits that dominated the then contemporary human sciences – and which to a large extent, despite critical realism and related currents of thought, continue to do so now. What were these dualisms? They were dualisms between positivism and hermeneutics; between collectivism and individualism; structure and agency; reason and cause; mind and body; fact and value. In each case, critical naturalism argued for a third sublating position which could reconcile these stark polarities and oppositions, and which could situate the two extremes as special cases of the more general sublating position. Thus, against positivism and hermeneutics, it argued for a critical naturalism based on a realist philosophy of science. Against collectivism and individualism alike, it argued for relationism - that is, the conception of society as essentially relational in character, as not consisting either of collectivities of individuals or individuals, but as concerned with the relations between individuals. Then in opposition to the dichotomy of structure and agency, it argued for what I called the transformational model of social activity, which is not to identify structure or agency, but to trace their distinctive features and mutual interdependency, in a way that Margaret Archer and others have shown is distinct from, although related to, that position that Giddens has put forward under the theory of structuration. Basically, structure always tends to collapse into agency on his model, whereas on my model the agents themselves have natural and other perhaps transcendental components that can't be reduced to social structures. The fourth dichotomy argued against was the stark contrast between reason and causes, where I argued that reasons were in fact causally explicable and causally efficacious in my conception of intentional causality. Against a crude materialism and idealism, which would dislocate embodied human beings from the material world, I argued for what I characterised as a synchronic, emergent powers materialism, in which mind is seen as an emergent power of matter. And finally, I argued against the stark polarity and contrast between facts and values. There is a dialectical interrelation between facts and values, in which we are never situated in a value free context. Values always impregnate and imbue our social praxis and our factual discourse, but at the same time, facts themselves do generate evaluative conclusions. This paved the way for the refutation of Hume's law. Truth and factuality are themselves norms, but that is a presupposition of all factual discourse, and on the basis of that value we can generate other evaluative conclusions.
The fourth major development is I think the most radical and exciting, after the first – and this is the dialectical turn, taken in Dialectic: the pulse of freedom. And this put to the fore two notions which I think are absolutely crucial. The notion of absence and dialectic was defined recursively, in terms of absenting constraints on absenting ills, and if constraints and ills alike are understood in terms of absence, as absenting absence on absenting absence. The notion of absence I regard as ontologically, logically and epistemologically prior to that notion of presence. Positive being could not exist without negative being. And the full implications traced through of this dialecticalisation of ontology are very radical indeed, and presuppose a vision of the good society viewed as implicit in every human action or remark. The second major innovation in this book was the notion of truth as being ontological as well as absolute; that is, an expressive, ontic dualism, as well as epistemological, as well as being social.
The firth turn I'm working on now is the sense in which the highest order categorial structure of any domain of reality or being as such can have implications for our daily praxis.
C.N. Your work has always had a strong ethical and political content, especially in a book like Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation. Could you explain in this connection just why you think it is so important to defend a realist conception of science against a marked anti-realist tendency that has typified so many recent movements of thought.
R.B. I think there are three main reasons for this. First of all, there is the argument that one can derive facts from values. This allows the possibility of ethics and politics becoming, in principle, decidable disciplines. Following on from this, I argue that morality and moral sciences, including politics, have an intransitive dimension, that is, I say that they have real objects, which it is the job of these moral scientists to investigate. This allows the possibility of a rational critique of what I call actual existing moralities. Thirdly, I think it is important because I believe that truth is the highest truth, and that very radical implications can be derived from this idea.
C.N. Critical realism is now quite a large scale and interdisciplinary movement of thought, with representatives in various branches of the physical, social and human sciences. Could you tell us something about the history of the movement, and why it has been able to bring them together despite the increasing specialisation of much academic life.
R.B. When I started out people who had been influenced by my work found themselves frequently marginalised in academic life. They had extreme difficulty in getting critical realist papers published, and I found myself acting as a sort of one person support mechanism for people influenced by my work. It was helped a little by the publication of books by Ted Benton, Russell Keat and John Urry, and others – and it began to develop an academic reputation. Nevertheless, there was still a feeling of isolation and fragmentation. Then four of us got together - myself, Ted Benton, Andrew Collier and William Outhwaite - in the early 1980s, and we would begin by discussing important theses in philosophy and end up by discussing what was wrong with the state of politics or whatever. Out of that was born the Realism and Human Sciences conferences movement. From 1983, we had annual conferences, characterised by friendliness and intellectual stimulation, solidarity and great enjoyment. Not really marked by careerism, position taking, fractious argument, but a real sense of comradeship and an idea of the exploration of truth.
These conferences gradually grew bigger and bigger, and critical realism began to take off in the different disciplines – in sociology, economics, biology, even in physics – it took off in the States, in European countries and all over the world. There were journals, like Radical Philosophy, which were sympathetic to critical realism – that published articles more easily by critical realists. And then around 1995, we decided to begin to formulate a centre for critical realism which was instituted as a registered charity in 1997-98. We have our own website and about 30000 people have subscribed to the Bhaskar list on the internet.
I think critical realists are understanding the importance of networking and mutual solidarity. It is still a very radical and somewhat fragmented movement. And I would argue that there are profound reasons for this, because the nature of any society dominated by instrumental reason - by reification, by alienation, by master-slave relations - the categorial structure of such a society will be irrealist in character. Irrealism, of one sort another, will always have the backing, as it were, of the superficial currency of social reality. So critical realists will always be at odds with what appears to be the case in society. So we are marginalised now, by the nature of social reality itself, but despite that we are forming a resistance movement to that categorial structure, in tune and in keeping with deeper categorial structures, which irrealist categorial structures mask, obscure and occlude.
C.N. The concept of stratification is extremely important in your own thinking and much of the work produced by your colleagues in the CR movement. It has to do with the need for complex, differentiated grasp of the various strata or levels of reality, some of them exerting their causal powers wholly independent of human intervention, while others are affected by the kinds of observation we make or the sorts of experiment we carry out. Could you say a bit more about this aspect of your thinking and how it links up with ethical issues -for example, the scope for responsible choice in matters of applied scientific research?
R.B. I think Marx somewhere observed that the whole of science would be pointless unless there was a possibility of a distinction between essence and appearance - unless there was the possibility that what we thought about natural reality or any other form of reality was wrong.
Therefore, this notion of stratification is already necessary to sustain the idea of critique. The critique of some kinds of understanding or reflection - or the nature of a level of reality, including social reality - in terms of its misdescription of a more basic, deeper or autonomous level of reality. That is essential for the notion of critique or argumentation generally.
Additionally, the development of science has revealed a process of a continual stratification of knowledge, as we attempt to capture ever deeper or wider strata of reality. This is an evident fact about the nature of scientific process, only sustainable by a critical realist ontology in which the world itself is seen as stratified.
Putting these two points together, the critical impulse in science is one of demystification and the central norm with which I have been concerned recently is that of human freedom. Human freedom depends upon understanding the truth about reality and acting towards it, so it is essential that science and philosophy should be concerned with human liberation. This takes us into the realm of ethical issues in scientific research. Because we are very far from perfect or free, by which I mean we are far from the full realisation of our potentials, and because we're dominated by a capitalist society in which reification, alienation, dualism, illusion, categorial error are dominant and manifesting themselves in modalities of instrumental reason and a whole complex of master/slave relationships, there must be necessary constraints on generating anything that goes by the empirical name of science. So people have recently, quite rightly, become worried about the abuses of science involved in genetic engineering research. We have very good reason to believe that many increases in scientific understanding will actually be abhorrent.
This raises the important question that we cannot prosecute science in an intellectual or moral vacuum. It may be necessary for morality to correct bad science, but it corrects it in the name of a higher norm, true freedom. And that is guided by a highest norm of all – fundamental truth.