This is an attempt to place Critical Realism within one of the two major schools of thought. It is not possible to give a definitive and exhaustive list of paradigms, because the labels for different approaches are not used in standard ways. Instead, they are usually employed by researchers in socially situated ways.
Because all measurement is fallible, the post-positivist emphasizes the importance of multiple measures and observations, each of which may possess different types of error, and the need to use triangulation across these multiple errorful sources to try to get a better bead on what's happening in reality.
The post-positivist also believes that all observations are theory-laden and that scientists (and everyone else, for that matter) are inherently biased by their cultural experiences, world views, and so on.
This is not cause to give up in despair, however. Just because I have my world view based on my experiences and you have yours doesn't mean that we can't hope to translate from each other's experiences or understand each other.
Most post-positivists are constructivists who believe that we each construct our view of the world based on our perceptions of it. Because perception and observation is fallible, our constructions must be imperfect.
One of the most common forms of post-positivism is a philosophy called critical realism.
Let us put Critical Realism in context by looking at Hammersley’s argument in our paper.
CRITICAL Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.
So People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically. They are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked.
Critical Realism is a specific form of realism that recognises the reality and holds that we will only be able to understand- and so change- the social world if we identify the structures at work that generate the reality.
So a critical realist believes that there is a reality independent of our thinking about it that science can study. Its useful to point out that this is in contrast with a subjectivist who would hold that there is no external reality -- we're each making this all up!).
Positivists were also realists. The difference is that the critical realist recognizes that all observation is fallible and has error and that all theory is revisable. In other words, the critical realist is critical of our ability to know reality with certainty.
Where the positivist believed that the goal of science was to uncover the truth, critical realist believes that the goal of science is to hold steadfastly to the goal of getting it right about reality, even though we can never achieve that goal!
Roy A. Bhaskar (born 1944) is a British philosopher, born in London, and is known as the founder of the philosophical movement: Critical Realism. Unlike most of the other philosophers we come across in this course, Bhaskar is still ALIVE. In 1963 Bhaskar went to Oxford University on a scholarship to read Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. Having graduated with first class honours, he began work on a PhD thesis about the relevance of economic theory for under-developed countries. It was this research that led him to the philosophy of social science first before he moved to working on the philosophy of science. Since 1995 he has worked full-time on the Centre for Critical Realism and the International Association of Critical Realism.
Martyn Hammersley is Professor of Educational and Social Research at The Open University. He has carried out research in the sociology of education and the sociology of the media. However, much of his work has been concerned with the methodological issues surrounding social enquiry. He has written several books, including: The Politics of Social Research (Sage 1995); Taking Sides in Social Research (Routledge, 1999) and Questioning Qualitative Inquiry (Sage 2008).
Group presentation for Masters @ City University London