Re: Activity theory, ontology and critical realism(!?)

From: Bruce Robinson (
Date: Wed Jun 15 2005 - 03:29:26 PDT

Oops. Apologies for reposting. I was writing a reply to Mike and must have
hit the wrong button.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bruce Robinson" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2005 10:41 AM
Subject: Re: Activity theory, ontology and critical realism(!?)

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Michael JOHNSON" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2005 10:34 PM
> Subject: Activity theory, ontology and critical realism(!?)
> Dear XMCA community,
> Without wanting to stir up a hornets nest or sound stupid (fat chance) I
> have been trying to work out my ideas about the philosophy of science -
> shouldn't be too difficult ho-ho! Not that I presume that my ideas should
> or are likely to remain fixed. I am just seeking a modest level of working
> knowledge about ontology and epistemology (Masters dissertation deadline
> looms - not to mention turning up at Seville and not being able to
> understand a word of what is said!!). Does Activity Theory have a
> particular answer to these questions? Pardon my ignorance for not even
> knowing whether these are important questions for Activity Theory! My main
> source so far has been Perspectives on Activity Theory. Yrjö Engeström
> quotes Roy Bhasker with approval (p. 10). So does AT admit a (critical)
> realist ontology as asserted in the paper by Jason Ferdinand (faculty
> staff at Liverpool Management School)?
> where he says (on page 14):
> "To enable our discussion of objects dialectical critical realism offers a
> different discourse if you will, one where we may differentiate different
> modes or moments of reality within a stratified ontology where change is
> fundamental. This overcomes the limitations of discourse phenomenalism yet
> avoids positivistic epistemic commitments. Furthermore what dialectical
> critical realism brings is an alternative but complementary approach that
> may be employed in connection with the four research traditions mentioned
> earlier.This could resonate with Activity Theorists who's work is
> predicated on Vygotsky's psychology, for as both Ilyenkov and Bakhurst
> note Vygotsky's dialectical method resonates with Marx's as does
> dialectical critical realism. By making the commitment to rejecting
> scientism's fixed entities, and by rejecting positivism's notion of direct
> and unmediated knowledge of reality dialectical critical realism could be
> developed in harmony with postmodern and social constructionist accounts
> by means of a clearly articulated ontological stance. The focus for
> subsequent research could remain in discursive debate but would be
> ontologically grounded, allowing researchers to explore not only the
> discourse but factors that influence discursive formation."
> Also Jörgen Hansson's Phd proposal combines AT and critical realism
> [Thinks: "Is there any relationship between Ethel Tobach's Integrative
> Levels and items 1, 2, 3 in the list at the bottom of this message?"]. I
> have just cantered through Mind and Society and there were one or two
> implicit references to ontology there but I may be hunting in the wrong
> haystack or looking for something I wouldnt even recognise if I saw...
> Thanks for listening,
> Mike Johnson, Cardiff Uni, Wales, UK
> PS - Sorry to Phil - hope this doesnt distract too much from the LCA
> discussion...
> PPS - I collected the fundamental assertions of critical realism from
> Archer, M., Sharp, R., Stones, R., & Woodiwiss, T. (1998). Critical
> realism and research methodology. Retrieved 18th May, 2005, from
> 1. That the world is a stratified open system.
> a. the empirical (experiences)
> b. the actual (events)
> c. the real (structures and causal powers)
> 2. 'Independently existing reality of social objects or relations' (p14),
> but it is comprehensible and not forever lost to us (p16).
> 3. Social structures and human agency exhibit causal powers - sociologists
> explore their interaction.
> 4. The World's openness, and the plurality and contingency of causes and
> effects in different circumstances.
> 5. Research is obligatory because 'reality exists independently of our
> thought about it.' Requiring dialogue between theoretical and empirical
> work but because there is 'an irreducible difference between our thought
> and that which it seeks to comprehend' (p15), realists' 'work cannot be
> taken as the truth', thus realism is always affected by a scepticism.
> 6. Research methods are interdisciplinary. They attempt 'reference' with
> as much rigor as possible. Acknowledging that all they do is fallible,
> they must ensure it is also corrigible.
> --
> Internal Virus Database is out-of-date.
> Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
> Version: 7.0.323 / Virus Database: 267.6.5 - Release Date: 07/06/2005
> --
> No virus found in this incoming message.
> Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
> Version: 7.0.323 / Virus Database: 267.7.3/15 - Release Date: 14/06/2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Jul 01 2005 - 01:00:07 PDT