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The siren song of substantivalism

Harré, Rom (2009) The siren song of substantivalism. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 39 (4). pp. 466-473. ISSN 0021-8308

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1468-5914.2009.00416.x


The defence of a process philosophy as the metaphysics for the foundation of social psychology is part of a general defence of scientific realism. Realists, be they classical or neo critical realists hope to construct a dual level science—a phenomenal level resting on a transcendent level required to account for the order and stability to be found in the unfolding of the phenomena. Also required is a driving force or agency. Discursive psychologists argue for a social ontology in which meanings are created and managed by people engaged in projects, made orderly by shared social representations. Concepts like "social structure" are convenient metaphors to describe clusters of discursive practices but should not be interpreted ontologically. Causal powers are revealed in dispositions, which as a matter of logic, must be ascribed to entities self-identical over time. Only persons meet this condition. Discursive social psychology is quasi social in that Vygotsky wise it looks for a social origin for social representations, and quasi personal in that persons are the naturally active beings that drive the patterns of life forward. A defence of neo-critical realism against Professor Ratner's criticisms can only be a more careful statement of the position since his specific criticisms do not address the position I have been advocating.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © The Author
Divisions: CPNSS
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2010 10:09
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 00:53

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