During my walk to get some bread this morning, I ruminated over the fact that the other participants at this Critical Realism group did not contribute to my observation, and in fact the leading professor argued against it. We read this paper (the Johnson & Duberley one mentioned above), and it seemed clear to me that the difference being made between ‘standard’ critical realism and ‘pragmatic’ CR was that standard CR used retroduction and pragmatic CR introduced all manner of terms which indicated a future orientation: ‘anticipation’ and ‘manipulating’ implies intent and agency, ‘Thus Dewey defined truth as ‘processes of change so directed so that they achieve an intended consummation’ (Dewey 1929b: iii) where justified knowledge was a socially constructed artefact created so as to aid humans in their practical endeavours of ‘settling problematic situations’’, ‘Man must prove the truth, i.e. the reality and power, the this-sideness of his thinking in practice [sic]. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is purely a scholastic question. (Remmling 1975: 3)’, ‘actual realisation of expectations’, ‘projective role of epistemic subject’. The Prof didn’t see it that way.

“Atemporal Fallacy”

I think I will call it the ‘atemporal fallacy’. It is equivalent to the epistemic fallacy which is to take the experienced or theorised world for the actual world itself. The disembodied academic is also atemporal. Words appear to exist as static thing on the page. There’s a big move to include theoreticians in their social context, which is what postmodernism was about. Critical Realism attempts to find a spot between this subjective reality and the ‘external’ (this word was actually used in this article, obliviously it seemed to me) world. The nature of it is caught in some kind of co-emergence of structure-agency. Not well defined, and everyone is confused about it. Bhaskar, the originator of critical realism, emphasised retroduction, which obviously contains the word ‘retro’ in it, a clue which is dismissed by the prof, in order to explain present conditions; one invents some mechanism which accounts for actual events. Whereas the thrust of this paper was to emphasise the testing of an idea, which necessarily involves a future projected intention.

I brought up the necessity for us to develop reflexively well behaved tools. I don’t think academics have any idea how structure-agency works in terms of writing and reading. So obvious to me. They rejected my Confirmation Report and Reflexive Reading — in fact the prof above is one of the reviewers who failed me. We are prone to chase our tail if we don’t appreciate that this is happening as we talk/listen in the here and now; or as we write/read. The ‘chasing the tail’ is an external observation; the internal experience is chasing this thing as object of attention, like the authors of this article who think they can grasp a ‘concrete’ objective. And readers follow, and end up trying to reach some kind of ‘stable understanding’ within themselves, which is internally consistent.  What’s needed, if we want to have any understanding of how we work is to acknowledge that the intersubject state is inherently co-dependent, or interdependent. Unless we stabilise it ‘between us’, we fall foul of stabilising it in ‘writing’ or ‘in a person’. Classic Shotter, by the way, who promotes as well as demonstrates a before-the-fact hermeneutic.

Anyway, the simple bit is, ‘atemporal fallacy’. We need to understand our temporality. Pointing at things is the fastest way. Any form of extemporisation, and the moment is gone. And academia fills articles, books, libraries, harddrives with these extemporalisations, simply increasing the theory-practice divide. The practitioners is immersed in the temporal flow, within the moving structure of inter-dependence, the moving mind and intentions and actions of others. They need to act within this social context. And I think intellectuals should too. Might actually help us in some significant way.

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