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Critical Realist Epistemology
The following diagrams illustrate the interrelation between external entities, phenomena and occurrences and our internal thought processes. While the positivist epistemology places more emphasis on the external reality, the relativist epistemology emphasizes the internal personal experience. My conceptualisation of the CR epistemology embraces the attributes of both epistemologies and combines them in one domain. This epistemology is appropriate for our understanding of the current circumstances, while recognising the temporary nature of our knowledge, and is, therefore, especially relevant to practical professions such as psychotherapy and medicine. In order to contextualise the new epistemology, it is necessary first to relate to the existing ones.
Occurrences & Hypothesis
According to the positivist epistemology, we can only relate to entities and phenomena in accordance to attributes which the observer is able to quantify through measurements. He samples data related to the phenomenon in question, and from his understanding of it, through inductive reasoning, he constructs a hypothesis. From this hypothesis, he deduces an experiment which acts upon the phenomenon. However, according to the positivist epistemology, through this experiment, the observer can only refute the possibility that his hypothesis is false, and in doing so, he reinforces his confidence in it. To summarise this cycle, in this epistemology, knowledge is merely a strong conviction (belief) that a hypothesis regarding the phenomenon is accurate.
Knowledge = Strong Belief in Hypothesis
Personal Factual Experience & Interpretation of Meaning
According to the basic claims of relativism, we can only relate to personal factual experiences and not to actual occurrences. A person perceives these experiences through the lens of his personal epistemology. This personal perspective on the world influences the way he interprets his experiences and attributes meaning to them. This, in turn, comprises the causality for his behaviour, and this behaviour influences further experiences. To summarise this cycle, in the epistemology of relativism, knowledge at its best is merely a certain personal perspective on a phenomenon being discussed. The descriptions are limited by the perspective and tell us more about the individual’s position than information regarding the phenomenon itself.
Knowledge = Relative Experience ~ Opinion
Critical Realist Epistemology
Critical Realist Interrelation
between Forecasts and Hypotheses in the Empirical dimension
and Probes and Occurrences in the Actual dimension
with Fringe sensitivity to anomalies
According to the stratified reality of CR, occurrences exist in the actual dimension and are perceived by us in the empirical dimension. Our personal factual experiences strive to be a reflection of the structure and mechanisms of the occurrence in the real dimension. From the person’s initial instinctive reflection upon the occurrence, he constructs a forecast regarding his future understanding, and this forecast is highly influenced by his personal epistemology. His reaction is delayed by a process of rationalisation in which he re-examines the attributes of his initial forecast and in light of an inner search for occurrences from his past which possess thematic similarity, he eventually constructs a more rational hypothesis from his understanding. The hypothesis is the best possible current understanding of the structure and mechanism of the phenomenon in question. He conducts this process with sensitivity to differences relative to his initial forecast (anomalies). From this hypothesis, the individual devises a probe which comprises an activity which acts upon the circumstances according to the person’s capabilities. The individual predefines the outcome which he expects to achieve from the active probe which he intends to conduct. By initiating the probe the individual can evaluate a single or multiple aspects of the phenomenon. The probe influences on the occurrences that follow and the outcome are compared to the expectation within the hypothesis.
This complete cycle pays special attention to anomalies that arise to the individual's hypothesis, and I define this as the “fringe division” role. The personal factual experience, rationalisation, causality and the impact of our probes are located in the real dimension of CR, in that they strive to asymptotically achieve an accurate reflection of the phenomenon in question. These stages are directly dependent on the personal epistemology of the individual.
Knowledge = Verified Hypothesis
To summarise this cycle, in the epistemology of CR, knowledge comprises a fallible hypothesis, and each cycle can either verify it, increasing our conviction in its accuracy, or refute it due to the appearance of anomalies.
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