In Bhaskar’s (1979) proposed CR ontological approach, reality is stratified and comprised from three dimensions, the actual, the empirical and the real which are interrelated and interact through causality (Bhaskar, 1979). I extrapolated his approach, in order to propose a model for understanding the development of the personal epistemology of an individual person, in the CR framework.
According to my proposed model, the empirical dimension is comprised of the person’s experiences of objects that exist and occurrences that happened independently of his perception. Ultimately, this dimension exists only in the observer’s mind where he perceives, interprets, feels, composes meanings, and makes decisions. Here we perceive a certain limited section of the actual dimension of reality due to our physical location, and the limitations of our perception and interpretation processes. Our sensation and experience of what occurs in our internal milieu is also part of this dimension. Objects and occurrences are perceived here, through the lens of our previous experience and personal interpretation. Our actions and those of others occur in the actual dimension but are a reaction to our interpretation in our empirical dimension of previous occurrences. To summarise, in the empirical dimension we build representations of reality, which we might naïvely experience to be reality itself.
According to Fletcher (2016), the real dimension of the CR framework encompasses the ‘structures and mechanisms’, which act as the causal forces of phenomena and objects (Fletcher, 2016). We experience aspects of these structures and mechanisms at the empirical level, and construct our understanding of the phenomena and objects, according to the way we perceive them. According to Bhaskar (in Archer, Bhaskar, Collier, Lawson and Norrie, 1998), the critical realist approach composes theories regarding social structures and mechanisms, which enable us to improve and elaborate our knowledge of them, using rational judgment (Bhaskar in Archer, Bhaskar, Collier, Lawson and Norrie, 1998). In my model, people construct a theory regarding the structure and mechanism of a social phenomenon, in a manner aligned with constructivism, because they do this following their experience of it. However, Frank (2014) referred to Driscoll (1994), and Pascual-Leone and Irwin (1998) who stated that constructivists advocate that knowledge is not concerned with objective reality, but an experienced reality (in the empirical dimension of CR), and depends on the situation or context. My model relates to our constructed knowledge (in the empirical dimension) as a fallible hypothesis, that is correlated with objective reality (in the actual dimension) and should and can be evaluated by further observation and exploration of the field. In my model, if our hypothesis is actualised or reified, the hypothesis is termed “real”.