Thursday, June 16, 2005

On Critical Realism...

On Tuesday, I was approached by Low Jun Fay (now School Vice-Captain, a year my senior), whom I've known since I was in the first form; he asked if I could write a science article for The Victorian (school magazine of the Victoria Institution). I obliged, and asked him about the deadline. He said, as soon as possible, and we agreed on next week.

Being somewhat grounded due to my chickenpox, I have been mulling the assignment over, and decided to do something original and unusual, rather than cover familiar territory, or worse, rip an article off the net.

A comment on critical realism immediately suggested itself, what with the recent spate of McLaren indoctrination via his book on hell, The Last Word and the Word After That. I thought of buying a book on the subject to get a better handle and some quotes, so I searched via Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the books listed there aren't stocked in Kinokuniya, MPH or Borders (a rare thing indeed), and to order via Amazon would take too long and cost too much.

Following a link on that site, I was led to the website for the Journal of Critical Realism, from which I can download free articles, including a number by Roy Bhaskar and Margaret Archer, some of its main proponents. I've printed out quite a number so far, which I shall scan for useful ideas to incorporate and develop in my 'paper.'

From a rough glance at those articles, I notice that this school of thought is very closely linked to ethics, Calvinist nonfoundationalism and absolute morality, representing a reaction against nihilistic postmodernism and empirical foundationalist science/theology alike. Two works that immediately came to mind in relation to this were C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man (addressing absolute virtue and values in society) and Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy (righteousness and morality in contemporary society).

It appears I shall be including them all in what I will consider, if successful, the literary magnum opus of my school days so far. These few days in quarantine at home I shall spend doing some 'research,' appropriating relevant portions and organising my thoughts in some sort of structure, before finally writing the article.

Off-hand, I will probably centre my article on the following:

- a case for nonfoundationalist science
- ethics, absolute values and what it means to be good
- transcendence and the logic of the supernatural

Admittedly, I'm not really sure I understand the third point, but I think it serves as a link between the first two: generally, nonfoundationalism paves the way for a more humble approach to the quest for knowledge, and reminds us that we don't know everything. This leads to the possibility -- or rather, the necessity -- of the supernatural. In turn, the presence of this transcendent force subjects us to a higher code of conduct on ethical and moral grounds.

Just some rough sketches and ideas. I don't know if the final product will live up to these ambitions. But I do know I will learn a lot along the way, and I hope to share some of this with the many readers of the magazine.

By the way, Mum said she also had German measles as a child, and how it reached a point in which she could hardly see, but could still feel and hear, her nanny. As I think of the suffering she must've gone through (Mum also had pneumonia sometime in the 90s), this chickenpox suddenly fades into insignificance. I thank God for her; much wisdom has the Father imparted through my mother, and much more love.

I just pray I will be a son who will be a living testimony to all she stands for, and the fulfilment of her dreams.


silentsoliloquy said...

All the best with your project, Ben. It's an ambitious one, no doubt. May Strength and Wisdom be granted to be with you through this time of physical sickness.

Baggas said...

Critical Realism - this is a new subject to me also, but there's a fairly good discussion of it in the early chapters of the book I'm currently reading - N T Wright's New Testament and the People of God. Quite a hefty and challenging book but worth the effort (although I'm only a quarter of the way throught it.

What did you think of The Last Word and the Word After That? Now there's another challenging book!