Structural, speculative, and critical realism: navigating the shoals

James Juniper
University of Newcastle
Social Theorists who wish to embrace a materialist and realist philosophy are, at present, confronted with a dazzling variety of forms of philosophical realism. Many analytical philosophers, physicists, and mathematicians choose to work within the Structural Realist tradition. In contrast, the ‘speculative turn’ towards a variety of new forms of Realism was given impetus by Speculative Realism event held in April 2007 at Goldsmith’s college, London. In this paper, I provide an overview of these three traditions by situating them in the milieu of post-Kantian critical philosophy. To make this somewhat heroic task more manageable I focus on various manoeuvres that have been adopted to advance beyond the seductions of the Kantian “Circle of Objectivity”; specifically, in the approaches taken up by Quentin Meillassoux, John Worrall, and Alfred North Whitehead. These approaches are evaluated in regard to the philosophical manner of their proposed escape from the Circle of Objectivity, and the particulars of their chosen methodology.
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