Het kind en het badwater? Het kritisch-realisme als post-positivistische filosofie voor historici // [The baby and the bath water? Critical realism as a post-positivist philosophy for historians]

Discusses "critical realism," the theoretical model devised by Roy Bhaskar, as a philosophy of science useful for historians who want to escape both naive positivism and relativist postmodernism. The linguistic turn has certainly proved useful in the field of historical research and in the social sciences in general. However, in spite of increasing attention paid to language and epistemological questions, historians should not forget that social reality is not exclusively linguistic and exists independently of knowledge of it; rather, they should look for the mutual influences of the linguistic and the social. A scientific historiography must try to explain rather than merely to describe and look for deeper realities and causal forces. Most historians have an intuitive "ontological commitment" in that they want to study reality as it is, though they know they will never reach the "ultimate level" of reality or "absolute truth" some logical positivists thought they could achieve. While positivism is no longer tenable, the epistemological relativism of most postmodern theorists is no alternative for historians who are attached to analyzing reality. Capitulating to narrativistic or relativist theories which are temporarily fashionable will not produce desired results. The "stratified" vision of reality typical for critical realism presents a way out of this deadlock. Historians' knowledge of reality may be insufficient and fallible, but these shortcomings do not preclude judgment. Most significantly, historians must explain causality as a guideline for ethical conduct.