Dave Elder-Vass, Critical Realist Seminar – Plymouth, April 2019
Dave's work on ‘retrodiction’ not only gives us a conceptual tool for identifying mechanisms (predicted and not predicted), but also helps us to think about the relationship between mechanisms and the entities they operate within. Dave has developed some key ideas around how we can understand causality, structure, agency, entities and emergence and will help challenge how we understand individual responses to interventions in complex systems. As well as health, social and psychological sciences Dave's work will appeal to colleagues in other faculties and/or departments interested in critical realism or perhaps other areas he writes about such as the digital economy.
In this seminar Dave looked at why causation is a controversial word in the social sciences. Positivists are often accused of a simplistic approach to causation that does not work in the social world, and in response interpretivists have often substituted hermeneutic accounts for explanatory accounts of social action. This seminar explained the critical realist alternative, which reinstates causality but in a more sophisticated form, in which people, social structures and material things are all understood as having causal powers that interact to produce social actions and social events.