Can critical realism be an adequate philosophy of science for sustainability science? : based on themes already extant in sustainability science

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: Sustainability Science (SS) has, as of today, no explicit agreement on which philosophy of science should be used to guide its research. Though SS is a broad and often diffuse concept, there are certain guiding principles which are generally agreed on. Based on these principles, it has been seen if Critical Realism (CR) could be an appropriate meta-theory for SS. The approach used is therefore primarily practical, as opposed to philosophical. The 1st chapter is an introduction to the research done in this paper. The 2nd chapter introduces some of the main tenets of CR which are for example the three domains of reality, stratification and emergence, agency and structure, retroduction, and emancipation. The 3rd chapter introduces some of the main tenets and themes of SS. These are for example human-environment systems, the importance of spatial and temporal scales, systems and complexity, interdisciplinarity, and how SS relates to sustainable development. The 4th chapter looks at how possible syntheses of the different aspects of SS and CR may fit together. The methods for looking at possible syntheses are through case examples and arguments of how well viewpoints seem to correspond between CR and SS. Chapter 5 gives a conclusion and provides suggestions for further research. It was found that there were 1) some issues where CR and SS have similarities, 2) some issues where CR could help deepen the understanding of SS, and 3) other instances where CR can give guidance in which strand of SS should be pursued. Finally it is concluded that CR can be an adequate meta-theory for SS, because they have several affinities and because CR can help further the work of SS.

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