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Critical realism
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Critical realism

In the philosophy of perception, Critical realism is the theory that some of our sense-data (for example, those of primary qualities) can and do accurately represent external objects, properties, and events, while other of our sense-data (for example, those of secondary qualities and perceptual illusions) do not accurately represent any external objects, properties, and events.

According to Locke and Descartes, some sense-data, namely the sense-data of secondary qualities, do not represent anything in the external world, even if they are caused by external qualities (primary qualities). Thus it is natural to adopt a theory of critical realism.

By its talk of sense-data and representation, this theory depends on or presupposes the truth of representationalism. If critical realism is correct, then representationalism would have to be a correct theory of perception.


In general philosophy Critical Realism refers to a body of thought, originated by Roy Bhaskar. Bhaskar developed a general philosophy of science that he described as Transcendental Realism, and a special philosophy of the human sciences that he called Critical Naturalism. The two terms were elided by other authors to form the umbrella term Critical Realism.


Critical realism is a name that a community of scientific realists apply to themselves. The communicty includes John Polkinghorne, Ian Barbour, and Arthur Peackocke. The aim of the group is to show that the language of science and Christian theology are similar, forming a starting point for a dialogue between the two.