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Realism

  • By: Agnieszka Leszczynski
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Realism is a philosophy that understands the world as relational, causality as contingent, and knowledge as socially produced. It gained prominence in geography during the 1980s as an analytical framework for thinking about and “practicing” both social science (critical realism) and natural science (transcendental realism). This distinction between the social and natural sciences is inherent to a realist separation between natural and social “kinds”: Society is recognized as an open system that can never replicate the closed conditions of a laboratory, and institutions and actors are understood to be in a constant state of flux as compared with the more intransitive physical phenomena of the natural world. This is consonant with a realist ontology, which posits the existence of a reality outside human consciousness ...

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