BUK4015 Introduction to Critical Realism


Learning outcome:


The candidate

  • know how Critical Realism is an alternative philosophy to traditional philosophy of science
  • know the three phases of the Critical Realist philosophy of Bhaskar, “Basic”, “Dialectic” and “MetaReality”
  • know how Critical Realism (may) support interdisciplinarity – theoretically and in practice


The candidate

  • know how to apply perspectives and concepts from Critical Realism in their PhD projects
  • is experienced in presenting her own project and discussing this in a professional forum

General competence

The candidate

  • can critically reflect on own research and research process
  • can participate in dialogue with colleges internationally


Course content:

In this course, we present an introduction to the philosophy of Critical Realism and discuss how PhD students can apply perspectives and concepts from Critical Realism in their PhD projects. Critical realistic thinking is a broad philosophical and meta-theoretical framework that researchers can use as a support for work in various fields and methodologies. Many international researchers also consider critical realism as a necessary alternative to the limitations of other contemporary positions in philosophy of science. Critical realism has been developed internationally by contributions from different subjects and fields. The British philosopher Roy Bhaskar (1944-2014) is regarded as the founder of the position. He writes, 3 among other things, "Critical realism represents a major advance of traditional philosophy, whether we speak of empiricism, positivism, New Kantianism, hermeneutics, discourse theory, structuralism, post-structuralism, or we are talking about different Marxist and postmodern positions, including modern social movements, such as feminism, ecology and peace movements. "(Roy Bhaskar (2002) Science and Emancipation, about Critical Realism in Its First Phase.)

In this PhD course, we will thematize the three phases of the philosophy of Bhaskar. First, his general philosophy of science, that deals with the theory of science relevant to all scientific areas, and its more specific application to the social sciences and humanities, including the question of interdisciplinarity. Then we will go into Dialectical Critical Realism and the question of how dialectics become a further development and enrichment of critical realism. It will be discussed what Bhaskar means by saying that critical realism is a criticism of the entire Western philosophy. Finally, we will take a closer look at the philosophy of MetaReality. Bhaskar says about MetaReality: if critical realism and dialectical critical realism is about how to think being, then MetaReality is about being being or self-realization. In this way, the philosophy of MetaReality is a transformation from theory to a unit of theory and practice in practice.

The course will have internationally renowned lecturers with a very good knowledge of the three phases of Bhaskar's philosophy. The lecturers will also present contributions from other thinkers. There will be reflections and dialogue along the way where there will be room for wonder. PhD students are encouraged to contribute with their own projects. The projects will be discussed and reflected in a practical manner that will show how critical realistic tools can be used to support the students’ own research.


Coursework requirements 

Prior to the course, we recommend that the participants get to know the basic literature on the course. In addition, participants are asked to prepare a brief abstract, describing the participant’s research project, and prepare for a short presentation of the project. During the course, participants will present their projects and actively contribute in the discussions taking place.

Reading list

Background readings will be provided. The reading list will be sent when you are signed up for the course.

Arbeids- og undervisningsformer

Teaching and supervision

The course format will consist of invited lectures, project presentations and discussions. PhD students and other participants are encouraged to bring topics and questions from their own research into the discussion.

This is an intensive course over two days, comprising a total of 12 hours. In addition, individual and group supervision will be available during the two days.

Course assessment

The course participants are encouraged to contribute to the course evaluation. An evaluation form will be made available to the candidates after the papers are handed in.



To obtain 1 ECT, 80% attendance in the course is required.

To obtain 3 ECT, participants need to submit a course paper reflecting on issues concerning Critical Realism related to their own research (5-7 pages, Times New Roman 12, line spacing 1,5) after the course. Minimum 80% attendance is required.