Ontology determines epistemology

Before I post on inductive inference (which will probably take me a day or so to condense what I need to say about it into a reasonable post) a short post about ontology determining epistemology.

This is a responsive post - to something I just read. Some background on things to come but not yet covered on the blog about a knowledge based practice.

My introduction to critical realism came through Alister McGrath’s “A Scientific Theology: Volume 2, Reality.” In this text McGrath says: “To set up a principle of decisive importance throughout this project [his project was a Scientific Theology]:

ontology (the way things are) determines epistemology (the way things are known)

McGrath introduced me to critical realism and the work of Roy Bhaskar, and a component of critical realism highly pertinent to the objectives of a knowledge based practice: the stratification of reality. “Critical Realism insists that reality must be regarded as differentiated and stratified. Each individual science deals with a different stratum of this reality, which in turn obliges it to develop and use methods of investigation adapted and appropriate to this stratum.” (McGrath)

The way things are - there is a differentiation and stratification of reality. We need to keep in mind from the idea that ontology determines epistemology, that “The nature of reality is such that certain things can only be known to a certain extent, and in a certain way - and that this is the reality of the situation. We are not in a position to determine whether and how things may be known: that is decided by the things themselves.” (McGrath)

Once the preliminary development of a KBP is completed it will be easier for me to construct examples of the implications of it as a system of thought juxtaposed to currently published articles, reviews and guidelines that are based on an EBP perspective. While tempting to try such an exercise now, I am going to hold off and return to preliminary development so that at least a rough draft of the full system is available prior to application examples.

If you are tempted to do this on your own (particularly to apply the principles already taught and expressed in this post) - give it a try with this abstract (“online first” PTJ):


Reading this abstract when I got my PTJ updates did in fact influence my decision to post an early introduction to the axiom, ontology determines epistemology; and that ontologically, reality is differentiated and stratified, which means our epistemology must be differentiated and stratified.

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