By Nagoor Kani
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Additional info for Control System Engineering
Many postmodernists and post-structuralists reverse this order of priority and end up reducing (ontological) questions about what exists to (epistemological) questions about how we might obtain knowledge of what exists—a move encouraged by the belief that what exists is constructed by the very processes involved with knowing. Whilst epistemological questions are, of course, perfectly legitimate, they are not the same as ontological questions and cannot be reduced to them. The upshot of reducing ontology into epistemology (termed by critical realists the epistemic fallacy) is that there can be no objective understanding and little point in trying to create such a thing.
There is, in other words, no unmediated access to the world: access is always mediated. Whenever we reflect upon an entity, our sense data is always mediated by a pre-existing stock of conceptual resources, which we use to interpret, make sense of and understand what it is, and take appropriate action. g. g. e. the result of previous encounters with entities other than ourselves). When, and if, entities do become the focus of human beings’ reflection, then we may say they are conceptually mediated.
Whilst discourse makes a difference, not all discourse makes a difference, and we often need to consider whose discourse counts? g. the price of sterling may rise and some UK firms may cease trading. But when an obscure academic like Steve Fleetwood alters his language, it alters very little. The following comment from Fairclough et al. (2002; pp. 3–4) not only gives a flavour of contemporary critical realist thought on ideally real entities (in this case semiotised entities), but also demonstrates that critical realists are not naive ‘table thumpers’ and can deal with non-material entities—without, it must be said, collapsing the materially, artefactually and socially real into the ideally real, as social constructionists tend to do: Critical realist applications in organisation and management studies 32 Semiosis (the making of meaning) is a crucial part of social life but it does not exhaust the latter.