On the Hume/Bhaskar Contrast in Philosophical Metatheory of International Relations

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The tendency in recent metatheoretical contributions to IR to discuss causation in the light of the Hume/Bhaskar contrast requires an overhaul. The pronouncement in favour of Bhaskar is unacceptable if it is based on the trinity of ‘Hume, causal idealism and the regularity theory of causation’ combined with the claim that Bhaskar has defended an ontologically grounded causal realist position. But a contrary judgement favouring Hume is also problematic if it is based on the contrasting image of Hume’s causal idealism and Bhaskar’s causal realism; Hume did not advocate causal idealism and, although Bhaskar’s philosophical defence of causal realism is inadequate, that does not make causal idealism necessarily a better philosophical doctrine. A real difference between Hume and Bhaskar, not captured in the standard contrast, is epistemological, regarding what we can know about the nature of causation and how. Also unnoticed, there is a similarity between them in that they both hold an open systemic view of the world. Philosophical analysis continues to be a vital tool in exposing unsound reasoning in the theory and metatheory of IR but the extent to which the field of world politics is an open system is not an issue that philosophical analysis can resolve.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Early online date17 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2017


  • Bhaskar
  • causation
  • Hume
  • ontology
  • open system


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