GBSEALD hosts 2023 International Conference on Critical Realism
14 Aug 2023
On the week of 7 August 2023, Ateneo de Manila University hosted the annual International Conference on Critical Realism, organized by the Gokongwei Brothers School of Education and Learning Design (GBSEALD) for the International Association for Critical Realism (IACR).
As the first Asian university to host this conference, Ateneo de Manila welcomed researchers, social scientists, and scholars from all over the world for a week of discussions, plenary addresses, and workshops on critical realism.
The week-long conference, including two days of introductory workshops and refreshers on the fundamentals of critical realism, was attended by a total of 88 delegates in-person, while another 80 took part virtually.
Its theme, “Describing + Explaining + Evaluating: The Scientific Method Revisited,” was meant to provide scholars and researchers, whether critical realist or not, an opportunity to reflect on and re-examine their methodologies and how they describe and explain phenomena.
“In this conference, we are brought to the realm of critical realism where we revisit the scientific method of investigating phenomena,” said Dr Maria Luz C Vilches, Vice President for Higher Education. “On the surface, the process of describing, explaining, and evaluating phenomena sounds simple. But how these are carried out in combination with the assumptions that lie underneath ways of doing these is a complex matter.”
Fr Johnny C Go SJ, EdD, Dean of GBSEALD, began the first pre-conference day with a session on the four pillars of basic critical realism, while Dr Douglas V Porpora, professor of sociology in the Department of Communication at Drexel University in the United States, discussed the application of critical realism in the social sciences.
Dr Catherine Hastings, a researcher whose current work is being funded by a Macquarie University Research Fellowship, talked about how to develop critical realist empirical research.
Other speakers during the pre-conference workshops were Onur Özmen, Associate Editor of the Journal of Critical Realism, who introduced dialectical critical realism; and MinGyu Seo, philosophy professor at Konyang University in South Korea, who presented the basic concepts of metareality.
The conference’s plenary sessions featured distinguished professors from universities in Australia, the United Kingdom, and France: Grant Banfield with his talk entitled “Journeys with a Permissive Meta-Theory,” Dave Elder-Vass’ “Inventing Financial Value: Developing a Critical Realist Theory,” and Ismael Al-Amoudi’s address on Margaret Archer’s contribution to the Centre for Social Ontology, where he serves as Director. Priscilla Alderson, winner of the 2022 Cheryl Frank Memorial Award, delivered the Cheryl Frank Memorial Lecture online.
In panel discussions on critical realism across various disciplines, critical realist scholars shared how critical realism has informed and enriched their work—whether it’s in sociology, the natural sciences, education, philosophy, or management and organization studies. Speakers included Dr Porpora, Dr Margaret Blackie of Rhodes University (South Africa), Dr Tone Skinningsrud (The Arctic University of Norway), Dr Özmen (an independent researcher from Turkey), and Dr Al-Amoudi of Grenoble Ecole de Management (France).
Local academics and researchers, many of them leading educators in their fields—including Ateneo de Manila’s own Dr Inez Ponce de Leon, Mr Michael Mariano, Dr Czarina Saloma-Akpedonu, and Dr Ma Assunta Cuyegkeng, as well as other professors from neighboring universities like the University of the Philippines–Diliman and the Philippine Normal University—served as responders, contributing to the discussion with their own experiences with critical realism.
Also present and part of the panel discussions were Ma Cynthia Rose Bautista, member of the Advisory Council of the Second Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM II); Dr Benjamin Vallejo Jr, from the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (UP Diliman); Dr Dina Ocampo of the College of Education (UP Diliman); Dr Jennie Jocson Vice President for Academics at the Philippine Normal University; Dr Jove Jim Aguas from the Department of Philosophy of the University of Sto Tomas; and Dr Benito Teehankee from the Department of Management and Organization of De La Salle University.
Formally welcoming the delegates on the first day of the conference, University President Fr Roberto C Yap SJ shared a few words: “For those of us who share in the mission of education and learning, the conference will help us build on the knowledge, lessons, and insights we have to address the wicked problems of society,” he said.
“I hope this conference will be a significant opportunity to explore critical realism as a framework to address complex questions in sociology, natural sciences, education, philosophy, management and organization studies, climate change, environmental sustainability, health, and all significant aspects of our life in our common home,” he ended.
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