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The doing of a depth-investigation: implications for the emancipatory aims of critical naturalism

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Bhaskar has outlined the process of a depth-investigation and claims it is a transcendentally necessary condition for the realisation of the critical naturalist emancipatory project in the human sciences. However, little or no research has been identified as empirically fulfilling the criteria of a depthinvestigation, making this claim difficult to evaluate. Given this empirical vacuum, criticisms of, and doubts about, the emancipatory potential of critical naturalism have arisen. In this paper I claim that the 'theory of action' is a theory and practice that is consonant with the process and aspirations of a critical naturalist depth-investigation, and offer cameos of my empirical work with a manager of a multidisciplinary team in community health care in support of this. The theory of action both allows for conditional predictions in the social world, which can be used to discriminate between competing interpretations, and underwrites a discourse ethics that is consistent with critical realist assumptions. These features in combination serve to rebut the arguments that doubt or criticise the critical naturalist emancipatory project.


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