chapter  4
17 Pages

The critical realist embrace: Critical naturalism (1975–1979)

MH: Tell us something about your personal life and career during the years covered by this interview, the second half of the 1970s.

RB: I started off this period at Edinburgh. I’ve already recounted something of my life there, how it was a liberation after the graduate world at Oxford but became limiting after a time and how there was a move in the department for me to succeed Walsh, but the way was blocked. My career was actually going very well at this stage and I wasn’t particularly anxious to get a chair, or to settle down in any way. I wanted rather to go on. I’d had an exceptionally good reception in the University of Sussex when I went there in 1977 to give a paper on the possibility of social scientific knowledge and the limits of naturalism, which was published the following year in the Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour. The University of Sussex was a revolutionary campus. Feyerabend had been there as a visiting Fellow; his tenure might have overlapped with my visit, but I didn’t meet him on that occasion. The reception was so very good that I went back two or three times that year and eventually they offered me a one-year fellowship, which I accepted, and I took sabbatical leave from Edinburgh for that year. In 1979 I went down to Sussex, and I lived most of that year in Brighton. Some time in 1980 I got a flat in Battersea in London and, whenever I went to Brighton, I would drive there and back.