From human action to social order: the question of a causal link

The main advantage of the critical rationalist model of action is that it offers the theory of society a new concept of rationality without infinite regress. With a non-justificational conception of rationality, the action theory leads to addressing how individual actors apply the logic of conjectures and refutations forjudging a validity claim regarding ultimate values as true if their premises or inference forms are shown to be false. Logically speaking, rationalization of the goals of an action becomes possible in a non-justificational manner, i.e. upon the basis of unfalsified beliefs rather than justified true beliefs. In addition, the actor may use reason to explore effective means for achieving ends based on scientific conjectures not shown to be refuted by experience.

If the non-justificationist theory of knowledge implies that actors base their goals or means on unfalsified conjectures, whether moral or scientific, at the individual level, then it is logically possible to argue that the actors employ critical reason at the intersubjective level to shape a rational dialogue in order to agree on a system of values and institutions. Since the actors can hold their moral beliefs open to criticism and refute them when they are shown to be false, they may reach a rational consensus on ultimate values that withstands the intersubjective test.

When one admits that human actors can use critical reason to become the authors of a system of common values they themselves give to themselves, one also accepts that the individual actors are, in fact, the authors of a peaceful social order for themselves. Once a system of shared values is established by the emancipatory actions of individuals, the actors who want to become new members of a society use critical reason for another purpose: for translating the ultimate values into their own personal goals through the process of socialization and the exploration of effective means to realize the ends.

The critical rationalist concepts of value and instrumental reason elucidate how human actors are the originators of social order through the moral law that they give to themselves. A critical rationalist reformulation of Kant’s moral philosophy regards human beings - as rational beings - as the originators of social order due to their use of critical reason to agree on a universal moral law. However, this universal moral law does not need to be justified a priori as true, as in Kant’s claim, but must be subjected to intersubjective criticism in order to be viewed as objective. The separation of justification and criticism enables the micro-foundations of the macro-theory of society to explain the causal link between human action and social order.

In addition, the aforementioned separation leads to a new analysis of how the actor uses reason to explore effective means for an end. It is an application of the logic of conjectures and refutations with regard to the means versus the ends of action that demarcates the action type of value rationality from the action type of instrumental rationality. In short, the causal link between human action and social order, whether in terms of the creation of ultimate values or with regard to the exploration of effective means, is explained through the non-justificationist theories of knowledge and rationality without facing the problem of the infinite regress of proofs.

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