Ontology is the discipline that studies Being, and one would suppose that the empirically-oriented scientist must in principle have some interest and something fundamentally at stake in such matters. He does. But the philosopher's interest in Being is not the same as the scientist's interest in what is the case. "Being" is philosophers' jargon, and ontology is a philosopher's game, and neither has been found to be particularly apropos from a scientific point of view. I agree. Accordingly, in delineating what is of interest and what is at stake scientifically, I shall talk not about Being or Existence but about reality, reality concepts, and the real world. It does not come to the same thing.

At the present time it has become essential for behavioral scientists to deal with reality and reality concepts explicitly and systematically rather than by simple intuition or by "letting George do it. " Traditionally, George has been the ontologist, the epistemologist, the philosopher of science, the physicist, and a variety of others, and the current state of the art in behavioral science directly reflects that intellectual default. Fortunately, there appears to be no difficulty in principle in regard to this necessary task. And it appears, also, that a full appreciation of the necessity is likely to follow, rather than to precede a detailed understanding of how the requirement can, in fact, be met not merely in principle but in practice. The primary purpose of this presentation is to contribute to such understanding by dealing explicitly and systematically with reality and reality concepts in a scientifically viable way.

It is essential to deal with reality explicitly because it has an essential relation to science, and it is essential to deal with it systematically because the relation is neither single nor simple.

As soon as we begin to consider what connections there are between the real world and the social institution of empirical science. at least three .fundamental sorts of connection--methodological, substantive, and historical--come readily to mind. These connections make a difference at all levels from basic methodology to theorizing to experimental procedures, to analysis and interpretation of data. Because of this, it is difficult to imagine how we could have an intellectually responsible behavioral science or a methodologically sound one or a substantively adequate one if we could not deal effectively with these connections within the scope of that science. To be sure, this is an unprecedented requirement to place on a science; but, then, it is hardly a feat of daring today to suggest that obviously a behavioral science would have to take a form which was unprecedented in some major respects if it were to be a science and not merely an agglomeration of behavior-manipulating and explanation-constructing techniques and practices.

Date Created

Spring 1972


Linguistic Research Institute


124 pages; 10.75 x 8.16 inches

Document Type

Technical Report