Scientific realism, the necessity of causal contact in measurement and emergent variables
Purpose– This study aims to correct errors in, and comment on the claims made in the comment papers of Rigdon (2022) and Henseler and Schuberth (2022), and to tidy up any substantive oversights made in Cadogan and Lee (2022).
Design/methodology/approach– The study discusses and clarifies the gap between Rigdon’s notion of scientific realism and the metaphysical, semantic and epistemological commitments that are broadly agreed to be key principles of scientific realism. The study also examines the ontological status of the variables that Henseler and Schuberth claim are emergent using emergence logic grounded in the notion that variables are only truly emergent if they demonstrate a failure of generative atomism.
Findings– Inscientific realism, hypothetical causal contact between the unobserved and the observed is a key foundational stance, and as such, Rigdon’s concept proxy framework (CPF) is inherently antirealist in nature. Furthermore, Henseler and Schuberth’s suggestion that composite-creating statistical packages [such as partial least squares (PLS)] can model emergent variables should be treated with skepticism byrealists.
Research limitations/implications– Claims made by Rigdon regarding the realism of CPF are unfounded, and claims by Henseler and Schuberth regarding the universal suitability of partial least squares (PLS) as a tool for use by researchers of all ontological stripes (see their Table 5) do not appear to be wellgrounded.
Practical implications– Those aspiring to do science according to the precepts of scientific realism need to be careful in assessing claims in the literature. For instance, despite Rigdon’s assertion that CPF is a realist framework, we show that it is not. Consequently, some of Rigdon’s core criticisms of the common factor logic make nosense for the realist. Likewise, if the variables resulting from composite creating statistical packages (like PLS) are notreally emergent (contrary to Henseler and Schuberth) andso arenotreal,their utility as tools for scientific realist inquiry are called into question.
Originality/value– This study assesses PLS using the Eleatic Principle and examines H&S’s version of emergent variables from anontological perspective.
- Business and Economics