Scientific Pluralism by Stephen H. Kellert, Helen E.
Longino, and C. Kenneth Waters (Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science:
University Of Minnesota Press) scientific pluralism is an issue at the forefront
of philosophy of science. This landmark work addresses the question, Can
pluralism be advanced as a general, philosophical interpretation of science?
Scientific Pluralism demonstrates the viability of the view that some phenomena
require multiple accounts. Pluralists observe that scientists present
varioussometimes even incompatiblemodels of the world and argue that this is
due to the complexity of the world and representational limitations. Including
investigations in biology, physics, economics, psychology, and mathematics, this
work provides an empirical basis for a consistent stance on pluralism and makes
the case that it should change the ways that philosophers, historians, and
social scientists analyze scientific knowledge.
Contributors: John Bell, U of Western Ontario; Michael Dickson, U of South Carolina; Carla Fehr, Iowa State U; Ronald N. Giere, U of Minnesota; Geoffrey Hellman, U of Minnesota; Alan Richardson, U of British Columbia; C. Wade Savage, U of Minnesota; Esther-Mirjam Sent, U of Nijmegen. Stephen H. Kellert is professor of philosophy at Hamline University and a fellow of the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science. Helen E. Longino is professor of philosophy at Stanford University. C. Kenneth Waters is associate professor of philosophy and director of the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science.
Excerpt: Pluralism can be motivated on the basis of abstract considerations: all representations are partial in that any representation must select a limited number of aspects of a phenomenon (else it would not represent, but duplicate). This selective and partial character of representation means that alternative representations of a phenomenon can be equally correct. Hence, it should be obvious that different accounts, employing different representations, might be generated by answering different questions framed by those different representations. Monism holds that all such correct accounts can be reconciled into a single unified account or that there is a single perspicuous representation system within which all correct accounts can be expressed. The related view, fundamentalism, holds that there is one (or a very few) law(s) from which all correct accounts (with requisite empirical input) can be derived. The pluralist stance rejects both monism and fundamentalism. The plurality of representations and approaches in science is sustained by the complexity of nature, the employment of highly abstract representational models, and the diversity of investigative, representational, and technological goals.
Ronald Giere, in his contribution to this book, offers a general empirical argument for pluralism drawing on findings in perceptual psychology. Color perception offers a compelling example of perceptual perspectivalism causes. These support different research approaches, each able to answer a distinctive subset of the possible research questions one might have.
Stephen Kellert's case study is focused on metascience rather than the object sciences themselves. Kellert suggests that interdisciplinarity, understood as the need for multiple disciplinary approaches, arises because of the complexity of the phenomena to be known and the partiality of the individual disciplines.
In other cases, it is not so much the complexity of the phenomena as a certain fundamental openness or indeterminacy that generates plurality. In mathematics, Hellman and Bell note, it has become standard to treat sets as the fundamental mathematical entities. Category theory, however, proposes a mathematical universe constituted by topoi (toposes) or categories. Suitably enriched, category theory provides an autonomous ontology for mathematics, an ontology free of the constraints required to avoid paradox in set theory. Here again, different mathematical interests will dictate which ontology is preferable in a given situation. Economics, too, can, in fact must, support different ontologies. Sent suggests that, once the no-trade theorems force one to give up any assumption that economic agents are uniform, the variety of distributions of different kinds of agent will determine different kinds of economic structures, no one of which is any more fundamental than any other.
The pluralities identified in the case studies can be variously interpreted. A monist or modest pluralist will either treat them as temporaryas stages on the way to a unified treatment of the phenomenaor as steps to a comprehensive resolution that will provide for each instance a single, best way to account for the instance. Philosophers and scientists are inclined to monism or modest pluralism for different reasons, requiring different responses from bolder pluralists. For example, some evolutionary biologists adopt a strictly monist perspective and assume that only one of the diversity of evolutionary explanations of sex is correct and have entered into a debate about which account is the right one. Fehr argues against this monist interpretation by pointing out that the persistence of sexual reproduction in a species involves different and continuing costs. It is often impossible to settle on one account even when limiting the domain to a narrow lineage. Which explanation is appropriate depends on the precise question one is asking. Other biologists have advanced one or another form of modest pluralism. One of these suggests that it is possible to decompose sex into its constituent parts, for each of which a distinct evolutionary account can be given. This interpretation corresponds to Mitchell's above-mentioned idea that situations of pluralism are resolvable by separating apparently complex phenomena in such a way that the conflicting explanations apply to different cases that are part of a family of related but distinct phenomena. Fehr argues, to the contrary, that the components of sex cannot be separated in the way demanded by this modest form of pluralism. Other biologists have dealt with the plurality of explanations by holding that the different explanations must be integrated in order to identify a net resultant force responsible for the emergence and persistence of sex. Fehr holds that combining or integrating the explanations would have the effect of decontextualizing them and depriving each of the detail and information that is the source of its explanatory value.
Kenneth Waters argues that the pluralist interpretation applies even to cases where science doesn't exhibit much plurality. His case study involves genetics and molecular biology. Scientific explanation and investigations in these sciences are largely centered on the role of genes. Philosophical critics have advanced an alternative, called developmental systems theory (DST), that treats organisms as systems and genes as just one of many different kinds of equally important developmental resources. They argue that DST should replace the now-dominant gene-centered approaches because the gene-centered approaches leave too much out. Thus, the proponents of DST contend that only an approach that incorporates all the causal factors and their interactions can be correct. Waters maintains, contrary to the critics, that gene-centered accounts are not incorrect. Rather, they are partial accounts of complex processes that could be approached in a variety of ways. Gene-centered accounts provide correct answers to some, but not all, of the questions that can be asked about development. Nongenic factors of a system, e.g., cytoplasmic elements, at the same level of organization as genes (intracellular), could be emphasized in one's research questions, leading to different but not necessarily contradictory accounts of particular developmental processes. Waters claims that the monistic call for comprehensiveness obscures the significant achievements of approaches, like the gene-centered one, that focus attention on only one kind of causal factor.
Waters's case is different from the other cases examined in this book because the other cases argue for pluralist interpretations of sciences exhibiting a plurality of theories or approaches. Waters argues for a pluralist interpretation of a science that does not exhibit a plurality of theories or approaches. He argues that the problem with the monistic interpretation of his case is that it leads proponents of gene-centered science to infer that because the science is successful it must be based on a comprehensive theory that can explain all the essentials of development (genetic determinism). Opponents reject this conclusion because they recognize that the theory behind molecular biology is gene-biased and obscures a lot of factors crucial for development. But monism leads the opponents to conclude that the success of molecular biology is illusory and to seek a replacement. Waters argues that a pluralist epistemology can enable us to acknowledge that gene-centered molecular biology is successful without buying into the idea that the gene-centered perspective offers a comprehensive account of the essentials of development.
Wade Savage takes a somewhat similar line with respect to neuroscience. Although research into sensory and motor capabilities seems to vindicate physicalism (as opposed to dualism), Savage explores the possibility that the psychophysical identity principle that underwrites this research should be interpreted as a methodological principle, consistent with dualism. He proposes that there are multiple senses of identity and that the apparently conflicting conclusions reached about physicalism and dualism can be resolved by distinguishing between empirical identity (the sense at issue in the methodological principle) and logical identity (the sense at issue in contemporary defenses of dualism).
Other contributors (Hellman and Bell, Longino) point out that monism on the part of researchers, especially when motivated by commitment to their chosen theory or approach, fuels sterile and unproductive debates. Adopting a pluralist attitude encourages scientists to pursue interesting research without having to settle questions that cannot, in the end, be settled.
Philosophers advocating monism or modest pluralism worry that tolerating any stronger form of pluralism is equivalent to tolerating contradiction. Thus Kitcher, as noted above, constrains his pluralism by requiring that different languages in which different theories are expressed be intertranslatable so that a truth in one can be translatable into a truth in the other. A pluralism that tolerates inconsistencies is apparently an invitation to incoherence. But Dickson maintains that inconsistencies among different dynamics for quantum theory should be tolerated. He argues that solving the measurement problem requires supplementing quantum theory with a dynamics. Although constraints rule out many dynamics, a number of alternative dynamical accounts are consistent with quantum theory (and with the empirical predictions made on behalf of quantum theory). It turns out that a single dynamics will not serve all the explanatory goals of physicists. To illustrate this point, Dickson considers two different explanatory contexts that call for quantum theory to be supplemented by a dynamics. One explanatory context requires invoking the principle of relativity, and the other context requires the principle of stability. It turns out that no single dynamics is consistent with both principles. Hence, providing an explanation in one context requires supplementing quantum theory with a dynamics that violates the stability principle, and the other context requires supplementing quantum theory with a dynamics that violates the principle of relativity. Dickson argues that physicists should tolerate a contradiction among dynamical accounts because the multiplicity of contradictory accounts is needed for explanatory purposes and because the contradictions do not lead to contradictory predictions about the observables. This is perhaps the clearest example illustrating the following point, which modest pluralism overlooks: there can be a tension within the plurality of accounts even though each account correctly describes, models, or explains an important aspect of the same part of the world toward which it is aimed.
Contributors to this book hold not only that the situations they analyze resist requirements of monism or modest pluralism, but also that scientific knowledge would suffer by their imposition. Scientists sometimes must make decisions about whether to pursue or to defer the quest for comprehensive or convergent accounts. A pluralist approach advocates that such decisions be made on empirical, case-by-case, pragmatic grounds rather than on the basis of a blanket assumption. We expect that decisions made on these grounds will yield more fruitful and effective results.
As has been seen, our contributors have a variety of ways of arguing that the strong pluralism they advocate for their respective areas of investigation does not issue in a debilitating contradiction. They argue further that less ecumenical views would result in a loss to knowledge. Tolerating nonconvergence of approaches avoids the mistake of a priori restricting what can be known and how. Thus, Longino maintains that the approaches to behavior she discusses are not intertranslatable because each parses the (same) causal universe differently. Each is nevertheless capable of producing knowledge, and to restrict research to one or to those that produce intertranslatable sentences is to eliminate avenues of inquiry that have produced important insights. Waters makes a similar case with respect to the demand that an acceptable approach for investigating biological development must include all the causal factors. It is simply not possible to design a research program that takes all factors into account at once. Insisting on a single, comprehensive investigative approach or explanatory account will cut off avenues of knowledge.
In addition to avoiding sterile debates, pluralism underwrites the explanatory flexibility that is one of the strengths of the sciences. Fehr notes the loss of information that would perforce accompany attempts to integrate the different explanations of sex. Hellman and Bell note that classical and intuitionist logic each answer to different interests, truth preservation and computability (or constructability) respectively. Neither can be given up, nor should be. Similarly, while not wishing to give up on set theory, they state that the broader ontologies defined by category theory permit the practice of forms of mathematics not possible if sets are taken as the fundamental mathematical entities. Dickson, too, affirms the ineliminability of the explanatory contexts and questions to which the different (and inconsistent) quantum dynamics are addressed. Sent argues that economics`will be better able to address the variety of economic phenomena if it embraces a plurality of approaches rather than insisting that one approach must fit all. Finally, as Richardson notes, pluralism enables a deeper connection with social and political concerns than advocacy of a single approach does.
We started from the premise that the world might not yield to the demands of monism. The case studies in this book indicate that science provides good evidence that the world is indeed such that it will not be fully explained on the basis of comprehensive theoretical accounts that identify all the essentials of any given phenomenon. It appears that some parts of the world (or situations in the world) are such that a plurality of accounts or approaches will be necessary for answering all the questions we have about those parts or situations. But this raises an important question. What is the "such"? That is, what is the nature of the world such that it, and many of its parts, are not amenable to a single, comprehensive account? The answer seems to differ for different patches of the world. For biological and social patches, the world seems too complicated or complex: many processes involve interaction of multiple causal processes that cannot be fully accounted for within the framework of a single investigative approach. For the domain studied by quantum physics, the situation doesn't seem so much complicated in that sense as perplexing. Our ordinary physical intuitions, which work at the level of the classical physics of midsize objects, seem to fail us at the quantum level (see Morrison 2001). So, while our case studies suggest that interactions of multiple causal processes in the biological and social cases could make it impossible to fully account for the phenomena within a single framework, they do not give a clear indication of what could be making it impossible (if indeed it is impossible) in the quantum domain.
We believe that Dickson's contribution provides evidence that the quantum world is such that a comprehensive, monistic explanatory account is not forthcoming. He makes a strong case that accepting a plurality of dynamics serves divergent interests of physicists that cannot be served by a single dynamical theory (or by leaving out a dynamical theory). He reaches this conclusion while maintaining that these dynamical theories are mutually incompatible and that the formalism of quantum theory does notprovide constraints for deciding among them. We admit, however, that we do not know how to describe the nature of the quantum world that makes it resistant to a single, comprehensive account. We are, of course, not alone here. Dickson suggests that the alternative dynamical accounts be thought of as complementary, along the lines that concepts involving observables are said to be complementary. Although this suggestion is promising, it is still not obvious that the need to appeal to alternative complementary concepts or dynamical accounts stems from something akin to the need for plurality in the biological and social contexts. But we do not think our inability to describe the "such" in the case of quantum theory, or other cases for that matter, means that we ought to adopt monism by default.Although we believe that frameworks for the interpretation of science should not presuppose a metaphysics of monism, it should be clear that we ourselves do not have a general metaphysics. We do not, for instance, insist that all parts of the world are such that they cannot be comprehensively accounted for by a single theory. Furthermore, we do not maintain that there is a common ontology shared by those parts of the world that cannot be fully explained in terms of a single, comprehensive account. Our general thesis is epistemological: the only way to determine whether a part of the world will require a plurality of accounts is to examine the empirical results of scientific research of that part of the world. The case studies in this book are consistent with this general epistemological stance. While contributors concede some of the attractions of monism (e.g., unproblematic commensurability and comparative assessment, singularity of approach, hegemony), they show that in the particular cases being examined, plurality is ineliminable. They argue that a strongly pluralist interpretation of that plurality is more faithful to the scientific situation. In contrast to more radical forms of pluralism, none affirms that nonconvergence is the rule across the sciences. The pluralism advocated is local, rather than universal. The contributors follow the advice from Dewey quoted by Richardson: to avoid being "false to the scientific spirit" by holding a priori to metaphysical doctrines. As Giere puts it, the case studies reject a priori commitments to either unity or multiplicity and allow the evidence and practical success (or failure) to decide.
What Makes Biology Unique? Considerations on the Autonomy of a Scientific Discipline by Ernst Mayr (Cambridge University Press) is a crowning survey of the claims of biology, defining it as an independent science, not a secondary offspring of physics and chemistry. His mind is still remarkably sharp. Science More
Nature Supernatural?: A Philosophical Exploration of Science and Nature
by Simon L. Altmann (Prometheus) tackles the history of the scientific method
and concepts such as relativity and quantum mechanics in his search to see what
they can teach us about the nature of nature. Citing the efforts of scientists,
philosophers, and mathematicians from Plato to Einstein and beyond, Altmann
seeks an answer to the question: Has mathematics and physics discovered a new
metaphysical world, or is this newly discovered world simply an outgrowth of
natural evolutionary processes? In other words, is nature supernatural?
There are dozens of popular science books, mainly written by scientists, which touch on philosophical aspects of the subject and numerous books on the philosophy of science written by professional philosophers. This book attempts to bridge the gap between these two sets, while addressing readers with no previous experience either of philosophy or of science. -- From the Preface
Mathematical truths are often so compelling that some mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers posit a purely nonmaterial realm of eternal truths accessible to the mind alone. Mathematical physicist Simon L. Altmann carefully criticizes this revival of dualistic philosophy a la Plato in this highly stimulating book. Has mathematics and physics discovered a new supernatural world, or is this mental cosmos simply an outgrowth of natural evolutionary processes?
In seeking to answer this question, Altmann maintains that the key is the differential between metaphysics and a concept he calls meta-physics. After providing a thorough philosophical basis to understand the meaning of these concepts and those of natural law, the scientific method, entrenchment in the scientific mesh, and necessity and causality in science, Altmann moves on to elucidate the source of the mysteries and paradoxes surrounding quantum mechanics. Arguing that what is most important in all the scientific concepts covered is what they teach us about nature--in the microscopic and macroscopic worlds--he provides the reader with a review of the classical approach to time, space, and the laws of mechanics, and a discussion of the implications of relativity theory. Key modern concepts, like randomness, probability, and time's arrow, are all clearly explained and the nature of mathematics and Godel's theorems is discussed in depth. An enlightening explanation of Schrodinger's cat, and the famous Bell inequalities follows, along with an assessment of the reactions of various philosophical schools--idealism, physicalism, cultural relativism, and social constructivism--to these developments. The book concludes with a fascinating dialogue on science and belief, nicely tying together the concepts examined throughout.Although many of the ideas in this volume are original and indeed controversial, they are in each instance supported by detailed argument that is often ingenious and witty. Complex topics in philosophy, logic, and physics are spiced up with interesting historical and philosophical perspectives. Is Nature Supernatural? departs from the usual practice in similar books of merely providing information that the reader must take on trust. Altmann's concern, instead, is to show the reader how and what scientists and philosophers think on these subjects. Science and philosophy enthusiasts as well as general readers will appreciate and enjoy Altmann's engaging, conversational style and clear explanations.
The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Science by Peter MacHamer, Michael Silberstein (Blackwell Philosophy Guides: Blackwell) presents a definitive introduction to the core areas of philosophy of science. Each of the chapters written especially for this volume by internationally distinguished scholars reviews a problem, examines the current state of the discipline with respect to the topic, and discusses possible futures of the field. Topics covered include experiment and observation, evolution, molecular and developmental biology, cognitive science, and feminist philosophy of science. The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Science engages both general readers and specialists and provides a solid foundation for further study.
Editor summary: The conception for the chapters in this volume were drawn up along a number of parameters. First, we wished a good mix of authors, people established in the field as well as some younger scholars who would bring a fresh perspective to their chapters. Second, each author was charged with writing a three‑part essay: the first part to review the problem; the second to assay the current state of the discipline with respect to the topic; and finally to prognosticate on the future and discuss where the field should be moving. All this was to be done within 8500 words! Most chapters stayed nearly within their limits and have accomplished the set task with great aplomb. A third parameter was that the chapters should be written to be of use to those who are not specialists in the field or on the topic, but who wished a single source they could read that would bring them "up to speed." However, the chapters also were to be of interest to the specialists, and thus not merely introductory in nature. Obviously, different topics require different levels of expertise on the part of the reader, but we feel all of the chapters are accessible. This is compatible with the fact that some chapters are more technical and require a specialized knowledge on the part of the reader. For example, we felt no good use could come of having a chapter on quantum mechanics that eschewed the mathematics, a chapter on space‑time that had to explain the basis of the general theory of relativity or a probability chapter that ignored the probability calculus. Such a book could have been put together but it would not be a guide, it would have been a popularizing introduction. Such was not our aim.
Finally, we sought to cover the basic topics where research in philosophy of science was, in our eyes, progressing. Due to space limitations, we have not covered everything we might have, nor that we would have liked. Something should have been said about the relation between sciences studies and philosophy of science and again about history of science and philosophy of science. We should have spent more time on the "continental" tradition and its relations to philosophy of science. Many of the special sciences are ignored. We had only so many chapters we could chose. Others might have chosen differently.
We think this book is good. Each chapter is written with care, and has substantive import. This is our judgment. The final evaluation will rest with you, the reader.
Contents: Notes on Contributors. Preface. 1. A Brief Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (and prognostications about its future): Peter Machamer (University of Pittsburgh). 2. Philosophy of Science: Classic Debates, Standard Problems, Future Prospects: John Worrall (London School of Economics). 3. Explanation: Jim Woodward (California Institute of Technology). 4. Structures of Scientific Theories: Carl F. Craver (Washington University, Saint Louis). 5. Reduction, Emergence and Explanation: Michael Silberstein (Elizabethtown College). 6. Models, metaphors and analogies: Daniela Bailer-Jones (University of Pittsburgh). 7. Experiment and Observation: James Bogen (University of Pittsburgh). 8. Induction and Probability: Alan Hajek (California Institute of Technology) and Ned Hall (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). 9. Philosophy of Space-Time Physics: Craig Callender (University of California at San Diego) and Carl Hoefer (London School of Economics). 10 . Interpreting Quantum Theories: Laura Ruetsche (University of Pittsburgh). 11. Evolution: Roberta L. Millstein (California State University, Hayward). 12. Molecular and Developmental Biology: Paul Griffiths (University of Pittsburgh). 13. Cognitive science: Rick Grush (University of California, San Diego). 14. Philosophy of social science: Harold Kincaid (University of Alabama at Birmingham). 15. Feminist Philosophy of Science: Lynn Hankinson Nelson (University of Missouri-St. Louis).
The Human World in the Physical Universe by Nicholas Maxwell (Oxford University Press) How is it possible for the world as we experience it to exist embedded in the physical universe? How can there be sensory qualities, consciousness, freedom, science and art, friendship, love, justice - all that which gives meaning and value to life - if the world really is more or less as modern science tells us it is? This is the problem that is tackled by this book. The solution proposed is that physics describes only a selected aspect of all that exists - that aspect which determines the way events unfold. Sensory qualities, inner experiences, consciousness, meaning and value, all these exist but lie beyond the scope of physics, and of that part of science that can be reduced to physics. Furthermore, these human features of the world are to be explained and understood, not scientifically, but "personalistically," a kind of understanding distinct from, and not reducible to, science. This view that the world is riddled with what may be called "double comprehensibility" leads to a proposed solution to the philosophical mind/body problem, and to the problem of free will; it leads to a reinterpretation of Darwin's theory of evolution, and to an account of the evolution of consciousness and free will. After a discussion of the location of consciousness in the brain, the book concludes with a proposal as to how academic inquiry might be changed so that it becomes a kind of inquiry rationally designed to help humanity create a more civilized human world in the physical universe.
Conquest of Abundance: A Tale of Abstraction Versus the Richness of Being by Paul Feyerabend University of Chicago Press) (PAPERBACK) From Homeric gods to galaxies, from love affairs to perspective in painting, Paul Feyerabend reveled in the physical and cultural abundance that surrounds us. He found it equally striking that human senses and human intelligence are able to take in only a fraction of these riches. From this fraction, scientists, artists, all of us construct encompassing abstractions and stereotypes. This basic human trait is at the heart of Conquest of Abundance, the book on which Feyerabend was at work when he died in 1994.
Prepared from drafts of the manuscript left at his death, working notes, and lectures and articles Feyerabend wrote while the larger work was in progress, Conquest of Abundance offers up rich exploration and startling insights with the charm, lucidity, and sense of mischief that are his hallmarks. Feyerabend is fascinated by how we attempt to explain and predict the mysteries of the natural world, and he describes ways in which we abstract experience, explain anomalies, and reduce wonder to formulas and equations. Through his exploration of the positive and negative consequences of these efforts, Feyerabend reveals the "conquest of abundance" as an integral part of the history and character of Western civilization.
"Conquest of Abundance should be a simple book, pleasant to read and easy to understand," he planned in his autobiography. Indeed it is; filled with pleasure at the diversity of things and genuine engagement with philosophers and scientists across the centuries, Conquest of Abundance is a great philosopher's view of a basic yet complex human trait and how it affects our lives.Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994) was educated in Europe and held numerous teaching posts throughout his career, including at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1959 to 1990. His Against Method--translated into seventeen languages--is a classic of modern philosophy of science. The University of Chicago Press published his autobiography, Killing Time, in 1995.
Michael Polanyi's Philosophy of Science by Tchafu Mwamba (Problems in Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 49: Edwin Mellen Press) is a book about a profound philosopher, though as a philosopher he is still underestimated by philosophers - possibly because he was by profession a scientist and philosophers are notoriously touchy about incursions from outside into what they see as their (ever-diminishing) personal domain. Perhaps also his refusal, a principled refusal rather than any mere aversion, to engage in the sort of formal games which have been the stock in trade of analytic philosophers for the last more than half a century played a part too.
His name was Michael Polanyi. Born in 1891 in Hungary, he emigrated from there to the United Kingdom in the late nineteen thirties, where he was to enunciate his characteristic philosophy in a stream of published work. As this book compellingly narrates, his relative neglect by the philosophical profession reflects poorly on them rather than him, for his work turned out to be powerfully seminal, to the extent that several of the most influential developments in later twentieth-century philosophy, particularly philosophy of science, embody his central insight that even the most `objective' scientific investigation has an ineliminable `tacit dimension' (a phrase which provides the title of one of his best-known books): we necessarily call on inarticulate and inarticulable elements in our cognizing activity. To quote Polanyi: `our articulate utterances can never altogether supersede but must continue to rely on mute acts of intelligence'.
When Polanyi announced this idea it was virtually anathema to the dominant analytical tradition in Western epistemology, even though it clearly harks back to Kant's own revolutionary idea that human cognition involves a prior synthesizing activity. It was an assumption of the British empiricists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that our factual empirical knowledge is the result of inductive inferences from data given initially by the senses, a view recycled and reinforced by the philosophers and scientists of the Vienna Circle in the nineteen twenties and thirties. Updated and embellished with the help of a good deal of the new logical symbolism invented by Frege and Hilbert it became the mainstream view of Anglo-American analytic philosophy. Where it differed was only in the amount of effort expended in trying to formulate in a suitably precise way the rules according to which higher-level empirical knowledge is supported by observation-statements. Polanyi's philosophy was a radical challenge to all this. For him there was no demarcation between observation and theory: theory is just one more medium through which we assimilate and organize experience, part of a more general body of cognitional apparatus, differing from the rest only by being relatively explicit. But most importantly Polanyi denied that we obtain our knowledge by the application of, if not articulate then articulable, universal canons of objective reasoning, either in the `inductive' or the deductive sciences. In every piece of cognizing activity there is always appeal to an ineliminable host of presuppositions, skills both innate and learned which at first may be conscious but become eventually absorbed into the way we simply see things, cultural influences, etc...
Polanyi's emphasis on the inarticulate and provisional elements in cognition laid the ground for the emergence of later philosophies of science which stressed the role of non-rational, institutional, societal, and even anthropological elements in the supposedly fully objective procedures, and which eventually dislodged the positivistic, quasi-logical view. Their authors, particularly Kuhn, Feyerabend, Lakatos (another Hungarian, and one who knew Polanyi's work thoroughly) and Laudan, can all be seen as developing in their different ways ideas which found their first expression or adumbration in Polanyi's work. As Dr Mwamba points out in his absorbing narrative, in various ways Polanyi's Tacit Framework corresponds to Kuhn's Disciplinary Matrix, to Lakatos's Research Program, and to Laudan's Research Tradition, each of these according to their authors imposing limits on and constraints within the space of possible solutions of scientific problems.
Of all these thinkers, Kuhn is probably the closest to Polanyi. Kuhn's Polanyian stress on non-rational, Gestalt-like features in scientists' perceptions of the theories they accept became highly influential though his famous book `The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'. Like Polanyi also, Kuhn emphasized the role of the characteristic apprenticeship that scientists undergo, with a corresponding commitment to shared beliefs and practices and their eventual integration into the mature scientist's very way of seeing things. Lakatos frequently mentioned Polanyi in his writings, but as an 'irrationalist' opponent usually more than as an ally. Nevertheless a favorite theme of
Polanyi's emerges as the foundation-stone of Lakatos's methodology of scientific research programs. This is the idea that anomalous observations are not by themselves grounds for rejecting theories. Were they to be, as Polanyi pointed out, and Lakatos repeated in his extensive critique of Popper's ideas, then practically every scientific theory would be abandoned before its virtues could have the opportunity to become apparent. Polanyi would not have endorsed Feyerabend's notorious epistemological anarchism, but he would have recognized familiar elements in Feyerabend's intellectual progress to that position.
Polanyi is one of those thinkers whose contribution is not immediately weighed and packaged. As a mature and reflective scientist he knew more thoroughly and intimately than a professional philosopher could what he was talking about when he discussed the nature of science and scientific knowledge. Because of his own extraordinary powers of perception and reflection his ideas have been and will continue to be seminal, with a strong latency that will continue to be felt through the passage of decades. He is one of the very best of philosophers.
Science Unfettered: A Philosophical Study in Sociohistorical Ontology by James E. McGuire and Barbara Tuchanska, (Series in Continental Thought, 28: Ohio University Press) offers an reformulation of the possible ontological and epistemological foundations of science not in theory but in practice. The rational is deeply embedded in current Continental philosophy and its most congenial stance is to see scientific practice as a form of horometrical inquiry circle of levels of explanation based on degrees of integration. It is based upon a socio-historical perspective.
Instead of summarizing our argument, we conclude with a brief discussion of the concept of the hermeneutic circle that has appeared under various forms. This concept is a key discursive device for any attempt at overcoming the subject/object opposition basic to cognitive activity in many fields, in everyday cognition, in science and metaphysics, and typically in epistemology. It manifests itself most visibly in the realist attitude toward the world, and this attitude is a natural, self-evident disposition directing most of our cognitive enterprises. However, when understanding cognition becomes an issue, this attitude is no longer self‑evident; it itself becomes a problem requiring understanding.
Understanding how it is possible to be within the subject/object opposition and conceive the world, as a system of objects that exist out there cannot be achieved from inside that opposition. Cognizing based on the realist attitude is always already objectifying, even when it makes itself its own subject matter. That we must somehow suspend our natural realistic attitude does not mean that we can step outside ourselves and see the entire opposition from a nonhuman perspective. It requires thematizing our being within the subject/object opposition from the perspective of this opposition itself by elaborating its own (that is our own) self‑understanding. To elaborate such self-understanding is not to reject one or other of the poles of the subject/object opposition. Nor is it to carve a middle way between its two extremes. As we have indicated earlier, it requires sublation‑namely, the move of simultaneous negation and affirmation of both poles during which both become reconstituted. In other words, the idea of sublation allows us to avoid two reductive moves: the reduction of the subjective to the objective, as is the case in naturalizing approaches to cognition, and the reduction of the objective to the subjective, as is the case with idealistic accounts. Sublation, in its turn, is not for us the Hegelian move of revealing absolute Spirit behind human cognition as performed within the subject/object opposition. In place of Hegel's metaphysical solution, we appeal to the ontology of being and to hermeneutics. Their way of dealing from within with the problem of the subject/object opposition has one feature in common with that of Hegel: the central role that circularity plays. As we stated in chapter 1, the hermeneutic circle is neither a logically vicious circle nor simply a methodological circle composed of anticipatory prejudgments and judgments that actualize them. It is‑for Heidegger and Gadamerthe internal and central structure linking human being and understanding. Before we understand the world, in any conceptual and objectified way, we are already in the world, and our being, in all its forms, itself constitutes the understanding of being. Before we understand history we already belong to history, our consciousness is conditioned and limited by history; but history is not a self‑sufficient, nature-like process, it proceeds in virtue of our (interpretative) activity. In the course of our analysis, which goes beyond the position of Heidegger and Gadamer, we have argued that the hermeneutic circle is dynamically composed of several circles.
Understanding our involvement in the subject/object opposition from the hermeneutic‑ontological perspective allows us to avoid a difficulty stated by Kolakowski: if we want to understand ourselves as belonging to "an already given situation," we must "understand the presence of the world as precisely an existent"‑that is, as existing in an unconditioned way. "The category of existence in the unconditioned sense cannot, of course, be the work of successive abstractions, as was imagined by empiricists confident in the natural validity of the Aristotelian hierarchy of predicates; for it is clear that stages of abstraction are stages in the scope of sets, but in no way do we reach a position where the act of existence reveals itself."' In other words, the unconditioned existence of the world cannot be given to us as the result of a search for conditions of conditions because this search is either endless or must be broken by the postulate of the existence of a nonconditional condition. The possibility of an experience in which "the act of existence reveals itself" requires, therefore, the suspension of the objectivist, realist way of using concepts. Yet, it is not clear whether, even after this suspension, an unconditional existence can give itself to us in a discursive (conceptual) cognitive act. The solution of Heidegger and Gadamer is different. Neither the world nor ourselves can be given to us as an ultimate unconditioned existence; both are given simultaneously as mutually conditioned; our existence is our‑being‑in‑the‑world and the existence of the world is the being‑of‑our‑world. In other words, neither is the existing‑by‑itself but is always the existing in relativization. This is why the presence of the world for us is never absolute and direct but always partial and relative. Moreover, presence is dialectically connected with absence. The world presents itself as this or that system of beings, as their reference frame, as a whole of being, and so forth, and it presents itself to us according to how we perceive it in our everyday life, or how we experience it in a mythical or religious experience, or how we conceptualize and manipulate it in scientific investigation, or speculate about it in philosophy. There can be no absolute, non-arbitrary way of separating the presence of the world from our modes of conceptualizing it.
The first ontological circle that reveals itself when the analysis of being goes beyond the individualism of Heidegger's ontology is the circle of participation and embracement. When seen from an individual perspective, it links each of us with communities that embrace us, in which we are shaped, influenced by others, and within which we interact with them. When seen from the perspective of communities, it links them with individuals who participate in them, constitute, and maintain them. A particular form of the actualization of this ontological circle is a socio‑hermeneutic circle that connects individual understanding and social knowledge behind which there are other subjects. As we cannot understand ourselves other than in a socially conditioned way, so communities cannot build their self‑understanding other than through the individual activity of their members. This is because, in general, "the self‑knowledge of a human individual exists only in the process of communication and mutual understanding."'
The socio‑hermeneutic circle has its source in an ontological circle of the sociability and intentionality of individual consciousness. Our consciousness is intentional; it is the consciousness‑of‑something, neither by itself nor by virtue of the world that "gives itself to us," but in virtue of what we initially learn from others about the existence and internal structure of the world. On the other hand, without intentionality the sociability of consciousness could not be constituted: to learn from other people we must recognize their consciousness as different from ours and such that we can direct our own consciousness toward theirs.
The ways of being of each of us, seen as participation in various communities, also have a circular structure; they are constituted within an ontic circle of individuality and conformity. This circle is founded on human natality and manifests itself as an interplay between human personality, with all its idiosyncrasies underlying creativity, and the relative uniformity of members of a given community, who have been shaped in a certain way. The fact that our being is always being together is also conditioned by a circle‑namely, by an ontological circle of plurality and being‑together. As plurality is the necessary ontological condition of our being‑together, so human plurality requires our reciprocal recognition of individual independence, without which we would not be individualized and could not interact. The circle of individuality and conformity as well as the circle of plurality and being together are embedded in practice; they are realized in practice and the internal ontological structure of human practice conditions them: human practice is itself circular.
There are three ontic-ontological circles that link: first, practice and its ontic structural web, the network of factual social relations, sociocultural institutions, systems, and so on; second, practice and meaningfulness that are mutually interrelated in an analogous way; and, third, practice and the world, which it constantly converts into reality and objectifies and which reciprocally influences it.
History is also ontologically circular, since it simultaneously situates human practice as our self‑making and is a product of that practice. The most fundamental circular structure of history is the ontological circle of human individuality and plurality. Plurality, which manifests itself ontically as the succession of human generations, situates individual human beings within history; individuality is, on the other hand, a condition of plurality. Individuality and plurality are the basis of two further ontological circles constitutive for historicity. They connect temporalizing with temporality and historizing with historicity. As the historizing of practice and its world is the source of the historicity of our individual being, so our individual temporalizing is the source of the temporality of practice and its world. Through these circles the concepts of historicity and temporality join the ontological and ontic levels of our self‑understanding within an ontic-ontological circle. Within this circle, any search for ontological structures and conditions must be supplemented by the reconstitution of the ontic dimension of our being in a hermeneutical historical narrative, since these ontological structures and conditions are always historically situated.
Finally, any form of cognition should be considered as involved in three hermeneutic circles that link its normative, historical, and ontological aspects. In particular cognitive creativity and objectivity reveal themselves within these hermeneutic circles. The normative‑hermeneutic circle links values, the institutional locus of authority, and scientists who undertake responsibility for their cognitive acts. The historical-hermeneutic circle links novelties, the creative process of cognition, and the external context, which allows us to recognize novelties. Also objectivity, as a function of certain forms of cognition, for instance, of scientific research, exists within the historical‑hermeneutic circle. The hermeneutic‑ontological circle embraces scientific research and other spheres of practice and their worlds. Within this circle, the scientific deconstruction of external human reality and the projection of scientific reality outside science takes place.
Localizing science within these circles‑in particular, within the last three hermeneutic circles‑enables us to consider scientific research in a way that does not presuppose the subject/object distinction and, consequently, is neither idealistic nor realistic. This is because we reject two fundamental assumptions shared, paradoxically, by idealists, such as Berkeley or Kant, and (most) realists, in particular, those who accept the picture of reality as causally impacting on our cognitive capacities. First, we do not treat cognition as an activity performed by an individual cognizer, who ultimately (from a radical epistemological viewpoint) can be considered as entirely isolated from any social milieu; and second, we do not isolate (scientific) cognition from other human activities, both individual and collective. This means that we do not presuppose any opposition, or even any distance between participation in cognition and the activity of being. Only on the basis of the first assumption can we consider learning and cooperating with other people in order to establish knowledge as an unnecessary element of cognition. Only on the basis of the second assumption can the subject, whose only activity is cognition, and an object (the world), which is prior and entirely independent of this activity, be the initial conditions of a theory of cognition. If both assumptions are rejected and the consequences of their rejection elaborated, the idealist position is overcome; its fundamental problem of guaranteeing the intersubjectivity of knowledge cannot appear because the very process of cognition is social interaction. The realist position, on the other hand, can be recognized as establishing illusory solutions to its own problems. First of all, the objective, external validity of knowledge does not require any justification; we are in the world before we begin to cognize it in an objectifying fashion. It is not the world that is absolutely prior to our cognition; it is our objectifying cognition that conceptualizes the world as existing independently of this very conceptualization. Second, objectifying cognition certainly presupposes a realist attitude, but this attitude cannot be justified by appealing to the causal impact of the world upon our senses. There is no non-arbitrary way of cashing out the causal relationship that is presupposed. Even if the world exercises such an impact, it does not supply realists with an epistemological justification; it was already argued by Fichte that the representational character of our perceptions does not follow from the fact that they are effects of external causes. The relation of representing belongs to epistemological or semantic discourse, whereas the relation of causality belongs to ontic discourse. The realist attitude is not, however, simply a direct result of the nature of our senses (our receptivity) or a fundamental epistemological structure of our subjectivity. It is a matter of engagement and normative commitment, the nature of which can be grasped with the help of hermeneutic considerations, since it exists within the normative-hermeneutic circle rather than through any objectifying or naturalizing prism.
That the realist commitment is natural in everyday life and in science, since for both the world is external and prior, does not mean that the idea of an independent and prior reality can and should be extended on purely ontological considerations. The concept of reality that is absolutely independent of the entirety of human practice and prior to it does not make sense if we agree that neither can we be nor can we understand our being in any way other than from within the world, and that the world can neither be nor can it be understood by us differently than it is as our world. However, the fact that we undertake a realist commitment when we cognize within the subject/object opposition reveals the hermeneutic‑ontological circle. It links being and our understanding of being: as our understanding requires (our) being so (our) being requires understanding. In traditional terms, the existence of the hermeneutic‑ontological circle means that epistemology and ontology condition each other: metaphysics presupposes certain epistemological claims, and epistemology presupposes ontological prejudgments. Neither is absolutely fundamental and ungrounded.
This result, which can be recognized from the perspective of our fundamental ontology of being that we identify with human practice, allows us to answer a question posed by Kolakowski:
If it is a chimerical hope for man to shed his own skin; if the world is given only as a world endowed with meaning, and meaning is the outcome of man's practical project; if man is unable to understand himself by placing himself in a premeaningful, prehuman world . . . the metaphysical inquiry and the epistemological inquiry are annulled at a stroke. Is this therefore the end of philosophy?For us, as well as for him, the answer is in the negative. Even if foundational ontology and epistemology are annulled philosophy does not cease to exist; it remains as an effort to understand both our being‑within the subject/object opposition and our attempt to think it, an effort that is our very act of being. It is precisely in this sense that our study is philosophical.
The Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction by Alexander Rosenberg (Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy: Routledge) Science is perhaps the sole distinctively western institution adopted by all cultures that have come in contact with it. And yet its scope, nature, and methods have been contested throughout its history. Philosophy of Science identifies the profound philosophical problems that science raises through an examination of enduring questions about its nature, methods, and justification. Science is perhaps the sole distinctively western institution adopted by all cultures that have come in contact with it. And yet its scope, nature and methods have been contested throughout its history. Natural science has both raised the most fundamental questions for philosophers and shaped philosophers' theories about the nature of reality and the extent of our knowledge of it.
The Philosophy of Science identifies the profound philosophical problems that science raises through an examination of enduring questions about its nature, methods and justification. Coming to grips with the nature of explanation, laws, causation, theory, models, evidence, reductionism, probability, teleology, realism and instrumentalism in science turns out to be a matter of facing the same questions that Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant and their successors have grappled with.
This accessible and user‑friendly text will be of value to students seeking an introduction to the philosophy of science as a central branch of philosophy and to students of science. It contains the following textbook features:
chapter overviews and summaries
a wide variety of clear supportive examples drawn from science
glossary and annotated further reading.
"A first‑rate, challenging text that emphasizes the philosophy in the philosophy of science.
Rosenberg offers a superb introduction to the epistemological and metaphysical issues at stake in modern science."-Professor Martin Curd, Purdue University, Indiana
"Philosophy students will like the way the issues in philosophy of science are connected to the basic concerns of epistemology and philosophy of language."-Professor Peter Kosso, Northern Arizona University
"An engaging and clearly written introduction to the philosophy of science . ... I was especially pleased to see the discussions of probability, the semantic view of theories, and science studies." -Peter Lipton, Cambridge UniversityAlexander Rosenberg is a Professor of Philosophy in the University of Georgia and a leading philosopher of science in the world. He has written ten books including Philosophy of Social Science (Dimensions of Philosophy Series: Westview), Instrumental Biology or the Disunity of Science (University of Chicago Press) and Economics - Mathematical Politics or Science of Dimishing Returns ( University of Chicago Press) He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Science foundation. In 1993, he won the Lakatos Prize in the Philosophy of Science.
Philosophy of Science by Trish Glazebrook (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy, No.
12: Fordham University Press) (PAPERBACK) This
book concerns itself with Heidegger's philosophy of science, an issue that is not
sufficiently addressed in the literature. While a great deal of attention is paid to
Heidegger's later critique of technology by philosophers and people interested in his
environmental views, no one has systematically studied how he understood
"science." Many readers will be surprised to learn, through this book, that
Heidegger developed the essentials of a fairly sophisticated philosophy of science, one
that in many ways invites comparison with the work of Thomas Kuhn. Although some articles
have been published on this topic in the past, Glazebrook works on this philosophy of
science from the early writings of Heidegger in detail. She provides the reader with a
comprehensive and careful account of his thought on a matter that is of great interest to
philosophers and outside the continental tradition.
Heidegger's Philosophy of Science by Trish Glazebrook (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy, No. 12: Fordham University Press) (PAPERBACK) This book concerns itself with Heidegger's philosophy of science, an issue that is not sufficiently addressed in the literature. While a great deal of attention is paid to Heidegger's later critique of technology by philosophers and people interested in his environmental views, no one has systematically studied how he understood "science." Many readers will be surprised to learn, through this book, that Heidegger developed the essentials of a fairly sophisticated philosophy of science, one that in many ways invites comparison with the work of Thomas Kuhn. Although some articles have been published on this topic in the past, Glazebrook works on this philosophy of science from the early writings of Heidegger in detail. She provides the reader with a comprehensive and careful account of his thought on a matter that is of great interest to philosophers and outside the continental tradition.
INTRODUCTORY READINGS IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE (Third Edition) edited by E.D. Klemke, Robert Hollinger, and David Wyss Rudge with A. David Kline ($28.95, paperback, 579 pages bibliography, appendix, ISBN: 1573922404)
This popular reader is greatly updated with ten stimulating new selections including essays on the natural and the social sciences; feminism; postmodernism, relativism, and science; confirmation, acceptance, and theory; explanatory unification; and science and values. These selections offer anyone an balanced view of normative science and its general philosophical implications.
When first published, this groundbreaking volume was praised as a unique and carefully compiled primer for scholars, students, and others involved in the study of the frontiers of science and its relationship to philosophy. Today the editors have retained the best essays from the original publication, and have added important new pieces to maintain this influential texts relevance for today and tomorrow. Included are new study questions, updated section introductions, revised select bibliographies, case studies for each section, and a valuable appendix for instructors.
Included are selection from the work of Rudolf Carnap, Paul Feyerabend, Ronald Giere, Carl G. Hempel, Robert Hollinger, Philip Kitcher, Thomas S. Kuhn, Sir Karl Popper, Hilary Putnam, W.V. Quine, Richard Rudner, Wesley Salmon, W.T. Stace, Paul R. Thagard, Hugh Tomlinson, Stephen Toulmin, Bas C. van Frassen, John Ziman, and many others.
E.D.Klemke, PH.D., professor of philosophy at Iowa State University, is the editor of Contemporary Analytic and Linguistic Philosophies. Robert Hollinger, PH.D. is a professor of philosophy at Iowa State. David Wyss Rudge PH.D. is an assistant professor of philosophy of biology at Iowa State. A. David KLINE, PH.D. is provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
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