Page 124 - MODES of EXPLANATION

Basic HTML Version

“is” a pen, unless my previous familiarity lets me view the pen through the facticities
upon which it is founded.” (Rota, 1989)
Fundierung underlies both explanations and interpretations. As Cupchik (2001) notes:
Interpretation … issues an answer to a question about explanation of meaning
or about representation of a phenomenon whose comprehension falls outside
somebody’s background knowledge. Whenever we interpret something it is because
we can’t explain it since we don’t understand it. The answer transforms a
phenomenon, now understood in terms of some theory, from being somehow
unfamiliar to something less unknown. The phenomena, or rather beliefs about the
phenomena, are thereby included among that person’s background assumptions and
connected to his or her background knowledge. Phenomena become intelligible and
meaningful because by attributing identity and tentative explanation to them, an
interpretation brings them in connection with our theories or belief systems.
Interpreting is a process which creates provisional explanations, and these
explanations provide us with understanding. Thus, the aim of interpretation is to reach
a proper understanding of a phenomenon regardless of whether the proposed
hypothesis is concerned with traditional meaning, function, intention or causation. In
the end an interpretation is a hypothesis which is presented against a background of
accepted conventions and ontological assumptions.
The pragmatic constructivist recognizes that in the case of the evolution/creationism
debate, the relevant fundierung, the “bigger system of beliefs” that seems to shape the
background assumptions of each side, is that of the role of “meaning” in creation itself.
Where the scientific realist wants to explore “truth,” the constructivist instead is asking for
coherence – for “fit.” As von Glasersfeld (1995) put it, “Unlike the notion of truth which
would require a match, i.e., shared points and features of the picture and what it is intended to
represent, the notion of viability (which refers to actions and ways of thinking) merely
requires fit. This is a relation characterized by the absence of shared points, because they
would be points of friction or collision.” To those who are serious about creationism, the
notion of fit and coherence center around the role of meaning – why we are here. Austin
(2014) claims:
“The simple fact is that it is not a debate – it is two debates, only one of which has
anything to do with science. The first debate is purely philosophical: ‘Did something
5