Page 199 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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of the other is the essence. The loop on the side of the other is a process of realization of the
observable, and a modification of the essence under the influence of the realization. The
essence might be an evolving species and the realization might be an organism belonging to
that species. The connection back up to the essence might be natural selection; the connection
down to the realization might be the developmental biology of the organism. In social
situations, an incumbent can influence the institution that offers a role to play. Thus changed,
the role will realize a different incumbent than it might have otherwise done. Role and
incumbent map onto essence and realization. The name of the game here is to find out about
the relationship between the model and the essence, both at level n+1. The connection is
through the observable at level n. Essence is not material much as significance is not
material. Essence is a normative device. The tool used is inference. Working through an
example may help show that essences do not exist independently of a model whose patterns
need to be taken into account.
If we see a dog and recall that we have seen something like it before, we may assign it
to a collection of dogs to give it identity (Figure 14.2). The essence that would apply to a
class of dogs might be dogginess. However, that essence depends on what is in the
equivalence class “dogs” and would change with a different set of dog-like things for
inclusion. For instance, humans look at each other on the nose, then up and diagonally to an
eye, which has something to do with human faces being only quasi-symmetric. Dogs look at
human faces that way as well, but not at each other’s faces. Tellingly, wolves do not look at
humans that way, so only domesticated dogs have human recognition as part of their identity.
But put a wolf in the set of dog, they are quite doggy, and the essence of dogginess that
applies does not have a human side to it. One might include hyenas in the class too. They
look and hunt like dogs, but are more closely related to cats by about 20 million years. At that
point, dogginess is not a genetic line of relatedness, but is one way of being in the Carnivora.
Tasmanian Tigers (so called because they had stripes) look distinctly wolf-like. These too
might be in our class of dogs, but they are not even placental. Dogginess then becomes a
special mammalian style of hunting without retractable claws. Incidentally, cheetahs hunt
with high-speed chase, rather than the cat ambush strategy. Cheetahs also have doggy claws,
while the whole is a perfectly good cat. Essence offers the reason for the equivalence in the
equivalence class. The chosen class is a model, but we will not be aware of the implications
of the class unless we come to understand what appears to underlie the equivalence. The
essence is a useful tool in understanding equivalence.
[insert Figure 2]
Figure 14.2
Levels in Zellmer et al. (2006) seen as a set of cyclical processes.
In Figure 14.2 are three of the four levels previously described, with cycles of modeling and
realization. The game is to iterate between the two cycles so that we can build a justification
for saying that we understand something of essences, even if they are undefinable and cannot
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