Page 28 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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Traditionally, Science 1 is concerned with regularities. Thus, observations of
individual events or occurrences are important only to the extent that the occurrence of such
an individual event is the basis for the falsification of a claim about regularities. Within the
Science 1 context, the answers to questions of why concern the placement of regularities
(observed or conjectured) within an overall schema of regularities. The relevant questions
seem to be those of order and of fit. Both further descriptions of regularities within an
ordered regime (functional explanation) and measurements of adherence to a “pure” (non-
contingency messed-with) regularity are both offered and accepted as “explanatory.” The
“how?” question implied by the “why?” questions is “How does this fit within the established
order?” where the answer is a mechanism for how fit happens.
Some of the unarticulated assumptions in the Science 1 worldview are the pre-
givenness of an established order, the idea that there “should” be fidelity to that order, that
the correct granularity for inquiry is at the level of regularities, and that regularities can be
referred to adequately by labels and models. Given these assumptions, it is reasonable to
eliminate contingency with a further claim of
ceteris paribus
, to treat “fit” as measurable, to
rely on noun forms, and to posit “truth” as a justificatory variable. While each of these
“reasonable” approximations can be discarded in the pursuit of “better explanation,” our
human cognitive limits and our reliance on the “least action principle” enable us to simplify
why explanations in the Science 1 world as category membership questions, and allows a
pragmatic scientific realism to guide the articulations of the abbreviated worldview that
results.
In the Science 2 world, the focus is on individual actions and occurrences, whereas
the regularities of Science 1 are part of the context in which these individual events occur. In
Science 2 the “why?” questions tend to demand answers in the form of narrative – here are
the constraints/affordances that given this particular context allowed or prevented a particular
action. Once again, the “least action principle” combined with human cognitive limits means
that while a particular context includes an infinitude of variables, the observer/actor is limited
in what is attended to and processed. The regularities that are the granular focus of Science 1
frequently are treated as “assumed” in the attention/cognition processing of Science 2. The
granular focus of Science 2 is on individual actions and events and the regularities are part of
the context.
Some of the unarticulated assumptions in the Science 2 worldview are the
contingency and context dependence of any observed or assumed order, the idea that
“fidelity” to any particular order only has relevance as part of an
observation/expectation/further action feedback loop, that the correct granularity for inquiry
is at the level of individuality, and that regularities can be referred to only contingently by
labels and models. Given these assumptions, it is never reasonable to eliminate contingency
with a further claim of
ceteris paribus
(for in that claim one might eliminate the explanatory
variables themselves), to treat measurement of deviance from expectations as a further
contingent variable in the feedback loop, to rely on verb forms, or to posit actions as a
justificatory variable. While each of these “reasonable” approximations can be discarded in
the pursuit of “better explanation,” our human cognitive limits and our reliance on the “least
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