Page 30 - MODES of EXPLANATION

Basic HTML Version

paribus
. As such, these explanations by definition allow for a series of possible errors that are
seldom found or asserted in the Science 1 world. These errors include the possibility of the
wrong model being used, the wrong contingencies happening or failing to happen,
overlooked context, inadequate metaphor, inappropriate synecdoche, misdirected awareness
or attention, intervening volition or coercion, and incommensurable worldviews.
Despite these differences, we must remember that Science 1 and Science 2 are on the
same surface and part of the same continuum (that Mobius strip in Figure I.1). As such, our
mission is trying to make sense of this giant muddle, define what we mean, suggest where it
might work and where it might not, and then try to explore what it is that we are talking
about.
Worldviews
Some of our contributors have suggested that the muddle of explanation and its “meaning”
that we describe above can be clarified when approached from the perspective of scientific
realism; still others that the answer can be found in the perspective known as pragmatic
constructivism. The philosophy of science literature often portrays these perspectives in
opposition; much like the worlds of Science 1 and Science 2. It can be very tempting to
attempt an overlay and then to suggest that Science 1 can be mapped to scientific realism and
Science 2 to pragmatic constructivism. However, as the collection of chapters in this book
will reveal, such a mapping is far too simple and overlooks the very nuances that make the
question of explanation of interest.
Exploration requires perspective and the philosophy of science offers two
perspectives that seem to be helpful. Scientific realism is often modeled as taking Newtonian
physics to be the paradigm instance of science: other sciences are understood via assimilation
to the Newtonian model; explanations are understood to be reductionist and law driven.
While the scientific realism practiced by scientists and philosophers is much more nuanced,
what it shares with the “common-sense” version is an underlying belief in the independent
existence of reality and of the fundamental importance of truth. The takeaway of importance
here is that scientific realism makes truth claims, judges those claims for coherence against a
pre-given world, and affords as “real” entities whose existence cannot be observed and can
only be inferred.
The pragmatic constructivism approach begins by asking what actions are being
contemplated and how judgments regarding those actions can be arrived at. The key to these
observations lies in the recognition of the ontological difference between natural entities and
those that are the product of human construction – while the “natural” entities can be referred
to as “pre-given” and thus “described” (functional explanation), human constructions are
always changing and requisite explanations demand mechanisms and explication of
relationships. This form of constructivism is less concerned with the idea that man
“constructs” reality and more with the notion that “what matters” is the representation of a
8