Page 31 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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supposed reality with which we opt to deal at a given time. Truth is thus irrelevant and
“reality” is observer dependent.
Without taking a stance on the issue, this volume considers questions such as: Is the
philosopher’s focus on scientific explanation myopic? Are important philosophical issues
being overlooked by ignoring the use to which practitioners put explanations? Explanation as
the focus of inquiry provides a fertile arena for the exploration of these questions. And, at
least with respect to the domain of explanation, this book offers a compelling narrative on
how the two worldviews can be reconciled.
The narrative takes the form of an enacted hermeneutic circle. Because we were
holding a conference, those in attendance had the luxury of engaging in dialogue, questioning
authors of text on both content and intent, inquiring as to the underlying context that gave rise
to each of the intended and inferred meanings, and engaging in recursive reflexive
conversation. This is not to suggest that stable eigen values were reached regarding any of the
myriad of topics so discussed, but rather highlights the processes and routines in which the
participants engaged. In presenting this book we aim similarly to engage both authors and
readers in a hermeneutic cycle. Our concept is to do so in as pragmatic a way as possible
given that you the reader cannot (without significant effort) directly engage with the authors
themselves. Our pragmatic hermeneutics herein consists of presenting a multitude of authors
speaking in their own voice and then giving the reader the opportunity to engage and reflect.
As editors, we have restricted our voices to defined chapters, interjections before and after
the chapters of others, and the conclusion.
To keep our task within the definition of the scientific enterprise as suggested by
Nagel (1979) – the distinctive aim of the scientific enterprise as being theories that offer
systematic and responsibly supported explanations – our hermeneutics is similar to that
advocated by Gadamer:
“Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics is that all understanding involves not only
interpretation, but also application. Against an older tradition that divided up
hermeneutics into subtilitas intelligendi (understanding), subtilitas explicandi
(interpretation), and subtilitas applicandi (application), a primary thesis of Truth and
Method is that these are not three independent activities to be relegated to different
sub-disciplines, but rather they are internally related. They are all moments of the
single process of understanding.” (Bernstein, 1982)
“The best definition for hermeneutics is: to let what is alienated by the character of
the written word or by the character of being distantiated by cultural or historical
distances speak again. … the movement of understanding is constantly from the
whole to the part and back to the whole. Our task is to expand the unity of the
understood meaning centrifugally. … Let us think of this structure in a dynamic way;
the effective unity of the anticipated meaning comes out as the comprehension is
enlarged and renovated by concentric circles. The perfect coherence of the global and
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