Page 66 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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the natural sciences, where the use of nomological explanation is widely employed.”
(Hon & Rakover, 2001)
The above argument is that explanations of individual changes are not explanations but
something else, or are not science but something else. Danto (1985) has argued that “what we
want to explain is always a change of some sort. When a change occurs, we have one
situation before and another situation after, and the explanation is what connects these two
situations. … Indeed, this model of explanation does not only reflect complex historical-
intentional explanations, but causal explanations fit it as well.” Danto in essence is rejecting
the idea that social science needs to reject the nomological. Indeed, if nomological
explanation were to be rejected by the social scientists, what would be left? Explanation
would be reduced to category attributions and such attributions themselves are the mapping
of a model (no matter how well or poorly defined) to both the target situation and the
category label. It is the mapping that would “explain” and it is the mapping that raises
“issues.”
Though the provisionality and contingency of all models are well known, popular
culture persists in utilizing them as if they were more than they are. In effect, category
attributions are given a power that they do not deserve. If we need a way of reducing the
world enough that we can cope with it and act in it, then the use of labels helps people to
have an actionable view of the world. Labels play a very valuable role in limiting complexity.
Instead of discussing multiplicity (embodied by compressions), the simplicity of a crude
model and a few labels (in the form of representations) are often preferred. A stasis to the
world is assumed that seldom exists. Such a stasis assumes that affordances are predictable,
context is controllable, and emergence is non-existent. The world of practicing managers
does not match these oversimplifications, however. Prediction, at best, is only possible in the
short term. Boundaries are always shifting. The environment is rarely predictable (in the long
term at least). Identities are unclear. The trade-off between outcome and process does not
favor one over the other. In the world in which we live, emergence is pervasive, context is
seldom controllable, ecologies are emergent, and few affordances are predictable. Situation
and context play key roles. In the complex world of organization, continuity is but a fragile,
temporary, and illusionary notion; the assumption of predictability does not hold.
Glennan (2013) wants us to believe that the hard sciences have made this shift:
“In the 50 years since the publication of Kuhn’s
Structure of Scientific Revolutions
,
[the] image of science has been extensively revised and has reached a point in which
many of the features that supposedly distinguished the natural sciences from the
social sciences (including historiography) have vanished. While it is difficult to
summarize all of the features of this revised view of the nature of science, two
important developments are (1) that philosophers of science have come increasingly
to understand science as a search for mechanisms as opposed to laws of nature and (2)
that scientists typically explain natural phenomena by providing idealized models of
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