Page 69 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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“When one explains an action, one does not explain a type; one explains someone’s
doing some particular thing, acting in some particular way on some particular
occasion. To explain such a thing is to explain its features, that is, to say why it had
these features (perhaps instead of those ones), why it was as it was, why he acted as
he did (again, perhaps instead of some other way).” (Schueler, 2009)
Because science as we have defined it in the Western world (Science 1) is supposed to leave
out notions of self and of other, its use of models is generally accepted as “objective” and the
standard to which other “professions” should aspire. However, by definition, Science 2
includes people and thus includes self and other – which in turn raises questions about the
“objective,” the “truth,” and the status of context, especially context as it may be revealed in
our narratives and explanations. As Hayden White (1980) notes: “The very distinction
between real and imaginary events that is basic to modern discussions of both history and
fiction presupposes a notion of reality in which ‘the true’ is identified with ‘the real’ only
insofar as it can be shown to possess the character of narrativity.” Such narrativity is thus a
critical background assumption (at least for Westerners). John Searle (1978) argues that our
understanding of meaning happens “against a set of background assumptions about the
context in which the sentence could be appropriately uttered.” He claims (correctly in our
view) that a vast background of assumptions, practices, habits, institutions, and traditions
determines the literal meaning of sentences (cf. Persson & Ylikoski, 2007). The “word in
language is half someone else’s” (Bakhtin, 1981).
“If the organism carries a ‘small-scale model’ of external reality and of its own
possible actions within its head, it is able to try out various alternatives, conclude
which is the best of them, react to future situations before they arise, utilize the
knowledge of past events in dealing with the present and future, and in every way to
react in a much fuller, safer, and more competent manner to the emergencies which
face it.” (Craik, 1943)
“If the purpose of scientific explanation is to understand the meaning of the
explanandum, we have to clarify just what the vehicle is through which the meaning
of whatever it is that is to be understood can be understood. On this crucial question I
follow Mary Hesse …: ultimately we have to rely on the vehicle of metaphor. That is,
if by means of a chain of metaphors, something can be connected with the reality of
everyday life through a kind of structural similarity possessed by each link of the
chain, then its meaning is understandable. On this view, then, scientific explanation
can be defined as metaphorical redescription of the explanandum in terms of an
ontology, whose properties (as the source of causal power) and behaviors (that display
regularities and obey laws) are assumed to be understandable through a chain of
historically developed metaphors in science.” (Cornwell, 2004)
“Worlds are multilayered with many levels of interacting structures ongoing
simultaneously. Phenomena are physical or social events, or episodes, that take place
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