Page 71 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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the acceptance of context as being pre-given and unchangeable. This is the perceived world
of Science 1. Science 2 suggests that there is an alternative: we can work to alter the context,
to shape it, to help influence what affordances it presents and what narratives it affords.
Worldviews
“Whether scientific explanation is causal, unificatory, nomological, statistical,
deductive, inductive, or any combination of them, a question may still remain about
how and whether scientific explanations really answer our explanatory questions,
really convey the sort of understanding that satisfies inquiry. … When we want to
know why something has happened, we already know that it has, and we may even
know that events like it always happen under the conditions in which it happened. We
want some deeper insight than how it came to happen. … These deeper explanatory
demands seek an account of things which show them, and nature in general, to be
‘intelligible,’ to make sense, to add up to something, instead of just revealing a pattern
of one damned thing after another.” (Rosenberg, 2013)
“Commonsense explanations of actions, in terms of the agent’s reasons, hopes,
desires and the like, are on their face frequently teleological in form. They specify the
goals, purposes or points of the things we do. In this they seem sharply different from
other sorts of commonsense explanations of events, as well as from the sorts of
explanations found in sciences such as physics and chemistry, all of which are causal,
and of course not teleological. But actions are often simply constituted by events
involving the agent of the action.” (Schueler, 2009)
In seeking to “explain,” not only are there differences in domain, there are differences in
“worldviews.” A primary distinction can be traced to views on what context is and how it
should be harnessed. “The first, called here Realism, believes that contexts exist,
ontologically, and that, if properly instrumented and programmed, [we] can correctly
recognize and adapt to them. The second, called here Constructivism, believes that contexts
are human creations, mental and social” (Oulasvirta, Tamminen, & Höök, 2005) and that the
objective is to manage the resources that “affect, embody, or instantiate” such contexts.
These views are quite disparate with regard to the role of agency. Realists restrict humans to
the recognition of context and the adaptation of behavior in light of that recognition.
Constructivists, by contrast, afford humans a greater agency in that contexts are created,
changed, embodied, and chosen by human actors. One professed goal of postmodernism and
especially its deconstructionist form was to make transparent these differences regarding
human agency. To the extent that the context dependence of explanation is related to the
implicit goals of the one seeking the explanation, such agency questions can be very
important. To the extent, by contrast, that the explanatory goals concern pre-given structure
(
ceteris paribus
), then agency questions tend to lie dormant.
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