Page 81 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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are understood as processes which cut across the physical, social, and personal (self)
worlds. Qualitative and quantitative researchers examine these phenomena, offering
rich descriptive accounts or precise analyses of functional relations, respectively. …
Qualitative methods offer an in-depth account of underlying processes and can help
frame hypotheses that test specific functional relationships, while empirical findings
related to processes can suggest areas which might benefit from detailed descriptive
examination.” (Cupchik, 2001)
“[I]t is easy to take a model out of context, in which case the model may lose some or
all of its validity. A change in context could involve a change in modelling purpose as
well as the situation and sometimes that is more difficult to recognize from, say, its
description in an academic paper. In this case there is a danger of the modelling being
wrongly applied to this different purpose – a tendency that is particularly observed in
the social sciences … Sometimes when a model is being used as an analogy … (albeit
in formal or computational form) this vulnerability to context change is masked, due
to the context­sensitive manner in which people apply analogies, adapting meaning
and reference almost automatically to any new context in which it is applied.
However if more is required of a model than being an analogy (for example
predicting possible outcomes) then this looser way of using models can lead to
unreliable conclusions.” (Edmunds, 2013)
Hon
(2001)
argues that “the logical, subsumption scheme of explanation is epistemological,
explanations that are based on causal structures and unifying schemes are ontological and
those that are explicitly interest and context-dependent may be regarded as pragmatic.” Such
a pragmatic view of explanation is reflective not of the contemporary pragmatists of today
but of the earlier pragmatists. Bauerlein (1997) notes: “[e]ven though early pragmatists talked
of mind, cognition, thinking, inference, and perception all the time, rarely in new pragmatic
writing does one find more than a casual reference to them.” He quotes Richard Rorty
himself as stating “that we new pragmatists talk about language instead of experience or
mind or consciousness as the old pragmatists did.”
The earlier pragmatists on which Bauerlein prefers to rely bring forth some
contemporary concepts:
“Up to about 1850 almost everyone believed that sciences expressed truths that were
exact copies of a definite code of non-human realities. But the enormously rapid
multiplication of theories in these latter days has well-nigh upset the notion of anyone
of them being a more literally objective kind of thing than another. ... We hear
scientific laws now treated as so much ‘conceptual shorthand’, true so far as they are
useful, but no farther. Our mind has become tolerant of symbol instead of
reproduction, of approximation instead of exactness, of plasticity instead of rigor.”
(James, 1909)
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