Page 82 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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“There is something both ridiculous and disconcerting in the way in which men have
let themselves be imposed upon, so as to infer that scientific ways of thinking of
objects give the inner reality of things, and that they put a mark of spuriousness upon
all other ways of thinking of them, and of perceiving and enjoying them. It is
ludicrous because these scientific conceptions, like other instruments, are hand-made
by man in pursuit of realization of a certain interest – that of the maximum
convertibility of every object of thought into any and every other.” Dewey
(1929/1960)
“To ‘agree’ in the widest sense with a reality can only mean to be guided either
straight up to it or into its surroundings or to be put into such working touch with it as
to handle either it or something connected with it better than if we disagreed. … To
copy reality is, indeed, one very important way of agreeing with it, but it is far from
being essential. The essential thing is the process of being guided. Any idea that helps
us to deal, whether practically or intellectually, with either the reality or its
belongings, that doesn’t entangle our progress in frustrations, that fits, in fact, and
adapts our life to the reality’s whole setting, will agree sufficiently to meet the
requirement. It will hold true to that reality.” (James, 1907)
In this kind of pragmatics, the possibilities for orthogonality rather than opposition begin to
emerge. Van Fraassen (1980) defines pragmatic reasons as “specifically human concerns, a
function of our interests and pleasures”; they are contextual factors that are “brought to the
situation by the scientist from his own social, personal, and cultural situation.” He extends
this notion to include a context dependence for salience: “A scientific explanation reflects a
certain understanding of the context, including the questioner’s interest, and encapsulates
many everyday presumptions that form our background knowledge.” And he quotes Russell
Hanson with approval: “In other words, the salient feature picked out as ‘the cause’ in that
complex process, is salient to a given person because of his orientation, his interests, and
various other peculiarities in the way he approaches or comes to know the problem-
contextual factors.”
“Understanding the phenomena is not simply a matter of reducing the ‘fundamental
incomprehensibilities’ but of seeing connections, common patterns, in what initially
appeared to be different situations. Science advances our understanding of nature by
showing us how to derive descriptions of many phenomena, using the same patterns
of derivation again and again, and, in demonstrating this, it teaches us how to reduce
the number of types of facts we have to accept as ultimate (or brute).” (Kitcher, 1989)
“Pragmatism offers an empirically naturalistic and moderately realistic philosophy of
science. Pragmatism’s expansive concept of interactive evidence harmoniously
complements a naturalism wary of the transcendent. Philosophy of science should
embrace pragmatism’s view that the proper object of scientific knowledge is the
technologically created natural object in human experience. Pragmatism offers the
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