Achievements of the hermeneutic-phenomenological approach to natural science A comparison with constructivist sociology

Man and World 30 (3):343-367 (1997)
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Abstract

The hermeneutic-phenomenological approach to the natural sciences has a special interest in the interpretive phases of these sciences and in the circumstances, cognitive and social, that lead to divergent as well as convergent interpretations. It tries to ascertain the role of the hermeneutic circle in research; and to this end it has developed, over the past three decades or so, a number of adaptations of hermeneutic and phenomenological concepts to processes of experimentation and theory-making. The purpose of the present essay is to show how appropriate these concepts are to an important current research program (solar neutrinos) and thus to point out what difference they make to our understanding of science as a whole. This goal is pursued by means of comparison. The program of social constructivism in natural science has produced alternative but parallel concepts, embodied in an alternative and parallel vocabulary. The contrast between this vocabulary and that of hermeneutics and phenomenology reveals, so I argue, the advantages of the latter. But actually it does more: It reveals as well the pre-understanding or prejudgment of science embedded in each approach

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