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Maribor: Založba Aristej (2006)
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In this book, I will discuss three main topics: the roots and aims of scientific knowledge, scientific knowledge in society, and science and values I understand scientific knowledge as being a planned and continuous production of the general and common knowledge of scientific communities. I begin my discussion with a brief analysis of the main differences between sciences, on the one hand, and everyday experience, philosophies, religions, and ideologies, on the other. I define the concept of science as a set of family resemblances (in Wittgenstein's sense). The sciences can be distinguished along three lines, in terms of the difference between empirical and non-empirical sciences, differences in degrees of theoretical and methodological structure among individual sciences and scientific disciplines. Scientific knowledge is based upon some grounds, paradigmatic knowledge bases. Scientific knowledge is founded on a unified paradigmatic knowledge base. The latter includes fundamental theories, basic facts, generally accepted empirical regularities (laws), scientific research methods, scientific explanations, and established relations to other sciences. Scientific knowledge in general is defined well in classical terms by the definition that knowledge is a true and rationally-justified belief. In this connection, scientific truth is relative, depending on the given paradigmatic knowledge base and on the precision and accessibility of the measurements and observations involved. In the book's first part, I consider the production and testing of scientific hypotheses, scientific explanations, the structure of scientific theories, and the problem of scientific realism. I consider explanation an integral part of a wider nexus of heuristic and theoretical activities in science like giving reasons, understanding, clarification, and founding. Continuous production of scientific explanations is a necessary condition for the systematic reproduction of scientific knowledge. Accordingly, it does not suffice to describe them in terms of the logical structure of the arguments on which they are based, but rather, scientific explanations ought to be given complete with an epistemic and pragmatic context of the explanation. I consider especially deductive-nomological, inductive-statistical, dispositional, teleological-functional, and genetic explanations. I emphasize the ever-increasing importance of explanations by analogy and by model. Orthogonal to these distinctions lies the distinction between causal and epistemic explanation. Epistemic explanations relate scientific discoveries to epistemic progress, and causal explanations are these epistemic explanations that relate scientific discoveries to reality too. Causal explanations inform us that certain changes occur in the world as agents of other changes, or rather, that certain changes are real consequences of other changes. Thus, by having explanations of causes, we can intervene in the world to induce by design certain changes in some course of phenomena. I consider scientific theories as logically and epistemically ordered wholeness of scientific knowledge in a realm of research that enables us to construct useful models of reality. After the discussion of different 'statement' views on theories and different interpretations of the theory-experience relation, I introduce the 'model' theoretical (non-statement) views on theories, especially the structural theory of science. The model views on theories transcend the realism-antirealism dualism by introducing models between theory and reality. Therefore, the question of scientific realism is not merely whether and, if so, which element(s), of scientific theories represent reality, but rather which conditions suffice to infer from a theory that one of its models truly expresses reality. In other words, under which conditions do models of a theory represent models of reality? Generally, models are just as much images of reality in a theory as they are images of a theory in reality. The actual problem of scientific realism doesn't originate in the observable-unobservable distinction (even if this distinction is otherwise theoretically loaded), but rather in ontological quandaries, of the sort especially encountered in modern physical theories such as quantum mechanics, relativity theory, and cosmological theories, although they are known to arise in other sciences as well. Scientific theories may be real, even if they describe nothing about the world. However, such theories can be given this status only if their formal, mathematical postulates exhibit some formal homology between reality and mathematical forms. The very fact that it is possible to describe reality with the help of mathematics even in cases, where every (representational, conceptual) language and thought fall short, would indicate that even mathematics itself is, in some sense, a part of reality, although 'outside' of the empirical world. It follows we have to distinguish the non-empirical reality and the empirical world. Formal objectivity and non-arbitrariness of theories do not emerge from either our language or thoughts, or from the world of facts, causes, and effects, but rather from non-empirical reality, which frames the world as some kind of objective transcendental condition for the possibility of the existence of the world, thoughts, and language. In the second part of the book, I consider the incorporation of scientific work and scientific knowledge into modern society and its relations to values and ethics. Production of scientific knowledge goes on as a parallel distributed process of a special kind of social (shared) cognition. The central part of this cognition is the presentation of parts of the world by scientific (theoretical) models which are warranted by the shared and public practice of justification, and in reflective acting in the world as it would. I consider various formal concepts of collective propositional knowledge (distributed, mutual, common knowledge). Scientific knowledge is an achievement to be ascribed to a scientific community or, indirectly, to all those who apply or expand it, rather than to individuals per se. It presents the continuous and partially planned production of non-trivial common knowledge of the research communities in modern societies. However, besides common knowledge, shared dispositional knowledge (knowledge how of scientific teams) and shared knowledge by acquiring (knowledge of fundamental similarities and differences in scientific teams) are parts of the real body of scientific knowledge. Scientific common knowledge implies the projection into idealized universal knowledge of all real or potentially rational and well-informed individuals. The respect of scientific knowledge thus presents the norm of rationality. Science as the intensively shared and socially distributed kind of cognition enters into modern society as a special kind of work (general work), as a productive force (social invention drive), and as a form of capital (human, social, cultural, informational, etc.). However any of these categories can adequately represent the socio-economical role of science in modern societies, and we are still waiting for a more adequate general concept that would theoretically cover the 'scientification' of modern societies. My thesis is that the most important general effect of scientification is (and will be) the growth of social processes that structurally resemble parallel distributed shared social cognition of science, and not so much the rise of the use of scientific knowledge and scientifically based information in all kinds of production. Scientification of modern societies inevitably includes a much stronger need for moral and social responsibility of scientists for their work and its effects in their local society and the global world. This need comes in contradiction with the quite large accepted idea (and even the 'norm') on value-free research. I discuss to some degree different arguments for the absence of non-epistemic values and ethical reasoning from science and find them non-convincing. The sound idea of value-free research lies in the need for the absence of categorical value statements from scientific explanations and theoretical deductions. Values and ethical judgment have, and sometimes they even have to play an important role in another part of research and its application in science or outside it. Not the value-loudness of research is a danger for science but its blind, non-reflective use. It leads to the ideologization and politicization of science. A similar danger lies in the purely value-neutrality of research. It leads to the instrumentalization of science to the technical or bureaucratic means for 'any' aims.



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Andrej Ule
University of Ljubljana

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