Foundations of Science

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 557–573 | Cite as

Second Order Science: Examining Hidden Presuppositions in the Practice of Science

  • Michael Lissack


The traditional sciences have always had trouble with ambiguity. To overcome this barrier, ‘science’ has imposed “enabling constraints”—hidden assumptions which are given the status of ceteris paribus. Such assumptions allow ambiguity to be bracketed away at the expense of transparency. These enabling constraints take the form of uncritically examined presuppositions, which we refer to throughout the article as “uceps.” The meanings of the various uceps are shown via their applicability to the science of climate change. Second order science examines variations in values assumed for these uceps and looks at the resulting impacts on related scientific claims. Second order science reveals hidden issues, problems and assumptions which all too often escape the attention of the practicing scientist (but which can also get in the way of the acceptance of a scientific claim). This article lays out initial foundations for second order science, its ontology, methodology, and implications.


Model Ambiguity Metaphysics Dependence Science 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Study of Coherence and EmergenceBostonUSA

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