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Science and Daily Life: The Ontology of Scientific Explanations

  • Humberto R. Maturana
Part of the Sociology of the Sciences book series (SOSC, volume 14)

Abstract

Although according to its etymology the word science means the same as the word knowledge, it has been used in the history of Western thinking to refer to any knowledge whose validity can be defended on methodological grounds, regardless of the phenomenal domain in which it is claimed. In modern times, however, this has progressively changed, and the word science is now most frequently used to refer only to a knowledge validated through a particular method, namely, the scientific method. This progressive emphasis on the scientific method has arisen under two general implicit or explicit assumptions of scientists and philosophers of science alike, namely: a) that the scientific method, either through verification, through corroboration, or through the denial of falsification, reveals, or at least connotes, an objective reality that exists independently of what the observers do or desire, even if it cannot be fully known; and b) that the validity of scientific explanations and statements rests on their connection with such objective reality. It is of this kind of knowledge that I shall speak in this article when speaking of science, and in the process I shall implicitly or explicitly disagree, without giving a full philosophical justification, with one aspect or another of what many classic thinkers of the philosophy of science who discuss these matters in depth have said.1 And I shall do so because I shall speak as a biologist, not as a philosopher, reflecting about science as a cognitive domain generated as a human biological activity. Furthermore, I shall do these reflections attending to what I see that we modern natural scientists do in the praxis of science in order to claim the scientific validity of our statements and explanations, and I shall show how that which we do as scientists relates to what we do as we live our daily lives revealing the epistemological and ontological status of that which we call science.

Keywords

Living System Cognitive Domain Scientific Explanation Scientific Statement Operational Domain 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    See T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1962; E. Nagel, The Structure of Science, New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1961; and K.R. Popper, J.C. Eccles, The Self and the Brain, Berlin, etc.: Springer International, 1977.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See H.R. Maturana, Biology of Cognition, BCL Report No 9.0, Biological Computer Laboratory, Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois, 93 p. 1970, Reprinted in H.R. Maturana, F.J. Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1980; »Biology of Language: Epistemology of Reality«, in G.A. Miller, E. Lenneberg (eds.), Psychology and Biology of Language and Thought, New York: Academic Press, 1978; »Reality: the Search of Objectivity, or the Quest for a Compelling Argument«, The Irish Journal of Psychology 9, 1 (1988), 25–82.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Maturana, op. cit., 1970, note 2; »Cognition«, in P.M. Hejl, W.K.Koch, G. Roth (eds.), Wahrnehmung und Kommunikation, Frankfurt, New York: Peter Lang, 1978, p. 29–49; op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    H.R. Maturana, »What is it to see?«, Arch. Biol. Med. Exp. 16 (1983), 255–269.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1970, note 2; op. cit., 1978a, note 2, and op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1970, note 2; and op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See K.R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, London: Hutchinson, 1959.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    See H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1978b, note 3; and op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    See H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See H.R. Maturana, op. cit., 1970, note 2; op. cit., 1978a, note 2; op. cit., 1978b, note 3; and op. cit., 1988, note 2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Humberto R. Maturana
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ChileSantiagoChile

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