The Nature of Scientific Thinking: On Interpretation, Explanation and Understanding

Faye, Jan

For a long time philosophers and scientists have wrestled with explanatory and representational questions such as what can be considered the right form of explanation, what makes something explanatory, and how does a representation by which one explains connect to the world. Therefore explanation and representation are some of the most debated concepts that characterize scientific thinking; yet, there is little consensus among specialists on how explanation and representation in a scientific context should be described. The author argues that issues of explanations and representations must be approached according to their pragmatic roles in a scientific practice of providing understanding. He sees understanding as different from knowledge as an organization of beliefs, a capacity that human beings partly have inherited through biological evolution, partly learned through reflective thinking. However, assumptions expressing these beliefs are claimed to be explanatory not because they are true, but because they fit a rhetorical scheme of communication. Thus, the book becomes a study in naturalism and scientific pluralism.

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