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(1989) Man and World 22 (4).

Discovery as the context of any scientific justification

Cornelis A Van Peursen

pp. 471-484

The analysis of philosophically important themes can depart from two different angles. The first one investigates the various answers that have been given to a certain issue, like that of the problem of knowledge, the justification of theories, the notion of culture, etcetera. These answers are often mutually contradictory which, by the way, facilitates their overview (like the schemes of rationalism-empiricism, justification-discovery, universalism-relativism). A second approach starts from the problems (or: "problematique") behind the divergent answers (e.g., foundationalism behind both, empiricism and rationalism).In the following sections the issue of discovery is discussed. Here the second line of approach has been followed, not only by making visible a same problematique, but more by trying to set out the common context of the discussion about context of discovery and context of justification. The idea is that this discussion, or better the shift taking place in that discussion, finds its reason in a context in which the distance between traditional methodology and contemporary scientific practice, also between scientific knowledge and the experience of reality has become greater. This is related to the deepening awareness of the cultural context of scientific method. Man and world, scientific method and cultural context are always interacting.From this point of view quite different philosophical approaches show nevertheless similar features pointing to new solutions. A more psychological approach to scientific method (like: Gordon's and Grmek's, even perhaps Gutting's reinterpretation of Popper) and a sociological one (e.g., Barnes, Bloor, and already Durkheim) are opposed to a more logically structured analysis of Nagel, Hempel, and also Popper. Nevertheless the view on the flexibility of scientific method defended along different lines by for instance Achinstein, Bachelard, Hesse, Piaget, Polanyi, Toulmin manifests a certain convergence in those divergent standpoints, the more so since often the cultural context of science is being stressed (e.g., Ladriére, Prigogine, Needham).The miscellany of philosophical orientations, presented in the following sections, can in this way perhaps give profile to deeper tendencies: to relate again scientific method to the context of culture and of human strategy in general. This does not blend, however, the distinction between context of justification and context of discovery. By changing their roles a new overview of this dilemma becomes possible. There is no juxtaposition of both, nor has the one to be absorbed by the other. The conclusion will be that there are still two contexts, but that one is wider, less defined and demarcated from the wider field of daily culture, and that the other is more restricted, functioning as a kind of safetydevice on behalf of the wider strategy of discovery. In such a way discovery is regarded as the wider context of the more restricted context of justification.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/BF01250625

Full citation:

Van Peursen, C.A. (1989). Discovery as the context of any scientific justification. Man and World 22 (4), pp. 471-484.

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