Mirrored Images: American Anthropology and American Culture, 1960-1980

By Susan R. Trencher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Science Times

At the beginning, the two seedlings of early modernity--science and interpretive understanding--were able to coexist more or less peaceably and without mutual recriminations; but harmony soon gave way to antagonism. ( Dallmayr and McCarthy 1977:2)


THE LOGIC OF EPISTEMOLOGICAL DECISIONS

Briefly, since Aristotle, science as a pre-eminent means to know the world has been promulgated as having as its object the investigation of four questions, the last of which has become the most essential for defining the endeavor. These questions, relevant to the things humans experience around them are: "Do they really exist?" "What is their essence?" "How are they?" "Why are they such?" The last question, as the pre-eminently scientific one, seeks certain explicative knowledge of causes. Thus, these answers regularly require a proof of certitude, some means to demonstrate the validity of explanations. 1 Moreover, these explanations will (ideally) form a system of connected truths. This latter feature has, since antiquity, grown in significance, so that, in positivist versions of science, these systematic connections have been considered as the most essential characteristics of science. Among the fundamental features of scientific method is the role of the scientist as an objective observer-analyst. Ideally, the researcher is objective in the process of study, and neutral about its product. Objectivity, and its "by-product" neutrality, are taken for granted in large part because in the natural sciences, the subject of study is logically taken as an object insofar as the phenomena of scientific study are not understood to have a subjectivity.

As part of the method of science, objectively derived findings are com

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