The Scenes of Inquiry: On the Reality of Questions in the Sciences

The Scenes of Inquiry: On the Reality of Questions in the Sciences

The Scenes of Inquiry: On the Reality of Questions in the Sciences

The Scenes of Inquiry: On the Reality of Questions in the Sciences

Synopsis

This book advocates a radical shift of concern in philosophical, historical, and sociological studies of the sciences, and explores the consequences of such a shift. The historically-oriented first part of the work deals with the ways in which ranges of questions become real and cease to be real for communities of inquirers. The more philosophically-oriented second part of the work introduces the notion of absolute reality of questions, and addresses doubt about the claims of the sciences to have accumulated absolutely real questions. It is argued that recent studies in the sociology and social history of the science pose strong challenges to the sciences by revealing how appeals to authority, vested interests, and rhetorical and aesthetic sensibilities play substantial roles in the practices of the sciences. The final chapter defends the pragmatic stance of the work, and of its companion, The Fortunes of Inquiry, and draws morals about the roles of criticism and reflection in the philosophy of science and in the sciences themselves.

Excerpt

In his autobiography R. G. Collingwood tells of his obsession with the Albert Memorial: 'Everything about it was visibly mis-shapen, corrupt, crawling, verminous; for a time I could not bear to look at it, and passed with averted eyes; recovering from this weakness, I forced myself to look and to face day by day the question: a thing so obviously, so incontrovertibly, so indefensibly bad, why had Scott done it?' He goes on to relate how his daily communings with the Memorial led him to a series of reflections on questions, and in particular on the historian's need to excavate and grasp the questions whose resolution was attempted in past works. My own Albert Memorial was a book, Lorenz Oken Lehrbuch der Naturphilosophie, which I first read in the English translation of 1847 entitled Elements of Physiophilosophy. This extraordinary document offers a derivation of the entire universe from God, 'the primordial zero', through the three 'kingdoms of nature', that is, minerals, plants and animals, to the noblest product of nature, man. It is set out in 3,652 numbered sections, of which the first reads: 'Philosophy, as the science which embraces the principles of the universe or world, is only a logical, which may perhaps conduct us to the real, conception.' The last declares: 'The fourth science is the Art of War, the art of motion, histrionism, music, poetic art of science, the light. As in the art of poetry all arts have been blended, so in the art of war have all sciences and all arts. The art of War is the highest most exalted art; the art of freedom and of right, of the blessed condition of Man and humanity--the Principle of Peace.' In the body of the work are to be found such wondrous pronouncements as: 'The nose is the thorax repeated in the head;' 'The animal is a detached blossom moving freely in the air;' 'The fish is a mussel from between whose shells a monstrous abdomen has grown.'

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