A Useful Inheritance: Evolutionary Aspects of the Theory of Knowledge

By Nicholas Rescher | Go to book overview

FIVE

Our Science as O-U-R Science

SYNOPSIS

(1) Natural science does not depict "reality as such," but rather afford us a picture of "reality as it presents itself to us"—we being inquirers of a certain particular sort, with a certain particular, evolution-determined mode of emplacement in the world's scheme of things. Our scientific picture of nature is the product of an interaction in which both parties—we investigators and nature herself—make a crucial and inseparable contribution. (2) The inquiring intelligences of an extraterrestrial civilization might also develop a science. (3) But this would not necessarily be anything like our science. While dealing with the same world, it would doubtless differ in mode of formulation, in subject-matter orientation, and in conceptualization. (4) The one-world one-science argument is ultimately untenable. Natural science as we have it is a human artifact that is bound to be limited in crucial respects by the very fact of its being our science. (5) The world-as-we-know-it is accordingly our world—the correlate of mind of a world-picture devised in characteristically human terms of reference. Being the product of our experience of nature, our empirical science is bound to reflect, at least in part, the peculiar character of our evolutionary heritage. (6) This perspective does not deny realism, but relativizes it to our place in nature. It does not gainsay the existence of a "mind-independent reality," but insists that our view of this reality is always mediated through conceptions that reflect how this reality affects us.

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