Interesting note. I argue something close to this philosophy, although
tempered with the realization (from Rosen) that models do not capture
nature in a complete sense, but can capture one among many real (and
simultaneous) aspects of nature. So, I would agree that models are
attempts to identify real aspects of nature, and that they always end up
being incomplete because no simulable or modelable aspect of reality is
itself a complete representation. So they can be true in a relative
sense, but not in an absolute one.
I think this has been pretty much the position of many "relative
realists" for quite some time. I have often cited Rohrlich, F. 1989.
From Paradox to Reality: Our Basic Concepts of the Physical World.
Cambridge, UK: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. This was
written at a time when "instrumentalism" ("...mere statistical models of
regularities in empirical observations..") were in fashion, especially
in ecology (Peters, "A Critique for Ecology"). Instrumentalism became an
extreme view that denied any underlying laws and thus allowed arbitrary
theories to co-exist as a "family." Realism is the opposite extreme that
expects nature to conform to precise causal laws, which it apparently
does not. The truth (nature) seems to exist inbetween: We can discern
laws that are valid within a certain domain, or perspective; i.e., a
The idea of critical realism seems very similar, focusing on the
importance of pusuing a relative realism in a rigorous and critical
manner. That is, to have a means for deciding between competing theories
that would otherwise exist arbitrarily in an instrumentalist family. I
think this is very important in science, otherwise it doesn't have a
directional influence. The infinite variety of instrumental views, when
taken together, constitutes everything and therefore is nothing.
Knowledge needs to make distinctions, even if they are relative ones.
The underlying realities we "discover" are relative to a given worldview
and set of questions. Science moves like a spotlight searching an
infinite domain, occasionally widening and narrowing the beam but
attempting to retain the pathways to where it passed before. When
someone moves the spotlight to a completely new part of the domain, the
connection with the prior area is lost and the new view seems
disconnected and hard or impossible to evaluate. Sometimes the path can
be retraced back, thereby showing the connection with prior knowledge.
Add to that the fact that the nature of the domain itself changes
depending on which parts are illuminated. So knowledge is based on our
relative foothold in this domain, and that shifts.
"PRof. Gary Boyd" wrote:
> Bruce and colleagues;
> on a first quick read your analysis, and criteria for identifying spurious
> formalisation ventures are
> very plausible, indeed are impressive.
> One area worth more work is I think your brief paragraph on Constructivist
> versus Realist approaches.
> It seems to me you might enjoy and the whole field could benefit
> from your engaging with the contemporary school of
> "Critical Realists" Notably led by Roy Bhaskar.
> The critical realists argue that the work of science is to construct models
> of the underlying `real' generative mechanisms which
> give rise to various experiences and observations, but which certainly are
> not mere statistical models of regularities in empirical observations.
> See for example the website for Critical Realism:
> Gary Boyd.
> At 12:15 28/09/2000 +0100, you wrote:
> >Please can I have comments upon the following paper?
> > The Purpose and Place of Formal Systems in the
> > Development of Science
> >CPM Report No.: 00-75
> >By: Bruce Edmonds
> >Date: 28th Septmeber 2000
> Professor Gary Boyd, Education (Educational Technology Graduate Programme)
> Concordia University,
> 1455 DeMaisonneuve West, Montreal, Quebec Canada H3G 1M8.
> <email@example.com> tel.(514)848-3459, fax(514)848-4520.
> homepage <http://alcor.concordia.ca/~boydg/ >
> Toward Eco-CO-cultural conviviality, through
> participative cybersystemic modelling, and
> Grace & grudge networking.
> Posting to firstname.lastname@example.org from "PRof. Gary Boyd" <email@example.com>
Posting to firstname.lastname@example.org from "John J Kineman" <John.J.Kineman@noaa.gov>
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