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Hermeneutics and

the Natural Sciences

Edited by

Department of Philosophy, State University ofNew York at Stony Brook, USA

Reprinted from Man and World, Volume 30 (3), 1997.

Kluwer Academic Publishers

Donlrecht / Boston / London
A C.I.P. Catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN-I 3 : 978-94-DI().6511-5 e-ISBN-13: 978-94-009-0049-3

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-0049-3

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ROBERT P. CREASE / Henneneutics and the natural sciences:

Introduction 1-12
PATRICK A. HEELAN / Why a henneneutical philosophy of the
natural sciences? 13-40
JOSEPH J. KOCKELMANS / On the henneneutical nature of modem
natural science 41-55
BART GREMMEN & JOSETTE JACOBS / Understanding sustainability 57-69
THEODORE J. KISIEL / A henneneutics of the natural sciences?
The debate updated 71-83
MARTIN EGER / Achievements of the henneneutic-phenomenological
approach to natural science 85-109
DON IHDE / Thingly henneneutics: Technoconstructions 111-123
E.T. GENDLIN / The responsive order: A new empiricism 125-153
Man and World 30: 259-270, 1997. 259
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Hermeneutics and the natural sciences: Introduction

Department 0/ Philosophy, SUNY, Stony Brook. USA

One of the oddest quirks of the development of 20th century Continental

thought has been its default of the investigation of the natural sciences.
It is true that scientific literature strives to adopt the pose of an objective
speaker in a way that seemingly denies a foothold for a philosophy that
grants priority to lived experience. Analytie philosophy of science took this
guise at face value, and developed at the expense of the incorporation of
elements of culture and his tory. Analytic philosophers of science viewed
their job as formalizing the methods of natural science, directing their interests
away from the process of discovery and other areas in whieh social, cultural,
and personal factors can become decisive. Yet scientific knowledge, like
all knowledge, involves a disclosure (saying) of something to somebody. It
deals with meanings that are social entities, embodied in language, altered
or fulfilled in experience, and passed on in laboratory praxes and scientific
literature and culture. It is tempting, yet an error, to take such meanings as
ahistorical forms or "natural kinds" that have a transcendent or, perhaps,
transcendental origin. On the other hand, it would equally be an error to
claim that the results of science are arbitrary or mere artifacts of discourse;
science has a historical space, or "here and now," with its own reference to
an (historieal) authenticating judge and witness. Hermeneutical philosophy
supplies the philosophie al foundation for reintroducing history and culture
into the philosophy of the natural sciences.
Early phenomenologists were keenly aware of the role that hermeneutical
philosophy could play in understanding science. Husserl had a deep appre-
ciation for mathematics and natural science; as Patriek A. Heelan among
others have stressed, Husserl 's objection was not to science itself, but to the
Galilean assumption that the ontology of nature could be provided by mathe-
matics alone, bypassing the life-world. 1 That is why Heidegger, in Being and
Time, insists on calling theoretieal knowledge a founded mode of Being-in-
the-world, to be interpreted not merely as an aid to disclosure but as a special
and specialized mode of access to the real itself. For both Husserl and Hei-
degger, this Galilean development was not merely a disciplinary matter, but
one manifestation of a historical crisis whieh they attributed to the hegemonie


role of theory in the arbitration of meaning, the effacement of the role of the
embodied human subjects in the constitution of knowledge, and the implicit
assumption, characteristie of modemity, that the natural sciences provides
the privileged model for human inquiry. Given the vast cultural inftuence of
modem science, therefore, one would expect that the systematie exploration
of the nature, practice, and effects of the natural sciences would be a major
thrust of contemporary Continental thinking.
This did not occur, for reasons that are also largely historieal. Hermeneu-
ties, originating in the interpretation of sacred texts and historieal sources,
rooted in the humanities, and devoted to the interpretation of texts and cul-
tural sources, developed for a long time without reference to the explanatory
dimension of natural science; positivist philosophy, meanwhile, held the nat-
ural sciences aloof from other human endeavors as embodying a superior
form of rationality. Even when, at the hands of Heidegger and Gadamer;
hermeneutics was shown to be involved not only in fields like art, law, histo-
ry, and literature, but in the entire scope ofhuman engagement with the world,
hermeneutically trained philosophers reacted to the hegemony of positivism
by saying to the natural scientists and to their philosophieal defenders, "Hands
off the human sciences!" - thereby implicitly sanctioning the positivist self-
portrait of the natural sciences. In his paper below, Don Ihde characterizes
the situation as the "HIP [hermeneutic-positivist] binary," in which each pole
seemed to cede territory to the other, although the hermeneutical pole was
reactive. Hermeneutical-phenomenologieal thinkers who followed Husserl
and Heidegger tended to interpret natural science as the search for theory,
and therefore as abstract and derivative with respect to the life-world. If this
were so, Gadamer and others claimed, then there could be no possibility of
a hermeneutics of the natural sciences, and indeed a traditional way of char-
acterizing the difference between the human and natural sciences involved
whether or not hermeneutical methods were explicitly used or acknowledged.
While a number of critieal moves have been mounted to explore the positivist
pole, of which the outcome has been to undermine its claims to autonomy,
insularity, and a privileged form of rationality - made by Thomas Kuhn initial-
ly, and then by adherents of the "strong program" of the sociology of science-
there has been little attempt to engage the other side of the binary, leaving the
hermeneutical pole unexplored as a potential resource. Thus, while exposing
weaknesses of the positivist-inspired understanding of science, these weak-
nesses have not been compensated, as they should, by a deeper appreciation
of the full hermeneutical dimensions of the natural sciences.
A few thinkers have opposed the traditional view - most notably Paul
Ricoeur, who has been unrelenting in his insistence that hermeneutics is
not a method but a philosophy. A few Continentally-trained professional

philosophers with both hermeneutic-phenomenological and scientific back-
grounds (such as Heelan, Ihde, Theodore Kisiel, Joseph Kockelmans) have
begun to read the work of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Gadamer, and others
as also entailing a positive re-evaluation of practices of the natural sciences.
A few professional scientists with a scholarly background in hermeneutic-
phenomenological philosophy (among whom is Martin Eger) have begun
to do the same. A number of more mainstream philosophers of science are
utilizing hermeneutical insights effectively and perceptively (Joseph Rouse),
while many sociologically-trained scholars who speak with the terminolo-
gy and often the assumptions of analytic philosophy reveal in their work a
deep appreciation for the hermeneutical insight into the nature of his tori-
cally situated knowledge (Harry Collins, Bruno Latour, Andrew Pickering,
Simon Schaffer, Steve Shapin and others inftuenced by social constructivism).
All of these initiatives manifest the rediscovery that all dis course is situat-
ed culturally and historically. The days are gone when it could be seriously
debated whether a hermeneutical perspective on the natural sciences exists. 2
The challenge remains today to understand more explicitly the hermeneutical
dimension of the natural sciences in terms of an overarching hermeneutic of
all knowledge.
The articles in this issue are among those presented at the fourth annual
meeting of the International Society fr Hermeneutics and Science (ISHS),
held in 1996 at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The ISHS
began in 1993 as a European initiative (its first two meetings were in Hungary,
the third in the Netherlands) as a by-product of the resurgence of interest in
hermeneutic-phenomenological philosophy following the end of the Soviet
domination of academic circ1es in Eastern and Central Europe. The ISHS,
composed primarily of European scholars, quickly helped coordinate and
focus the interests of a number of U.S. researchers who had been working
relatively independently. Its members have found a wide variety of issues
in the natural sciences to pe c1early and readily amenable to hermeneutical
investigation inc1uding: How do individuals or groups come to terms with the
particular problem situations in which they find themselves by drawing on the
available conceptual and practical resources that structure that situation? How
does meaning arise out of laboratory situations? What is the phenomenology
of scientific perceptual praxis? Papers presented at the first ISHS meetings
ranged from general discussions of the nature and development of hermeneu-
tics, applications of hermeneutics to different areas of science, debates about
the role ofhermeneutics in science, past hermeneutical thinkers about science,
and future directions of hermeneutical inquiry into science.3
While it would be incorrect to characterize hermeneutical perspectives
on science as constituting a "pro gram," given the healthy, and predictable,


diversity of such perspectives that has emerged, it is nevertheless possible to

point to a constellation of orienting ideas.
A first might be called the priority oJ meaning over technique. Science
is wholly mischaracterized as solely consisting of praxes, of the application
of techniques or calculational methods, because data, results, and laboratory
events come into being by interpretation and will be mistakenly described if
interpretation is poorly done. This idea, of course, amounts to a critique of
positivist and mainstream philosophy of science. For an essential hermeneu-
tical insight is that the generation of meaning, in science as in other human
activities, does not proceed solely by moving from part to whole, but by a
process in which phenomena are projected upon an already-existing frame-
work of meaning, the assumptions of wh ich are at least partially brought into
question, and by this action further reviewed and refined within the ongoing
process of interpretation. When one acts interpretively, one can bring to bear
on the situation anything that has been historically and culturally transmitted,
especially when one chooses to act within an original initiative for the purpose
of obtaining a deeper and richer connection with the world. Thus the nature
and range of interpretive practices is one subject of hermeneutical research
in the sciences.
A second orienting idea might be called the primacy oJ the practical over
the theoretical. The framework of meaning in terms of which phenomena are
interpreted is not comprised merely of tools, texts, and ideas, but involves a
culturally and historically determined engagement with the world which is
prior to the subject and object separation. The hermeneutic relationship in the
early Heidegger, Kisiel points out, is simply "the understanding familiarity
that comes from living bodily with others among things in the world." Kisiel
continues, "The point behind Dasein 's identification with its understanding of
being is simply that the hermeneutic/interpretive habit lies at the core ofbeing
human. This habit or ethos is primordially present in all of our protopractical
engagements that define 'the way things are' ... In the Greek 'ethical' terms
that hermeneutical philosophers seek to revive, the core of living weIl, being
fully human, being ontologieally 'authentie,' resides not in the theoretical
virtues but in the practical virtues, the 'art' (Tf.XIl7]) of doing weIl in the
workworld and the 'fact' (epPOIl7]CT/'C;) of acting weIl in the polity."
A third orienting idea might be called the priority oJ situation over abstract
Jormalization. Truth always involves a disclosure of something to some-
one in a particular cultural and historieal context. Even scientific knowledge
can never completely transcend these culturally and historically determined
involvements, leaving them behind as if scientific knowledge consisted in
abstractions viewed from nowhere in partieular. The particularity of the phe-
nomena disclosed by science is often covered up by the fact that they can

Man and World 30: 271-298, 1997. 271
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Why a hermeneutical philosophy of the natural sciences?

Philosophy Department, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA

Abstract. Why a henneneutieal philosophy of the natural sciences? It is necessary to address

the philosophie crisis of realism vs relativism in the natural sciences. This crisis is seen as apart
of the cultural crisis that Husserl and Heidegger identified and attributed to the hegemonie role
of theoretical and calculative thought in Western societies. The role oftheory is addressed using
the henneneutical circ1e to probe the origin of theoretic meaning in scientific cultural praxes.
This is studied in Galileo's discovery of the phases of Venus; the practiee of measurement;
the different theories and practiees of space perception; the historieality and temporality of
scientific research communities which ground paradigm change; and the process of discovery.
The paper draws particularly from the work of Heidegger. Though envisaging all science and
scholarship, the highlighted theme is research in the natural sciences.


In arecent paper on the status of studies in the his tory and philosophy of
science and science studies in general, Nickles I reported that after hopeful
beginnings there is now no agreement among scholars in these fields about
how their fields relate to one another and to science. Babich2 , in her essay on
E. Mach, P. Duhem, and G. Bachelard, and Scharff3 in his study of Comte,
have shown that in its formation analytic philosophy of science was shom
of certain elements - historicality, community, technicity, and creativity -
that were important to its distant founding fathers. It is now clear that these
elements, central to a historical, socia1, and technologica1 study of science,
need to be reintegrated with the philosophy of science if philosophy is to have
a fair chance of fulfilling its role as a universal reftection on natural science
and all Wissenschajt.4
Unfortunately, the problem is not just a local one particular to the multi-
disciplinary study of science, but a broader and deeper one whose roots are
in the prevalent "reductionist" metaphysics and epistemologies of modem
philosophy that cut across all disciplines, are presupposed by modem cul-
ture 's most successful enterprise, modem science, and that, as the fruit of
the Enlightenment, are also deeply embedded in our common language and
culture. 5


Modernity, however, or its residue, is not our only problem. Physical sci-
ence that sat unchallenged at the pinnacle of truth no longer does so. It is
challenged, not just by historians and sociologists of science, but by environ-
mentalists, governments, religionists, humanists, and others. I must insist that
the "challenge" to science does not claim that what science says is untrue or,
least of all, ineffective, but that it must heed the demands of public account-
ability like other knowledge sources, for its expenditures, procedures, ethical
norms, privileged status as knowledge, and its publicly unexamined cultural
agenda. 6
For the purposes of this paper, I take modernity or the modern lifeworld to
be governed by the implicit assumption that natural science and its methods
and criteria constitute the supreme model for all trustworthy human inquiry
and knowledge. I take postmodernity or the postmodern lifeworld to describe
the situation where the position of universal arbiter of knowledge is vacant.
Also for the purposes of this paper, the reference corpus comprises the
philosophical works 7 ofE. Husserl, W. Dilthey, M. Heidegger, H-G. Gadamer,
P. Ricoeur, M. Merleau-Ponty and those inftuenced by them, among whom, I
take Heidegger to be the key figure. 8 This corpus is supplemented, however,
by generally recent scholarly studies in the historical and social study of
science, and by reftection on the practice of science mostly from the research
end of the physical sciences.

Phenomenology and the crisis of modernity

The crisis of modernity was the theme of Husserl 's posthumous work The
Crisis ojEuropean Sciences and TranscendentalPhenomenology.9 His analy-
sis of the crisis explored modernity's forgetfulness of the role of the human
subject in the constitution of knowledge in thenatural and human sciences
springing from the Galilean tradition which tended to replace nature and
culture as given by the lifeworld with the mathematical models that science
uses to study them, all with a view to manipulation and control. He placed the
blame on a philosophy that was complicit in elevating the new science into the
role of a universal philosophy that effectively transformed the religious and
economic, political and international norms of Europe. In this way, Europe
undertook a new mission of universal cultural Enlightenment towards the rest
of the world formerly claimed only by the Church, and this Enlightenment
mission drawing its divine legitimacy from God 's other book, The Book oj
Nature, also came to rule philosophy, Reformation theology, political life,
and culture. Husserl's solution was to draw philosophers and scientists back
to the origins of Greek science and philosophy and by recollecting what bad
been forgotten to re-establish in Galilean science the universal intellectual


goals of Greek science which acknowledged the creative role of the human
subject in giving meaning to mathematical forms. Husserl would have us
recollect the ontological grounding of geometry - the mathematical medium
of Galileo's science - in the practical activities of the lifeworld, for example,
in land surveying and measurement.
Heidegger on the other hand was skeptical both of the goal of complete
restoration of Greek intellectual ideals in science and philosophy, and of the
human capacity or even desirability to recollect what was lost by scientific and
philosophical traditions as they evolved historically. The temporal nature of
the human inquirer as Dasein (BT 27) thrown into the contemporary lifeworld
and constrained by death, seemed to limit the possibilities of recollection,
and to permit to Dasein no more than a limited ability and responsibility
to achieve authenticity. In all human projects handed down by tradition, the
disclosedness of Being is conditioned by layers of forgetfulness or by wh at
resides in the practical understanding as hidden and only partially revealed by
or recoverable from the texts and techniques of tradition or from their living
exponents (BT 43).
The task before us then, as Heidegger would have envisioned it had he
straightfOlwardly addressed the problem of modem science, is to give mod-
em science an ontological and epistemological foundation in the contem-
porary lifeworld, rather than to seek the kind of definitive transcendental
solution that Husserl had in mind. Ironically, Husserl, himself a mathemati-
cian and natural philosopher at Gttingen during those "Glorious Years" when
Hilbert, Courant, Klein, Noether and others transformed modem physics into
mathematical physics, was better acquainted with the high culture of natural
science and arguably more respectful of its potential cultural agenda than
Heidegger lO ; yet Heidegger was more tolerant of its role as a historical and
social medium that both discloses and conceals the Being ofthe contemporary
lifeworld, where, as he argues, the force of theory in the scientific tradition
is to transform everything into a mere resource (a "present-at-hand," or later
Gestell) 11 for human projects. The contemporary challenge for contemplative
philosophical reflection will be to disclose the meaning of these projects -
natural science, for example - against the background of their inauthenticity
in the classical scientific tradition (DOT 46).
In modernity's lifeworld dominated by science, the All-seeing Eye in the
triangle at the top of the pyramid Iooked unblinkingly on the objective world-
picture that science sought to define (see QCT 133-134). In the postmodern
lifeworld, there is not just one Eye but many eyes - small eyes - and they
are not arranged in any hierarchical relation. The goal of Husserl was to
replace the Eye of Science by the Eye of transcendental phenomenology.
But for Heidegger philosophy as hermeneutical phenomenology was less a


supreme Science than a reftective awareness of possibilities inherent in the

temporal Being of Dasein, always oriented towards the future and ordained to
recollect its inauthentic past - using things and texts, even living mouthpieces
of tradition, as mere resources - piecemeal in new and creative ways (BT
In order to implement a philosophical and hermeneutical study of that
region wh ich natural science discloses we need a starting point and some
tools.' Our Heideggerian starting point is the pre-predicative active involve-
ment of circumspection with scientific objects in the lifeworld. Of tools,
many are borrowed from other sources in the philosophical tradition: from
Husserl,12 the examination and critique of seientifie measurement and the
analysis of perceptual things in the lifeworld. From Merleau-Ponty,13 we
need the analysis of instrumentally mediated experience, that legitimates the
role of instruments in disclosing the presenee in the lifeworld of scientific
entities not evident to the unassisted senses but nevertheless disclosed by the
practices and extensions of measurements to be public eultural entities and
perceptual things. 14

Galileo and the Heliocentric system

In late December 1610, not long after he moved to Florence as the Chief
Mathematician and Philosopher to Duke Cosimo 11 de Medici, after nights of
observing the planet Venus with the telescope he had made, Galileo turned to
his notebook to record his observations. This he usually did in the vernacular
Italian. This time, however, he wrote in Latin about what he saw: he had seen
Venus in a gibbous phase. This was a momentous observation beeause Venus,
given that it was visible from the Earth only at sunrise or sunset, would not
show gibbous phases if it orbited the Earth alone. It must then orbit the Sun.
Up to the moment of that observation Galileo wrote in Italian for hirnself
or his loeal eolleagues, but that night he wrote in Latin for the world and
for posterity. As Owen Gingrich surmises,15 that was the moment of his true
Copernican "eonversion" when he became eonvineed that the helioeentrie
system was true to the way the heavens are and to the way they go. Why
then? Why not earlier? He had already eollected mueh evidenee in favor of
the heliocentrie system using his horne-made teleseope; he had made studies
of the topography of the Moon, its "mountains," "eraters," and "seas"; he
had seen stars in the Milky Way and in the Pleiades that no one had ever
seen before, and he had diseovered the moons of Jupiter. 16 But assuming
he had a eonversion experienee that winter night, what gave it its revelatory
eharaeter? What did it reveal and what did it hide? What was the process of
the diseovery?


To understand that leap, one must accept it as a revelation of the planetary

system as it was constituted by divine exemplarily with a mathematical model
ofthe Cosmos; this he saw confirmed with his own eyes as "die Sache selbst"
by the telescope he had made. It was for hirn a moment of "conversion"
not unlike in many ways Luther's "conversion" in the Wartburg when on
reading Paul 's Epistle to the Romans, 1/17, his personal spiritual crisis was
resolved and his soul was ftooded with peace as he came to experience
hirnself as justified in God 's eyes. In his moment of personal conversion,
Luther proc1aimed the sufficiency of Scripture, "sola Scriptura"; in Galileo's
moment of scientific conversion, he proc1aimed the sufficiency of God 's other
book, the Book of Nature, "so la Natura."17 Neither Luther nor Galileo meant
to exc1ude Aristotle, Plato, or the ancient authors as sources of explanatory
theory, but wh at they experienced was more than a theory, it was something
of the order of a "revelation" - for Galileo, a "natural revelation" - in which
a theory-Iaden experience was presented in an utterly convincing way and
joyously received.
Such a moment of "conversion" is of philosophical interest to the extent
that we can trace the historical hermeneutical circ1e through wh ich the revela-
tion was received. Heidegger speaks in general of questioning and discovery
as proceeding according to, what he called, the hermeneutical circ1e. This
involves a Vorhabe or deep background of practices and language, a Vorsicht
or heuristic orientation, and a VorgrifJ or grasp of the solution by disc10sure
- a kind of revelation - of what was sought by the questioning (BT 191).
Although there is not space to make the case here, I would want to argue that
we cannot ever share or relive Galileo 's revelatory experience, because the
Being into which we are thrown is too far removed historically and culturally
from Galileo 's lifeworld. We cannot share his Vorhabe with regard to the role
of mathematics as God 's language inscribed in Nature, nor the logical forms
ofhis reasoning, nor the meaning of the representational praxes he used. 18 Nor
can we share his Vorsicht of circular orbits, for Kepler and later cosmologists
have significantly transformed the scientific account of the planetary system.
Nor can we buy into the VorgrifJofhis telescopic data, for optical instruments
such as Galileo 's get their agenda from the common-sense eye, rather than
from scientific measurement. How are we then to understand the historical
event that moved Galileo to write for posterity? We can know it as a histori-
cal event, but hardly as the revelatory, scientifically compelling event that it
was for Galileo. Was Galileo wrong to entertain it as he did? Let us address
this question in our own time from the perspective of Dasein, "thrown" into
Being at a historical moment that was not Galileo's: did Galileo's revelation
present hirn with ontic truth? On the one hand, Husserl for the reasons he gave
in the Crisis would have discounted Galileo 's revelation as optically untrue


and stemming from an inauthentic understanding. On the other, Heidegger,

while agreeing with Husserl that the current historical circumstantiality of our
understanding no Ion ger permits Nature to reveal itself to us that way, would
have answered that, nevertheless, (it was possible) for Galileo's revelation to
have been indeed authentically true.
Since truth involves meaning, and meaning is not passed down to us directly
but only as transformed by many mediations, this raises the question of how
we are to understand truth and meaning. Let me start with meaning.


Meaning is not a private mental entity but a shared social entity embodied
in language (understood always to include other language-like inscriptions,
whether passive, such as road signs, or active, such as performances) and a
cultural environment embodying community purposes.
Perception is the part of lifeworld public experience in which things, their
relationships and movements, are displayed as bounded objects in a perceptual
space and time. 19
Meanings are not fully complete unless incorporated in a linguistic utter-
ance used to affirm or deny some content that finds itself fulfilled in public
Meanings fulfilled in public experience are not just private mental repre-
sentations of something, but are by intention identical with what is presented
in experience, and they give access to the ontic and ontologicaPO character
of that referent under the aspect of wh at is in truth on this occasion given to
understanding. 21 This is sometimes put so: whatever we know experientially,
we know under some "as-" aspect that connects the experientially presented
object with human life and culture. This aspect includes but is not exhausted
by whatever can be reached by a reflective and hermeneutical study of the con-
stitution of fulfilled meanings (implying a certain non-transparency of human
habits and culture to those who live through them and with them). Husserl,
for instance, typically focused on how "objects" (contents) of knowledge are
"constituted" (presented to communal knowers) within "noetic" contexts of
meaning (directed by a communal vector of inquiry). Heidegger referred to
such objects as "ontic beings" disclosed perspectively to the "circumspective
care"22 of the human inquirer as Dasein, "care" being his term for the way
the human being copes with the lifeworld, immersed in the "ontological"
historicality of Being, and in anticipation of death (BT 435).
To the extent that language and other public expressive signs are the only
means through which we articulate our public world and come to understand
one another, the meanings that these signs convey are construals of human
cultural communities and cannot be attributed to non-human sources except


by metaphor. Aristotelian or Platonic essences and various forms of "objec-

tive realism" must then be regarded as suspect of illegitimately taking human
historical and cultural meanings to be ahistorical culture-independent "nat-
ural" forms. This is not to say that we do not possess truth, but the truth
we possess, even scientific truth, is always mediated by human language and
culture which are not outside of his tory.
Knowledge is handed down by the medium of linguistic and expressive
inscriptions and the cultural forms of life in which they find fulfillment.
Phrases, however, that once meant one thing come to mean another with the
passage of time, for language and culture change. As historians of science
weIl know, this is as true for natural science as it is for literature and politics.
Of special interest then are the circumstances of continuity and change in
the historical transmission of scientific meanings via the media of language,
mathematics, laboratory praxes, and the culture of the scientific community.
Meanings originating at one (linguistic, historical, cultural, geographic) site
are receivedlinterpreted at a different and distant site. These are adopted from
traditions of interpretation or constructed or re-constructed in keeping with
the responsibilities, constraints, and presumptions of rational hermeneutical
inquiry. One of these responsibilities is that each legitimate meaning be
appropriately fulfilled in a reader's experience. 23 One of the constraints is the
relative richness or poverty of the linguistic and cultural resources available
to the reader. 24 One of the presumptions is that there is no single legitimate
meaning relevant to all readers of such a text no matter how close or distant
they are from the source.
There are then many legitimate meanings depending on what the reader
knows about the distant source, its language, and ambient culture, and on
the reader's linguistic abilities, interests, and cultural ambience. 25 Like a
hammer or any piece of equipment, a text can be used successfully for several
meaningful cultural purposes. As in the case of the hammer, for each useful
purpose there are lifeworld criteria as to how weIl it performs this purpose. The
uses are not arbitrary, for nothing but nonsense would be gained by arbitrary
use, but this does not imply that there is just a single legitimate meaningful
use. Once again, as in the case of the hammer, there may be a conventional
priority of uses with "ownership" set by cultural tradition - hammers for
construction, scientific results for scientific research communities - but no
one use or "ownership" need go unchallenged either by logic or by experience
nor should any one use become the sole property of just one interested group.26
Rational hermeneutic inquiry acknowledges the existenceof traditions 0/
interpretation that give to today's readers and inquirers a culturally privileged
version (shaped to the goals of the linguistic and cultural environment of
the community with special "ownership" rights in the subject matter) of


past sources. 27 Kuhnian paradigms are examples within the sciences of such
traditions of interpretation.
In addition to meanings construed on the basis of a common tradition
of interpretation (with its presumption of continuity), other meanings can
be legitimate that are independent from any presumption of the existence
of a continuity of meaning with the source through a common tradition of
life, action, and interpretation. Such discontinuities of meaning within the
sciences are exemplified by Kuhnian "revolutions" in whieh old paradigms
are replaced by new ones. 28 In the work ofhermeneutics, however, a radieally
new meaning need not expel the old,.because each, though different, may be
a valid historieal and cultural perspective. Indeed, despite some sense of
discomfort, we often find in the sciences the old fiourishing side by side with
the radieally new, quantum mechanies with Newtonian mechanies (though
these are formally incompatible with one another), statistieal thermodynamies
with phenomenological thermodynamies, an so on. Bach acting within its own
horizon of research purposes is in dialogue with confirming or disconfirming
data through its own empirieal processes of testing and measurement.
In summary, hermeneutie method is a process - and difficult work it can
be - done by a current inquirer who is challenged to construct a contem-
porary meaning for a distant source event, such as, for example, Galileo 's
observations on the phases of Venus, originating in a different linguistie and
cultural environment and possibly at a different geographie place and his tor-
ieal time. This method is called the method ofthe hermeneutical circle (see
BT 191). Interpretative work of this kind is clearly historieal, cultural, and
anthropological, multidisciplinary in character and in need of a philosophie al
foundation whieh hermeneutieal philosophy (to be taken up below) tries to
provide. In this work lies the significance and power of hermeneutic method
and hermeneutic philosophy for the history and philosophy of science. And
not just for these, but also for understanding how quantitative empirical meth-
ods function in science to give meaning to empirical contents, in particular,
how measurement equipment plays a double role creating both theoretieal
and cultural meanings, and how theory-Iaden data depend on the successful
public self-presentation in measurement of the measured entity as a public
cultural entity.
As aprelude to our attempt to address these topics further we need to
consider the nature of philosophical inquiry.

Philosophical inquiry

Inquiry for Husserl and Heidegger begins when some real expectation based
in experience fails and we are curious to know why, and look for an answer that
will enable us to fulfill our failed expectation, or failing this, to go around the

problem or alternatively to transform the context re-assessing if need be our
goals. For Husserl, eidetic phenomenological analysis explores the invariant
boundaries of an imagined experience that is subjected to imagined variations
of approach. Both see inquiry as connected with a breakdown of intelligibility
- for Heidegger when action fails in the world (BT 409), for Husserl when
the noetic structure of the imagination fails. 29 Husserl's approach is more
logical, conceptual, and abstract while Heidegger's is more existential and
action oriented. It is then to Heidegger's philosophy that we will turn almost
exelusively for an account of hermeneutical philosophy.
To understand scientific inquiry hermeneuticaIly, we begin with Heideg-
ger's analysis of the genesis and process of any inquiry (BT 95-107). He
directs his attention to wh at happens when in the middle of a task, a tool, say,
a hammer, breaks. To cope with the situation, we ask ourselves, perhaps for
the first time in our lives, wh at kind of thing is a hammer, for we want to finish
the job, and for this we need areplacement or maybe a temporary substitute
for the hammer, and if we can 't finish the job, weIl! ... We begin by a study
aimed at finding a theory for the physical specifications of a hammer - this
initiates a study that has theoretical and practical dimensions - then we look
for something that fulfils these specifications, and when we find it, we try it
out. Does it work? If it does the job - if the theory is fulfilled in experience
- we are satisfied for the moment. We may still need a new hammer, but
for the moment the job can go on. But if the trial fails, we next revise the
theoretical specifications in the light of the previous outcome and try again,
modifying the conditions of the experimental trial if necessary. If this leads
to another failure we repeat the process with arevision of the previous theory
in the light of the new understanding gained from past results followed, by
a new experimental trial modified to take account of the previous failures.
This phase is repeated until we have a physical theory that works, or if we
fail, we give up the search for something to replace the broken hammer and
re-assess our options (getting the job done in a different way, say, by hiring a
carpenter or turning to a different technology), or we just fold our tent for the
time being.
This process of inquiry is hermeneutical because it is a search for a theoret-
ical meaning to be fulfilled in experience. The process has a repetitive pattern,
from theory to experience, then back to theory ... and so on. Analysed in this
way, the process is one ofthe hermeneutical circle. Many are confused by the
word "cirele" taking it to mean "return to the starting point," but that is not
what it means. The "cirele" of hermeneutics indicates the repetitive cyeling
between theory and experience from which comes the progressive character
of the inquiry. Some prefer the term "hermeneutical spiraf' wh ich indicates
both the cyeling and the progressive character of the process. Every inquiry


then moves in a forward spiral toward aresolution as govemed by a conscious

if revisable goal.

Theoretical understanding

By focusing his discussion initially on equipment and the like, Heidegger

makes a special and highly critical point about theoretical understanding. 30
Since the characteristic goal of all scientific or scholarly inquiry is theoretical
understanding, it is important to understand wh at theory does. Theory, as
in the case of the broken hammer, is always connected with some piece of
equipment - not excluding words, sentences, and representations - designed
to fill ~ome social or cultural function. Theory-making arises then out of some
public need and the requirement of leaming how to fulfil that need. This is
Heidegger'sfunctionalism (see BT 408-415). He would remind us that, when
presented with a real piece of equipment, say, a hammer, we must realize on
the one hand that the physical theory of a hammer does not assign to it an
exclusive or "objective" essence, for that which can function as a hammer
can function in other ways too, as door stop, nutcracker, etc., and on the other
hand that old shoes and wooden mallets can also be used to hammer nails (see
BT 115). All real tools or equipment are (as Heidegger says) no more than a
mere resource 31 unless they are in actual use or designated for use, when they
are dedicated (or designated) resources. Equipment is a dedicated resource
when it is pragmatically related to the fulfillment of its role within a cultural
function-as-meant (see BT 410). The distinction is significant because only
dedicated resources belong to the fumiture of the lifeworld and so have ontic
These distinctions are reftected in the use of words. The sentence, "I want
a hammer," can be used in a theory-laden 32 context where the sentence refers
to the physical structure that makes hammering possible, or in a praxis-
laden context where the sentence refers to something that is in actual use
or designated for use in construction. Words and sentences about tools or
equipment take on different meanings according to whether they are used in
one or other of these contexts.
Retuming to the cultural praxis-laden perspective, what is the meaning of
the hammer in this perspective? It is wh at ties a thing - the hammer - to
construction or building projects. This is different from its meaning in the
theory-laden perspective for this latter relates to its specifications as a tool and
"explains" the thing qua hammer by specifying the conditions under which
it can be the host of the cultural meaning of a hammer. There are then two
meanings in dialogue, a theory-laden meaning and a cultural praxis-laden
meaning. The theory-laden meaning makes sense only if the real hammer is
praxis-laden within the function of construction.


Despite the fact then that (hammer-) theory "exp1ains" (hammering-) praxis,
the language of theory and the language of praxis belong to different but
coordinated perspectives. Coordination does not imply, however, that there
is a one-to-one correlation between the two perspectives. 33 The reason is:
the (hammer-) theory-Iadenness of a "hammer" is just a mere possibility
of serving as a real hammer (it could altematively serve as a nutcracker),
and the (hammering-) praxis-Iadenness of the "hammer" in the context of
construction could be served by means other than the use of hammers.
Theory and praxis are coordinated but not bound. On this account, theory
can inaugurate revolutionary changes at the practical and cultural level; for
instance, theory-based research has made available new plastic construction
materials that can be shaped into complex ready-made units by moulding,
bypassing the need for carpentry and hammers. Reversing the argument,
practical inventions can inaugurate revolutionary changes in theory, such as
when the practical development of steam power in the nineteenth century
called forth a new calorific science, thermodynamics. 34
Moreover, when new measurement-based technologies are added to the
lifeworld, scientific terms, such as "temperature," can be introduced into
everyday descriptive language where it names a new cultural entity, a "pro-
duct" of science. Such entities are endowed with non-theoretical, practical
lifeworld meanings which can be used to create, designate, employ, and con-
trol new classes of equipment, for example, thermometers, in the lifeworld.
With the help of these increased resources, it is possible for the old cultural
environment to be "revolutionized" in significant ways. In the quattrocento
during the Italian Renaissance, for example, perceptual space came to be
subjected to universal measurement and to analysis according to the princi-
pIes of the newly discovered mathematical perspective; in this process public
space was transformed from one with variable, local geometries into one
with a single Euclidean geometry, thus preparing the way for Galileo and the
Copemican revolution. 35
In any case, if some identifiable thing is theory-Iaden, then an "explanation"
is at hand laying out the conditions why it can playa particular socio-cultural
role, but a theoretical "explanation" falls short of explaining wh ether, and
or if so why, this thing is in fact playing that role or has been designated to
play that role. "To be theory-Iaden" then always implies an implicit cultural
hypothetical, "provided the real (individual, historical) explanandum has been
chosen for the appropriate role." Otherwise "to be theory-Iaden" implies no
more than "to be a mere resource," - and this no more entitles it to be included
in the fumiture of the world than every old shoe under the category of hammer.
What kind of entity then is a hammer as a dedicated resource? It is a public
cultural reality, a physical reality constituted by a socio-cultural meaning. It


has a theory-Iaden meaning that conceals (renders tacitlimplicit) but does not
replace (say, by a reductive move) the cultural perspective of construction and
its practical underpinnings in architecture and engineering. Also, the cultural
perspective of construction practices conceals (renders tacitlimplicit) but does
not replace (say, by areverse reductive move) the theoretical instrumental
perspective of the ham'mer. 36
Now, to the extent that nothing - or almost nothing - in our experience is
without a human purpose, everything in our experience bears some resem-
blance to a tool or instrument. We can have then (at least) two perspectives
on (almost) anything: a praxis-laden cultural perspective and (subject to the
successful completion of a scientific inquiry) a theory-laden explanatory per-
spective. 1t may even play roles in multiple socio-cultural functions. But for
each such function, we could inquire - of course, with no guarantee of suc-
cess - the corresponding specifications that would constitute a theory-based
scientific account or "explanation" of the thing within its cultural function.


These conclusions have important consequences for understanding measure-

ment in the praxis of scientific inquiry. They illuminate the binary valence
of empirical "facts," a degree of complexity not given by the usual empiri-
cist accounts. 37 The process of measurement in science fulfils two differ-
ent but coordinated functions. 1t presents the object-as-measurable, this is
the praxis-laden cultural function. And it takes the data from the presented
object, this is the theory-laden data-taking function. 38 These are the binary
valances of scientific data. The data-taking is usually called "observation";
but there is no "observation" without the prior preparation and presentation
of the object-as-measurable as a system open to the data-taking process. The
measuring process in a weIl designed experiment then does both jobs. Pre-
senting the object and recording the data are ontologically one but involve
two perspectives, a praxis-laden cultural one (wh ich belongs to the strategy
of experimental culture in laboratory environments) and a theory-laden (or
explanatory) one. These two perspectives can be 10gicaIly, semantically, and
pragmatically distinguished (see BT 409-410).
Consider the theory-laden perspective. Since it is the function of theory to
oversee the experimental design, the ontic referent of theory as such is the
measuring process viewed from the construction or engineering or technical
point ofview. When standardized off-the-shelf models of measuring apparatus
are available, they do their job automatically by virtue of their theory-laden
structure. It is experimental design then that is formally theory-Iaden.
Consider the praxis-laden cultural perspective. Experimental observations
are public cultural events praxis-laden in the scientific culture ofthe laboratory


and deriving meaning from a research program. They also eome "dressed"
in sensible "clothes" provided by the experimental strategies used. Under
this analysis, experimental observations should not be ealled semantically
"theory-Iaden" - this should be reserved for experimental design 39 - but
semantically praxis-laden like all dedicated or designated cultural objeets of
the lifeworld presented as fulfilling experienee.
Consider the data - or beUer, the "raw data" or "proto-data." They belong
hypothetically to the theoretieal perspective of measurement but affirmatively
to the eultural perspeetive of some lifeworld forum. Such a forum could be, for
example, seientific research strategy or the research "narratives" that Rouse 40
speaks about. They could also extend to technological applications, finanee,
political power, religion, art, or other aspects of general culture. Only in such
loeal fora are the data real - given "in truth" as die Sache selbst. There the
data can witness to the presenee of individual scientific entities, say, eleetrons
or atoms, as public cultural realities in one or more of these fora where they
can take on the value of dedicated resources and comprise part of the loeal
fumiture of the world. In any such loeal forum, the meaning of both the data
and the scientific entities they exhibit is bivalent, emulating the relationship
between real hammers and real construction projects. Beyond such local
fora the "raw data" or "proto-data" are not data at all;41 and they are to be
eonsidered as no more than funetionally meaningless marks (non-entities,
junk, etc.). In this respect, they share the indeterminacy of (positivism's)
sense data.
In summary: so-called "theoretical entities," such as,for example, atoms and
electrons, are not theory-laden without qualification, they are first explicitly
praxis-laden (as public cultural entities) in the world of measurement-based
scientific research or its cultural applications and only on that condition
are they theory-laden, and then only implicitly. Theory refers directly to the
internal structure of the processes, particularly measurement, through wh ich
the "theoretical entities" enter the public domain.


Heidegger embodied this duality of meaning in his choice of the Greek term,
alethia (literally "uncovering") for truth (BT 256). It signalled a change in
the notion of truth from the classical model of full transparency to human
understanding,42 towards one of only partial, praetical, or contextual trans-
parency (see, for example, BT 58-63).43 Let us pause to refteet on the history
of this change.
People everywhere and always have lived in a socially, linguistically repre-
sented, aetion-oriented world in which what a thing is must be derived from


what it comes to mean within human life. This is wh at Husserl, Heidegger,

and Schutz called "the lifeworld,"44 and for which W. Sellars coined the term
"manifest image of the world."45 Within this perspective, many things are
first grasped as having fixed essences dedicated "by nature" (as it were) to
a single function. Such was the opinion of Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and
Descartes, Bacon and Newton, and it is a view still held by many philosophers
and scientists today.
With the advent of modemity, however, the world changed, adopting as
its defining characteristic an inquiring theorizing scientific spirit (see DOT
46; WCT 8; QCT 133). This opened the season for scientific inquiry into
whatever is given in human experience, not just hammers, but also political
society, perception, food, athletics, emotions, love, and even religion, all
are taken as possible subjects for scientific studies. Whenever a successful
scientific study is made, a theory is fashioned based on a set of explanatory
theoretical parameters that explains some thing or event taken under (as-
having) a particular socio-cultural meaning. Modemity took its metaphysics,
not from the lifeworld, but from this set of parameters and embraced it as the
independently objective real, to know wh ich was "truth."
This, as Husserl, and Heidegger saw, was a radical mistake. 46 As in the case
of the hammer, the theoretical set of parameters addresses just one aspect of
the real exemplars, the explanandum, namely, the aspect that was chosen for
explanation. Other aspects of these exemplars are overlooked; they are over-
come by forgetfulness. Moreover, in the search to explain the explanandum,
the theorizing process soon discovers the extent to which the explanandum
function can be taken over by different artifacts from the exemplars studied.
One (surprising?) outcome of this process is that it shows: what makes this
or any real hammer to be a hammer - or what makes this or any real thing in
human experience to be wh at it is perceived to be - is not a defining essence
but a movable contextual set ofproperties that can be found or engineered in
many different ways in many different physical hosts.
In summary: the truth about things in the lifeworld is: their meanings are not
essential but cultural (and historical) and disclosed by implicitly theory-laden
praxes which, when (after successful scientific inquiry) their theory-ladenness
is made explicit, can be re-engineered with a consequent transformation of
cultural meaning. This cycle of meaning change can and does repeat itself
endlessly within the historicality of Being (see BT 29) as the examples used
in the paper show resulting in a diversity of new perspectives and a possible
loss ofsome ofthe old ones through (inevitable) culturalforgetfulness. The
theoretical, however, cannot logically or ontologically be separated from the
cultural, and modernity made the mistake of assuming that this could be



Heidegger feared that, to the extent that explanatory theorizing scientific

inquiry is successful, it turns the focus of philosophical inquiry away from
"meditative thinking" about the lifeworld as the cultural arena for human life
fulfillment l;lnd away from meaning and meaning change, toward "cakulative
thinking" that envisages management and control, a regime in which every-
thing is treated as merely replaceable resources within Gestell, the assumed
"objective" frame of "reality" (QCT 3-35; DOT 46).
This is not to deny, however, that great benefits can and do flow from sci-
entific theories, not just in tradition-bound domains, such as, for example,
agriculture, diet, and shelter, but in every domain from health care to astron-
omy, even to human fertility and sexuality, for there is no domain that cannot
be addressed and transformed by the applications of science. Nevertheless,
Heidegger foresaw that such changes could have a human cost, for they affect
the way culturallife teaches people to be human and communicates to them
the sense of the wholeness, integrity, and goodness of the world, the self, and
human communities. Changing the traditional vehicles for the transmission
of these core meanings inevitably changes how people regard themselves,
their personal destinies, their neighbors, and the world around, with conse-
quent risks of cultural instability in all these areas. 48 Whether and with what
consequences science is changing our culture is the domain of sociology and
cultural anthropology.49 In summary, for the reasons just given hermeneutical
philosophy must be a salient feature of the philosophy of science, even of the
natural sciences.

Illustration: Vision vs. opticat measures

The intimate relation between the theoretical (or explanatory) and the cultural
(or the perceptual) can be &hown in our experience of perceptual environmen-
tal space(s). I will show that we perceive our environmental space according
to two incompatible structures, one non-Euclidean and the other Euclid-
ean. These two structures present the same perceptual objects in different
spaces and with different meanings. Non-Euclidean cultural objects are relat-
ed directly to diverse sensory agenda (much like the "affordances" of James
J. Gibson);50 Euclidean cultural objects are related directly to diverse public
agenda (involving, at one level, practical goals encompassed, say, by archi-
tecture, and at another, mythic goals associated with community goals) and
prompted by the omnipresence in the urban environment of universal rigid
spatial measures. In keeping with the analysis made above, non-Euclidean
cultural objects are nevertheless implicitly Euclidean because theory-Iaden
with respect to measures based on universal rigid spatial rulers.


Figure 1. Mller-Lyer Display. Top line is perceived to be both (i) shorter than bottom line
and (ii) more distant than the bottom line.

y .....
Eye ~ot I


Figure 2. Scientific Analysis of M-L Display in geometrical optics shows that (i) and (ii) are
not compatible with a Euclidean space of vision.

The display in Fig. 1 is the familiar one associated with the Mller-Lyer
Illusion, but it will be used here to illustrate a different story. The display
can trigger in a viewer the perception of many different visual configura-
tions. Among these none is uniquely right, but among them some are more
interesting than others for the purpose at hand. Among them is (at least) one
that violates the structure of Euclidean geometry, Euclidean space, and geo-
metrical optics. The top line in Fig. 1 (equal by measurement to the bottom
line) can appear to be both shorter than the bottom line and farther from the
viewer. Unlike the standard M-L Illusion, this is a three-dimensional visual
configuration. 51 Such a configuration can be analysed by geometrical optics;
this assumes that visual space is Euclidean and that light travels in straight
lines in this space. Figure 2 shows that in a Euclidean visual space the more
distant line must be the longer one, which contradicts what one sees. The
visual configuration described above is then incompatible with the principles
of geometrical optics. Now if any doctrine embodies the physics and meta-
physics of natural philosophy, geometrical optics does. How is it that despite


what science says about the world we nevertheless sometimes see differently?
Some will reply that the non-Euclidean visual experience must be a visual
illusion, a 3D form of the M-L Illusion presumptively caused by a breakdown
of the visual system.
The case, however, is not so easily explained away. Shapes such as the one
described are not as infrequent in visual experience as one may believe.52
Common-sense language about shapes, places, and space was in historical
times profoundly non-Euclidean. Euclidean criteria began to permeate the
scientifically motivated elite only in the 14th century. There is an ancient
historical tradition in the West for which Aristotle and Plato are witnesses 53
that metaphysical and even visual space are not Euclidean.
Even today it is not hard to experience non-Euclidean vision. Consider
the following experience described by Rudolf Amheim,54 which is generally
replicable. He enters a large Gothic Church. The interior is architecturally
composed of a nave bounded by two parallel rows of arched bays separated
by columns of equal height, completed by an apse in which the bays are
continued until they meet the end wall behind the altar. Amheim notes that
his immediate unreflective (pre-predicative?) view of the interior of the church
has dual values and he sees both simultaneously. On the one hand he can see
two rows of equal arched bays bounded by columns of equal height marching
in parallel straight lines down the nave of the church, and on the other hand
he can see two rows of unequal bays and columns curving inwards toward an
imaginary meeting point behind the altar with the bays and columns getting
smaller in size with distance from the viewer.
From such experiences Amheim argues that human perception can be
multiplivalent and has the capacity to see the church (in' this case) in two
ways: in a common-sense/non-Euclidean way and in a scientific/Euclidean
way. The experience just described seems to show that there are at least
two possibilities latent in the fore-understanding of visual space. 55 But let
us suppose for simplicity's sake that we are dealing with just two spaces
and two semantics of space each with its meaningful praxis. One space is a
common-sense space resulting presumably from a bio-cultural constitution
of visual space that is the carrier of the noetic agenda of unaided sensory
observation. This is the space and language within wh ich one would address
a question such as, "How does the architectural design focus ritual attention
on the altar and its symbolism?" The other space is the space of science
and geometrical optics based on scientific measurement; this is the carrier of
the noetic agenda of the standard measuring process. This is the space and
language within which one would address a question such as, "How does the
size of the bays compare with one another and with, say, those of Westminster


With these fore-understandings, we can now approach hermeneutically the

prepredicative situation just referred to. The two spaces and languages are
affirmatively cultural (however, with different noetic agenda) and praxis-laden
(however, dependent on different bodily and technological equipment). But
there is no one-to-one translation between the two languages because the fore-
understandings interfere with one another in their exercise. By that I mean
that vision, while responding simultaneously to its non-scientific Vorsicht
(with its set of humane bio-cultural cues) and its scientific Vorsicht (with its
equipmental metric-oriented cues), could be so distracted as to fail to develop
a single totally coherent perception of the church space. "Die Sache selbst"
of such vision is double-valued, according to a kind of visual Uncertainty
Principle and complementarily analogous to the more famous structures in
quantum physics that carry these names. 56
There is a further question that will not be addressed here: what philosoph-
ically reasonable conditions (within the purvi~w of hermeneutical philoso-
phy) would give logical consistency to this multiplicity of perspectives? The
answer is that the two complementary languages must be partially ordered
by statement inclusion within a complemented non-distributive lattice (or

Implications for the philosophy of science

Hermeneutic philosophy treats science (or in general, all scholarship ) as

a form of human culture constituted by inquiry and the search for mean-
ing. Meanings emerge into public expression from the pre-predicative pre-
categorized understanding of the lifeworld, characterized by historicality,
circumspection, facticity, and temporality. This is the level of understanding
shaped by human action and its goals, and where meanings spring from tra-
ditions and from free moral choices. This is the place where inauthenticity
resides within and among communities of researchers, 58 where scientific par-
adigms are embraced only to be rejected later on, where technologies play
their part in transforming human culture, and above all, where a multiplicity
of cultural and scientific perspectives are - if at all- harmonized. This implies
the priority of culture to theory, or human goals to theoretical knowledge.
Since all scientific and scholarly inquiry embarks on a project whose goal
is to construct an explanatory theory about a starting point that is anchored
in the cultural life of people, the discovery process is always constrained
by the condition that a meaningful relationship at least to public scientific
culture be maintained throughout the inquiry.59 Hermeneutic philosophy is
particularly concemed with the dangers of forgetting this nexus. The social
study of science and its cultural anthropology serves then as a useful corrective


by focusing on the cultural meanings implicit in and directive of the active

scientific community.60
What is needed is a philosophy of discovery that shows how theory-making
is both promoted and constrained by this condition.61 In discovery the role of
metaphor is fundamenta1. 62 The history of science is full of such exam-
pIes, from billiard balls, elastic bands, aethers, mechanical devices, and
molecular bench models, to computer simulations, harmonic oscillators, ten-
dimensional spaces, and concepts ofGod's role in Nature. 63 Nor is it possible
to come to understand modem physics or biology without passing through
stages of metaphor. As in the search for theory, so in its application, theoretical
instruments apply to real situations in socially negotiated ways, often using
metaphors, because they function of necessity in a cultural milieu that, being
praxis-laden, does not need or support unlimited univocity or precision. 64
While we do not ask of a philosophy that it contribute to the successful
practice of science, science continually throws up metaphysical questions that
divide the scientific community and constrain or limit its energies in a world
of finite resources. For example, at the margins of the very large or "macro-
scopic" and the very small or "microscopic," light could be thrown on the
difference between relativistic and quantum measurement which are "meso-
scopic" processes (see below for an illustration). Like measurement, so also
data as the outcome of measurement are mistakenly understood unless taken
simultaneously in relation to theoretical explanation and cultural scientific
From the epistemological point of view, interdisciplinary studies of science
by the disciplines of history, philosophy, sociology, cultural anthropology,
linguistics, and discourse analysis, etc. are deeply troubled by their inability
to communicate among themselves; a common platform in a hermeneutic
philosophy of science might ease this situation by disclosing the different
agendas of these disciplines taken as perspectives within the postmodern
In the social, psychological, and neurobiological sciences, confusion be-
tween the theoretical and larger public cultural issues abounds to the detriment
both of science and of public confidence in science.
On the ethical, religious, and political front where hermeneutic methods are
strongest, the current questioning of scientific practice by public agencies and
media makes it highly desirable for scientific institutions to be able to give a
better account of science's public role as the principal agency of theoretical
knowledge within a culture that has its own goals but is in great need of such
knowledge. 65 For this end, a philosophy that reasonably supports the princi-
pIe that scientific entities, even those not perceptible to the unaided senses,
function (with the help of instruments) as naturalized partsof the furniture


of the lifeworld is highly desirable, because explanatory scientific entities

then acquire a public cultural meaning and become a common possession of
On special issues, the basic "mysteries" of the quantum theory need to
be elucidated, among which are the constitution of physical space and the
problems of locality and causality, measurement processes and the role of the
subject, and the paradoxes ofmacroscopic quantum phenomena as illustrated
by Schrdinger's Cat, the EPR Paradox, and Bell's Inequality.


Considerable interest has been reawakened by some recent experiments in

the "Schrdinger Cat Paradox".66 The current version is based on new and
very refined experimental techniques that use single photons, electrons, and
atoms, to research the conditions under which the Superposition Principle (and
its consequence, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle), the core of quantum
physics, is applicable to individual objects in the environment. We are pleased
to learn that the experiments did not in fact include cats and, moreover, that
a cat is far too large and complex to be susceptible to the uncertainties
of superposition. So far the experiments have detected superposition wave
effects that stretch only to a distance of about 80 nanometers around a single
beryllium atom of size about 7 nanometers - but they confirm that such effects
are real at these dimensions. Such experiments confirm then that when an atom
or a photon, for example, is not being measured, it can be "represented" (and
"representing" is a symbolic tool used in knowing and not limited to pictorial
ways ofunderstanding) as a "closed" system by a coherent wave function that
is understood to mean that it can act and be found beyond the range of places
connected environmentally with the observer. 67 Only when measured, does
it become localized at a particular place in the environmental space (always
subject, however, to the limits of the Heisenberg Principle). As localized it
is no longer potentially active beyond the environmental place where it is
found, and this condition is "represented" by the loss of coherence of its
wave function. Such a property as just described calls into question I. the
classical view that the measurer and the measured share the same apriori
space and time; enough has been said above to cast doubt on this assumption;
2. (taking "information" to be, not data, but the symbolic representation of
data) the difference between "information" transport (within a closed system,
i.e., under isolating superposition conditions) and energy transport (within a
system open to interactions, leading to the "collapse of the wave packet");
and 3. the distinction between macroscopic and microscopic which seems to
be a function not just of size or "quantity" but also of cultural use, such as, for
example, a thing 's use as a measuring instrument. All of these understandings


turn on a henneneutical analysis of space, time, quantity, measurement, data,

infonnation, and other topics connecting theory and praxis. In addition, but in
an even more fundamental order, there is discovery; this is the moment prior
to theory making or use when Dasein is open to new possibilities of meaning
within the lifeworld. Henneneutical philosophy gives this moment a certain


Returning to where we began in this paper, the import of historical, social,

and political studies of the practice of science was shown by the late Thomas
S. Kuhn, who gave paradigms and scientific revolutions their names. He
failed, however, to give a good philosophical account of these entities or of
the process of discovery.68 A fuB philosophical treatment capable of making
sense of these phenomena could be made within the horizons sketched in this
paper. Such is badly needed for the sake ofbringing the his tory and philosophy
of science together with the social and cultural studies of science. 69 This would
provide elements for a better public appreciation of wh at is certainly one of
the greatest institutions of our society.
A final word: the principles laid out above stress the fact that science's
so-caBed "theoretical entities" are naturalizable in the lifeworld through
measurement and become public cultural and perceptual entities; although
implicitly theoretical, they are not defined by theory but by a cultural praxis.
A philosophy that accepts these principles can caB itself a new empiricism
and claim the good will of those today who carry forward the revolution that
Galileo brought about.


1. Nickles (1995).
2. Babich (1 994b ).
3. Scharff (1995).
4. The frustration of philosophers with the problem of realism vs various forms of relativism,
historicism, conventionalism, etc., is the theme of Earman (1992).
5. I mean, in particular, the view shared by most contemporary forms of empiricism, realism,
and conventionalism that true knowledge is the possession of accurate objective represen-
tations of the known, preferably expressed in scientific "facts" and "formulae." See, for
example, Pickering (1995), for an insightful criticism of this view and his performance-
based image of science.
6. For the last mentioned, a discourse analysis of the language of science - a new method
within linguistics - comes to some not-surprising conclusions; see Montgomery (1996),
chapter I.
7. See list of references for some relevant works by these authors.


8. See, forexample, the works listed ofBabich, Buckley, Crease, Dreyfus, Grondin, Guignon,
Heelan, Kisiel, Kockelmans, Markus, Okrent, Pggeler, Riehardson, Rouse, Scharff, and
Schutz. The best commentaries on Heidegger's work are those ofRichardson, Kockelmans,
and pggeler. For a good introduction to many of the topies of this paper within the context
of the works of Husserl and Heidegger, see Buckley (1992). On the topie of a hermeneuties
of natural science, see the exchange Markus (1987) and Heelan (1989).
9. Husserl (1970). Nietzsche was the first to challenge the authority of scientific Reason in
human culture; see Babich (1994) for a study of Nietzsche 's philosophy of science.
10. See Heelan (1987).
11. QCT 3-35. Gestell is translated by "a framework" (within whieh we operate unreftectively).
12. See Husserl (190011970) and (195211989) and Heelan (1987).
13. See Merleau-Ponty (1962), (1964), and (1968).
14. Heelan (1983/1988) argues that scientific entities such as, for example, electrons and atoms,
can be disclosed directly in measurement as perceptual entities. Kockelmans (1993) does
not go so far but takes their presence to be shown indirectly by signs. In other respects
Kockelmans's view is indistinguishable from mine.
15. As recounted to me by Owen Gingrich, Professor of Astronomy at Harvard and a historian
of science, who has been studying the note books of Galileo.
16. He named them, "Medicean Planets," no doubt to eam favor with Duke Cosimo II, for he
wanted the appointment of Chief Mathematician and Philosopher at the Tuscan court.
17. See Heelan (1991).
18. See Galileo's Assayer, in Drake (1957), pp. 237-238; also see Crombie (1994), pp. 543-
626, on Galileo's use of mathematics, 10gic, and representational constructions.
19. For the possible plurality of perceptual spaces, see Heelan (1983/1988). For Heidegger,
acts of perception always presuppose abstract categorieal content whieh provide a kind
of theory (or a cluster of theories), as Heidegger sees it, about what can be found in
experience by a community of historieal perceivers. But these conceptual categories, like
all theories, merely disclose a possibility, and a historieal possibility at that, of onticity
(being a thing in the life-world). The focus of Heidegger's interest then is not formally
the historieally conditioned perceptual world, but Dasein' s forgetfulness of Being with its
historicity, temporality and authenticity/inauthenticity that make life-worlds possible (cf.,
BT 89). This does not mean, however, that hermeneutical philosophy can discard interest
in perception, it means only that categorized perception does not disclose the ultimate
ground of understanding. In all our perceivings we need to discover the ultimate structures
- circumspection, historicity, and temporality that shape the milieu of Being into whieh
Dasein is thrown.
20. The terms "ontie" and "ontological" are used in Heidegger's sense; "ontie" applying to
any distinct categorieal being in the world, "ontological" signifying the background of
Being in whieh human life is lived and whieh defines what people are as Dasein or
Being-in-the-World antecedent to all descriptive categories.
21. This is what Husserl and Heidegger call the return to "die Sache selbst." .This is, as
it were, areturn to the Cartesian Cogito with a new and critical look. Husserl 's return
brought forth the Cogito cogitatum as a correction of the Cartesian Cogito, and thereby
introduced contextuality into the analysis of experience. Heideggger probed deeper into
the Cogito to discover the role of Jore-understanding - this is the active inquirer working
with circumspective care within experience before categories are formed or used to assert
what is disclosed in experience. This is the hermeneutical pre-predicative dimension of
the Cogito cogitatum as "die Sache selbst."
22. "Circumspective care" means the interested wariness with which we try to cope with
experience and which Heidegger in BT takes to be the human inquirer's - Dasein's -
fundamental attitude toward the world.
23. The process of hermeneutic inquiry involves on the part of the receiver/interpreter what
Heidegger calls the Vorhabe (or background) and Vorsicht (clues to meaning) before
moving to the Vorgrijf(data or outcome) of the inquiry. The clues to meaning can spring


from many sources - analogies, models and, of course, the traditions of the researcher's
discipline. See BT 191 on the "hermeneutieal circle."
24. For the term "alcherny," our current resources may be poorer than the past; for the term
"disease," our current resources may be rieher - or, at least, different.
25. See, for example, Niekies (1995) for the difficulties that philosophers and historians of
science have in understanding one another.
26. There is a vibrant and copious cross-disciplinary literature about historieal, religious,
ethieal, political, and other cultural meanings of topics ranging from Big Bang Cosmology
to ethieal and environmental aspects of science. Contributors include both scientists such
as, for example, Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg, Paul Davies, and Riehard Dawkins,
and non-scientists such as, for example, ethieians, historians, sociologists, and cultural
anthropologists of science, and feminists.
27. Such traditions of interpretation tend to possess a rigidity of interpretation and an inau-
thenticity that has to be overcome for the growth of knowledge; cf. BT 29.
28. Paradigm revolutions are also associated with the temporality of Dasein and human com-
munities, see below. Also cf. BT 424-425.
29. See Husserl (1948/1973), pp. 340-356.
30. For the purposes of this paper, I take "theories" and "categories" to be refiexively defined
abstract objects such as scholarship and science provide; they have more or less clarity,
more in physies than in biology, and more in biology than in the human sciences.
31. "Mere resource" is usually translated by "present-at-hand." Heidegger's terms are "Vorhan-
den," and later "Gestell." Okrent (1988), p. 74, translates it as "the extant (non-quipmental,
natural beings)." Mere resource is opposed to dedicated resource whieh translates Heideg-
ger's Zuhanden, the difference being in a social choiee.
32. For the notion of "theory-Iadenness." see Hanson (1961), pp. 19-30, and its source in
Duhem (1914/1954), Part H, chaps. IV and VI. Among commentaries on observables as
theory-laden, see also Heelan (1983/1988), pp. 202-204, and Fjelland (1991).
33. These two perspectives result in two ways of speaking, two context-dependent languages,
about the same thing that are related among themselves within a lattiee structure whieh
includes aleast upper bound (lub) and a greatest lower bound (gib) as well as complements.
See Heelan (198311988), chaps. 10 and 13, where this thesis is presented. See also BT, pp.
34. See BT, p. 29.
35. See Heelan (198311988).
36. The socio-cultural meaning then is not something that can be dropped, like slag from
ore when a metal is refined, but essential to the intelligibility of the meaning. For an
understanding of cultural meaning, see Geertz (1973) and (1983).
37. Empiricist accounts of measurement are legion; many of them have purposes that are not
strietly philosophieal but methodological. Philosophers of science have also written on
measurement but mostly from the viewpoint that empirical measures are grounded on
ideal, objective, and realistic values. For a hermeneutic view on measurement and data,
see Heelan (1989). For its background in Heidegger, see BT, pp. 408-415.
38. In physies, these are sometimes called "preparation" or "measurement of the first kind"
and "observation" or "measurement of the second kind" respectively.
39. It is also applicable to the representation of, what is called a "closed" system, that is,
one that is not interacting with its environment. The notion of a "closed system" needs
further analysis within this context - as indeed does its counterpart, "open system"; such
an analysis involves also a study of the space/time notions of "body," e.g., a body's "spatial
boundaries," its "size," "rnass," "quantity," etc. and how the notions of"macroscopie" and
"microscopic" apply. Some of these have been partially addressed in recent literature,
e.g., see Needham (1996) and the references he gives, but these studies are against a
philosophieal background that is object- and concept-oriented. None of these analyses
addresses satisfactorily how the meaning ofthese terms relate to a body's use, particularly,
in measurement.


40. Rouse (1996), p. 27 and in chap. 9.

41. There is an alternative strategy, the researcher may re-evaluate the interpretative context
of the experiment and pursue another goal. For a more detailed study of data, see Heelan
(1989), also (1983/1988).
42. Such as the Tarskian notion of truth.
43. Polanyi says the same in different terms: the explieit meaning conceals a taeit meaning;
see Polanyi (1964), pp. x-xi.
44. See Husserl (195411970), Schutz (1973), and BT 91-94.
45. See Sellars (1963), p. 6. In contrast to taking the lifeworld as the touchstone of reality,
Sellars took the "scientific image" to be that touchstone.
46. Pragmatism, however, takes an ambiguous stand preferring not to see it as a radical mi stake.
47. These conclusions prepare the ground for Babich's reading of Nietzsche's philosophy of
science (Babich 1994a) in which she explores with elegance Nietzsche's perspectivalism
or musical "concinnity" in relation to truth, morality, and the critique of science.
48. Contrast the views of Robert Bly and Gianni Vattimo about the post-modem effects of
the dismantling of Enlightenment culture. As David Bromwich wrote in a review of the
former in The New Republic, September 9 & 23, 1996, " ... progress for [Americans]
means alm ost exclusively technological improvement ... But all the new tools a people
master cannot assure their generous use. Technology travels a different road from political
stability, moral well-being or aesthetic achievement. ..." (p. 34).
49. Cf. Geertz (1973) and (1983).
50. See Gibson (1979).
51. Incidentally, I believe I was the first to point out the depth dimension in the M-L Display.
52. See Heelan (1983/1988), especially chap. 5.
53. Consider that Plato and Aristotle approved of the use of (what we would call) "Euclidean"
measures for carpenters. But for the heavens and beyond, there is a different story. "It is
therefore evident," as Aristotle wrote, "that there is also no place or void or time outside
the heaven," De Coelo. Plato seems in the Timaeus to hold the same view. Since for both
writers perceptible things and the space itself - whether conceived in terms of place or the
void - ended at the finite heaven, and so space cannot be Euclidean because Euclidean is
necessaril y infinite in extent.
54. Arnheim (1974), p. 266.
55. In point of fact, the problem is more complex since there are several scientific spaces,
Newtonian, Relativistic, etc. and a pIethora of visual spaces.
56. See Heelan (1996).
57. Heelan (1983/1988), chaps. 10 and 13. The author intends to revisit this topic in another
58. See, for exarnple, the work of Mara Beller on scientific rhetoric; her studies of the diversity
of scientific and philosophical viewpoints among the founders of quantum mechanics, e.g.
Beller (1996), confirms the account given in Heelan (1965).
59. Science and the philosophy of science, however, have generally forgotten theory's connec-
tion with a cultural explanandum. This might not have been so if explanation had not been
confused with a more precise and accurate description or "picture"; cf. QCT 133-134 on
"world picture" and "representational thinking."
60. There are many fine empirical studies of the natural sciences from the perspective of social
studies and cultural anthropology. Like the philosophy of science, however, many of
these studies are also marred by reductionistic and positivistic inclinations. Rouse (1996)
correctly sees that there must be a connection between the cultural studies of science and
the philosophy of science; it is not so evident that he has grasped correctly what that
connection must be.
61. An excellent study that can be recommended is Crombie (1994).
62. See Fiumara (1996), also Hesse and Arbib (1986).
63. See Feher (1988) for an interesting historical discussion ofthe last mentioned case. In other
work, Feber addresses the surprising absence of references to current hermetic literature

in Galileo's wark which indicates that Galileo, unlike Newton, deliberately set aside or
consigned to "forgetfulness" a large part of the then-current scientific literature and praxis
in order to establish his "new sciences."
64. Cf., for example, Beller (1996) and Heelan (1965). Some brief reflections on the limits
of precision: the chaos situation in physics is an anti-Cartesian phenomenon that arises
when the unlimited precision of a theory in mapping inputs and outputs breaks down (fails
in relation to the cultural scientific goal of control), as when sm all changes in practice
produce large and uncontrollable outcomes. Perhaps, a like anti-Cartesian phenomenon
occurs in dialectical discourse when unlimited clarity is pursued to a point where the
overall cultural point of the discourse (better understanding? ideological control?) is no
longer attainable. On the side of the social studies of science Latour (1987) seems to be
most aware of this impasse.
65. Witness the current "science wars" and the lamentable misunderstandings on all sides.
From the science side, see Horgan (1996), Gross and Levitt (1994); from the science
studies side, see Social Text, Spring/Summer 1996 and Lingua Franca, May/June and
July/ August 1996. For one account of the underlying tensions, see Dorothy Nelkin's
"What Are the Science Wars Really About?" in the Chronicle of Higher Education, July
26, 1996, p. A52, and the responses it generated, for example, in the Sept. 6 issue, pp.
66. See Monroe et al. (1996) and Braginsky and Khalili (1995). According to Science, this
is an animal rights version of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox (or the EPR Para-
dox) thought up by Erwin Schrdinger who was my erstwhile teacher at the School of
Theoretical Physics, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
67. I take "place" to mean somewhere definite in the practical environment of a researcher;
the term "space" is usually taken in agiobai, objective, and theoretical sense.
68. Hoyningen-Huene (1993) is an excellent study of the work of T.S. Kuhn.
69. See Nickles (1995) for the impasse in the history and philosophy of science. The relevance
of a new and contemporary study of Nietzsche to the questions discussed in this paper is
very weil articulated in Babich (1994a).

Abbreviations used in the notes for works of Heidegger: BT for Being and Time; DOT far
Discourse on Thinking: Translation ofGelassenheit; WCT for What is Called Thinking; QCT
for Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Numbers, e.g., BT 27, are to pages in
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Man and World 30: 299-313, 1997. 299
1997 K lu wer Academic Publishers.

On the hermeneutical nature of modern natural science

Department 0/ Philosophy, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16803,

Abstract. An effort is made in this essay to show the intrinsic hermeneutic nature of the natural
sciences by me ans of a critical reflection on data taken from the his tory of classical mechanics
and astronomy. The events which eventually would lead to the origin of Newton's mechanics
are critically analyzed, with the aim of showing that and in what sense the natural sciences are
essentially interpretive enterprises.


In my book, I deas for a H ermeneutic P henomenology ofthe Natural Sciences,

I have explained that, why, and in what sense in my view the natural sciences
are inherently hermeneutic enterprises, and that the scientists in their work
as scientists give us "legitimate" interpretations of wh at iso I have also made
clear that, and in what sense, these interpretations can be called true in that
they indeed make claims about what is; but this is to be understood constantly
under the assumptions or prejudgments that the scientists must make to be
able to do their work. This is why scientific claims do not reveal the all-
encompassing, exhaustive, and definitive truth of wh at iso
In the elaboration of this basic position I have made an effort to explain that
I do not see this hermeneutic dimension as primarily located in the processes
of observation, experiment, and verification, nor in the processes involved in
discovery or further development, but rather that the scientific enterprise is
hermeneutic through and through, from beginning to end, so to speak, and in
every respect.
That is why a hermeneutic phenomenology of the natural sciences, which
basically focuses on ontological issues, should concentrate on science as it
actually is being done by research teams and individual scientists in historical
situations and under historical conditions (Cf. Ideas, p. 113).
In view of the fact that this claim is often misunderstood and taken to imply
a criticism of the ideas of other hermeneutic philosophers working in the
same field, I have decided once more to address the basic issue in an effort to
eliminate possible misunderstandings. It will gradually become clear, 1 hope,


that my position would be critical of other hermeneutic approaches only if

these other positions were to reject the main thesis I hope to unfold.
In an effort to achieve my goal, I have decided in this paper to go about it in a
"historical" manner. Thus I would like to focus not so much on some important
aspect of the natural sciences, but rather on the scientific enterprise as a whole
in its continuously developing form, on scientific research as it actually was,
and still is, being done, rather than, for example, on a particular scientific
theory in wh ich a science temporarily may have seemed to have come to a
halt. I shall try to show that the scientific process as a whole is an ever ongoing
happening that is hermeneutic in nature, through and through. In so doing I
shall use examples of the his tory of astronomy, dynamics, and mechanics. In
order to avoid that my "story" would become much too long for the purpose
at hand, I have decided to focus on the origin of Newton 's mechanics in its
close relationship to the most important events that eventually would lead
up to it. I hope that in so doing it will be possible to show that discovering,
experimenting, observing, and searching for explanations of wh at has been
so observed, are always going hand in hand, that all of them are inherently
hermeneutical, and that the one effort is scientifically impossible without
the others. I hope also to be able to explain in greater detail what is meant
by the "objectifying thematization," in wh ich the framework of meaning is
developed, upon which all relevant phenomena are to be projected, if they are
to become the subject of research in a given science. It seems to me that only
from the perspective of the thematization can one in each science explain the
full meaning of the hermeneutic nature of the natural sciences.
In what follows I hope to discuss ideas of Ptolemy, Copemicus, Brahe,
Kepler, Galileo, and Newton; in each case only very few observations can
be made; yet I hope that what will be said will be adequate to explain wh at
I have in mind: to show that the scientific praxis as a whole is inherently
hermeneutical, and the same is true for all its constitutive aspects.


About 150 A.D. Ptolemy published his Megale Syntaxis tes Astronomias,
better known under its Arabic name, the Almagest. This became the standard
text, on the basis of which in astronomy all observations, measurements,
and calculations conceming the movements of the planets and the stars were
made. Over the centuries minor changes were proposed, but substantially the
work was maintained in its original form. For many centuries all observed
phenomena were thus projected upon the framework of meaning articulated
by Ptolemy. In other words, the results of all observations were interpreted

on the basis of the prejudgments, which are inherent in Ptolemy's geocentric
Fourteen hundred years later, in 1543 to be exact, Copernicus published
his De Revolutionibus Orbium Celestium, in wh ich he returned from a geo-
centric conception of the universe introduced by Heracleides (fourth century
B.C.), to the heliocentric conception first introduced by Aristarchos (310-230
B.C.). Copernicus showed his work to Pope Clemens VII who encouraged
Copernicus to publish the work in book form (Dampier, 111-112).
Once it was published, Copernicus 's De Revolutionibus did not receive
an enthusiastic reception; in almost all countries there were quite a number
of scholars who objected to the new ideas, either on religious and biblical
grounds, or because of strictly scientific considerations. Tycho Brahe was one
of the outspoken objectors.
Brahe (1546-1601) was a well-trained and widely known astronomer in
Denmark. When he was thirty years old he received from King Frederick
of Denmark a small island, called Hven, located very close to Copenhagen.
In addition he received the funds needed to build a castle-like observatory,
Uraniborg, in which he later would work with his collaborators from then on
until 1597 and devote hirnself to scientific observations with the help of the
finest instruments (armillaries, quadrants, sextants, torquetums, etc.) many of
wh ich were built according to his own specifications and instructions. Over
aperiod of some fifteen years Brahe produced lunar and solar tables much
more accurate than the ones available at his time, a catalogue of one thousand
fixed stars with carefully measured values oflongitude and latitude, tables for
atmospheric refraction, and so on. In addition he was able to improve several
astronomical constants and to discover two new inequalities in the motion
of the moon. He also was able to show that comets are not atmospheric
phenomena, as most people of his time had assumed. He was particularly
proud of his research concerning his new lunar theory, and above all, the
development of a new geocentric picture of the world, that contained all the
important ideas of the systems of both Ptolemy and Copernicus, but was able
to avoid their shortcomings (Dijksterhuis, 300-303).
Let us now return to Brahe's criticism of the work of Copernicus. This
criticism was based mainly on religious and biblical grounds; in this Tycho
was inftuenced by Luther and Melanchton, who had stated that the views held
by Copernicus were in clear contradiction with certain passages of Scriptures
(Thoren, 276). In addition, Brahe was also convinced that in astronomy one
must not begin with a large-scale theory in order then, from that perspective, to
derive the laws of nature; rather a good astronomer derives the laws of nature
from the data secured by careful scientific examination. Yet in this point Brahe
strongly disagreed with Ramus, who held that scientists should start totally


independent of any theoretical speculation or theory; Tyche was convinced

that scientific research without any hypothesis is simply impossible, where-
as hypotheses can be formulated meaningfully only on the basis of some
theoretical framework (ibid, 33-35).
Yet Brahe rejected the theory of Copernicus also on other grounds. First in
his view it is difficult to conceive of the "heavy and sluggish" earth moving
through space. Secondly, there is the immensity of the distance which, under
that assumption, one would have to assume between the orbit of Saturn and
the fixed stars. Thirdly, if the earth were to circ1e around the sun, and also
to rotate around its own axis, a stone falling from a very high tower would
fall far away from the base of the tower. Fourthly, it is difficult to understand
how one can assume a tripie motion of the earth (around its axis, around
the sun, and a "conical" motion of its axis to explain why the axis always
points to thesame point of the celestial sphere). Brahe also thought that in
Copernicus's theory a cannonball shot from east to west would not fty as far
as a similar cannonball shot from the same cannon from west to east. Finally,
Brahe held that there is a disproportion between the fact that the fixed stars,
in contradistinction to the planets and the moon, appear as mere luminous
points, and not as discs, on the one hand, and the apparent diameters of the
stars, on the other. Contrary to what Tycho knew about these diameters, they
would have to be "astronomically" large (Dreyer, 360-361).
Yet, on the other hand, Brahe could not accept the theory of the Almagest,
either. This was the reason why he began to look for a doubly eccentric
system. I shall return to this issue shortly.
In 1597 the relationship between the King and Tycho had deteriorated to
the point where the King refused to pay for any further expenses. Tycho
had to dis miss his entire research crew, left Denmark, and in exile travelled
around Europe with the aim of finding a new patron, willing to support further
research. Finally in 1598 he found a patron in the Emperor ofPrague for whom
he worked until the end ofhis life in 1601 (Thoren, 370ff.).
In 1600 Kepler joined Tycho in Prague "to supervise Tycho 's publications,"
as Kepler expressed it in a letter (Thoren, p. 439). Their encounter led to
fruitful work during the last years ofTycho's life.
Yet it should be noted that when Kepler met Brahe, Kepler was already
well-known through his book on astronomy, usually referred to with the
title Mysterium Cosmographicum, published in 1596. The content of this
innovative book was also known to Brahe. In his work Kepler had explained
that he accepted the system of Copernicus because (as he himself wrote) "of
its superior mathematical simplicity and harmony." Being a distinguished and
even enthusiastic believer in mathematics, and also deeply convinced of the
Pythagorean and Platonic notion that numbers are at the root of all things,

Kepler suggested that God had created the world in accordance with the
principle of perfect numbers, so that the underlying mathematical harmony,
which he called the music of the spheres, is the real cause of the planetary
motions, and this harmony can be brought to light by a careful study of
the obselVed phenomena made available by the many obselVations of the
planetary system over the centuries. In other words, in this first work it is
abundantly clear that to explain the regularity discovered by obselVation,
Kepler never appealed" to a scientific, mechanical theory, but limited hirnself
rather to philosophical, theological, and mystical speculations. As far as
philosophical ideas are concemed they were derived from either Pythagorean
or Platonic sources, or as far as the theory of motion is concemed from
Aristotle (Dijksterhuis, 303ff.).
Another idea that gave hirn great pleasure was the inspiration he received
in 1595, namely that the fact that there are six planets in his view must be
connected with the fact that there are precisely five regular polyhedra, and
that there must be a correlation between their distances from the sun, on
the one hand, and the radii of their spheres that can be ascribed to them
and inscribed in these polyhedra. Thus if a cube is inscribed in the sphere
containing the orbit of Satum, then the sphere of Jupiter will just fit within
the cube. If then again a tetrahedron be inscribed in the sphere of Jupiter, the
sphere of Mars will fit within the tetrahedron, and so for the other regular
solids and the six planets. Later it appeared that the relation referred to is
true only by rough approximation. Furthermore, when later new planets were
discovered, the basis for Kepler's theory was destroyed altogether (Dampier,
128; Dijksterhuis, 303-304).
Finally, there is Kepler's idea that the planetary system is an image of the
divine Trinity, in the sense that the Sun resembles the Father, the fixed stars
the Son, and the aether the Holy Spirit, and that this image can be taken to
be a confirmation for Copemicus 's theory. These and similar examples show
that during that period of his life in Kepler's work one does not yet find
a scientific, i.e., mechanical, explanation of the regularity in the planetary
system; rather Kepler was guided here by ideas that ultimately would come
from his theological, mystical, and mathematical convictions (Dreyer, 373-
It is thus perfectly clear that Kepler in description and explanation pro-
jected the obselVed phenomena upon frameworks of meaning, that were
developed totally independently of his own obselVations. With respect to his
obselVations, he looked at all phenomena and data from the perspective of
Copemicus's heliocentric theory, whereas in explanations the obselVed phe-
nomena were projected on a framework of meaning determined by Scriptures,
theology, and Pythagorean and Platonic philosophical ideas. In other words,


his work, too, is henneneutic through and through, and rather arbitrary at that.
But let us return to the events that took place during the short period in which
Brahe and Kepler were able to work together closely.
Although Kepler thus was deeply convinced of the superiority of the con-
ceptions of Copernicus over the systems of both Ptolemy and Brahe, he
nonetheless continued to work with Brahe from the basic perspective outlined
by the latter. After Tycho's death in 1601 Kepler "inherited" all of Tycho's
research data. It was after that time that Kepler systematically began to rein-
terpret all observations done thus far, from the perspective of the heliocentric
conception, while, however, still maintaining Copernicus 's theory of cycles
and epicycles as weIl as maintaining the Pythagorean, Platonic, and Aris-
totelian notion that all celestial bodies move in perfect circles (Dijksterhuis,
Between 1601 and 1609 Kepler worked hard on a new book, to be called
Astronomia Nova. In this book Kepler wanted to devise a system of motions
for the planet Mars from Tycho 's measured positions of the planet. At first
sight, the task seemed to be rather simple: plenty of observational material
was available and the method to be used was also known. Kepler thought that
one could find a solution for the relevant problems by devising an eccentric
motion with which the observed positions were in harmony; and if this were
to be impossible, one had to try the same thing by abisected eccentricity,
i.e., by constructing a so-called punctum aequans. This means that if the
sun is located eccentric with respect to the center of an orbit, then a new
eceentric point, opposite to that of the sun, is to be eonstructed for the orbit
of Mars (Dijksterhuis, 307). After many complicated computations, and by
making several new assumptions, Kepler finally suceeeded in describing the
following two regularities:

The planets describe circles with bisected eccentricity; the sun is at

one side of the eccentricity, and the planets at the other.
The linear velocity of a planet in its orbit is inversely proportional to
its distance from the sun (ibid., 308).

Onee the kinematic aspeet ofhis new theory was established Kepler wanted to
go on to a dynamic explanation; for it is not enough to describe what actually
takes place, but one must also indicate the eauses from which the observed
phenomena flow. We know that Kepler even then failed in this second effort.
As we have seen already, Kepler tried to find these causes by philosophieal
and theological speculations. One had to wait for the discoveries of Newton
to see this complicated task in its fully materialized fonn. What is important
is the discovery made by Kepler that the theory of eccentric circles ean


easily be changed into a theory about ellipses. This led hirn to the following
refonnulation of the first two laws:
- All planets travel in paths which are ellipses with the sun in onefocus.
- The areas swept out in any orbit by the straight Une joining the centers
of the sun and a planet are proportional to the tirnes. (Cf. Dijksterhuis,
304-321, passim).
Although Kepler thus was unable to explain the movements of the planets from
a dynamic point of view, insofar as in this regard he continued to hold on to the
views of the preceding centuries, still fundamentally inspired by Aristotle's
physics, he nonetheless made a substantial contribution to the methods of
scientific research. Dijksterhuis has pointed to the following contributions of
Kepler wh ich are of lasting value:
One must reject all arguments merely based on tradition and authority.
Scientific inquiry must be kept independent of all philosophical and
theological inftuences.
The mathematical way of thinking must be systematically applied in
the fonnulation and elaboration of hypotheses.
Results deduced from the hypotheses must be verified rigorously by
means of empirical research that is raised to the highest level of accu-
racy (ibid., 322).
The methodological distinction between science on the one hand, and philos-
ophy, religion, and mysticism, on the other, for centuries did not yet entail
that there would still not be the regulative inftuence of metaphysics, mysti-
cism, and religion; yet from now on they would no Ion ger have a constitutive
function in scientific research. In addition, the methodological distinction did
not entail either that the discoveries made by Kepler were the result of strictly
methodological and logical processes of reasoning, but rather still a mixture
of rational and irrational considerations.
Ten years after the publication of the two laws discussed above, Kepler was
able to fonnulate still a third law in wh ich a relation was established between
the time period of a revolution of a planet and its mean distance from the sun,
so that it finally reveals the principle that govems the whole planetary system.
The law can be fonnulated as folIows:
- The squares of the periodic tirnes, wh ich the different planets take to
describe their orbits, are proportional to the cubes oftheir rnean distances
frorn the sun. (T/R = c.) (ibid., 323).
Kepler was ecstatic about this important discovery, which convinced hirn
one more time that the planetary system can be described mathematically.
Even though Kepler for several years continued to search for a physical


ground for this discovery, he nonetheless did not succeed in finding it. He
continued to limit hirnself to pure kinematic considerations and refrained
from the effort to give a scientific explanation of the dynamic aspect of the
phenomena. Yet, as we have seen, this does not mean that he did not at all
wonder about the "beautiful" order in the cosmos; but instead of looking for
a scientific explanation for the laws, he tried to make them plausible with the
help of religious and "mystical" speculations.
The few examples given above explain the kind of thinking in which Kepler
was engaged in an effort to show that the laws discovered indeed "had to be"
the way they appear to be, because in this way they manifestly give witness
to the greatness of God.
One thing is c1ear, however; in his entire scientific research Kepler contin-
ued to project all observed phenomena upon frameworks of meaning, which
were accepted by hirn independently ofhis own scientific work. These frame-
works of meaning were, as we have seen, determined in part by religious and
metaphysical speculations. Even though this way of thinking is scientifically
unacceptable, it nonetheless shows at the same time, that the discovery of the
Kepler laws was the result of work that was inherently hermeneutic in nature.
In the period between 1601 and 1687 many important discoveries have
been made by a number of outstanding scientists. These discoveries range
over large areas of phenomena. After the facts, we can make a c1ear dis-
tinction between discoveries in mechanics, geometrical optics, hydrostatics,
chemistry, pneumatics, etc. In mechanics some important discoveries were
made by Stevin, Beeckman, Descartes, Galileo, Huygens, and others. Among
them Galileo (1564-1642), Descartes (1596-1650), and Christian Huygens
(1629-1695) are the most important ones. In the present context I must forego
this important dimension of the history of modem natural science, except for
a few observations about Galileo.
Galileo was undoubtedly one of the greatest scientists of his time; perhaps
he even was the one who made the greatest contribution to the growth of
c1assical physics. Yet the precise meaning of his work is often difficult to
determine, so that it is interpreted by different historians in different ways.
The situation has even been made more complicated by the fact that several
historians have projected a spurious picture of the man and his work, wh ich
has contributed considerably to the wrong and almost mythical image most
people today have of Galileo (Dijksterhuis, 333-334).
That it is difficult to state what Galileo's view on a great number of issues
really was, is due in part to the fact that his thought went through a considerable
evolution. In his early years he was still very dose to the physics of the Paris
Terminists. It is obviously true that what Buridan called "impetus" is called by
Galileo vis impressa. Yet the basic framework from wh ich Galileo interpreted

the observed phenomena, when he introduced this new term, was still the
same as that used by Buridan, namely Aristotelian. It was only gradually that
Galileo began to take distance from this view; yet in many respects, however,
he still remained faithful to Aristotle's conception of motion. Still when all
is said and done it is quite clear that Galileo made a great contribution to
the growing science of nature in several important respects. Some people
believe that Galileo's greatest discovery has been that he was able somehow
to combine the inductive, experimental methods of Gilbert and others with
the mathematical deductions found in the work of Kepler. The new science
that began to develop was inherently mathematical and inherently empirical.
In other words, the classical assumption of the possibility of a completely
rationalized scheme of knowledge of medieval neo-Platonism has finally
been given up. From now on facts are no longer forced into frameworks of
meaning, in wh ich they often do not fit, but each fact carefully observed and
measured is accepted as it is, regardless ofthe human desire to make the whole
of nature at once amenable to reason and rational reconstruction (Dampier,
Next we must mention that Galileo was an excellent experimental physicist.
In this Galileo was influenced by William Gilbert of Co1chester (1540-1603),
from whom he also learned to define mass without reference to weight. In
addition, Galileo invented several new important instruments; for ourpurposes
the telescope is undoubtedly the most important (ibid., 129-130).
Thirdly, Galileo also established once and for all the method for the sci-
entific study of nature, by making a clear distinction between the metodo
risolutivo and the metodo compositivo. In an effort to "save" the phenom-
ena of the fall, for example, one knows that in this case one is confronted
with an accelerated movement. The basic problem consists in mathematical-
ly defining a motion that takes place in harmony with what the phenomena
have taught us already and will teach us in the future. The metodo risolutivo
analyses the incidentally established phenomena, and must define the task at
hand. Then the metodo compositivo executes the task, and the experimental
verification which its result makes possible and even requires, must furnish
the proof (Dijksterhuis, 339).
However, when one looks at the scientific research in which Galileo was
actually engaged first and foremost, it is clear that he made his most important
contributions to modern science of nature in his scientific study of falling
bodies and projectiles. Yet even in this area Galileo maintained to the end
of his life that the relevant force is proportional to the mean velocity, as the
Terminists had done. The idea that there is such a proportion between force
and acceleration is, however, never explicitly stated. From this fact alone one


can draw the conclusion that Galileo cannot yet be considered the founder of
modem mechanics; this honor is to be given to Newton.
To avoid misunderstanding it should be noted here that the change in
the conception of inertia probably constitutes the most important element
in the transition from ancient and medieval physics to classical mechanics.
Furthermore, the law of inertia is not just one element of the new picture
of the world, but one of the foundations on which the most essential parts
of the system rest. This change was largely brought about by Galileo and
one cannot understand the genesis of modem mechanics without carefully
studying Galileo's works. Yet it is and remains true also that Galileo never
came to afuZZ understanding of inertia. His overall perspective is and remains
a mixture of Aristotelian and new insights (Dijksterhuis, 348).
As for the relationship between Galileo and Aristotle, one should note that
Galileo from the beginning indeed did criticize the Aristotelian conception of
motion in several important respects. Yet, as we have seen, it is also true that
he maintained the basic ideas of Aristotle 's doctrine of motion. Let me clarify
this point with just one example. Although Galileo criticizes the distinction
between natural and constrained motions, he nonetheless continued to make
use of the distinction to the end of his life (ibid., 344).
Galileo 's view also differed from that of the Aristotelians in that Galileo
allows for the assignment of two different natural motions to one and the same
moving body. This thesis, in turn, implies that a moving body may participate
in different movements at the same time without their interfering with one
another, and that, in that case, for an observer the path of a moving body
depends on the frame of reference, within which the motion is considered
(Galileo transformations) (ibid., 350).
Yet it is and remains true that Galileo never explicitly stated the law of inertia
and never actually made use of it, even though on at least two occasions he
appears to enunciate it.

... [T]he degree of velocity to be found in a moving body, has been

impressed on it by its nature so as to be indestructible if exterior accel-
erating or retarding causes are eliminated, which is the case only in a
horizontal plane ... , from which it likewise follows that motion in a
horizontal plane is also perpetual. (Dijksterhuis, 347)

On another occasion he wrote: "I conceive of a body thrown on a horizon-

tal plane and every obstacle excluded. This would result in wh at has been
given a detailed account of elsewhere, that the motion of the body over this
plane would be uniform and perpetual, if the plane were extended infinitely"
(Heidegger, What is a Thing?, p. 91).


We must conclude therefore that even though Galileo did formulate the
principle of inertia, he continued to do so in a context that basically was still
Aristotelian. Furthermore, when he had to address the dynamic side of an
important issue, as in the case of falling bodies, he avoided the issue and
limited himself to kinematic considerations.
It was Isaac Newton (1642-1727) who finally would bring the most impor-
tant ideas developed in mechanics to a systematic unity. In some sense one
could say that in his Principia the development of thought described thus far
came to its conclusion. Yet, on the other hand, the Principia is equally the
starting-point of a new era in science; it is the first scientific treatise of natural
phenomena, to which we usually refer with the expression "modem science"
(Dampier, 146).
Before Newton 's time important research was done in several areas (astron-
omy, mechanics, hydrostatics, geometrical optics, the atomic structure of
matter, chemistry, pneumatics, and so on). The various treatises written in
these fields of research did not fit together, and there was even no universally
accepted methodology and terminology. Newton was able to present us with
a system in which, it was hoped, the work done in the different domains could
be brought together, so that close connections between elements or parts could
be brought to light that formerly had appeared to be quite unrelated.
Newton presented his system in an axiomatic manner. In Newton 's time
the term "axiomatization" was not taken in the rigorous sense of modem
mathematics, but rather in the loose sense in which Aristotle had understood
it, and Pascal had already used it in hydrostatics. Thus instead of giving us
a limited number of noncontradictory propositions which together constitute
the definitions of the terms appearing in them, and form the basis for the
theses to be deduced from them, Newton presents us with a limited number
of propositions, wh ich are evident, or at least can be rendered plausible, and
wh ich may be assumed as legitimate starting-points. These general "axioms"
or "laws of nature" are preceded by definitions, wh ich stipulate the meaning
of the basic terms occurring in the axioms. The terms used in these definitions
are assumed to require no further explanation or justification (Dijksterhuis,
In developing this system Newton obviously made use of the ideas of
his predecessors; yet what the past had to offer was fragmentary and very
confusing, if not sometimes simply confused; there was no single, universal
principle from wh ich all the theses already established could be derived.
People had been thinking about the causes of motion for a long time, and
in due time one had come to the conclusion that both extern al and internal
causes must be at work. To these causes they referred with various terms such
as gravity, force, power, velocity, resistance, tendency, impetus, quantity of


motion, mass, the centrifugal force of revolving bodies, the force of impact,
and so on; yet none of these terms was carefully defined and there was
certainly no universal agreement on their meaning. When most of these terms
were introduced they were derived from the everyday language; they often
appeared to be evident, and yet in practice it became often clear that they
were inadequate for an exact, mathematical treatment of the subject to be
based on them. In addition when it later appeared that the term "inertia" was
to be redefined because the older conception appeared to be inadequate, one
nonetheless maintained for instance the proportionality of force and velocity.
The confusion created by this state of affairs was even aggravated by the
fact that the notion of force gradually received a new meaning. At first the
term "force" had been used for the cause of motion. In modern mechanics a
force is often defined as the result of a movement.
It was Newton's greatest contribution to modern mechanics to have created
order in the existing chaos of notions and conceptions. He could have done so
in a very radical manner by placing mechanics on a new foundation with the
help of sharply defined basic terms, preferably not taken from everyday life,
in order to avoid possible misleading associations. Newton did not follow this
route. Instead he developed a system by trying to include from earlier research
as much as possible. In so doing Newton often continued to employ old terms
fornew ideas. This explains the many imperfections one can find in Newton's
master-piece. For centuries scientists would continue to add, correct, and
clarify points, which Newton had presented inadequately. For our present
purposes it is important to clarify these claims briefty (Dijksterhuis, 465).
The basic weakness of Newton's systematization is that in the definitions
the content of the axioms still to be formulated, is already in part assumed
as known; on the other hand, the definitions themselves are not adequate for
a proper understanding of the axioms. The consequence of this is that we
can fully understand Newton's mechanics only from the perspective of the
subsequent development of his theory (ibid, 466).
Of the three laws of nature which Newton postulates, the first gives the
final formulation of the conception of inertia that had developed slowly in the
course of seventeenth century mechanics. It is stated as follows:
AXIOM I: Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right
line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.
The content of this axiom is contained in the third definition that precedes the
axiom. It reads as follows:
DEFINITION 111: "The vis insita, or innateforce ofmatter, is apower ofresisting, by
which every body, as much as in it lies, continues in its present state, whether it be
of rest, or of moving uniformly forwards in a right line. This force . .. differs nothing
from the inactivity of the mass, but in our manner of conceiving it."


If we now compare these two statements, it appears that Newton does not yet
conceive of inertia in the same way as this will be done in the subsequent
centuries. As Newton sees it, every motion requires a motor force that resides
in the body. This notion is Aristotelian in origin and was defended in this
form by the Paris Terminists. For hirn thus the Vis Inertiae is identical with
the Impetus of the Aristotelian tradition and the Vis Impressa of Galileo.
Later the first law will be reformulated as follows: "The continuation of the
uniform rectilinear motion of a point, free from all external influences, does
not require a cause." The motion continues simply because there is nothing
to stop it.
That Newton in his conception of inertia was still thinking from the per-
spective of past conceptions is clear also from the fact that he cites in support
of the axiom the example of a wheel revolving without resistance; but from
our point of view this example does not belong in this category at all. Yet this
example was cited in the tradition as an argument against Aristotle 's view
that in a non-natural motion the air acts as a motor.
The fact that Newton in essential matters continues to think from ideas of
the past is clear also from the manner in wh ich Newton states the second
axiom. In Definition N Newton defined the impressed force as an action
exerted upon a body, in order to change its state, either of rest, or of a uniform
motion in a right line. Axiom II lays down what the action exertedby a force
consists in; this force must bring about a uniformly accelerated motion. Later
classical mechanics would define the force simply as the product of mass and
acceleration, or F = mx a. Newton hirnself states the second law as follows:
AXIOM 11: The change of motion [i.e. of the quantity of motion or momentum] is
proportional to the motive force impressed, and is made in the direction of the right
line in which that force is impressed.
By means of a simple computation one can show that this formulation is not
equivalent to the formulation of the second law in the subsequent centuries
according to which F = m a. For Newton 's Axiom II to be valid, the validity of
the relation F = m . ais certainly sufficient, but not necessary. One can wonder
why Newton and his contemporaries did not realize that they were making an
assumption they had never expressed in so many words. The reason is that on
Newton's authority one accepted the axiom and interpreted it silently in the
"correct" way. Where Newton says "the change of motion" he should have
written "the rate of change of motion ..." (Dijksterhuis, 468-473).
Many other such examples could be cited, but the ones mentioned are
adequate to show what leading scientists do when they formulate new ideas.
In every scientific theory there are assumed a number of assumptions or
prejudgments, on the basis of wh ich natural phenomena are interpreted in


hannony with wh at in henneneutic phenomenology is called the objectifying

I have tried to explain what is meant by objectifying thematization else-
where, in so doing following Heidegger. I shall not repeat this here. Let me just
say briefty that in modern mechanics a thing is made into a theme of scientific
research by reducing it to an object that only can have those characteristics
that can be defined mathematically by means of carefully defined measuring
processes. One can then describe and eventually also explain all known and
newly discovered phenomena to be explained in tenns of these basic "cate-
gories." Next one tries to fonnulate a limited number of basic principles that
can function as the "axioms" of the theory that is to be developed. Once a
theory is sufficiently developed in detail one can then fonnulate hypotheses
that can be subjected to processes of verification.
Newton detennined that in c1assical mechanics only four basic charac-
teristics are essential for material bodies, namely mass, force, space, and
time. All other concepts needed can be derived from these basic "categories,"
whereas all concepts derived from the so-called secondary qualities are to be
eliminated altogether or defined indirectly.
In defining the basic categories and fonnulating the basic "laws of nature"
Newton made use of knowledge that was already available to hirn; he limited
himself to wh at he thought to be self-evident or at least very plausible. On
the basis of these axioms one can then, with the help of logic, derive various
theorems. Next the theorems can be interpreted in light of the observed phe-
nomena. Finally one can fonnulate hypotheses and make predictions which,
in turn, can be compared with the actually observed phenomena. In this way
hypotheses can be verified or falsified.
The henneneutic nature ofthe entire enterprise should by now have become
obvious. Let me point to the most important henneneutic dimensions of
modern science.
First of all, all fonns of scientific description, explanation, and understand-
ing are sophisticated fonns of interpretation. A scientist does not state what a
thing is, but merely how it will appear under a given number of assumptions.
Thus a scientist always begins in a henneneutic situation with its typical
fore-having, fore-sight, and fore-conception.
From the preceding historical observations it is c1ear that scientists, regard-
less ofwhether they merely observe and measure, describe, inductively derive
empirical generalities, and fonnulate so-called "laws of nature," or whether
they try to give explanations, always project the phenomena they are deal-
ing with upon a framework of meaning that is accepted in advance, and to
some degree at least is accepted completely independently of the observed
phenomena. In some cases this framework of meaning was taken over from


a basic text in the field, such as Pt01emy's Almagest; in other cases it was the
theory of Copemicus; in still other cases the framework was in part derived
from philosophical or even theological sources. In the case of Brahe and
Newton the framework of meaning was to a high degree original; yet on close
inspection it becomes clear that even these original pictures of the world were
built up out of elements taken from earlier theories or conceptions.
The important thing to note here is that all scientific work is done within
a hermeneutic circle, which no science can ever overcome. This, however,
does not mean that scientists would be unable to make true statements about
what is; yet it does mean that none of these statements will ever be absolute or
etemal, definitive or comprehensive. They state something that is true without
ever exhausting the truth about wh at iso


EJ. Dijksterhuis, The Meehanization of the World Pieture. Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1986.
Martin Heidegger, What is a Thing? trans. W.B.Barton, Jr. and Vera Deutsch. Chieago:
Regnery, 1967, pp. 65-111.
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. London:
SCM Press, 1962.
W.c. Dampier, AHistory of Scienee in lts Relations with Philosophy and Religion. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1971.
J.L.E. Dreyer, AHistory of Astronomy from Thales to Kepler. New York: Dover Publications,
J. Bemard Cohen, The Birth of a New Physies. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960.
Vietor E. Thoren, The Lord ofUraniborg. A Biography ofTyeho Brahe. Carnbridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1990.
Joseph J. Kockelmans, ldeasfor a Hermeneutie ofthe Natural Seienees. Dordrecht: Kluwer,
Hans Blumenberg, The Genesis ofthe Coperniean World, trans. Robert M. Wallace. Cambridge:
The MIT Press, 1987 (Part 11, pp. 123-255).
Raymond J. Seeger, Men of Physies: Galileo Galilei, his Life and his Works. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1966.
Riehard S. Westfall, The Life oflsaae Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Man and Warld 30: 315-327, 1997. 315
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Understanding sustainabilityl


Wageningen Agricultural University, Hallandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen,
The Netherlands

Abstract. Proposed solutions to sustainability often bring different economic sectors into
conflict; when a sustainable solution for one sec tor is non-sustainable for another it creates
what we call the dilemma of sustainability. Arecent example took place in the Columbia Basin
of the Pacific Northwest, involving competing notions of sustainability by fisheries and the
energy industry. Taking up some ideas of Eger and Lyotard, we criticize the constructivist
approach which treats large ecosystems as constructions and the process of resolving conflicts
of sustainability as one solely consisting of negotiations involving the trading off of interests.
We propose instead to treat such conflict resolution via a Gadamerian-inspired hermeneutics
that sees different economic sec tors as having different interpretations of sustainability and
that aims at common understanding.


Sustainability 2 is an increasingly important societal norm. Sustainability must

be apart of any solution to certain problems in agriculture, energy, fisheries,
etc. that involve more than one economic sector. Achieving sustainabili-
ty therefore demands cooperation among these economic sec tors or leads
to confticts. Most of the time, conftict between sectors involves competing
interests, and in such cases the classic strategy for conftict resolution is for
one interest to simply buy off the others. Other societal norms can also bring
several economic sectors into conftict. However, a special kind of conftict
can arise in the case of sustainability that we shall call the dilemma of sus-
tainability. A dilemma of sustainability arises when proposed solutions to
sustainability are incompatible; when a sustainable solution for one sector is
non-sustainable for another. The non-sustainability of the second sector may
even turn out to be an obstacle for the sustainability of the first. Ultimately,
a sustainable solution for one sector can come about only if the effects are
sustainable for all the other sec tors involved. The dilemma of sustainability
involves different, mutually exclusive, concepts of sustainability. The aim of
this paper is to find a way out of the dilemma of sustainability. We reject
constructivist approaches that would address the problem in terms of nego-
tiation, and propose instead a hermeneutical approach that aims at achieving
a mutual understanding of sustainability between the riyal economic sectors.


We rely on Gadamer's Truth and Method (1960), which offers a hermeneutic

theory able to answer the question of how understanding is possible across
cultural divisions. While Gadamer's hermeneutic theory is concerned princi-
pally with the issue ofthe historical distance between an individual and a text,
sustainability is concerned with understanding between groups of people or
between sectors. We shall try to adapt Gadamer's theory accordingly.

A dilemma of sustainability

The dilemma of sustainability is readily recognizable in many contemporary

situations. One is the case of the cormorant, a bird which conservationists
want to protect but wh ich fishermen want to kill because the birds are said
to be detrimental to fisheries in the Ysselmeer, a lake in the Netherlands.
The example we will use in this paper, however, involves the salmon in the
Columbia Basin ofthe Pacific Northwest of the United States. As Lee (1993)3
points out, within large ecosystems there are generally competing claims to
a natural resource. In the case of the Columbia Basin competition exists not
only within the fisheries industry, where Indians and non-Indians compete,
but also between the fish industry and the hydropower industry.
The Columbia River ftows 1200 miles through the Pacific Northwest, and
its high ftows and extensive drainage are ideal not only for all kinds of fish and
wildlife, especially the Pacific salmon, but also for dambuilding. The Pacific
salmon uses the river as a spawning ground and nursery. Young fish swim
to the ocean and return after two to four years to reproduce in their native
stream. For a long time, the life of about 50,000 Native Americans centered
around the yearly migrations of the salmon, until the arrival of settlers in the
early nineteenth century, who concluded treaties with the Northwest tribes.
In the 1930s the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal agency,
was created in the Northwest to market the enormous hydroelectric potential
of the Columbia. The BPA built aseries of projects - 19 major dams, as weIl
as more than five dozen small hydroelectric works - and in 1941 began to
seIl power. These projects had a huge effect on the salmon runs, altering the
ftow, timing, and biological character of the rivers, and interfering with the
salmon runs. "[B]y the late 1970s the salmon runs of 10 to 16 million in the
preindustrial era had dwindled to 2.5 million" (Lee, 23). About 80 percent
of the damage to fish runs is attributable to the dams, which prevented the
salmon from reaching the uppermost portions of the river.
After the dams began to harm the economic exploitation of the salmon,
the decision was made by the government to mitigate the damage done to
fisheries by authorizing the construction of hatcheries, which were located
downstream from most of the dams. "This choice avoided los ses from the


dams and reservoirs and allocated the bulk ofthe fish to non-Indian harvesters"
(Lee, 27). But the hatcheries were soon plagued by problems, e.g. diseases
and competition between the hatchery fish and the wild fish. Also, the Indian
tribes initiated lawsuits to regain their rights to fish and wildlife.
The D.S. government responded to the resulting crisis in fisheries manage-
ment by issuing a new law, the Northwest Power Act of 1980, which was
principally an attempt to resolve the litigation over Indian treaty rights. The
act, a complex piece of legislation, was the result of two years of compro-
mises in an attempt to accommodate the Indian tribes, the fishermen, wildlife
conservationists, and the energy industry. However, by 1982, an economic
recession had the effect of turning an expected power shortage into a surplus.
The aim of building new power plants now changed into two new aims: to let
energy conservation become part of normal business practice, and to salvage
the Columbia salmon runs while preserving the dams and their econotnic
The act made both energy and fish. "The power act used a familiar strategy
of governance, defining a new process so that an array of choices could be
made without further appeals to Congress or to the courts" (Lee, 33). The
new process involved the creation of the Northwest Power Planning Council,
composed of two members of each of the four Pacific Northwest states, and
given the power to change the actions of federal agencies. To address the
first aim of energy conservation, the Council came up with a plan to guide
electric power development based on regional cost-effectiveness in such a
way that allowed sustainability to become part of normal business practice.
With respect to the second aim, electric power consumers were obliged to
fund a program "to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife to the
extent affected by the development and operation of any hydroelectric project
of the Columbia River and its tributaries" (Lee, 40). This ensured that the
people who benefitted from electricity would help pay for the damage caused
by its production.
The Northwest Power Act dramatically changed the treatment of fish and
wildlife. Hydroelectric development was banned from more than 40,000
stream-miles. The changes in power system operations and planning brought
about areduction in power revenues of $40 to $60 million per year. "These
costs make the Columbia basin program the world 's largest attempt at ecosys-
tem rehabilitation. The investment, from one perspective, is about $50 per
salmon, a remarkable figure when one realizes that none of the market val-
ue of the fish - about $30, depending on market conditions - goes to the
ratepayers" (Lee, 49-50).
According to Lee, both sec tors developed their own concept of sustain-
ability. From the turn of the century until 1970, the scale of electric power


increased while the cost declined. Thereafter, the costs and environmental
damage rose, even as new power plants had to be built because of an expected
power shortage. These plants represented the world 's largest hydroelectric
power system, with an enormous output of energy4 - cheap electricity, which
provided a basis for products and jobs. The situation also reflected the prior-
ities of the industrial users of the river: power first; then urban and industrial
uses, agriculture, flood control, navigation, recreation; and finaIly, fish and
wildlife. Compared to nuclear power and fossil fuel, hydroelectric power, at
least in this geological situation, was considered to be a sustainable source
of energy, insofar as turbines do not poIlu te the water and the water returns
again after its trip to the ocean when the rain in the mountains fills the rivers
The fisheries industry, meanwhile, rediscovered sustainable harvesting of
fish. After 1969, the Northwest tribes won lawsuits to claim their treaty rights,
which entitled them to half the fish. In the nineteenth century, these treaties
had secured the property rights of the settlers and guaranteed a 'shared' use
of the natural resources. In effect, this allowed a takeover by white settlers,5
who would create their own fisheries industry. Now the lower courts suggested
that the Indian tribes " ... might be awarded a right to enjoy a productive
natural system, in which there would be enough fish to assure a reasonable
standard of living" (Lee, 33). This gave rise to a major problem, inasmuch as
the salmon runs had declined, and reversing the situation would not only be
costly but might even be impossible. However, another result of the lawsuits
was" ... the discovery that sustainable development was indispensable. A
principle of wilderness, to take wh at one needs but to leave enough for the
future, had survived industrialization" (Lee, 21).
The competition between the fisheries industry and the hydropower indus-
try for the natural resources of the Columbia Basin leads to a conflict. At
first glance, the situation looks like a conflict of power or a conflict of money
between different sectors. But Lee does not describe the conflict as just a
game of power or money; he points out that the conflict was caused by a
competition between different concepts of sustainability: it is a conflict of
sustainability between the sectors involved. Lee 's explanation of this conflict
of sustainability is that it would be difficult to manage the basin were multi-
ple management involved. "Each of the major uses of the basin's resources
is managed by a different constellation of human institutions, each set of
managers guards its rights and prerogatives, and none is sufficiently powerful
to bring the others to heel. Multiple management of multiple uses pro duces a
tragedy of the commons. The salmon dwindle or perish" (Lee, 28).
In order to resolve the crisis, the Council first determined the damage
ascribable to hydroelectric power generation at between 8 and 11 million


adult fish per year. Then it set the goal of doubling salmon populations over an
unspecified term. "Aiming at sustainable increases in fish populations implies
practices that lower risks to salmon gene pools" (Lee, 41). The Council then
described measures for federal agencies and Indian tribes to take. The Council
also used system planning in its thinking about the interactions between the
hundreds of activities that would affect fish and wildlife, and in so doing
showed a commitment to long-run sustainability of the fish populations. The
current strategy is supplementation, "a technique of releasing hatchery-bred
juveniles into underpopulated streams before the fish migrate to sea" (Lee, 43).
Spilling water (releasing water at dams without putting it through turbines),
and mechanical bypass devices, also help juveniles through and around the
Lee draws the conclusion that large ecosystems are social constructions,
and proposes to explain the resolution ofthe crisis in the Columbia Basin as a
process of negotiation between the parties. As Eger points out in his article in
this issue, negotiation is the key mechanism appealed to by constructivists to
show "how science works in cases of dis agreement, how the problematic of
experiment and the relations of theory to experiment are handled" (pp. 343-
367). Negotiation, Eger continues, implies parties with opposing interests
who "attempt to reach agreement by trading on their interests, by giving
up something here to gain something there, each party trying to maximize
its own advantage, frequently at the expense of the other" (ibid). The word
'negotiation' thus is made to bear a lot of freight; "the effect of this word is
to assimilate very different kinds of activity under the same rubric, and label
them all 'socia}' (ibid).
Eger's critique of the constructivist paradigm of negotiation is clearly
applicable to Lee's theoretical presentation ofhow the Columbia Basin crisis
was resolved. Certainly it involved a lot of negotiations - but negotiation was
only part of the process. How could negotiation be possible when two com-
peting concepts of sustainability are involved? Negotiation requires some
common basis of understanding, but in this case the common basis is the
object of negotiation, and without such understanding negotiation will not
succeed. Lee hirnself seems to acknowledge this point implicitly when he
observes that "the well-being of the ecosystem and its component species
depends on human understanding and action" (Lee, 28).
We can appeal to Lyotard's6 distinction between 'litige' and 'differend'
to illustrate our criticism of Lee 's theoretical presentation. According to
Lyotard, the multiplicity of interest groups each use their own language
game or 'genre.' These genres are mutually heterogeneous because they obey
various rule systems; there are no 'metarules' that can be applied to all the
genres. Lyotard calls a conflict between parties following the same genre a


confrontation ('litige'). Such a conflict can be brought before a judge, who

can pass sentence according to the dominant roles. However, when there is
a conflict between parties following different genres, difference ('differend,'
in Lyotard's terminology), nobody is entitled to judge because there are no
We now pose the following question: does the conflict over use of the
Columbia Basin involve 'litige' (controversy) or 'differend' (difference)? For
Lee, the answer would have to be 'difference', for the conflict between the
sectors is one of interests. The conflict will always be a 'difference' because
each of the sectors involved has its own concept of sustainability. In our
view, this conflict is a case of the dilemma of sustainability, when one sector
develops a concept of sustainability wh ich is damaging to other sectors. The
fisheries industry took sustainability to be a principle ofwildemess; take what
one needs, but leave enough for the future. The hydropower industry defended
their sector as sustainable compared to nuc1ear power. However, these two
concepts of sustainability are mutually exc1usive, for the concept propounded
by one sector implies the non-sustainability of the other sector. Indeed, each
sector will see the other as an obstac1e to its own sustainability. The dilemma
of 'sustairiability, as we have said, is the problem of how to reconcile such
different and mutually exc1usive concepts of sustainability.
However, 'difference' will change into 'controversy' provided there is a
common basis for negotiation. While this common basis is missing from
Lee 's perspective because of its reliance on the model of negotiation between
conflicting interests, a hermeneutical perspective, in our view, points to a
model involving mutual dependency and cooperation.

The hermeneutics of sustainability

From a hermeneutical perspective, the conflict between sectors is a controver-

sy rather than a difference if we seek to understand the basis of cooperation
between sectors. From Lee's point ofview, each sector is viewed as having its
own concept of sustainability, and as a consequence there can be no basis for
mutual understanding. In our point of view, by contrast, each sector is viewed
as having its own different interpretation of a general concept of sustainabil-
ity. The way out of the dilemma of sustainability is now pointed to by the
following question: how is mutual understanding of sustainability possible
across economic sectors?
We will use Gadamer's theory of hermeneutical experience7 as a model to
show how mutual understanding of sustainability between economic sectors
can solve the dilemma of sustainability. To be sure, Gadamer's theory is about
the understanding of a text by readers belonging to the same tradition, while


our example involves the understanding of a societal norm by two different

groups with separate traditions. But Bemasconi, at least, has indicated how
the hermeneutical theory of Truth and Method is able to answer the question
of how understanding is possible across cultural divisions. The first step
in this process is to view the 'text-reader' model of Truth and Method as
analogous to the situation involving a general societal norm of sustainability
and a particular sector that makes sense of this norm. The fisheries sector and
the water power sector are thus analogous to two different groups of 'readers'
trying to understand some general sense of sustainability in their own sector.
The process of understanding outlined in Truth and Method involves the
projection of particular expectations with respect to a certain meaning ('prej-
udices '), and the subsequent replacement of these projected expectations by
more suitable ones. There is no understanding without prejudices; the task of
the reader is not to rid oneself of prejudices, but to work out the appropri-
ate prejudices as fore-meanings. It is not enough in this process just to use
arbitrary fore-meanings, but to test their origin and validity.
The second step in working out a hermeneutical treatment of the dilemma
of sustainability is to regard the interpretation of sustainability made by each
sector as originating in its prejudices. The claim made by the hydropower
industry that hydropower is 'clean,' for instance, can be considered a preju-
dice. So can the belief of the hydropower industry that the ecosystem does not
belong to their sector. The belief that money given to the fisheries industry
can adequately compensate for the damage done by the hydropower indus-
try is also a prejudice. Yet these are the prejudices on the basis of which
the interpretation of sustainability by the hydropower industry was worked
out. The projection of these particular expectations on a general concept of
sustainability, such as was provided by the Northwestem Power Act, puts
them to the test. Then it becomes clear, for instance, that hydropower does
considerable environmental damage, whose costs were not factored into the
price of the energy. Moreover, the Council, too, has prejudices. The concept
of ecosystem management, for instance, has the logical requirement that one
be able to see the ecosystem as a whole in some fashion. This assumption has
the surprising implication that reopening salmon habitats high up in the river
would be futile because these habitats are only part of the ecosystem: young
fish from these areas would not get to sea until dam-related mortality would
also be reduced (Lee, 61).
A third step involves incorporating the recognition that belonging to a
tradition is a hermeneutic condition. By considering prejudices as conditions
of understanding, Gadamer tries to res tore their positive meaning, discredited
by the enlightenment. His starting point is tradition as our social background.
We judge by legitimate prejudices: the standards and practices that have arisen


in the course ofhistory by the community of interpreters who open themselves

to what tradition says. Gadamer wams us not to reify tradition and think it
is simply given; moreover, tradition is not to be viewed as a seamless whole,
but contains competing traditions which make confticting claims.
In our example, each sec tor developed its own tradition of interpretation of
sustainability. In the Columbia basin these two traditions clash. The tradition
of the fishing industry dates back 50,000 years, to early Native Americans who
harvested only the adult fish. In the nineteenth century, immigrants changed
the industry by adding fishing techniques and canneries; later hatcheries
and downstream production again changed the tradition. The tradition of
the hydropower industry in the Northwest started in the thirties, when a
series of dams and smaller projects were buHt. The first dams were buHt
during the Depression, when labor was cheap; later, dams grew mtich costlier
due to high interest rates and environmental demands. The history of the
relationship between the two traditions inftuenced both industries. On the one
hand, the hydropower industry provided the money to make the hatcheries as
a compensation for the damage done to the fisheries industry. On the other
hand, the hydropower industry buHt fish ladders in later dams.
The fourth step involves incorporating the insight that understanding, as
the fusion of the horizons of past and present, lays a historical tradition
over the present, which is simultaneously transformed. Gadamer describes
the conscious act of this fusion as effective-historical consciousness. Having
established the fact that there are different traditions, each with their own
prejudices, one can ask how these traditions can understand each other in a
general way. The unity ofhistory and historical understanding is the effectivity
of history within understanding itself; Gadamer refers to this as 'effective
history.' Consciousness of effective history is primarily consciousness of the
hermeneutical situation. 8 Gadamer defines 'situation' as astandpoint that
limits the possibility of vision. This is why the concept of 'horizon,' as the
range of vision that includes everything that can be seen from a particular
vantage point, becomes crucial in hermeneutics. The right horizon of inquiry
for the questions evoked by the encounter with tradition is working out the
hermeneutical situation. We do this by placing ourselves within historical
horizons, in a certain situation. That the two kinds of industries are able to
place themselves within their historical horizons can be seen in the fact that
the fisheries industry, in its pursuit of sustainability, encountered its past in a
principle of wildemess: to take what one needs but to leave enough for the
future. Gadamer calls the result 'fusion ofhorizons.' The parties involved must
imagine the other situation without disregarding themselves. 9 The concept
'horizon' suggests this wider superior vision. The prejudices constitute the
horizon of a particular present. This horizon is continually formed by the

testing of our prejudices by means for the encounterwith the past. The conftict
between the two industries can be resolved by gradually and deliberately
building cooperation. However, building co operation requires consistency of
behavior, which "may be difficult for parties that are themselves coalitions
or organizations" (Lee, 110). Another option is entrusting the execution of
the agreement in the hands of an independent agency involving all parties,
such as the Council, which can bring about a fusion of horizons. "[T]he
process of building a model is a way of working out a shared view of what
is being managed and how the managing should be done. Often that process
is conducted by a diverse group of people drawn from different institutions,
some of them organizations with confticting interests, such as Indian tribes
and electric utilities" (Lee, 62).
A fifth step in building a hermeneutical perspective involves noting that
understanding always means a mediation between the universal and the
particular. 10 Application is not a problem of method or of subsumption under
a rule. "The task is to elucidate the distinctive type of knowledge and truth
that is realized whenever we authentically understand" (Bernstein, 273). For
Gadamer hermeneutic understanding is always tempered to the 'thing itself'
that we are trying to understand. We try to understand the same text, or the
same thing and our own historicity, our own prejudices. It is a gamelike,
to-and-fro movement. We appropriate or apply a text to Ouf own situation.
Because each time we understand differently (i.e. the same tradition is under-
stood in a different way) understanding is the application of something uni-
versal to something particular. Application is a form of reasoning in which
both what is universal and what is particular are co-determined. In the case
of the Columbia basin we can point to at least three examples of application.
One is that the understanding of sustainability involves the application of
something universal, for example the text of the Brundtland definition (see
note 2) to something particular, some particular industry and circumstance.
A second example of application is the interpretation of the Northwest Power
Act by both industries. The Council, as a 'third party', is a kind of broker 11
for both industries: helping them to interpret the act in such a way that there
is no dilemma of sustainability any more. A third example can be found in
the tension between centralized knowledge and control of the Council, and
the decentralized experience of the industries. The Council has a wide-angle
but abstract view; by contrast, the knowledge ofthe industrial sectors is more
local, detailed, and frequently more persuasive. Industrial sectors may be able
to force the Council to attend to matters otherwise ignored, and are able to
integrate values separated by abstract understandings of what is needed, and
to change the Council's grasp ofwhat action means (Lee, 113).


Having established the process of understanding as application, one can

now ask after the condition of the mediation process. The answer, openness
to traditions, is the sixth step in developing a hermeneutical approach to the
dilemma of sustainability. Openness to traditions means being able to listen to
the other and to be able to acknowledge that one must accept some things that
fty in the face of ones opinions. In the hermeneutical situation this means that
one must allow tradition to put the criteria of one 's knowledge in question.
The logical structure of openness if described by the model of the Platonic
dialectic. Openness has the structure of a question, because openness may
either be this or that. 12 According to Gadamer, we have knowledge because
we have questions. The openness of questions means the inclusion of negative
and positive judgments. 13
The art of questioning is the art of conversation; its structure is that of
question and ans wer. In a conversation, one has to allow oneself to be led by
the conversation itself. It is the testing of each other's opinions that is at stake.
Interpretation is asking the question of what lies behind the text. The seventh
step in creating a hermeneutical perspective is that to understand a text is
to understand it as the answer to a question. We achieve this by acquiring
the horizon of the question. 14 In this way understanding becomes a kind of
conversation, a dialectic of question and answer. The planning activities of
the Council may be described as a kind of conversation. Here, planning can be
defined as the assembly of information and analytical skills. This enables the
different parties to describe the world they share and to identify the uncertain
consequences of action within it. "Planning of this kind proceeds when the
parties agree on preferences and when they do not. Without a framework for
disputing, there is no social mechanism for exploring common objectives,
and no means to reachjoint commitments" (Lee, 111). Through planning one
can test each other's opinion without trying to out-argue the other party. This
enables the parties to keep their conftict within bounds and results in social


The stability of the world as an ecosystem has been more disrupted by human
activity in the last hundred years than in all the centuries before. While spec-
tacular examples such as the erosion of the ozone layer attract much public
attention, Lee observes that the more mundane ones are more impressive.
"Humans already appropriate 40 percent of net primary productivity on land;
two of every five beams of sunlight captured by living things are already
in the service of our species" (Lee, 7). This is a major cause of damage to
large ecosystems, and gives rise to some of the most difficult problems of

environmental science and policy. Large ecosystems are "territories with a
measure of ecological integrity that are divided among two or more gov-
erning jurisdictions" (Lee, 11). It is not acreage which makes an ecosystem
'large' but interdependent use. This is one reason why Lee describes the large
ecosystems as social constructions.
We, however, prefer to characterize large ecosystems as hermeneutical sit-
uations, which allows us to incorporate into the discussion of sustainability
the positive points of the hermeneutical theory of Gadamer. In his analysis
of dialogue and conversation Gadamer stresses "[t]he mutuality, the respect
required, the genuine seeking to understand what the other is saying, the
openness to test and evaluate our own opinions through such an encounter"
(Bernstein, 289). These points could give practical orientation to the under-
standing of sustainability as an important societal norm.
The many definitions of sustainability, often general and vague, naturally
give rise to the question of how this norm can be of any practical value.
We suggest that a hermeneutical interpretation can show how this general,
societal norm can, in a process of application, be understood at the local
level of a particular economic sector. When the case of the Columbia basin is
reformulated in terms ofGadamer's theory ofhermeneutics, one can see that,
given an economic sec tor in wh ich there is a shared acceptance of a tradition
of justified prejudices, the mediation of such a universal in concrete particular
situations can be described as phronesis.
We do not propose Gadamer's approach as a 'method' that can be used
to resolve confticts, for then application would consist of only one way to
go from the general to the particular, while the application of Gadamerian
hermeneutics is a to-and-fro movement. Moreover, a hermeneutical 'method'
would disturb the fusion of horizons, for it would cause the horizons to lose
their openness.
Because sustainability is interpreted differently in different economic sec-
tors, a conftictual situation can arise. This can be compared with the situation
where two readers from different traditions interpret the same text in different
ways. In this latter case, there are two processes of application involved, and
no need for dialogue between the readers. But what became problematic in the
Columbia basin case was that both interpretations of sustainability not only
excluded each other, but caused the other sector to become non-sustainable.
The problem then became to discover the 'universals ' that ought to govem
both economic sectors. Gadamer's work suggests that sustainability can be
viewed as a universal, inherited from tradition, which is essentially open, and
which requires a type of mediation in which its meaning is specified in the
application to concrete economic sectors.


This does not clarify the issue of what happens if sustainability is mediated
differently in economic sectors - a situation analogous to that which Bernstein
(1985) describes as the breaking down of the very conditions of the exercise
of phronesis. In such a situation, the different traditions are obstacles to
each other. One possible solution is that the different economic sec tors have
to consider themselves as 'readers' who are partly in the same situation,
and engaged in a shared process of application and dialogue. In the joint
interpretation of general texts, like the Northwest Power Act, they test their
common prejudices in making models and through planning activities, which
may lead to a partial fusion of their horizons.


1. We would like to thank Rohert P. Crease for editing and comments on an earlier draft of
this paper.
2. There exists no generally accepted definition of sustainability. We note that sustainability
refers to a wide body of heliefs. What we take to be essential is the difference between
a philosophical and a non-philosophical notion of sustainability. This paper is based on
the non-philosophical notion of sustainability. Dur starting point is the so called Brundt-
land definition: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"
(World Commission, (1987. With regard to the philosophical notion of sustainability we
would like to mention a discussion about social practice. Terry Pinkard's paper (1995)
is concemed about the way "( ... ) social practices make sense to their participants and
how certain ways in which they make sense to them is necessary for those participants
to sustain those practices rationally" (1995, p. 57) with regard to a Hegelian theory. We
would like to thank Rohert P. Crease and John R. Wright for making us aware of this more
complicated concept of sustainability.
3. Kai Lee's book Compass and Gyroscope (1993) articulates thoughtful insights into envi-
ronmental policy-making. We use his case-study of the salmon of the Columbia Basin.
While relying on his case-study, we will disagree with his theoretical characterization of
the situation.
4. "The Columbia River and its tributaries generate on average about 12,000 megawatts from
falling water - more than the power than is used in New York City". (Lee, 22).
5. "The fish were the province of white-owned canneries, fishing fleets, and state fish and
game wardens. Their focus was economic exploitation, not ecological stability". (Lee, 25).
6. We take Lyotard to be arguing against the notion that negotiation is just a matter of trading
on interests. We think the basis of negotiation is understanding. To underline this we only
use Lyotard's theory as analytic tool.
7. Initially Gadamer defines hermeneutics as the "basic heing-in-motion of Dasein that
constitutes its finitude and historicity, and hence embraces the whole of its experience of
the world." (T and M, xxx). In other words Gadamer !inks finitude and historicity in the
hermeneutical experience. Finitude and historicity are not what is just at this moment here
in front of US, but insight into our !imitations with respect to the future.
8. "The very idea of a situation means that we are not standing outside it and hence are unable
to have any objective knowledge of it". (T and M, 301).
9. "Transposing ourselves consists neither in the empathy of one individual for another nor
in subordinating another person to our own standards; rather, it always involves rising to

a higher universality that overcomes not only our own particularity but also that of the
other." (T and M, 305).
10. "For phronesis is a form of reasoning and knowledge that involves a distinctive mediation
between the universal and the particular'. (Bernstein, 276). Until this point we are able to
use Lyotard's theory as an analytic instrument, because phronesis does not fit in his theory.
11. See Gremmen, (1993).
12. 'The openness of what is in question consists in the fact that the ans wer is not settled. It
must still'be undetermined, awaiting a decisive answer." (T and M, 363).
13. "Only a person who has questions can have knowledge, but questions include the antitheses
of 'yes' and 'no', of being like this and being like that." (T and M, 365).
14. "For the dialectic of question and ans wer that we demonstrated makes understanding
appear as to be a reciprocal relationship of the same kind as conversation. [... ] ...
this kind of understanding, making the text speak, is not an arbitrary procedure that we
undertake on our own initiative but that, as a question, it is related to the answer that is
expected in the text. Anticipating an ans wer itself presupposes that the questioner is part
of the tradition and regards himself as addressed by it. This is the truth of the historically
effected consciousness. '" We described its realization as the fusion of the horizons of
understanding, which is what mediates between the text and its interpreter" (T and M,


Bernasconi, R., 1995, "You Don't Know What I'm Talking About": Alterity and the Hermeneu-
tical Ideal', in: The Speeter of Relativism, Truth, Dialogue and Phronesis in Philosophieal
Hermeneuties, Schmidt, L.K. (ed.), Evanston: Northwestern University Press, pp. 178-194.
Bernstein, R.J., 1985, 'From Hermeneutics to Praxis', in: Hermeneuties and Praxis, Hollinger,
R. (ed.), Notre Dame: University ofNotre Dame Press, pp. 272-296.
Eger, M., 1997, 'Achievements of the Hermeneutic-Phenomenological Approach to Natural
Science: A Comparison with Constructivist Sociology Man and World, 30: 343-367.
Gadamer, H-G., 1989, Truth and Method, 2nd revised edition, trans. J. Winsheimer and D.G.
MarshalI, New York: Continuum.
Gremmen, B., 1993, The Mystery ofthe Praetieal Use of Seientifie Knowledge, Eist: Betuwe
Lee, K.N., 1993, Compass and Gyroseope, Integrating Seienee and Politiesfor the Environ-
ment, Washington D.C.: Island Press.
Lyotard, J.F., 1988, The Differend, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Pinkard, T., 1995, 'Historicism, Social Practice, and Sustainability: Some Themes in Hegelian
Ethical Theory.' Neue Hefte fr Philosophie, 35.
World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987 Our Common Future, Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Man and World 30: 329-341, 1997. 329
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

A hermeneutics of the natural sciences? The debate updated

Department 0/ Philosophy, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA

Abstract. The initial obstacle to the development of a hermeneutics of the natural sciences has
been the inadequate translation, and thus misunderstanding, of the basic terms of Heidegger's
ontological analysis of the protopractical human situation and its progressive technicization.
Pragmatism's parallel analyses of the problem situation of scientists has promoted a more
idiomatically English vocabulary. But 1) Gadamer's exclusion of domains and disciplines
working with technical methods from his "universal" hermeneutics continues to be influential,
this in spite of the genesis of his project in Helmholtz 's insights into the process of scientific
discovery. 2) Markus thus depicts a distinctly different style of production, transmission,
and reception of the technological "texts" of natural science. 3) Rouse's 1987 extension of
pragmatic hermeneutics into the incipient politics of knowledge/power relations in laboratory
science presents the usual frightening prospects connected with laboratory experimentation
impacting on disciplinary social institutions. 4) Rouse's 1996 analysis of scientific practices in
local narrative situations eschews the banner of hermeneutics and instead proposes to examine
scientific-technological work by way of interdisciplinary "cultural studies," once the traditional
loci of hermeneutic methodology. 5) A hermeneutic phenomenology of the natural sciences
thus finds itself fundamentally challenged with respect to its rightful topics and roles in the
analysis of increasingly technicized disciplines and domains.

Some three decades ago, a "new wave" of philosophers of science plan ted the
seeds for displacing the positivistic image of science, regarded as a theoretical
structure of proofs and laws governing data, toward a more historical image of
science regarded as a research process in the concrete context of an inherited
ethos and setting of presuppositions, which provided meaning to all aspects
of science. Within this group, it was probably T.S. Kuhn's work that espe-
cially prompted continentally minded philosophers to propose the seemingly
monstrous hybrid of a hermeneutics of the natural sciences, a crossbreeding
and a crossing of the sacred divide between the two alien cultures of the
"hard" sciences and the "soft" humanities. Especially encouraging for bud-
ding hermeneutes was Kuhn's exemplary account of the steps leading to the
"Gestalt switch" between incommensurable paradigms, regarded as analo-
gous to the "threatening process" of translation between two languages. At
some point in the long and laborious process of familiarizing oneself with the
new and "alien" language world, one suddenly discovers that one has gone
native, finding oneself to be finally at horne in the new world shaped by the
language. The language is no longer foreign, "one is thinking and working
in, not simply translating out of" the new language. 1


One has, in Heidegger's terms, arrived at the deep hermeneutic familiarity

of "understanding the being" incorporated in the housing of that language;
one now dweIls in the "tacit dimension" (Polanyi) of one's chosen scientific
praxis, having incorporated its customs and habits, ways and mores; one now
makes all of one's scientific decisions out of this scientific ethos with its
particular practical understanding of being. Heidegger's first examples of the
hermeneutic 'as' -structure are tellingly drawn from the practical workworld
of the shoemaker or carpenter surrounded by an instrumental web of tools, raw
material, and half-finished products designed for particular users. One finds
oneself ensconced in a web of being or Alryoc; incamated in one's technical
and social relations, in one's very body. Heidegger identifies this network by
the uniquely German word, Bewandtnis, the mores, customs and usage on the
level of functional appliance, the very ethos of the workworld whose spatial-
temporal nexus was already then (in the 1920s) being infiltrated by the very
different ethos of the laboratory world, of Gestell, of the recompositioning
composite. But before we get too far into the most recent developments of
science and technology, it is important simply to note the protopracticallocus
of the hermeneutical relationship in the human being which the later Heideg-
ger is still identifying in the language of custom, usage, tradition as Brauch,
the necessitating usage ofthe human being by being itself. 2 The hermeneutic
relationship in the early Heidegger is simply the understanding oJbeing that
the human being in its Dasein is, the understanding familiarity that comes
from living bodily with others among things in the world. The early Heidegger
had more than one occasion to underscore that his experience of being was
empirical in Aristotle's sense of an E/1;7rEtpia made thick by memory: human
experience as Umgang, getting around the world by getting along with others
and getting by with things, is always at once a Sichauskennen, a knowing-how
to get around, get along, get by, and thus the empowerment of a can-do that
belongs to the proverbial "man of experience."
The seemingly mystical "understanding of being" is simply the know-how
and can-do that comes from living familiarly with others among things in
one or another cultural world, the one that now happens to be our own in its
full e-mailed internetted videoed computerized ways and mores, the habits of
the particular habitat transmitted to us historicaIly. The point behind Dasein's
identification with its understanding of being is simply that the hermeneu-
tic/interpretive habit lies at the core of being human. This habit or ethos is
primordially present in all of our protopractical engagements that define "the
way things are." This craft and skill that comes from living, this can-do and
know-how of getting around our particular historical world, is the one topic
of all ofHeidegger's philosophy, the core ofhis hermeneutic phenomenology.
Prom the start, it is understood as a hermeneutics oJfacticity (double genitive

"of"), for faetie life experienee is through and through hermeneutieal, the
eore of the very generation of the sense of human experienee. In the Greek
"ethieal" terms that hermeneutieal philosophers seek to revive, the eore of
living weIl, being fully human, being ontologieally "authentie," resides not in
the theoretieal virtues but in the praetieal virtues, the "art" (TEXVTJ) of doing
weIl in the workworld and the "taet" (</Jp6vTJatc:;) of aeting weIl in the polity.


The universality of hermeneuties propounded by Hans-Georg Gadamer clear-

ly takes its starting point from this Heideggerian ontologieal center of the
hermeneutie protopraxis of life, and not from the universalliteraey and leg-
ibility of our present advaneed literate eulture, as it is sometimes suggest-
ed, although this literary ethos clearly serves to sustain such a universal
hermeneuties. Culture and the eultivation of good taste that is the goal of
the eultural seiences (Geisteswissenschaften) nevertheless stands at the very
beginning of Gadamer's magnum opus, Truth and Method. 3 In partieular,
Gadamer takes from Heidegger the specifieally hermeneutie intentionality of
the human being's "thrown" belonging to the projeet of tradition, and eon-
centrates on how an understanding that is bound by and to tradition naturally
"happens" in its eontextualization of "truth" by way of that tradition, in the
basic humanistie experienees of art, his tory, and language. The taet and skill
of eultivating this happening of the truth of tradition for one's own time and
epoeh in the eonerete texts of the eultural human scienees is taken to be the
very antithesis to the ideal of method that has eome to eharaeterize the natural
Thus, Gadamer, despite his promulgation of the universality of hermeneu-
ties, has over the years steadfastly refused to admit the very possibility of a
hermeneutics ofthe natural seiences. Yet, the arehival work of Jean Grondin 4
has reeently revealed how pivotal the thoughts of the eultivated natural sci-
entist, Hermann von HeImholtz, were for the very ineeption and genesis of
Gadamer's titular thesis and book Truth and Method. In his famous 1862
address at the University of Heidelberg on "The Relationship of the Natural
Scienees to the Totality of Scienees,"s Helmholtz distinguishes the natural
and the human scienees in terms of two different types of induetion, logical
and artistie-instinetive induetion. The praetiee of induetion, the "eonneeting
of like with like" (HH 83) in the human sciences, supported by "a well-
stocked memory and the acceptance of authorities," (TM 5) is thus tied to the
psychological conditions of a kind of tact or </Jp6vTJa tc:;, an artistic feeling, an
unconscious instinct for the analogy proper to the unique situation, wh ich is
sometimes called "common sense," "a knack of everywhere discovering real


resemblance," "a delicately and fully trained insight into the springs of human
action" (HH 86) in order "to try and guess the intention of the legislator" or
"the meaning wh ich the author intended to express" (HH 85, 87) or suggest.
A eIoser reading of the natural scientist Helmholtz 's speech shows however
that the distinction is not as hard and fast as Gadamer depicts it: aesthetic
induction is quasi-Iogical, logical induction at its subtlest is quasi-aesthetic.
Students of "natural his tory" likewise at times require "an instinctive appre-
ciation of analogies and a certain artistic sense ... acting without any strictly
definable rule," as the artist-tumed-scientist Goethe exemplifies (HH 87f.).
Science has an affinity to art especially in its heuristic phases of scientific
discovery of "previously unimagined similarities," Helmholtz williater note,
in "a suddenly emerging insight that one cannot obtain through methodical
reftection" (HH 388, 401). This transgression of the sharp division between
the two types of science is precisely the opening for a hermeneutics extended
even to the natural sciences, amply illustrated in the contemporary laboratory
cultures of the more advanced physical sciences.


Despite Gadamer, in fact in part encouraged by Gadamer's not so universal

exeIusionary hermeneutics, despite the later Popper's hermeneutical "third
world" and the hermeneuticallogic of question and answer that its problem-
atic situations motivates, 6 despite Kisiel 's hermeneutics of scientific discovery
(since 1969)7 and Heelan 's "Hermeneutics of Experimental Science in the
Context of the Lifeworld" (since 1972),8 Gyorgy Markus could coneIude, in
an important artieIe in 1987, that "a hermeneutics of the natural sciences -
as an area of recognizably distinct cognitive interests - does not exist today"
(GM 5).9 "Bluntly put, the natural sciences, in practice, seem to be in no
need of a hermeneutics - they succeed quite weIl without it" (GM 8). Markus
then proceeds to illustrate this "statement of fact" by examining the different
form of "professional socialization" or ideological conditioning that takes
place in the natural sciences vis-a-vis its tradition of texts, as opposed to
that of the humanities, traditionally the proper locus of a hermeneutics. What
follows from Markus is accordingly a kind of extemal or "culturologist's"
hermeneutical analysis of the way in which natural scientists are acculturat-
ed to write their experimental reports with a depersonalized objectivity that
decontextualizes the situational contingencies oflocallab conditions and ren-
ders the indexicality of the author into the anonymity of a "n'importe qui."
In the formalized intentionality of the cultural Author-Text-Reader relation-
ship constituting the "literacy' of this cultural-hermeneutical analysis, the
intended reader is narrowed down to the expert professional working in the


same special research area as the detached author. 1diographic restriction to a

particular group of specialist readers is the only way to render the transmitted
text intelligible, since its "knowledge is fixed and accumulated in this field not
merely in the form of textual objectivations, but also through incorporation
into those laboratory activities which have the character of craft skills and can
only be leamed through example and controlled performances in the relevant
situations ... the very meaning of the sui generis 'observational' terms of
experimental natural science is undivorceably interconnected with this partic-
ular (usually instrumental) action-context and action-orientation. Regarding
this embeddedness of some of its basic concepts in the pragmatic contexts
of manipulative activities, the discourse of natural science is rather similar
to everyday discourse (with the important proviso that laboratory actions, in
opposition to everyday activities, are as a rule constructed as socially and
morally neutral, as eo ipso technical activities) .... [1]n view of the intimate-
intrinsic interconnection between practical situation, manipulative action, and
linguistic-conceptual articulation, [the discourse of natural science possesses ]
the character of a sui generis (even if 'derivative') language game . ...
As a result, an adequate understanding of natural scientific texts cannot
be leamedlacquired in an intercourse with these texts alone. To adequately
comprehend a research report - to understand wh at the experimenter has done
and why, whether therefore the experiment is at all, in principle, reliable, i.e.,
whether it can have any claim to be scientifically relevant - presupposes
an ability to translate the abstractly, formulaically indicated 'methods' into
concrete actions envisaged in the described laboratory situation, so that their
'fitness' to the problem concemed, etc., could be judged. Understanding,
therefore, presupposes some degree of shared craft skills and practical know-
how: a 'tacit' knowledge which is in fact present only among the members
of a restricted circle of specialists working in the same (or closely related)
area(s)." (GM 21f.)
I have cited this remarkable passage from Markus 's cultural hermeneutics
of scientific "literature" at length, because it clearly finds a place for the deep
practical hermeneutics of what it means to-be-scientific these days in the
Heideggerian sense, in terms suggestive of the hermeneutics of experimental
practice depicted by Patrick Heelan and Robert Crease: on the one hand,
the "ftesh" of instrumental usage corporeally mediating the shared corporeal
schema of a specialist group with the ftesh of the material world; on the
other, the translation of a scripted report into a skilled artistic performance
that phenomenally presents the material world in the ftesh (leibhaftig). But
in the natural sciences, such performances, no matter how specialized, still
must be repeatable in principle, in accord with a certain standardization,
even though the first to have made that performance may be rewarded for


his/her unique originality with the Nobel prize. Moreover, in view of the
rapid advances in knowledge motivated by the ever sought after innovation,
the traditions embodied in scientific terminology and instruments are subject
to an accelerated rate of obsolescence, such that the actually utilized tradition,
measured, say, in the duration of citations of significant scientific papers in
later reports, are quite short-lived and historically shallow, compared to the
depth and duration of the literary traditions of the humanities. This "historical
amnesia" especially of the experimental natural sciences is once again tied to
the fact that understanding of experimental reports must always translate the
formulated procedural rules into viable practical operations with well-defined
objects, by way of a degree of shared tacit know-how ever subject to change
and therefore replacement by entirely new technologies (GM 33f.). A cultural
hermeneutics of the natural sciences as they are now practised thus shows,
Markus concludes, that "a reflexive hermeneutical awareness [is] unnecessary
for the successful practice of the natural sciences" (GM 46). Going beyond
Markus, we educators might still ask: In an already crowded curriculum, is
there any pragmatic benefit in making our ambitious young natural scientists
aware of the implicit hermeneutics operative in their scientific practices?
In his rejoinder to Markus, Patrick Heelan \0 distinguishes between a "weak"
cultural hermeneutics of communication within scientific communities and a
"strong" ontological hermeneutics oflaboratory work, especially data produc-
tion and the transformation of theoreticallanguage into a descriptive language
of scientific phenomena constructive of their sense and reference on the level
of performative perception that causes laboratory phenomena to appear in
the world. Scientific entities like electrons and quarks appear in the ftesh of
the laboratory lifeworld as "ready-to-hands" and perceived phenomena, the
in-worldly laboratory invariants of which data are profiles, by way of the
experimental performance of local and historical scientific communities that
then theoretically "script" and "score" such appearances in their necessary
conditions of performance. Scientific phenomena are at once perceptual enti-
ties enfteshed in the world and cultural historical entities produced, presented,
and transmitted by scientific communities that are local, historical, economic,
moral, and political in character.

J oseph Rouse, in his 1987 book, Knowledge and Power, 11 takes it as a matter
of course that there is a hermeneutics ofthe natural sciences, out of whieh he
then wishes to develop the incipient power relationships that issue from scien-
tifie praetice in its loeal setting the laboratory world: ergo, "hermeneutics as
polities." What Rouse wants to emphasize, in the general trend of the previous

deeade to loeate the natural seienees within a universal hermeneuties (Rorty,
Dreyfus, Taylor, Bernstein, to name a few), is that this hermeneuties of the
natural seienees follows the Heideggerian muster of a practical hermeneu-
ties, and not the theoretical hermeneuties that Rorty sees developing out of
Quine's epistemologieal holism. What Rouse also wishes to resist is the ten-
deney among the above to reinstate the old Diltheyan distinetion by claiming
two very different styles of interpretative praetiee in the two scientifie eul-
tures, as Habermas allots the teehnical interest to the natural scienees and the
praetical interest to the human sciences. This second divorce of the human
and social seiences from the natural sciences serves to depoliticize the latter
and minimize the essential importance that the distribution of social roles still
plays in the power/knowledge relations that the natural scienees yield.
The picture ofthe systemic technico-social power relations emanating from
the made world of that new workworld that is the modem laboratory, especial-
ly in its extensions into modem "disciplinary institutions" like prisons, clinics,
schools, factories and army barracks (amply depicted by Michel Foucault), is
grim. T.S. Kuhn already speaks of the "neural reprogramming" that the sci-
entist must undergo in acquiring a new paradigm in its practices, capacities,
and equipment, and of the doctrinaire training imposed upon the apprentice
entering that discipline. Laboratory isolation and tight surveillance, the ongo-
ing accumulation of archival documentation that records, classifies, assigns,
and effectively utilizes the various "cases" within the eontrolled "population"
of data under scrutiny, the standardizing administration that distributively
corrects for deviation from and around established "norms," results as much
in the rehabilitation and habituation of the laborer as in the reworking of the
laboratory material of the "controlled experiment," large or smalI. The result
of such disciplinary constraints is as mueh the "on the job" disciplining of
the worker, the reeonstruetion of a body of habitual skills, as the produc-
tion of knowledge. The worker incorporates new skills, those required to
"extraet the information" recorded by and from the worked material, much
like a forced confession whose yield can only be understood and interpreted
("deciphered") within the confines of the power relationships that produced it.
This controlled regime of interpretation is, for the intelligibility and meaning
of its discourse, dependent first on the revelatory "eonfessions" (data in its
documented classifications) that both work and worker are forced to make.
But such revelations can only take place within the laboratory's standardized
procedures and, more generally, within its constructed and controlled network
of power relations. "The hermeneutic dimension of the production of signs is
thus to be found primarily in the [contexts of] practices that elicit and inter-
pret them rather than in [the expression of] the person or thing that produces
them" (1987, p. 225). The locus classicus of this "practical hermeneutics


of natural science" (169) is Heidegger's "henneneutics of practice" (58ff.),

while the second prong of Rouse 's program, "the political character of the
study ofnature" (169), sterns from Foucault's reading ofthis henneneutics in
tenns of its relations of knowledge/power, wh ich in turn reftects Heidegger's
ontological reading of the essence of technique as Ge-stell, a gathering of
disposable resources. In this framework, disciplinary fields of practice are but
one more resource among others, human and natural, to be reckoned into a
global equation of efficiency that would remake our everyday world into the
controlled environment of a single coordinated laboratory with its vast yet
finite fund ofresources, in which daylight and wildlife are as much resources
as "manpower" and "material."
But there is another side to this drab ethos of total manipulative usage por-
trayed in and as Ge-stell. By way of the organizational analogy of a theatrical
perfonnance, Robert Crease's depiction of this same laboratory situation,!2
following Heelan 's phenomenologicalleads, suggests a more creative ethos
enacted by our skilled experimentalists embodied in their laboratory usage,
who, through their artful perfonnance, 1) pro-duce phenomena not otherwise
accessible by their 2) reading of the technical "scripts" of instrumental signs in
such a way that scientific entities like electrons and waves are directly present-
ed and thus literarily 3) seen by the trained spectator. The technocrat as creator
is of course but the obverse role to that played by those being victimized by
technology, which in the end threatens to inc1ude the technocrats themselves.
Following Heidegger's lead that modern science and technology can never-
theless still restore itself as a "site of poetic art and creativity," Heelan hirnself
looks to a postmodern narration of science in tenns of its experimental perfor-
mances that would once again regard their ritual repetition as acelebration of
their exemplarity and creativity.13 But the same haunting question remains:
At what price is this creativity bought, to what disciplinary constraints (e.g,
isolation, surveillance, standardization) must researchers subject themselves
in order to liberate this art?


Rouse's 1996 book,Engaging Science, 14 continues the attempt "to understand

the practices of science philosophically," but with the notable deletion of the
titular heading ofhenneneutics, replacing it instead with the multidisciplinary
approach of "cultural studies." Nevertheless, the basic tenns of a pragmatic
hermeneutics 15 continue to focus and define the problem in need of under-
standing. Scientists understand wh at they are doing as a response to a problem
situation in a temporal context which can be retrospectively reconstructed in
a narrative configuration. Science, before it is theory, is in fact practices, the


practised responses to its interrogative situations. Viewing science as prac-

tices provides an alternative to the typical epistemological-representational
conception of science, such that theorizing is as much a practice as other
scientific work, and scientific research is a practice that remakes the world as
weIl as redescribes it. Practices moreover are first not the doings of agents,
but the meaningful situations themselves within which and from which such
doings get their significance and human beings are prompted to become
agents. Agents are thus situated historicaIly, geographicaIly, and culturaIly,
they emerge from the field of practices rather than constitute it, they are
defined by that local situation. Practices, as patterns of interaction with, as
weIl as upon, objects and as meaningful directedness to and within the world,
first belong to that meaningfully configured world, itself correlatively under-
stood as a relational complex, a configuration of possible ways to be, act, and
signify. Practices thus at once incorporate the objects they are enacted with
and upon, as weIl as the settings and the actions into which the agents are
drawn by way of response to the solicitations of the practical situation.
The historically unique narrative situation wh ich is practice and thus ethos
(custom, usage, a habitat's habit, "lifestyle"), this unique intentional whole
(Dasein!) of the world, is at once temporal. Practices are sustained by a
tradition of usage through repetition, continuous circulation, and extension,
maintain their currency and develop their creativity in an extended and pli-
able present, and are oriented toward a horizonal future through the constant
scientific aim of inventively trying the "inviting" untried and of disclosing
the beckoning unknown. Our practitioner is projectively narrating her own
prospective story, which the historian of science then retrospectively retells ex
post Jacto. Our budding scientist finds herself in a living tradition of practices,
and a successful appropriation of the his tory of her field, itself regarded as an
interpretive resource full of implications for further research, is important for
establishing the trajectory of current and future research practices. Conflicts
over the future course of research are at once conflicts over the past, under-
stood as a present perfect context and coherence out of which one already
finds oneself projected interpretively. The ultimate significance of both the
historical situation and the action to be taken lies in the direction that they take
toward potential ends. "Those ends are always projected retrospections, cast
in the future perfect sense, and open to revisions as the situation develops"
(Rouse 1996, p. 164). Scientific work is a kind of narrative enactment inas-
much as "one configures one 's historical situation precisely by drawing on it
as a resource for making sense of one's present activities, in a future perfect
projection of a course of events within which those activities would count
as significant" (172). Narrative context provides significance in the double
sense of intelligibility and importance, unifying coherence and direction, in


an ongoing struggle against seattering dispersion and trivializing pointless-

ness. The narrative is telling and relevant, it has import and implieations, it
matters, it has a point and makes sense. "Scientifie praetiees and aehieve-
ments [1] are intelligible if they have a place within the enaeted narratives
that eonstitute a developing field of knowledge, and [2] they are important to
the extent that they develop or transform these narratives" (170). Practices
change and develop over time, thereby changing their world, their agents and
their agencies. But such changes always occur in the local situations with-
in local histories of the discipline, and are not govemed and enforced by a
monolithic "narrative leviathan." There is no single grand narrative bestowing
a unity on Science writ large, there are only multiple ongoing narrative unifi-
cations of the scientific knowledges that enter into the field of practices, such
that the work and concems of tangential and even remote eultural disciplines
often become resources for opening new fields of research by reinterpretively
adapting the interdisciplinary borrowing to one's own research context. The
collective enterprise of science finds 1) its dynamic unity in this repeated
analogy between specific problem situations and the ereative networking of
interconnected practices cutting across traditional disciplinary bounds, and
2) its progress in the extension of their specific resolutions through ongoing
reinterpretation of new situations to ren der them amenable to the exten-
sion. Meaningfulness never comes from above in a grand narrative, nor is it
bestowed by individual comportment or social norms; it always emerges out
of the loeal situation articulated in its uniquely developing context, out of the
ongoing interaction with the material environment by agents interfacing with
one another.
The primacy of practice over theory, precedence of the situation over the
agents, insistence on the local and situated character of practices situating their
meaningfulness in the intentional context of a world, the generation of their
significance from their responsiveness to the solicitations of a temporally taut
situation, narrative temporality itself: without ever overtly conceding its dom-
inating guidance, Rouse (1996) has applied the fundaments of a hermeneutical
Daseinsanalytik, with the possible exclusion (or at least muting) of its tran-
scendental ambitions, in view of its American pragmatic setting in specifying
the topic ofhis new philosophy of science. This suspicion is only confirmed by
his upshot proposal to approach this topic through an interdisciplinary cluster
of "cultural studies" (Geisteswissenschaften!) with only a nominal modicum
of a unifying Geist. For cultural studies are commonly directed toward texts
and text-surrogates like dramatic and cinematic productions, rituals, gestures,
and practices that serve to generate and disseminate sense (231). Their topic
is the world as a setting for human action and understanding (232), their focus
is on the articulation and significance of meaning (245), more specifically, on


the field of practices that makes sense for real persons in the accounting of
their situated lives (247). A final betrayal of his deep hermeneutic proclivities
is Rouse's insistence, correcting like-minded philosophers of science who
have evolved in a similar direction,16 that scientific-technologieal practices
are through and through discursive, and that language is not representational
but is itself, in its "play" and "usage," pure discursive practice. But Rouse,
siding with the "disunifiers" of technologie al science, also resists the hege-
monie seductions of a universal hermeneutics by suggesting that the universal
literacy that underlies it encounters something unique, special, and extreme
in the cultivation of the habits of technological "literacy" that today social-
ize a physicist: an esoterie mathematieal competence, a highly specialized
manipulative skill of artifice with its concomitant sophisticated instrumenta-
tion, a highly discriminating focus that radically transforms our perception
(132) and, most recently, a "computer literacy." It is this peculiar transforma-
tion of ourselves and our world that develop into those peculiar networks of
overpowering empowerment that Heidegger identifies by the artificial word
Ge-stell, to expose them as constellations of artifices. Gadamer's hesitation
in tying hermeneuties to technology bears further pondering, indeed by the
very disciplines that he himself espouses, the "cultural studies."


In arecent survey of developments in the philosophy of science of the last

twenty years, "New Philosophies of Science in North America," Rouse 17
himself traces the development of the promise of postpositivist philosophy
of science beyond its initial coupling of "his tory and philosophy of science,"
through a phase dominated by a "social constructivism" of laboratory science,
to his more comprehensive proposal of an interdisciplinary cultural studies
of science, as a redirection that would open the borders of the philosophy of
science to new and different issues, like those of gender studies and politics.
Cultural studies is proposed as a critical alternative to the social constructivist
tradition, and more basically as a "disunifying" new pluralistic attitude toward
scientific practices. These would still promote the his tory and sociology of
the sciences (internal and external), e.g., the now well-known studies of the
ethnography and cultural anthropology of the laboratory (Latour and Wool-
gar, Knorr-Cetina), but would add other disciplines that study the sciences
like cognitive science, feminist theory, microeconomies, literary criticism,
and a Foucauldian history of ideas. All methodologies that bear on scientific
practice are presumably welcome, from the formal and analytical to the psy-
choanalytical, structuralist, and phenomenologieal (Don Ihde's Instrumen-
tal Realism receives positive comment for its "existential-phenomenologieal


account" of the interaction between perception and praxis). This would in

alllikelihood also include the henneneutic approach to the sciences, e.g., by
way of "literary criticism." After all, "cultural studies" at one time in certain
circles translated into the "Geisteswissenschaften," which were understood as
the loei classici ofhenneneutic methodology. Yet, as Rouse himselfnotes, the
concrete work during these two decades by the most vociferous spokesper-
son for a henneneutics of the natural sciences, Patrick Heelan, in particular
his "provocative argument" for a "horizonal realism" oflaboratory-generated
entities like electrons and quarks, "has nevertheless not substantially inftu-
enced subsequent discussion." Why? Is this fruitlessness a sufficient ground
for giving up on the project of a henneneutics of the natural sciences?
At least among mainline phenomenologists and in the context of arecent
history of phenomenology, it might be added, Heelan is encyclopedical-
ly acknowledged along with Joseph Kockelmans for their work toward a
"henneneutic phenomenology ofthe natural sciences.,,18 This in fact may be
a ray of hope, if, as Rouse himself observes (1995, p. 174), it is the case
that collections like encyclopedias are put together for the sake of some sub-
sequent use, and therefore store and retain only those results that are still
"important for the ongoing practices" of the field. Hope remains that this
brief chapter in the history of phenomenology is not merely interludic and
will be of more than merely "antiquarian" interest, concretely inspiring at
least a positively "critical," if not a "monumental," interest.

l. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure oi Scientific Revolutions (The University of Chicago
Press, 2nd enlarged edition, 1970), p. 204. For an on-the-spot account of the "hermeneu-
tic situation" in the philosophy of science in that heady and tumultuous time of initial
transformation in the sixties and seventies - along with Kuhn, names like Feyerabend,
Hanson, Polanyi, and Toulmin constituted the first wave - see Theodore Kisiel, "Bericht:
New Philosophies of Science in the USA: A Selective Survey," Zeitschrift fiir allgemeine
Wissenschaftstheorie 5 (1974), pp. 138-19l.
2. Even the most appropriate and telling translations of its most basic terms, let alone a proper
understanding of the fundamentals of Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology, in order
to allow its full potential for application to the philosophy of science to come to fruition,
remains a desideratum among practitioners of the hermeneutics of the natural sciences. For
the line of translation being followed here, see my various contributions to The Encyclo-
pedia oi Philosophy Supplement, Donald M. Borchert, Editor in Chief (New York Simon
& Schuster Macmillan, 1996), especially "Hermeneutic Phenomenology," "Historicity,"
"Ontology and Fundamental Ontology," "Temporality and Time," and "World."
3. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, Second Revised Edition, translations revised by
Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (New York: Continuum, 1994). Hereafter TM.
4. Jean Grondin, "Zur Komposition von 'Wahrheit und Methode'," Dilthey-lahrbuch 8
(1992-93): pp. 57-74, esp. p. 62f.
5. Hermann von HeImholtz, Science and Culture: Popular and Philosophical Essays, edited
and with an Introduction by David Cahan (The University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp.


76--95. Hereafter HH. The revival of the work of Helmholtz for hermeneutically minded
philosophers of science has been promoted especially by Reinhard Schulz (Oldenburg),
in aseries of papers presented at the recent conferences of the International Society for
Hermeneuties and Science.
6. Kar! Popper, Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach (London: Oxford UP,
1972), esp. in Chapter 4, "On the Theory of the Objective Mind." James Farr, "Popper's
Hermeneuties," Philosophy ofthe Social Sciences 13 (1983): pp. 157-176, with Comments
by several parties pp. 177-201, including Karl Otto-Apel, pp. 183-193. Although this
discussion is directed toward a hermeneutics of the social sciences, it is replete with hints
of application to situations of discovery in the natural sciences.
7. The occasion was a paper delivered at the annual meeting of the Society for Phenomenolo-
gy and Existential Philosophy at Northwestern University (Evanston) on October 24, 1969.
It has been published in two languages: Theodore Kisiel, "Scientific Discovery: Logieal,
Psychologieal, or Hermeneutical?" Explorations in Phenomenology, edited by David Carr
and Edward Casey (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1973), pp. 217-234; "Zu einer Hermeneutik natur-
wissenschaftlicher Entdeckung" Zeitschrift fr allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 2 (1971):
195-221. The axial parameters of a "Daseinsanalytieal" approach to scientific discovery
are outlined and exemplified especially in Theodore Kisiel, "The Rationality of Scientific
Discovery," Theodore F. Geraets (ed,), Rationality Today/Rationalite Aujourd' hui (Ottawa:
University of Ottawa Press, 1979), pp. 40 1-411.
8. This was the title ofPatriek Heelan's paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society
for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy at Duquesne University (Pittsburgh) on
October 25, 1972. A synopsis of this paper, my commentary, and Heelan's reply are to be
found in Zeitschrift fr allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 5 (1974): pp. 123-137. See also
my review of Heelan's book Space-Perception and the Philosophy of Science (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1983), in Man and World 18 (1985): pp. 347-351.
9. Gyorgy Markus, "Why is There No Hermeneuties ofNatural Sciences? Some Preliminary
Theses," Science in Context 1,1 (1987): pp. 5-51. HereafterGM.
10. Patrick Heelan, "Yes! There is a Hermeneutics ofNatural Science: A Rejoinderto Markus,"
Science in Context 3, 2 (1989): pp. 477-488.
11. Joseph Rouse, Knowledge and Power: Toward a Political Philosophy of Science (Itha-
ca/London: Cornell UP, 1987).
12. Robert P. Crease, The Play of Nature: Experimentation as Performance (Bloomington:
Indiana UP, 1993).
13. Patriek A. Heelan, "The New Relevance of Experiment: A Postmodern Problem," Lee
Hardy and Lester Embree (editors), Phenomenology of Natural Science (Dordrechtl
Boston! London: Kluwer, 1992), pp. 197-213. See my review of this collection of confer-
ence papers in lsis 84, 1 (1993): pp. 189-190.
14. Joseph Rouse, Engaging Seience: How to Understand its Practices Philosophically. (Itha-
ca: Cornell UP, 1996).
15. The fusion of Ameriean pragmatism with continental hermeneutics that Rouse follows
is best characterized in the following works: Hubert Dreyfus, "Holism and Hermeneu-
ties," Review of Metaphysics 34 (1980): pp. 3-23; Mark Okrent, Heidegger' s Pragmatism
(Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988).
16. Andrew Piekering The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Seience (The University of
Chieago Press, 1995).
17. Joseph Rouse, "Bericht: New Philosophies of Science in North America - Twenty Years
Later A Selective Survey," Zeitschrift fr allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 27, no. 2 (1997),
18. Jitendra N. Mohanty, "Phenomenology," The Encyclopedia ofPhilosophy Supplement, op.
eit., pp. 399-401. See Joseph J. Kockelmans,ldeas for a Hermeneutic Phenomenology of
the Natural Seiences (DordrechtiBoston!London: Kluwer, 1993).

Man and World 30: 343-367, 1997. 343
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Achievements of the hermeneutic-phenomenological approach to

natural science
A comparison with constructivist sociology

The City University ofNew York, College ofStaten [sland, Staten [sland, NY 10314, USA

Abstract. The henneneutic-phenomenological approach to the natural sciences has a special

interest in the interpretive phases of these sciences and in the circumstances, cognitive and
social, that lead to divergent as weIl as convergent interpretations. It tries to ascertain the role
of the henneneutic circle in research; and to this end it has developed, over the past three
decades or so, a number of adaptations of henneneutic and phenomenological concepts to
processes of experimentation and theory-making. The purpose of the present essay is to show
how appropriate these concepts are to an important current research program (solar neutrinos)
and thus to point out what difference they make to our understanding of science as a whole.
This goal is pursued by means of comparison. The program of social constructivism in natural
science has produced alternative but parallel concepts, embodied in an alternative and parallel
vocabulary. The contrast between this vocabulary and that ofhenneneutics and phenomenology
reveals, so I argue, the advantages of the latter. But actually it does more: It reveals as weIl the
"pre-understanding" or "prejudgment" of science embedded in each approach.

Introduction and background

In the past, as we know, most continental philosophers denied that hermeneu-

ties has any place at all in natural science. I For many of them, it actually served
as a demarcation criterion between the social and natural realms. I, on the oth-
er hand, am convinced that even though the hermeneutic-phenomenological
approach to the understanding of the study of nature is still young, it has
already made important contributions - achievements, if you will - though
it is true that these achievements have not yet had the influence they should
To discuss some of the achievements by comparing them with certain
riyal formulations is, therefore, my first goal here. The second is to indieate
why, nevertheless, they have not yet had the desired impact, and to suggest
along the way what might be done about that. I have chosen to argue by
way of comparison because, as in science itself, no approach is ideal or
comprehensive; we are always obliged to piek out the best, or the best part,
of "what's available." Yet in doing so, in making explicit comparisons, we


gain not only confidence in our decision, but greater clarity about what each
of "the available" really offers, what the field is like. And this, of course, is
of value whatever the outcome.
When I say "rival formulations," I will not mean here the various analytic,
objectivist or positivistic philosophies of science. The difference between
these and hermeneutics is well-enough known within groups like the one at
this conference. Rather, I have in mind a certain segment of the sociology and
sociologically-oriented history of science that ftourishes now and includes
such writers as Harry Collins, Trevor Pinch, Steve Shapin, Simon Schaffer,
Karin Knorr Cetina, David BIoor, Steve Woolgar and Bruno Latour. For
brevity, I will call this group "the constructivists."
The contrast between hermeneutics and this type of sociological work is
rarely mentioned - because, in fact, the two share some common ground,
borrow from each other, and are often perceived as moving in the same
direction. Yet, as I want to show, there are important differences that should
not be played down, even in the interest of presenting a united front against
objectivism and scientism. 2
The common ground is the critique that both hermeneutic philosophy and
constructivist sociology direct against several key features of the dominant
analytic view of science: at the small role ascribed to interpretation, at the
way objectivity is portrayed, and at the claim to universality. Clearly, all these
are affected by the extent to wh ich the scientist engages in construction. Both
the hermeneuticists and the sociologists are convinced that construction plays
a larger role than analytic philosophy of science allows. Yet the spirit of these
two critiques, their import, and many of the specific criticisms differ in a way
that is of real significance to various groups of people inside and outside the
academic world.
To see the difference fully, we would have to take up one at a time at least
the three features I mentioned - interpretation, objectivity, universality - and
exhibit side by side the hermeneutic and the constructivist approach to each.
This I would certainly like to do, and it remains my long-term plan. But the
subject is vast. Every one of these features alone can take up a wh oIe talk or
paper; so today I confine myself to the first - the matter of interpretation.
When we ask what kinds of interpretation there are, or what stages of science
call for interpretation, one crude scheme I like to use, that has emerged from
previous discussions, is this:


Stage 0: Interpreting the received heritage or tradition of a science as a whole:

a. reading the "book of science."
b. practising routine procedures of science.
Stage 1: Interpreting at the level of the research experiment:
a. interpreting data.
b. interpreting phenomena in terms of high level theory.
(Or, interpreting theory by "performing" it experimentally.)
Stage 2: Interpreting high-level theories in alternative ways.

The numbering (starting with 0) is something I have taken over from Antho-
ny Giddens and Jurgen Habermas, from their discussions of the "double
hermeneutic." Having in mind recent work in the history of science, Giddens
and Habermas do not deny even to physics a certain hermeneutic aspect. But
they allow for natural science only one stage at wh ich interpretation plays a
serious role - stage 1. By contrast, in the human sciences, there is in their view
a prior stage - stage 0 - where the investigator must first come to understand
the language of the people being studied, just to get access to the data of
stage 1. 3
In opposition to this, a number of people, myself inc1uded, have argued
that in the natural sciences, as in the human, interpretation occurs at several
stages. Despite the fact that the objects of natural science - stars and atoms
- do not speak, there is here too a prior problem of "language learning," and
often a further problem at a much higher level that I have called "stage 2."4
Be that as it may, there is little doubt that it is stage 1 that has been receiving
most of the attention, that it is here that the greatest concessions have been
made, like those by Habermas, and rightly so. For it is here that science
becomes "a 'reading' of the 'book of nature,' requiring circular interpretations
between theory and observation and also theory and theory, and also requiring
a 'dialogue' about the meaning of theoretical language within the scientific
community.,,5 It is this stage, therefore, that will concern us today.

Interpretation and "negotiation"

Perhaps the most important achievement of hermeneutic thinking has been to

call attention to the role of interpretation precisely at this stage, the stage of
"observation." Here we always knew it existed but, until recently, since we
thought it unproblematic, it had gone largely undiscussed. Yet, arriving at a
conc1usion as to what the experiment shows - or, to use Robert Crease's ter-
minology, recognizing the phenomenon - is, as nearly everyone now admits,
far from straightforward. 6


Awareness ofthis has been growing at least since the 1950's when Polanyi's
writings started coming out. It reached a watershed with Kuhn? Since then
more and more explicitly hermeneutic and phenomenological treatments have
made their appearance, inc1uding of course by several contributors at this
conference, as weIl as by others such as Mary Hesse (1980), Marjorie Grene
(1986), and Joseph Rouse (1987).8
At this point, however, concurrent with the rise ofhermeneutic thinking, and
inftuenced by it no doubt, enter the new breed of sociologists and anthropol-
ogists of science - the ones I've mentioned - with their ever-more-detailed
studies and with conc1usions ever more shocking to the uninitiated. They
pounce upon the problematic aspect of experiment like detectives who think
they see a smoking gun right under the suspect's bed. They treat it as the great
expose of our times.
Collins, for example, teIls us that "truth, rationality, success and progress
are not found to be the driving forces of science"9 because, he says, "it is not
the regularity of the world that imposes itself on the senses but the regularity
of our institutionalized beliefs that forces itself on the world."10 Or, as Latour
puts it, "a stable interpretation ... of microbes is provided by bacteriology
... exactly like ... a stable state of society is produced by the multifarious
administrative sciences .... No more no less" (Latour 1987, p. 256).
I will not multiply these quotations, which everyone has read by now.
My goal is to focus on the key mechanism used by these constructivists to
portray the way science works in cases of disagreement, how the problematics
of experiment and the relations of theory to experiment are handled. This
mechanism they call - "negotiation."
I was surprised to read in a review of the field by the sociologist Joseph
Ben David that he found this word - "negotiation" - fitting to the situations to
which it was applied despite the fact that he criticized its use severely. (Ben
David 1981, p. 45; pp. 48-51). Just how fitting it is we will examine in a
moment, but first I want to explain why it interests me enough, why I think it
is important enough, to take up a good part of this talk.
Let us begin by noting that although this word derives from hermeneutics,
as 1 will show, it is not apart of the hermeneutical vocabulary with which
we are familiar. That this is so is perfectly understandable in view of the fact
that phenomenology and hermeneutics have several other well-known terms
which, in application to natural science, denote the same activities as does
"negotiation" but say something entirely different.
It is in fact these terms that 1 would describe as fitting in their adaptations
to natural science, and it is these adaptations, already developed in some
depth, that 1 would count among the truly impressive achievements of the
hermeneutic-phenomenological approach. Yet it is "negotiation" that has car-


ried the day, that pervades the literature and can be heard in STS departments
from coast to coast in America and Britain. 11 Why this is so is in itself an
interesting sociological question, but one I will not pursue here.
What I do want to pursue is the contrast between the way in which the word
"negotiation" is used and the meanings of its hermeneutic counterparts when
applied to the same situations. This will lead us to several related concepts
that we can also compare in the same way: the "experimenter's regress," the
"black box," and the "un-doing" or "deconstruction" of science. My aim is to
exhibit the cumulative effect of this new vocabulary that - sometimes in the
name ofhermeneutics - embodies a substantially different philosophy and a
substantially different stance in relation to seience.
The power of the word "negotiation" in our context sterns from the fact that,
in the Western world at least, it has a fairly well-defined meaning; it does not
signify any sort of a discussion that people may have. What it requires, first
of all, is parties with opposing interests, such as one finds in the political and
economic arenas. When such parties attempt to reach agreement by trading
on their interests, by giving up something here to gain something there, each
party trying to maximize its own advantage, frequently at the expense of the
other - this we all recognize as negotiation, and something like this always
comes to mind whenever the word is used.
But what does this word denote when used by the constructivist sociologists
of science?
Just about anything, it seems - from what was once routinely called critical
discussion to the sort ofbargaining I have just described. At the same time, all
negotiation is characterized as "funnelling in" social interests, turning them
into nonseientific negotiating tactics, using them to "manufacture certified
know1edge," and finally "rendering them invisible" by "laundering" (Collins
1985, pp. 143-144). One effect of this terminology is that it assimilates very
different kinds of activity under the same rubric and labels them all "soeial."
For example, in one of the many stories Latour teIls, when EImer Sperry,
early in this century, needed money to develop his idea of the gyroscopic
compass, he started negotiations with the Navy to fund the project; he con-
vinced them that out of it would emerge the instrument they were looking for
to replace the magnetic compass on iron ships (Latour 1987, p. 112).
We nod our heads - that's seientists negotiating all right. But when physi-
eists critieized Joseph Weber's experiment to detect gravity waves and con-
vinced hirn to adopt their standard of antenna calibration - that too, according
to Collins, was "negotiation." In fact, it was badly conducted negotiation on
Weber's part; in his own interest he should have stuck to his guns and refused
to accept his critics' ideas (Collins, 1985, p 103).


"Negotiations" over calibration come up again in the story - told by Shapin

and Schaffer - of conflicting results obtained by different experimenters
working with the vacuum in the 17th century. This is a major theme of the
highly-regarded and much-cited book Leviathan and the Air Pump, chock-
full of impressive scholarship, but tendentious, trying to convince us that in
the argument over experimental method - the argument between Boyle and
Hobbes - it was in the end Hobbes who was right: Experiment proves nothing
because it is always possible to negotiate your way around any result (Shapin
and Schaffer 1985, pp. 226, 282, 344).
However, the most revealing such story that I have recently come across,
and the most worthy of scrutiny, is that of the search for solar neutrinos,
recounted in the popular book by Collins and Pinch, The Golem. 12 In this
case, it will be worthwhile to go over a few of the scientific ideas, before we
consider it philosophically.

A contemporary example - solar neutrinos

A crucial part of stellar evolution theory is the set of nuclear reactions believed
to be going on in the cores of stars, some of which result in the production of
neutrinos - the massless or nearly massless particles whose weak interactions
with matter make them extremely hard to detect. Since the 1960's, a major
effort has been building to try to measure the flux of neutrinos from the sun,
using large underground containers of various fluids in which a fraction of
the neutrinos heading our way should be trapped and detectable.
The original motivating idea was that if the predicted nu mb er of neutrinos
is found, then, in effect, we would be "looking into" the core of the sun,
verifying that the supposed synthesis of heavier elements from lighter ones is
really taking place and that the evolution of stars and elements proceeds just
the way we theorize. However, for over a quarter century now, the number of
neutrinos found is considerably lower than that predicted, and, moreover, the
results from the different experimental groups do not cohere properly.
Starting at the beginning, Collins and Pinch tell a dramatic tale of how
Ray Davis of the Brookhaven Laboratory devoted his career to building
the first detector - a giant tank of chlorine, deep in the Homestake gold
mine; how a young theorist, lohn Bahcall, started calculating the expected
neutrino flux; then, how Bahcall negotiated with Maurice Goldhaber, Director
of Brookhaven, to convince hirn that the experiment was worth doing, and
how - somehow - he got the prediction of the neutrino flux to be high
enough to convince funding agencies to provide the money; how depressed
Bahcall became after the first disappointing results were in; how he started
fiddling with his models, negotiating downward the predicted figure for the

neutrino flux so as to meet the low flux detected by Davis; how another
theorist, Icko Iben, who didn't believe the new figures, applied pressure to
Bahcall in his own negotiations with hirn, getting Bahcall to switch sides
"dramatically" and declare that areal discrepancy does after all exist between
theory and experiment; how other physicists criticized Davis' procedure but
succeeded by negotiation to get hirn to perform highly-demanding tests of
his equipment; how new and more-sensitive detectors are now beginning to
produce data - though, as might be expected, these too are in disagreement.
And how, nevertheless, despite this lack of success, Bahcall "managed to
... make a career out of solar neutrinos" by stressing the importance of the
problem, thus landing a prestigious professorship at the Institute of Advanced
Study in Princeton. In the very last sentence of this chapter, ending the story,
the authors tell us how the problem is being resolved: "Negotiations are in
What is the upshot of all these detailed narratives? By the time the reader
has wended his way through the 15th or 16th such example he may weIl be
ready to conclude, as so many have done, that negotiations about the very
substance of science, about wh at is to count as fact and be accepted as such
by the public, are, as Latour and Woolgar say, "no more or less disorderly
than any argument between lawyers or politicians" (1979, p. 237).
In short, science is polities. The effect of the term "negotiation" is to
habituate us to this understanding as the only alternative to objectivism in
science and to scientism in the culture.
In a section they caB "Science Unmade", Collins and Pinch describe how, in
trying to ac count for the neutrino discrepancy, theorists were willing to throw
overboard the most secure and trusted elements of the theoretical edifice:
Energy conservation, stellar evolution, models of the interior structure of the
sun, even the famous reactions of nucleosynthesis, supposedly the source of
our energy, aB seemed up for grabs in the negotiations - science un-made.
The idea is to show that since scientists con-structed aB these things in the
first place, they can de-struct them if they so choose.
But is it true (in the simple "life-world" sense ofthat word) that were we to
enter a lab or attend a conference on solar neutrinos, what we would see taking
place is the un-making of science - a re-negotiation of laws and principles of
physics as lawyers and politicians might do it? It happens that, recently, I was
present at one of these "negotiation sessions," so I can bring you personal
witness of it - and some reflections on how fitting these vocabularies are to
"science-in-the-making," as it is now called.
In March oflast year, Comell University held acelebration to mark the 60th
anniversary of its most distinguished scientist's - Hans Bethe's - association
with that campus. As might be expected, the proceedings included scientific


talks by physicists working on topics in which Bethe has been involved. Since
it was Bethe who proposed the particular nuclear reactions that produce the
neutrinos for which the search is now going on, it was no surprise that solar
neutrinos were on the agenda and that leaders such as John Bahcall (the same
Bahcall whose "career" manoeuvres Collins and Pinch described) were on
hand to give the latest thinking on that. Physics Today called it a "Bethe Fest."
WeIl, what went on? How did the negotiations proceed?
One of the most interesting talks, I thought, was by Bethe himself, eighty-
eight years old at that time and still at it. His was a general review of the solar
neutrino situation to date.
As he talked - slowly but very clearly - putting on the screen various
graphical depictions of the match and mismatch of theories, models, and
data ftowing in from Japan, Italy, Russia; and as the questions and discussion
continued throughout the meeting, wh at came to my mind was a passage from
Bob Crease's recent book, The Play ofNature:

an interpretive process, which we can understand thanks to Heidegger's

conception of the hermeneutic circle . . . a making explicit of what I
understand, a developing, deepening, and enriching one's involvements
and expectations - so that the eventual moment of confidence occurs in the
form of recognition of the presence of something that is already familiar
(Crease 1993, p. 150).

Something like this is wh at I would say was going on at the Bethe Fest, and
wh at has been going on with this whole project for over a quarter of a century.
But let me try to be a !ittle more specific.
One reason that hermeneutic accounts fit better is because their conceptual
repertoire is richer. They avoid, for example, the ftat-footed conftation of the
production process involved in an experiment with the performance of the
experiment. Again, I am alluding to Crease 's book, in which this distinction
is treated at length, separate chapters being devoted to production and to
performance. A complex experiment, like a theatrical performance, does
require the marshalling of resources and of talent. This is its production
aspect. Here, negotiation of the usual sort takes place - as everyone has
always known. But performance - the experimental procedure and its results
- is something else. 14
When Bahcall tried to get Goldhaber to allow Davis to proceed with the
experiment, this might weIl have been negotiation of some sort, but it dealt
with the production of the experiment (see Bahcall 1996b). When Davis
accepted suggestions from others on how to check his neutrino-detection
procedure - this had to do with performance. To place the two in the same


category, in order to show linkage between production and perfonnance, is

to mix up second order interactions with first order distinctions.
Regrettably, what the public is getting in such ac counts as the Golem's
neutrino chapter is nothing more than a story of experiment contradicting
theory and of scientists trying to negotiate their way around that fact. (The
book won a prize!) 1t is to be regretted because the real story is much rieher
and more interesting than that, and no more difficult to tell to non-scientists
than the one Collins and Pinch have told. Moreover, it is a story that becomes
more understandable when regarded with an eye for its truly henneneutic
That we are not getting the expected number of neutrinos - Collins and
Pinch's main plot line - is, in any case, no longer the real story. That was
the story twenty years ago. But during those twenty years scientists have
been circling, enriching their involvements and expectations, as Crease says,
shifting the subjectJobject cut, as Heelan says, to inc1ude more and better
instruments on the subject side - until today the issues are wonderfully
different from what they were at the start. 15
The ups hot is that science has been getting more and c1earer profiles of the
phenomenon it is trying to bring to presence, and in the process something
unexpected seems to be occurring: A new phenomenon, not the one sought at
the start, is beginning to make its presence felt. 16 To explain this, let me use
achart showing a simplified version of the phenomenon originally sought-
the presumed reactions in the core of the sun (Fig. 1). Essentially, the whole
process is the fusion of hydrogen into heavier elements, ending in helium.
Most 'of the reactions are left outpf this picture so as to focus on the on es
we can actually "see," the ones inVolving neutrinos. All the other partic1es
produced are in various ways trapped inside the sun, but to neutrinos the sun
is nearly transparent.
Now, I have used the word "see" deliberately; and it certainly is a fair
question to ask just what it can possibly mean to say that we are "seeing" into
the core of a star. 17
1t is one of the achievements of henneneutie phenomenology to have
addressed this question and offered an interesting answer - in the embod-
iment theory that Heelan has introduced and 1hde has elaborated. According
to this theory, we can "see" or otherwise "perceive" phenomena by means of
instruments, once these instruments - in effect - become part of the subject
and fonn an extension of his perceptual organs. The "seeing" here occurs
in a way analogous to that of seeing asolid object in space: From any one
position, we see only one profile. But when we change the viewing angle and
perceive an invariant fonn as the source of the various profiles thus obtained,
the solid itself comes to presence. The analogy depends on our decision to


Nuclear Reactions in the Sun's Core

H + H ~ d + e+ + Ve

_______ .01%
Be7 ________________ ~

Be7 + H ~ B 8 +

High energy

Figure 1. Synthesis of hydrogen ending in helium, showing reactions in which electron-

neutrinos, V e , are produced. H is the hydrogen nucleus, the proton; d is the deuteron (proton
and neutron bound; e- is the electron; e+ is the positron. Be is the beryllium nucleus; B is the
boron nucleus.

regard perfected scientific instruments as artificial sense organs of an ex-

tended subject; and to regard different instrumental arrangements oriented to
the same phenomenon as, in effect, different viewing positions. 18
Constructivist sociology has developed a parallel concept to embodiment
- the "black box" - with an entirely different connotation. A black box is
a standardized measuring device, a commodity, "a piece of fumiture" to
be borrowed or bought. 19 Both the black box and the extended body can
be used without attention to their functioning, as an eye or an ear is used.
Both yield "inscriptions" that are read. But while the theory of "the body"
implies that "perception" is direct, that readings are accepted when taken as
responses of the object of study (an epistemic reason), in the case of the black
box acceptance is achieved by extortion, essentially, based on the expense
resistance would require (a sociological reason). The power of black boxes to
coerce assent is proportional to the cost of challenging their testimony, which
is proportional to the costs of comparable boxes in the hands of challengers
(Latour and Woolgar 1979, p. 242).
The difference between the two concepts could hardly be sharper: One gives
us a picture of a subject accreting, as it were, new perceptual organs that open
up new realms of being. The other points to scientific careerists with ample
funds, acquiring or "enrolling" as many black boxes as they can, to present
as formidable a defense as possible against challengers and competitors.

In the solar neutrino research, the large detectors are as yet neither black
boxes nor embodiment, since they are still far from unproblematic. We do not
yet "see" the nuclear reactions in the core with confidence. But the process of
embodiment ("black-boxing," in the other language) is certainly under way.
Looking with our present equipment at the total neutrino flux, we get
less of it than predicted, and that was the original puzzle. But note that,
according to the theory, neutrinos are expected from three different branches
of the phenomenon, and in each branch their energy distributions should be
different. U sing this presumption, detectors have been designed to be sensitive
to neutrinos coming from the different branches. In effect, we have today
several viewpoints, yielding several different profiles of the phenomenon.
And now a totally unexpected thing has emerged. You recall that, according
to Collins and Pinch, in order to account for the neutrino deficit, physicists
were busy "un-making" science, negotiating to sacrifice crucial parts of the
theory, like our models of the sun.
However, from the viewpoint I am taking, what they were really doing
is quite different. They were "playing" (Crease 1993). They were circling
hermeneutically. They were changing something in one or another part of
the theory to see how that would affect predictions ("what-if" games familiar
to every business student). They were trying new equipment. They were
simulating different evolutionary scenarios on computer, feeling their way
about, making explicit what they understood. And out of this "play" emerged
the so-called "beryllium/boron anomaly" - which is what the story today is
about, and was the sort ofthing discussed at the Hethe Fest (Raghavan 1995;
Bahcall 1996).
The beryllium/boron anomaly refers to a comparison of the number of
neutrinos coming out of the beryllium branch (Fig. 1, middle) with those
from the boron branch (right end). It turns out that regardless of solar models
and nuc1ear reaction rates, the experimental results show a big deficit in the
beryllium we "see," as compared to the boron we "see." But the beryllium is
a component in the synthesis of the boron. How can it be missing if the boron
is seen?20
This is the really meaningful outcome of all the playing with theory - not the
"un-making of science" but the realization that the problem goes deeper than
had been suspected, that it is largely independent of models of the structure of
the sun but strikes at the nature of the phenomenon itself. If this phenomenon
(the reactions) is real, and if ourunderstanding of our situation is correct, then
regardless of anything else, the phenomenon itself does not have the expected
shape, and no amount of "negotiation" with models will change that.
Where then do we stand in this research now, and how does the hermeneutic-
phenomenological approach help us understand it?


Theodore Kisiel, who has paid dose attention to the discovery process,
has a fitting description for this kind of situation: "a transitional experience
[which] transposes us from a disintegrated context and directs us toward
another integration" (Kisiel 1973, p. 406). What it means here is that we stand
possibly at the threshold of the emergence of an entirely new phenomenon
with enormous significance.
This is so because there appears to be only one promising way now to
understand the beryllium/boron anomaly and related problems. It has to do
with the fact that there exist other kinds of neutrinos than the one for which we
have been searching, the electron-neutrino expected from the sun. According
to the standard theory, all neutrinos are supposed to have zero mass; but if
actually neutrinos do have a small mass, then quantum mechanics teils us that
a fraction of the electron neutrinos would convert to the other kinds ("flavors")
while en route to Earth. Since our detectors "see" only the electron neutrinos,
we should then see fewer of them - as in fact happens.
Needless to say, part of the "what-if" games is to calculate what we should
see if neutrinos have various masses and therefore convert at various rates.
This has been done, and it shows that the deficits, ineluding the berylli-
um/boron ratio, could be accounted for if some of the neutrinos have a mass
of about 3 milli-electron-volts. If they do have mass, however, there would
be a fundamental change in partiele physics, and possibly in cosmology too,
since the mass-carrying neutrinos might account for some of the missing mass
of the universe - another puzzle, that at first had nothing to do with this whole

The hermeneutic circle and other vocabularies

Notice the truly hermeneutic feature here: We start with the sun 's core as
our object, while neutrinos are to be the medium carrying the information.
We rely on our pre-understanding of these particles and of our apparatus (our
embodiment) and of the entire background of practices that goes along with all
that. But in the course of interpretation, we find that this pre-understanding
fails, and the neutrinos become part of the objeet under investigation. To
understand the sun 's eore we must understand neutrinos; but to understand
the neutrinos, we must (so it seems) understand the sun's eore - we must
know the flux of eleetron-neutrinos eoming out of there to know whether any
of them are eonverting while en route. We are in "the cirele."
Now at this point, a elarifieation is in order. Several formulations of the
term "hermeneutie eirele" are known, so it is important to indicate the sense
in whieh 1 use that eoneept here. We have, first of all, the elassie notion
of the "eirele of understanding" as the baek-and-forth movement of thought


from apart of the object of investigation to the whole, in which each new
understanding of the latter modifies the understanding of the former, and vice
versa. An enlargement of scope leads to the more dialogical and ontological
version I associate with H-G Gadamer: Here the circling is between aglobaI
pre-understanding of the subject's own world and the response of the object
- again with the latter modifying the former and vice versa. 22
In Heelan's adaptation to natural science, this mutual inftuence results in
a movement of the boundary separating the object from the subject. The
movement is away from the subject when progress has the result that more
and more of the object is incorporated into the apparatus of the subject,
becoming "transparent" and, in effect, part of the subject's sensory system.
The movement is toward the subject when troublesome responses from the
object cause the gaze of the experimenter to veer closer to horne - to "question
his senses," as it were.
Thus, at first, our pre-understanding of our equipment and of the sun - the
ftux of neutrinos from it, their energies - led not only to the construction
of a "sensing" apparatus but to its integration into the routine practice of
the experimenters - a movement of the boundary away from the scientist in
whose mind the idea of such an experiment first arose. Later, the low response
from the sun forced the objectivation of the chlorine tank and the neutrinos,
in a move back toward the scientist (Fig. 2, top diagram).23
Today, what we have is not just a dichotomy but a trichotomy - sub-
ject/mediumJobject (lower diagram). The old circle between the sun and the
detector still involves us; but in addition there is another one between the sun
and the neutrinos. As the neutrinos become suspect, the second cut moves
back and forth; the neutrinos are understood sometimes as medium, some-
times object (Fig. 2, lower diagram).
Note, please, that this at least partially answers the objection of some
philosophers that the circles now finally acknowledged in natural science
are only "theoretical" or "methodological" but not "practical" or "ontologi-
cal," and therefore not truly hermeneutic. 24 The argument is that the circling
between hypothesis, experiment, modified hypothesis, and so on, involves
changes in the scientists' theory of the object without changing their "prac-
tical" engagement in the world, their understanding of being. In Heidegger's
terms, such circling involves only the vorgriff, maybe the vorsicht, but not
the vorhabe - the tacit knowledge of background that comes with being a
particular kind of human in a particular place. 25
This criticism loses much of its force when applied to the formulation 1 have
been discussing because here interpretation is understood more universally:
It includes not only the classic idea of the methodological circle, but the
post-Heideggerian ontological concept as weIl. Here not only models but


, ,, . .... - -- CUT

-, ,

,'Tank of Sun's \
et al. '.Chlorine Core
.. ,
" ,
--, , .. .. ,

.-... ,
, ,
, ,, . . -~ ----::::.
,.. , , ,
, ,,
Scientists ', Tank of ~ Neutrinos Sun's , I

\ Liquid .. Core
-- --...,. ,--

,, ..
, ,
-,. ,-----_

Figure 2. A schematization ofthe subjectJobject cuts and their associated hermeneutic circJes.
The cut can move from the position of the solid line to that of the dashed line, and vice versa.

performances are affected. Changes take place not just in the structure of
theories but in scientists' embodiment and in their total problem situation.
The circ1e that cannot be diagrammed is the one involving the scientists'
understanding of this whole world - of equipment, of problems, and of
practice - in which Fig. 2 is contained. 26 Ultimately, this larger circ1e touches
also the long-term change in our self-understanding as humans, a change
that results from high-level evolutionary and cosmological theories whose
development is affected by research such as that on solar neutrinos.
There is more to be said about these circ1es, but let me emphasize at this
point how important it is now that stories like the one about solar neutrinos
be told with a sensitivity to the genuinely hermeneutic features they inc1ude,
rather than in a way that shoe-horns events into a far-fetched, ill-fitting mold
borrowed from politics. 27 The conceptual enrichment in the approach to sci-
ence that hermeneutics has already achieved makes possible such alternative
stories. That it is the social constructivists who are doing most of the story-
telling today, rather than hermeneutic writers, is a circumstance that perhaps
some of us may want to do something about.
Not that the constructivists avoid altogether these hermeneutic features, but
they describe them differently, using their own vocabulary, and conveying
therefore an entirely different meaning. Thus, for a certain kind of circ1e,
dear to his heart, Collins has coined his own term - "the experimenter's


regress." It is fonnulated usually as an interdependence between the object of

an experiment and the adequacy of the equipment. To obtain the right outcome
conceming the object, we must have properly functioning equipment. But if,
as Collins and Pinch say, there is no independent check on the equipment in
an experiment such as this, then, in practice, only the right outcome gives
confidence in the equipment. But we don't know what the right outcome is
... and so ad infinitum - the experimenter's regress (Collins 1985, p. 84).
No doubt, Collins is aware of the large literature on the henneneutic circle.
Why then has he invented this new name, one that suggests a bottomless pit,
epistemically speaking - a defeat? Actually, Collins is right. The name he
chose is fitting indeed for the view he holds of what he is describing, since
for hirn the circling is vicious in the classic sense and therefore certainly a
defeat. It is the hidden secret of science. According to Collins, progress can
only be made when the circle is broken; and the circle can only be broken
when nonscientific tactics - "antics" he sometimes calls them - enter the
negotiations and restrict interpretation in some way (Collins 1985, pp. 103,
106, 143).
Henneneutic thinkers, on the other hand, believe that circling is precisely
what has to take place. It is the means to understanding, because rarely are
our preconceptions corroborated in every respect. It is not escape from the
circle by restriction of dialogue that brings about closure, but a continuing
effort (more of the same!), sometimes for decades, that shrinks the circle and
stabilizes the boundary between subject and object. The aim, in a situation
like this, is for theory and experiment to validate each other simultaneously.
Since, in the case of the neutrinos, they don 't validate each other yet, the
people working on it have to keep on circling from nuclear physics to solar
models to neutrino theory - to see if they can make the circle shrink; or find
a new entrance into it; or reach some new standpoint from which the whole
circle looks radically different.
For henneneutically-oriented scholars, it is hardly surprising that, in circles
like these, even the most stable interpretations may be challenged, possibly
altered. Such scholars see no "un-making" here but precisely the dialogue
between scientists and their tradition, their his tory. With Gadamer, they say
that taking one's tradition seriously is not the same as slavery to tradition.
To take it seriously is precisely to come to grips with it. One entertains the
thought that the solar models are wrong in some respect, but not lightly. One
raises the possibility that neutrinos may be converting to different kinds, but
this leads to a whole new series of difficult, very large scale experiments on
terrestrial neutrinos - a veering of the dialogue in a new direction that might
actually break some circles to some extent by providing the independent
checks whose possibility Collins denies. 28


But even if one day theory and experiment do converge, even if some circles
are broken, we will not have escaped all hermeneutic circularity - as scientists
or as human beings. Thery and experiment are science 's way of interpreting
the world, but they always are interpretations carried out from the inside. The
chance that the whole web of theory and experiment is wrong may diminish
but it is never zero. The largest circle is never broken. Closure, or temporary
closure, comes when we have a workable interpretation that rests on stable
invariants under variation of both instrumental and theoretical standpoints. If
this is not God's truth, neither is it a bargain struck by politicians in the back
room. 29
I would say that the interaction between current science and its tradition
should certainly be one of the great themes of a hermeneutic approach to
science. Where some sociologists, with a smile and a wink, point to scientists
un-making the past, engaging in something suspicious, something contrary
to our understanding of how it is all supposed to work, there hermeneutics
recognizes one of the truly familiar features of the enterprise of seeking
Ooes it make a difference? Ooes it make a difference whether we call it "sci-
ence unmade" or "dialogue with tradition"? Whether we say "hermeneutic
circ1e" or "the experimenter's regress"? Whether we use the words "nego-
tiation" or "interpretation," "black box" or "embodiment"? 00 particular
expressions count that much?
Yes, I think so. Because a whole understanding of what science is about
and how it works is carried by these words, as we see; and their constant
use, their repetition, like repetition in commercials, has its reinforcing effect
on the public and on all of us. I think the vocabulary of hermeneutics it is
more fitting, more capable of doing justice to what goes on, even in natural
science. For those who doubt it, let it be juxtaposed to competing vocabularies
and tested against the things at issue - die sachen selbst - like solar-neutrino
research. This is one of the things, it seems to me, that should be done more
vigorously than in the past.

An unscientific genealogical postscript

As a final point, and because questions of origin are often enlightening, let
me return now to that key word "negotiation" that has led us to this whole
issue of fitting and unfitting languages. And 1et me ask just how and when did
this particular word find its way into the sociological descriptions of science
- to displace what most scientists, most philosophers, and even the average
person would be inclined to call "interpretation." How did this come about? I
confess that I did not do a rigorous historical search, and I don 't know whether

what I am about to discuss is really the first instance of the use of this word
in our context. But, at any rate, it claims to be that; it is itself an interesting
and revealing case; and it does come early in the history of the constructivist
sociology of science.
In the 1976 book by David Bloor, Knowledge and Social Imagery (a revered
and ancient work by now), the author teIls us at the beginning of Chapter Seven
that he wishes at this time to introduce "an entirely new process, which I shall
call 'negotiation' "(p. 133).
The issue he is dealing with is the role of informal thought in logic and
mathematics. In this connection, following John Stuart Mill, he denies that
the syllogism is an entirely deductive process, because the relation between
general principles and the cases that fall under them is not inferential but
interpretive. At this point, he offers the following quotation from Mill: "This is
a question, as the Germans express it, of hermeneutics." So, Bloor concludes,
the informal really has primacy because in this space, between the general
and the particular, the informal may always "seek to criticize, evade, outwit or
circumvent formal principles ... (and] this negotiation is wh at Mill referred
to as an interpretive or hermeneutic process" (p. 133).
We see, first of all, that the word "negotiation" is here quite openly substi-
tuted for wh at Mill and the Germans called interpretation and hermeneutics.
It is just an outright replacement, without any argument as to whether or to
wh at extent the two concepts actually overlap. In place of argument, Bloor
gives us examples, histories.
I would not ordinarily want to go into these examples, but it happens that
the main one was already discussed by this group at the Holland meeting last
year, when Olga Kiss gave her paper, and this circumstance affords us yet
another revealing comparison. The example is the nineteenth century debate
over Euler's theorem, as dramatized by Imre Lakatos (Fig. 3).
The theorem is a simple relation between the number of vertices, sides and
faces of a polyhedron; and for the ordinary sorts of polyhedra it can be proven.
The trouble started when mathematicians began to think up the uncommon
types (lower part of the diagram) for which the theorem does not hold. For
each new counter-example to the proof, the validity of the theorem would be
preserved by limiting its scope, by amending the definition of "polyhedron"
to exclude the troublemaker. And that is mostly what the debate was about
(Lakatos 1976).
From this, Bloor concludes: "The meaning ofthe term 'polyhedron' was in
need of decision .... It had to be created or negotiated." There are two points
now to be made regarding this use of the history of Euler's theorem.
First, I want to pinpoint how the idea of negotiation enters descriptions
of mathematics and natural science: Examples are found of something that


For polyhedra (solids such as shown below), the number of
vertices (V), the number of edges (E), and the number of faces (F)
obey the following formula: V-E+F=2



Figure 3. Euler's Theorem conceming polyhedra. The solids in the lower part of the diagram
do not obey the formula.

could be called negotiation, such as arguments over the appropriateness of

definitions (which usually are conventional without prejudice to results); or
dealings about the production of experiments, which of course involves money
and careers. These examples are then generalized to all of science, without
discussion as to whether or when such generalization is warranted. 30
Second, I would like to call attention to the difference between the way
David BIoor and Olga Kiss treat this very same piece of historical writing by
Lakatos. In BIoor's story, the prominent part is the thrust and counterthrust of
conjecture and refutation, the battle of wits. Just to give reasons for a claim
is, as he says, to "open up a front along which they may be attacked" (Bloor
1991, p. 148). And this indeed is the picture drawn by most of the sociologists
to whom I refer. As Leotard put it, science is agon, and the strategy of science
is "agonistics,,31
Here, it seems to me, is the deeper significance of the term "negotiation."
1t is not just that science involves competition wh ich often gets hot, but that
conftict - between interests and individual antagonists - is of the essence
of science. For only where such conftict exists is negotiation really needed.
Criticism of the Popperian sort does not necessarily make for conftict. But
if it is true that "nature is mute," then science is an affair between scientists
only, and in that case, negotiating skills are indeed of the essence.
Olga Kiss, on the other hand, takes up this Eulerian example for alto-
gether different reasons - the title of her paper was "Hermeneutic Roads to
Commensurability" (1995).


In her treatment what comes to the fore is not battle but dialogue - dialogue
between mathematicians engaged in interpretation of a received piece of
mathematics; dialogue in their encounter with their tradition; dialogue arising
from the need to make explicit the tacit pre-understandings that cause trouble.
What in Bloor's story was the lunge and parry of a duel appears in hers as an
extension of horizons, first in one direction, then in another.
Therefore, Kiss never uses words such as "negotiation." From her, we get an
essentially Gadamerian interpretation of the same Lakatosian text. In Bloor's
story, human will dominates logic and ideas. In that of Kiss, as in Gadamer's,
knowledge and understanding do not arise at the conc1usion of some agon,
a prize won in a war with fellow scientists. Rather, it is the outcome of a
dialogue or play in which die sache selbst - not the players - is dominant; and
to which the players, scientists or mathematicians, "give themselves." Here
then is a c1ear demarcation between two visions of science. 32
The difference between these visions is of considerable importance today,
an importance that transcends academic debate because the constructivist
vision has already had a considerable impact on campuses and is beginning
to have one on journalism, on science administration, and on the public at
large. The issue here is not, as some scholars have (unfortunately) written,
whether science is to be funded at higher or lower levels. Much more than
funding is at stake: At least since Husserl, it has been c1ear that science is a
central feature in the character not only of Western culture but of a culture
that is rapidly becoming global. If we seriously misunderstand this feature
of our character, with an its relations to other important features, then we
misunderstand ourselves in a way that could prove grievous.
Certainly, the constructivists deserve credit for their detailed investigations
(when these are carried out with due care) , for highlighting the interpre-
tive aspect of the natural sciences, for showing herrneneutic circ1es in these
sciences even if under some other name, for engaging in a much-needed crit-
icism of historical insensitivity in textbooks and popularizations; and also for
attempting something very difficult, which could yet turn out better than now
seems likely - a more general critique of science from the outside. Yet, while
acknowledging all this, and indeed learning from it, we should point out those
features in the constructivist literature that are fundamentally different from
the herrneneutic and are a misrepresentation of science. We should point out
as weIl that these two failings have something to do with each other.
If, in other words, we make greater efforts to show that a genuinely
herrneneutic approach leads to better understanding of the same kinds of
historical examples constructivists treat in an engaging but often misleading
way, then this approach may yet gain wider appeal as a corrective to present
trends - one that retains the critical attitude, but is essentially serious.


In order to retain the more direct and personal style of this talk, as given at the conference,
I have refrained from converting its phraseology to that of a "paper." However, since it was
originally given to a group of scholars fairly familiar with each other's work, I thought it
advisableJor a larger readership, to supplement the original with more extensive explanatory
notes.I also wish to thankJohn Bahcall, Harry Collins and Trevor Pinchfor reading an earlier
draft ofthis paper and offering their critical comments.

I. See, for example, Gyorgy Marcus (1987). Forreplies to Marcus see Hee\an (1989) and Eger
(1993). Of the major theorists, H-G Gadamer is reputed to confine hermeneutics strictly
to the Geisteswissenschaften. Were this so, however, it would contradict his basic thesis of
the universality of hermeneutics. Actually, he can be interpreted both ways, especially in
view of his belated recognition (prompted by Thomas Kuhn) that "there is something Iike
a hermeneutical problematic in the natural sciences too" (Gadamer 1985, p. 179). Apel's
position also contains ambiguities: On the one hand, he counterposes hermeneutics to
"scientistics" and considers them complementary; on the other, he describes hermeneutics
as a "precondition" for science (Apel 1972, pp. 28-29; 1988, pp. 330-332). That the
"precondition" is often an overt process within science itself is something he seems to
deny, though that is arguable.
2. The term "objectivism" will be used here always in the sense of Husserl (1970, Sect. 14)
and as generally understood in phenomenological philosophy, and is not to be confused
with the ordinary use ofthe word "objectivity" in science. The phenomenological approach
to natural science seeks to understand and to articulate more explicitly the nature and the
varieties of "objectivity" in each science, as, for example in Hee\an (1967).
3. Habermas (1984, p. 110), Giddens (1976, p. 158).
4. Eger (l993a, pp. 305ff, 317ff), Follesdal (1993). At the 1993 conference in Veszprem,
Hungary (proceedings forthcoming), I argued that the literature of a scientific field consti-
tutes a chapter in what might be called the "book of science" (as distinguished from the
"book of nature"), and that it must be studied to gain access to the conceptuallanguage of
that field. That this is not the same as studying the language used by the objects of study,
as in anthropology, is c1ear. But in both situations, at the stage of language acquisition,
interpretation is needed; and in this sense the two are comparable. Regarding stage 2
- interpretations such as those of quantum mechanics - my point is that they are more
frequent in science than is generally realized by anyone except the historians, that they
often have direct cultural significance, and that they deserve more attention.
5. Arbib and Hesse 1986, p. 181.
6. Crease's formulation builds on Heelan's analogy between a scientific phenomenon and a
perceptual object (see note 18). In this view, an experimenter "perceives" a profile of the
phenomenon by means of apparatus, and "recognizes" that phenomenon as an invariance
(under transformation of standpoints or perspectives, in the Husserlian sense) which struc-
tures still other "profiles" (Crease 1993, ch. 6). Thus also, the word "phenomenon" will
be used here not in the Kantian sense but as an extension to natural science of its Husser-
Iian meaning, as in Crease's book. Heelan, however, sometimes calls it the "experimental
object" (Heelan, 1989a).
7. Polanyi (1958; 1969; 1975), Kuhn (1970).
8. The contributors to whom I refer are Kockelmans (1968; 1985; 1993), Kisiel (1973; 1980;
1983), Hee\an (1977; 1983; 1989; 1991), Ihde (1977; 1979; 1991), Crease (1993).
9. Collins (1985, p. 185).
10. Collins, ibid., p. 148.
11. STS stands for the numerous "Science and Technology Studies" centers on such campuses
as Comell, Stanford, Wesleyan, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and
to such British "Science Studies Units" as those at Bath and the University of Edinburgh.
For typical descriptions of "negotiation" in natural science see Latour and Woolgar (1979,


pp. 134, 156-57), Collins (1985, pp. 143ff), Shapin and Schaffer (1985, pp. 226ff), Rouse
(1987, pp. 125-126).
12. Collins and Pinch (1993). The chapter on solar neutrinos is based on an earlier, more
extensive study of this subject by Pinch (1986).
13. Collins and Pinch (1993, p. 139). The emphasis on careerism as a driving force of science
is a distinctive mark of the writings of the constructivists and is part of the meaning
of "negotiation." How far such bias can go is shown by the following "speculations":
"Although we should be wary of simple-minded models of scientists as rational calculators
who always try to promote what is in their best career interests, we can nevertheless
speculate as to what rationale Bahcall might have had for his dramatic change of position"
on whether experiment agreed with theory (Collins and Pinch 1993, pp. 133-134). On
the one hand, we are told, there was the "pressure" of theorists like Iben, whose findings
made Bahcall's position "tenuous"; on the other hand, the famous Richard Feynman
"advised the young Bahcall that ... if there was a contradiction this made the result more
rather than less important." No mention here of any new evidence, no scientific reason
is given for the change of mind. However, in his own earlier work on this, in a section
entitled "Bahcall Changes His Mind," Pinch had given two technical reasons - changes
in numerical values of the solar opacity and in the cross-section for the reaction Be 7 + H
-+ B8 + neutrino (two key parameters in solar models). This raised the predicted neutrino
capture rate considerably, and made it much higher then the increasingly more accurate
and lower results of Davis (Pinch 1986, pp. 144-146). In the earlier work, after reporting
this scientific evidence, Pinch rejected it as insufficient for the change of mind, and offered
instead his own careerist explanation. But in The Golem, the reader is not even allowed to
know that this evidence was in the picture. In addition, "rationality" undergoes a significant
change ofmeaning: No longer is it possible for areader to disregard Pinch's interpretation
and to see in this history an example of rationality in the classic sense - an inference from
evidence to a scientific conclusion. Now a scientist is described as "rational," if at all,
only in the instrumental sense of using reason in the service of career - with scientific
conclusions falling out as they may. In a comprehensive review of The Golem, David
Mermin called this type of bias the "sustaining myth" of constructivist sociology (Mermin
1996). See also note 31.
14. The analogy with art, especially performing art , is a major feature of contemporary
hermeneutics of science. It is the theme of Crease's (1993), based on Heelan's (1988,
p.522; 1989, pp. 302-303). My (l993a, pp. 314-323) pI aces somewhat more emphasis
on theory than does Heelan, and is based on Gadamer's and Ingarden's phenomenologies
of art (Gadamer 1975, First Part, II; Ingarden 1989). In all these treatments the concept of
interpretive "performance" is crucial.
15. The shift ofthe subjectlobject cut in physics, for example, takes place, according to Heelan,
in analogy with what happens when an archaeologist learns to read an ancient text: At
first, before the language is deciphered, the archaeologist makes the words themselves the
objects of attention; later, he or she sees through the words, as the meaning becomes the
object. Here the subjectlobject cut has shifted from a position between the archaeologist
and the words to a position between the words and the meaning (Heelan 1977, p. 12; 1983
pp. 201-207). Michael Polanyi said something very similar when he made his distinction
between "focai" and "subsidiary" awareness (Polanyi 1958, pp. 87-95; Polanyi and Prosch
1975, pp. 33-35).
16. Refer to note 6 regarding my use here of the word "phenomenon."
17. In one of the earliest technical papers on the subject, Bahcall used the phrase "only
neutrinos ... can enable us to see into the interior oj astar" (Bahcall 1964, p. 300, his
18. Heelan (1977, pp. 31-35; 1983, pp. 197-213), Ihde (1977; 1991, pp. 97ff). The idea of
embodiment is close1y related to that of the "shift" of the subjectlobject cut (note 15) and
to Polanyi's "indwelling" (Polanyi 1958, pp. 58-63; 1969, p. 148). Note that not every
use of an instrument can be subsumed under the idea of embodiment; only that which has


become unproblematic, allowing a "seeing" of the object so weil controlled and reliable
that the analogy makes sense. Dudley Shapere, an analytic rather than a hermeneutic
philosopher, asking the same question about this issue of "seeing" into the sun, reaches a
similar conclusion: If by using telescopes and counting photons we observe the exterior
of stars, then using other instruments and counting neutrinos we can "observe" their cores
(Shapere (1984, ch. 16).
19. Latour and Woolgar (1979, n. 13 on p. 150), Latour (1987, pp. 2, 131).
20. Bahcall (1996) describes, in addition, a third problem resulting from experiments using
gallium instead of chlorine, which further deepens the mystery of the missing beryllium
21. Conversions or "oscillations" of one neutrino "fiavor" to another are discussed in Wolfen-
stein and Beier (1989). A mass of 3 milli-electron-volts would actually be too sm all to
have a significant effect on the cosmic mass; but, in general, the problem of neutrino mass
relates this solar research to cosmology. For the latest on independent attempts to measure
the neutrino mass, see Glanz (1996).
22. Gadamer (1975, pp. 235-238, p. 261). Heidegger (1962, sect. 32).
23. See note 15.
24. Dreyfus (1985, pp. 228-235). See also Rouse (1987, pp. 5(}-68).
25. Fore-having, fore-sight, and fore-conception are part of what Gadamer calls the fore-
structure of understanding (Gadamer 1975, pp. 235ff; Heidegger 1962, p. 191). See also
Dreyfus (1985, pp. 233-234).
26. Perhaps the earliest effort to call attention to the scientist's imbeddedness in the problem
situation was that of Kisiel (1973, 1979). A later effort to adapt to laboratory research the
Heideggerian concept of "circumspection" has been carried out by Rouse (1987, ch. 4).
The point here is to show that the background tacit knowledge of scientists is not just their
"scientific world-picture" but also their professionallife-world understanding of their own
situation in relation to equipment, the state of the art, their financial means, the work of
others, etc.
27. See note 13.
28. The new generation of very large detectors may lead to one of several "smoking gun"
indications of something happening to the neutrinos en route, such as a distortion of the
shape of the neutrino energy spectrum (Bahcall 1996 and personal communication). But
I am specifically referring to planned experiments like the one in which a neutrino beam
emanating from Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, will cut through a slice of the curving Earth,
emerging 460 miles away at a large detector in an iron mine in Duluth Minnesota. The aim
will be to see what fraction of this known beam 's neutrinos convert during that long trip.
Collins would object here: But how will you know whether the results of this experiment
are right? Reply to Collins: If the results do not cohere with the solar experiments, we will
indeed still be in the dark; but if they do, then - closure. Because then, an even larger set
of experiments and theories will all validate each other simuItaneously like the last pieces
in a jig-saw puzzle.
29. However, a most interesting discussion of the possibility of shrinking ("closing") the large
circle between knowledge of the natural world and the nature of the knowing subject
(ontology and epistemology) is given by Abner Shimony (1993).
30. One example of "negotiation" regarding performance is given by the philosopher Ronald
Giere (1988, p. 14). Two experimenters argue over a slight malfunction of the instrument
(a cyclotron at Indiana University) because it is not clear whether the trouble will affect
the results. Is it better to correct the malfunction, playing it safe at the price of time lost, or
to take more data at the risk of it all proving useless in the end? But this is not negotiation.
There is no trading on interests here. Both scientists have the same interest - to acquire
reliable data. They differ in judgment on which path is more likely to lead to that goal
and their arguments are wholly scientific. Giere's other "negotiations" (p. 274) are of the
usual sort - over whose paper is to be published first, who should have privileged use of
a facility, etc. That any of this might have infiuence over the final scientific resuIt is, in


effect, repudiated by Giere, though by discussing it he seems to be "paying his respects"

to a powerful school of thought.
31. Agon (the joust) is Lyotard's metaphor for the language game scientists "play against one
another" while nature stands by "mute" (Lyotard 1984, pp. 10, 17, 57). This view has been
enthusiastically adopted by Latour and Woolgar (1979, p. 237), by Collins and Yearley
(1992, p. 382), and by others. Latour's view of scientists as "entrepreneur-generals ...
waging war" has been criticized, for example, by Amsterdamska (1990). See Fujimura
(1992, pp. 170-171).
32. A well-conducted dialogue, in Gadamer's view, is like a game in wh ich the players forget
themselves and allow the thing at issue to "take over" so that the players are in fact "played."
The players here are not the subjects, contemplating the object of their conversation; rather,
the object "reaches presentation" through the dialogue of the players (Gadamer 1975, pp.
91-92, 345ff, 341ff). Similarly, Kisiel (1979, p. 406) describes the dialogue between a
scientist and the problem situation as one in which "the situation 'asks.' " In view of the
point made by Evelyn Fox Keller, about Barbara McClintock's non-dominating way of
doing biology (Keller 1983, pp. 117-125), and of the protracted discussions of alleged
"dominating" attitudes among the founders of Western science (Keller 1985), it is worth
noting that "giving oneself" in Gadamer's sense is a totally genderless concept. Gadamer
has such examples in mind as men playing soccer or chess, men and women acting in a
theatrical performance, and so on. It is in this sense that I use the expression here.


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Man and World 30: 369-381, 1997. 369
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Thingly hermeneuticslfechnoconstructions

Department 0/ Philosophy, SUNY at Stony Brook, New York, NY 11794, USA

Abstract. Within the Euro-American community of philosophers relating henneneutics to

science there is a considerable disagreement about where henneneutics may be located. The
older traditions hold that henneneutics apply to and are limited to the social, cultural, and
historical dimensions of science. But newer approaches claim that henneneutics applies to
the very praxis of science and to the constitution of scientific objects. This paper sides with
the latter perspective and argues that a tendency to retain vestigial positivist interpretations
of science keeps the older tradition from seeing henneneutics as deeply embedded in science
praxis. After arguing this point historically, I turn to a henneneutic recuperation of science, first
by drawing from the henneneutic approach of Joseph Rouse, and then by the "henneneutic"
constructionism ofBruno Latour. I finally turn to what I tenn "technoconstruction" in science,
particularly in imaging processes, to show concrete cases of the henneneutic preparation of
scientific objects. I conclude that contemporary science has exceeded its earlier modemist
framework and now operates in a constructionist-henneneutic framework.

Ever since this society began its conferences, there has been an obvious
tension between what may be called a more conservative and tradition al
understanding of what can count as hermeneutics and a more radical and
possibly postmodernist direction in understanding the role of hermeneutics.
The program I am going to outline follows that second trajectory and is a drive
towards what might be called a "hermeneutics of things", even more narrowly
and specifically, a "hermeneutics of scientific objects." It is a pro gram wh ich
sees on the one side a deeply embedded preunderstanding of science with
respect to hermeneutics which shows what can count as hermeneutics, and
on the other side a new look at science praxis, which when wedded to the
technological constructionism of what I call instrumental realism yields a
deep hermeneutic epistemology for contemporary science at its very core.

The HermeneuticJPositivist binary

The interpretive problem arises - I have come to realize - precisely because

there is a now deeply entrenched interplay between the Positivist traditions
and what I shall call Classical Hermeneutics. I shall call this interplay the HIP
binary. In the most radically foreshortened way I can describe, this binary
begins to take shape with the earliest forms of positivism taken as quasi-


canonical with respect to interpreting science. The first moment goes back as
least as far as August Comte. Borrowing a 'three-age' scheme from earlier
religious sources (such as Vico), Comte argues that science arises once the Age
of Religion and the Age of Metaphysics is overcome and becomes the Age of
(positive) Science. As suggested, three age scenarios were not new, but within
each version of these there is hidden a rather obvious normative pattern - the
latest (the present) is the higher and displacing context wh ich simultaneously
devarues the previous ages. But, at the same time, a third aspect is such that in
the devaluation, 'religion' and 'metaphysics' are sharply differentiated from
science. Science is set aside as special and differentiated from other human
The second Positivist moment, only heightened and taken in a more logico-
linguistic direction with the Vienna Circle, is the moment which takes Com-
tean positive science, already separated off from religion and metaphysics,
and gives it the hypothetical-deductive spin which makes a certain mode
of explanation its privileged form of rationality. Now science is not only
autonomous (and presumed superior in rationality), but becomes a conceptual-
logical 'machine' for the generation of theory.
Now, as I have suggested, hermeneutics is the other pole of the HIP binary.
But in its history it is also the reactive pole of the binary. Expanding, to be
sure, from its own theological-religious past, hermeneutics in its Late Modern
form (l9th and 20th centuries, first with Schleiermacher and then Dilthey)
expands a notion of interpretation from sacred texts into a general theory of
interpretation - although retaining in aB its forms a certain implicit textu-
ality. In its Diltheyan moment, (a) the sciences are simply ceded their own
autonomous region. Science proceeds by explanation (presumably in some
form of nomological or hypothetical-deductive mode), and its object-field is,
in effect, the whole of nature or of natural objects which become 'scientific
objects' within the new domain. (b) The human sciences are then differentiat-
ed from the natural sciences both by domain (the human, historical, cultural)
and by method (interpretive or hermeneutical), and proceed by understand-
ing. This double ceding of object-field and methodology presumably makes
for a counter-part autonomous domain for hermeneutics in social phenomena.
What I am trying to show here is that Classical Hermeneutics holds, not
simply to the division between natural and human sciences, but to the HIP
binary wh ich, I contend, makes Classical Hermeneutics blind to the deeper
hermeneutic elements which can be found within natural science praxis. It is
the entirety of the HIP binary which must be deconstructed.
This deconstruction of the HIP binary is not exactly new - it begins with
the attacks upon Positivism in the philosophies of science in the early six-
ties. From a multiplicity of vectors, Positivism or Logical Empricism came


under attack from Kuhn and his kin. Kuhn argued that the descriptions given
of science by the positivisms were 'too thin' and thus distorted the devel-
opmental aspects of science. By adding history to the history of theory,
Kuhn discovered that the accumulative, linear 'history , of science was simply
wrong. Popper and Lakatos so weakened the explanatory role of verification
such that research programs with community checks effectively replaced the
whole apparatus of 'explanation.' Feyerabend showed a relativism of methods
wh ich called into question the strong distinctions between natural science and
virtually any other community of theory users - in this way he anticipated
"social construction" theories. All these critics of the sixties, however, did not
address or failed to address what I am calling the HIP binary. They attacked
the one pole of the binary, the positivist one, with the irony that it could, for
the other human, cultural, historical domain, leave henneneutics entact.
A second deconstructive move began in the seventies, again on several
fronts. The most notorious opening came from renewed strands of non-
Mertonian sociology of science, followed by the anthropology of science.
The "strong program" of Bloor et al. and the examination of laboratory life
by Knorr-Cetina, Latour and Woolgar, and Pickering, moved the institution
of science into the domains of culture and society.' "Social constructionism",
whether or not seen as areduction of scientific praxis to mere social con-
struction, or seen as an essential dimension to the social-cultural situating of
science, however strongly debated, was not the issue. The issue is the reSUlt
which moved science, however gently, much more into what had previously
been the domain of Classical Henneneutics, that is into the realm of social
and cultural phenomena. And just as it is almost impossible today to find a
hard-core logical empiricist, it is equally hard to find a science interpreter
who denies the social embeddedness of science.
Nor has social constructionism been alone - I will only mention in passing
that much contemporary philosophy of science now addresses itself to the
ways some kind of vestigial 'realism', none of it strong in the classical sense,
may be found in the pragmatics of science (here Hacking, Lauden, Putnam et
al.) And on the other side, the ways in which society gets taken into science-
including its gender differentiations and prejudices - which have been amply
demonstrated by feminist critics (Harding, Haraway, Fox Keller et al.).2
My claim is that the well-read science interpreter, howevermuch in degree,
cannot help but either recognize that the critiques have re-situated the under-
standing of science, or at least moved them from their late 19th century-early
20th century centre of a valueless, context-free, objective, universallaw image
into a much doser situation within culture and society. Science as an insti-
tution is today understood to be deeply embedded in and internally saturated
with cultural and social perspectives, insights, and values.


Yet, again, the impact of these critical movements has effectively been
directed primarily at one side of my binary pairing. The deconstruction has
been largely a deconstruction of the insulation of science by its positivist
interpreters. And, again, the irony is that this leaves hermeneutics either
untouched and at least far from being reconstructed within the domains of
natural science.

A hermeneutic recuperation of science

I shall now turn from my brief his tory of deconstruction, to a recuperative

reconstruction of science, taking its interpretation in a much more thoroughly
hermeneutic direction. This direction has already begun in the late twen-
tieth century with a new set of science interpreters, themselves trained in
and skilled in hermeneutic analyses. And although the list of authors could be
fairly extensive (ranging from analytic philosophers recognizing hermeneutic
debts - Ackermann and Rorty - through those closer associated with Conti-
nental traditions - Crease, Eger, Heelan, Kisiel, Kockelmans, I have chosen
to introduce the reconstruction with some ideas of Joseph Rouse, Knowledge
and Power, and Bruno Latour, Science in Action.
Rouse, in Knowledge and Power, with the subtitle, Toward a Political
Philosophy of Science, follows Heidegger and Foucault in his re-situation
of science. One must note that there has been a trajectory, since Kuhn, to
move science away from the earlier predilection with 'theory' as a central
preoccupation, towards a much more praxis preoccupation. Kuhn 's addition of
'history' - now looking backward - did enrich the image of science in action,
but it was nevertheless predominantly a history of theory. The sociologists of
science, shifting to the laboratory, make this trajectory even more concrete
and Rouse may be seen to belong to this shift as weIl.
What Rouse sees is a convergence of pragmatist oriented philosophers of
science with the growing minority of hermeneutic trends in interpreting sci-
ence. "Much of [the] sudden upsurge of interest is due to the recognition
that hermeneutics and pragmatism reinforce each other and even converge in
some important ways. Thus it should not be surprising that the philosophers
who have most extensively discussed the importance of hermeneutics for
the philosophy of science - Rorty, Habermas, Bernstein, and Hesse - have
also been prominently associated with the revival of pragmatism.,,3 Rouse
re-inforces the point I have made about the HIP binary, by noting that others,
such as Charles Taylor, have noted, "Old-guard Diltheyans, their shoulders
hunched from years-Iong resistance against the encroaching pressure of pos-
itivist natural science, suddenly pitch forward on their faces as all opposition
ceases to the reign of universal hermeneutics."4


But what is this reign of 'universal henneneutics' which now begins to

re-interpret not simply the history of science, but science praxis itself? Rouse
helpfully, following Dreyfus, notes that there are two fonns of 'universal
henneneutics.' He distinguishes between a transitional version, the hermeneu-
tics of translation (or, theoretical holism) which meshes nicely with post-
analytic fonns of the philosophy of science, and a more radical hermeneutics
ofpractice which follows the more European traditions.
I cannot here follow out the full explication ofRouse's interpretation, other
than to note that the henneneutics of translation or 'theoretical holism' opens
a way into the analytic pragmatism of today's post-analytic philosophers
(Davidson, Putnam, Rorty, Laudan, et al.) by taking acts of translation into
epistemology. This version of henneneutics retains its explicitly linguistic
heritage into recent epistemologies of belief, conceptuality, and truth theory.
This henneneutics relates to accounts of how we scientifically can come to
understand the workings of the world.
However positive this 'analytic' henneneutics may be, Rouse prefers the
more radical Heideggerian hermeneutics ofpractice as the fonn of a universal
henneneutics for science itself. "[This] version of a universal henneneutics
has its origins in Heidegger and the later Wittgenstein. Interpretation is taken
to be the working out of the possibilities open within a situation, rather than
the translation of theories or beliefs."5 Clearly, this is a more 'ontological'
trajectory than theoretical holism.
I shall not, however, follow Rouse farther. It is enough to note that the
reclamation of natural science by henneneutic interpretations is not something
idiosyncratic, but a well recognized trajectory, particularly in North American
circles. It is a trajectory which brings into convergence henneneutic and
pragmatic interests in the philosophy of science.
Abandoning Rouse for the moment, I now want, equally briefly, to look at
several insights from another convergence: the convergence of the sociology
of science with a postmodemist or post structuralist trajectory in the work
of Bruno Latour, particularly in his Science in Action (1987). Latour's philo-
sophical background again draws from Foucault, but also indirectly from
Derrida which will be seen in the movement I am about to describe: As a
sociologist of science, Latour becomes an observer ofhow science works. He
does this by

- putting aside truth claims and takes account of operations - thus indirecdy
we have a praxis orientation - and

- by inverting the processes ordinarily thought to belong to the natural



That is, instead ofbeginning with the interrogation of 'Nature', Latour begins
with the texts of science - scientific articles - and moves backwards and
downwards from the layers of references embedded in social practices.
The moment which interests me here is the move from texts (science
articles) to the laboratory. In Latour's context the question is one of how
one determines the 'truth' of claims made in science. Texts themselves are
insufficient - one may read scientific articles, but textual criticism, even
logical analysis, and one might as weIl say as weIl, classical hermeneutics of
understanding, aIl turn out to be insufficient to the test of the claimed 'truth'
of the texts. Instead, one must move outside the text, into the place where the
tests are performed, the laboratory .
And it is with regard to the laboratory that Latour plays a rather neat
'hermeneutic trick.' The laboratory, according to Latour, is not only the place
where scientists do their work, it is the place where inscriptions are produced
(pace Derrida!). For Latour, instruments are, in effect, inscription producing
devices. It is what lies behind and beyond the text: "This move through the
looking glass of the paper aIlows me to define an instrument, ... I will caIl an
instrument (or inscription device) any set-up, no matter wh at its size, nature
and cost,that provides a visual display of any sort in a scientific text.,,6
Let us from the beginning take note of the steps being taken in Latour's
hermeneuticization of the laboratory: (1) the text is never autonomous, but
refers beyond itself to the work which produces and lies beneath the text. (2)
That reference is to the work which produces the claim of the text, to the
laboratory where an instrument is set up to produce an inscription or visual
display. "The instrument, whatever its nature, is what leads you from the
paper to what supports the paper, from the many resources mobilized in the
text to the many more resources mobilised to create the visual displays of the
texts."7 Then, lest we miss an insight previously elaborated from Heidegger's
tool analysis through my specific development of instruments in my earlier
Technics and Praxis (1979), the instrument, while producing the visual dis-
play, is not itself 'visible' or forefronted: "What is behind a scientific text?
Inscriptions. How are these inscriptions obtained? By setting up instruments.
This other world just beneath the text is invisible as long as there is no con-
troversy. A picture of moon vaIleys and mountains is presented to us as if we
could see them directly. The telescope that makes them visible is invisible
and so are the fierce controversies that Galileo had to wage centuries aga to
produce and image of the Moon."s Thus, if Latour is right, the instrument is
already a hermeneutic device. And, equally, hermeneutic practice lies in the
very heart of the laboratory. And, the laboratory has now become something
like 'science's scriptorium.' We have now advanced several steps beyond

Classical Hermeneutics. We are now, at least, inside science practice, within
the working laboratory and here hermeneutics occurs.
But, now, what of 'Nature'? wh at of the 'scientific object'? It is here
that I now leave Latour as weIl, and proceed with yet another hermeneutic
analysis, one which employs my own notions of"technoconstruction" and an
"instrumental realism."

Tecbnoconstruction as hermeneutic preparation

If Latour has turned the laboratory into science 's scriptorium, there is another
side to this process. The laboratory not only prepares inscriptions, but it is
the place where objects - scientific objects - and made readable. It is in this
preparation that technoconstruction occurs.
Beginning with Latour's terminology, I shall first show you aseries of
'inscriptions,' in which as noted above (a) the instrument is itself simultane-
ously 'absent' or invisible, and yet (b) the very means by which the 'inscrip-
tion ' is produced. In the cases I am about to show the instruments range in
complexity from photographs, through X-rays, electron micrcroscopy and
radiochrystallography. I am showing results, .precisely the "visual display"
which Latour claims as the laboratory 'proofs' wh ich papers evidence. (c)
But, these displays are not so much text-like as dramatic perceptual results.
(d) Here, 'seeing is believing' under the conditions that the seeing-reading is
precisely that of being scientifically trained in a perceptual discipline.
Scientific visualizations are found in historic examples of early photograph-
ic and imaging processes which begin to develop what I call "instrumental
variations". One may begin with 'representation-like' illustrations, but grad-
ually move into ever more radical 'constructive' processes. Figure 1 is a
time-stopping technique wh ich reveals photographically that a trotting horse
has all four feet off the ground at various moments of its gait (1878).
This early time-stop process sets up a trajectory such that ever shorter times
can show previously undetected effects. Only ten years after the gait image,
photos showing shock waves from speeding bullets were possible (l refer the
reader to a remarkable book, Beyond Vision, compiled by Jon Darius and
published by Oxford, 1984, wh ich depicts one-hundred scientific "firsts" in
A second imaging technique utilized photography which used, in addition
various magnification devices. Eventually, complex and compound photog-
raphy, involving microscopes, electron microscopes and X-ray diffraction led
to visualizations ofDNA fibres (Franklin's purloined images made in 1950),
and field ion processes which first allowed atoms to be imaged (1960). Today,


Figure 1. Horse in motion.

Figure 2. MRI brain slice image.

we are familiar with a full range of such imaging processes and MRI scans
of the internal features of brains are commonplace (Figure 2).
Even the inexpert can experience something of the "aha phenomenon" on
seeing such startling images as the first' earth shots' of our planet from outer
space. At the same time, unless one is trained in the particular science, many


of these 'pictures' may be hard to 'read.' I put it this way because in each of
the above cases the 'inscription ' is clearly a depiction or picture-like.
What I am illustrating is, first, the long his tory to the hermeneutic re-
framing suggested by Latour. All of these visual displays are products of
what he has called the laboratory. The displays are the climax, the 'proofs' of
what the later to be written texts claim. The laboratory process has produced
the 'inscription ' or visual display so that the "aha" seeing-is-believing can be
gestalted. But, equally, in my emendation, the inscription is not so text-like
as to be a simulacrum ofwriting. Rather, it is a visual gestalt whose 'reading'
is the trained perceivability of scientifie seeing. Its perceivability must retain
the all-at-once, gestalt-within-a-field, characteristic of all bodily perception,
here, of course, made focally visual, depietive, as per the visualist perceptual
'language' of science.
So the claim at this juncture is that 'Nature' has been prepared, in the
laboratory, to show itself as the inscription-visual display wh ich can be 'read'
through scientifically trained perception. This tradition of displays, whieh
we can now note goes back to the previous century [it goes back farther,
but for purposes here I follow only the late modern technologies of imagingJ,
and with growing complexity, produces perceivable-readable imagery of "the
things themselves." This is the instrumental realism implied in the laboratory
produced visual display.

Technoconstructive hermeneutics

In the previous set of historie' inscriptions' or visual displays, there remained

wh at I shall call a vestigial isomorphie realism in the sense that the imagery
retained the early modern sense of extended shape and configuration properly
belonging to and taken as the referent objecL The horse was recognizabIe as
horse, the X-rayed hand as hand, and with increasing miero- or macrostruc-
turing, one takes the DNA or the atom as the isomorphic shape ofthe referent
objecL These displays remain, in this sense, 'close' to their referents.
There is a second trajectory in displaying things visually, whieh remains
'inscriptive' and produced by the laboratory, but wh ich drives the display
much closer to forms of 'writing' than the depictions I have just shown. This
direction actually seems to be the one Latour prefers. His central example
is, in fact, one in whieh a guinea pig's ileum (gut) is part of the apparatus
which, in the end, produces a graph whieh is the visual display. Here the
isomorphism of thing/display disappears and the visual result is much closer
to a kind of 'writing', albeit still read in a glance.
I mention this much more clearly hermeneutie trajectory, but will today fol-
low its implications only a littIe way. Here are redrawn examples of illustra-



ardware ~~!~l

Figure 3. Experiment as "Inscription Device". Redrawn from Latour.

tions Latour uses, from which one can easily see the graph/writing analogues
(Figure 3).
These graphs, whieh have hundreds of variations from oscilligraphs to
spectography, still appear in certain respects as pieture-like, but whieh no
longer display the isomorphism of the previous examples. The trajectory
towards writing-simulacra includes deeply embedded conventional devices.
For example, in the rise and fall of graph lines, spikes, recurring up and
down patterns, are conventions which have degree or intensity measurements
built into the graphie 'alphabet'. And, as in the case of any genuine reading,
only the literate or trained person can read the graph - it does not retain the
vestigial naivete of a more perceptual take.
Although I could follow out more thoroughly this clearly much more
inscriptive, writing analogue, I shall now return to another direction, one
whieh retains more of the perceptual gestalt features, but whieh is actually


a hybrid now common within contemporary imaging technologies. I wish to

take this third step whieh will illustrate a much more thoroughly hermeneutic
and technoconstructive result. Again, the product will be a visual display; it
will retain all its perceptual structural qualities; and it will be 'seen-read'; but
in this case "preparing 'Nature' to be read" in the laboratory entails levels
and degrees of constructivity previously unnoted.
In the case I am illustrating, the questions posed of 'Nature' relate to
issues of global warming. "Is there a 'Greenhouse Effect?" and, if so, how
can it be visuaIly displayed? Embedded in this question there is a fuIl set
of complexities revolving around what I caIl Whole Earth Measurements.
Scientists have to (a) make measurements which take into ac count the entire
globe, not simply some region; (b) they have to analyse multiple kinds of data,
geographic, oceanie, atmospheric, etc., (c) and they have to be able to do both
synchronic and diachronic scales with respect to warming and cooling trends.
Now, if the Latour-plus-Ihde result is to obtain as the laboratory proof, aIl
this must be condensed into the visual display/perceptual gestalt. One might
think that the simplest and most direct approach, at least globaIly, would
be to rely upon the earlier shown isomorphic imaging - such as those of
'earthshots' familiar to us since the space race began. These are, admittedly,
only (half) global displays, but we could wait and take a shot of the other side
and in aseries of 'profiles' have the wh oie thing - but this is not only not
sufficient (it remains synchronie even while global), but the dramatic, though
simple isomorphism actuaIly teIls us very little.
So, we can move, instead, to aseries of visual displays whieh are both
(partiaIly) global and diachronic. In the foIlowing case we can take satellite
shots of the poles of earth, summer and winter, which show these changes.
But, we have also entered another level of technoconstruction-although here
the images are in black and white, we can use 'false color' to show temperature
variations (Figure 4).
Take note briefty that the introduction of false color would inject a much
more explicitly inscriptive hybridization. The convention for 'reading' color
is that of the rainbow spectrum, where the blue end is the colder/ the red end is
the hotter of any intensity scale. This writing simulacrum is now synthesized
with the remaining spatial isomorphism ofthe depietion. Note: the amount of
'information' now displayed increases with the level of technoconstruction
ofthe display. One can immediately 'see-read' the temperature changes, but
also see the Ozone Hole over the Antarctic!
Another phenomenon associated with Global Warming is a rise in sea
levels. Here the problem is very complex: it involves the need to make a
whole earth measurement (not just parts) whieh is globally synchronie, but


Figure 4. Polar imaging.

12SE 180 13S"W 90 "W 4S' W 0" 4S "e 9O " E

90 " N

4S " N
4S "N


45 "S
4S "S

9O "S ':lO "S

yo " e 13S' e lI1U " t: 22S" e <!IU " t: 31S" E 0 4S " e 90" e

Figure 5. Composite global image.

also do this diachronically. Again, we have a visual display-but note the

degree of technoconstruction involved (Figure 5).
To produce this image, (a) a whole series of satellite photos were synthe-
sized and reconstructed in this whole earth projection; (b) the single image
was computer 'smoothed' to be reduced to a single image; and thus the phe-
nomenon ('Nature) was prepared to be 'seen-read' at a glance. Voila! The
ocean levels are rising.
And, the more dimensions one adds to the technoconstructive process, the
better the perceived 'readability ' of the result. One can add wind sheer and
surface heating aspects and feed these into the image. In short, wh at I have
shown is, within this framework, that the tradition of (a) preparing 'Nature'
to be 'seen-read' in the laboratory, (b) continues and gains in sophistication
and complexity whereby the higher degree 0/ technoconstructivity yields
the highest result in information - to know is to construct; and thus (c) the


eentrality of imaging technologies to the proeess is not accidental, but essential

to the very praxis of science, (d) whieh remains a thoroughly hermeneutic
process of 'seeing-reading' its objects.
What we have here, then, is the re-interpretation of seienee praxis as a
hermeneutie proeess. Its very objeets are those whieh are teehnoeonstrueted
to be 'seen-read' though the specifie style ofinterpretation whieh is a seientifie
hermeneutie. Moreover, this eomplex, highly eonstrueted visual display, while
looking picture-like is not a 'picture.' It is a hybrid which eombines pereeptual
gestalt qualities with inseriptive 'textual' qualities through which the seientifie
result - knowledge - is produeed. And while my purpose today has been to
show how scienee is, in its eore methods, hermeneutic, 1 think it is also
possible to begin to deteet why this proeess ean no longer be ealled 'modern'
if by that we include the older modernist notions of epistemology which
were bound to both empirie ist and rationalist forms of knowing which are
reeeptive and passive in eomparison with the clearly constructive production
of postmodern epistemology.


I. See, e.g., David Bloor, Knowledge and Sociallmagery, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1991); Karin Knorr-Cetina, The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay
on the Construction and Contextual Nature of Science (Oxford: Pergamon, 1981); Bruno
Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts, 2nd.
ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986); and Andrew Pickering, Constructing
Quarks: A Sociological History ofParticle Physics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
2. See, e.g., Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Ferninisrn (Ithaca: Comell University
Press, 1986); Donna Haraway, Sirnians, Cyborgs, and Wornen (New York: Routledge,
1990); and Evelyn Fox Keller, Rejfections on Gender and Science (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1985), and Secrets of Life, Secrets of Death: Essays on Language,
Gender, and Science (New York: Routledge, 1992).
3. Joseph Rouse, Knowledge and Power: Towards a Political Philosophy of Science (Ithaca:
Comell University Press, 1987), p. 41.
4. Knowledge and Power, p. 47.
5. Knowledge and Power, p. 48.
6. Bruno Latour, Science in Action, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 67-68.
7. Science in Action, p. 69.
8. Science in Action, p. 69.

Man and World 30: 383-411, 1997. 383
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

The responsive order: A new empiricism

University ojChicago, Committee on Human Development, Chicago, IL 60637-1584, USA

Abstract. The uniqueness of 10gic is upheld and contrasted with twenty roles of a wider
"responsive order" that includes us and our procedures. Empirical responses are precise, but
different in different approaches. Procedures and findings are independent of (not separable
from) "their" concepts. Two-way feedback obviates a top-down derivation of findings from
assumptions, hypotheses, his tory, or language. The postmodern problems of "interpretation,"
"conditions of appearances" and relativism involve the ancient error of making perception the
model-instance of experience. Instead, bodily interaction functions in language and precedes
perception and interpretation. Logic, space time locations and individuated referents involve
positional relations derived from comparing. Beyond Kuhn, Feyerabend, Newton and Einstein,
if we can give interaction priority over comparing, the "responsive objectivity" of both can be
upheld. A new empiricism, neither naive nor constructivist, uses the words "order," "explica-
tion," "truth," and "exaclly" to build on Wittgenstein and on Dilthey's hermeneutic. Natural
language is metaphor-like, "originally crossed." Logic must ignore its assumptions. It must
render everything as a machine and drop humans and animals out. A new discipline is pro-
posed, to move between the logical and the responsive orders, to deal with the machine/human
interface and the social uses of science such as bioengineering.

The purpose of this paper is to establish a new empiricism, one that is not
naive. It will incorporate the insights of postmodernism and move past the
dead end where postmodernism seems to stop. It will be an empiricism that
does not assume an order that could be represented, and yet this will not lead to
arbitrariness. We assume neither objectivism nor constructivism. The results
of empirical testing are not representations of reality, nor are they arbitrary.
Our empiricism is not a counter-revolution against Kuhn and Feyerabend, but
it moves beyond them.
The key is what 1 caIl the "responsive order," but this involves a new use of
the word "order." To develop this new use, we have to understand and employ
the capacity of words to make new sense, apower of words that Wittgenstein
showed so weIl. 1 will need to refer to Wittgenstein and others, as weIl as to
philosophical works of mine.
We will generate a kind of term that can enter into relations between the
logical scientific order and the responsive order. A list of its distinguishable
characteristics will show that the empiricism of the responsive order is useful
in specific ways.


We can pinpoint the roies of the empirical, although it is not something

separable. The assumption that empiricism requires aseparate given has led
many philosophers and scientists to conclude that empiricism is inherently
Section 1 shows why the things we study are not the same in different
approaches, but the empirical contribution is not derived from the top down,
from "history and language." We can state detailed characteristics of the
responsive order. We and our procedures and concepts are within it.
In section 2 we discuss how the patterns of science change over the years.
The change is not a logical progression. We consider the claim and the denial
that they increasingly explicate what "was" implicit. Our new kind of term
employs the relation, wh ich is not an equation, between the implicit and
In section 3 we examine relationships between two kinds of explication,
the logical and a greater order.
In section 4 we ask how our thinking process can employ these character-
istics. We recall two strands of philosophy that help us to do this: dialectic
and hermeneutic. We can employ more than one approach simultaneously
without relativism.
Section 5 shows how human beings can be understood by moving back and
forth between the logical and the responsive order.
Section 6 outlines some broad implications of the responsive order.

1. The responsive order

An anthropology student returned from two years in the bush studying a prim-
itive society. Now he was reporting his observations in my cross-disciplinary
seminar. The group was intent as he talked, then alive with questions. In
response to one question he said: "WelI, we all know from postmodernism
that I cannot claim that what I say about this tribe is actually so, anyway. So I
can really say anything I want about them." There was silence. It stopped the
The rejection of representational truth must lead us to a more intricate
understanding, rather than arbitrariness.
I meet a Nobel Prize physicist and am eager to show hirn my critique of
Einstein 's relativity theory.! We arrange a meeting and I arrive with a list
of points which I hope he will corroborate, perhaps with more details and
findings than I command. He nods and approves every point. "Yes." "Yes,
indeed." "Yes, perfect!" I feel very happy but I want to draw hirn out a little
more on one of these points, so I ask: "But is this really tenable?" He answers:
"Today, in physics, you can say whatever you want."


Many physicists now say that science is invented and arbitrary, but this
is not quite what they mean. They lack the terms to articulate the changed
I begin by exhibiting two confticting points which must be thought together:

Exhibit 1A: Different approaches lead to different findings

All scientific findings seem determined by one ofvarious alternative approach-

es (values, questions, methods, theories, hypotheses). Even the ordinary
objects of perception involve many cultural assumptions, distinctions, orga-
nizing principles, and political inftuences. With another set what we perceive
and what we find in science would be different. Currently many philosophers
say that "nature" is a cultural idea. The scientific universe seems to be a mere
"construction." If you do not like your findings, just change your hypotheses.
Science is said to be just agame.

Exhibit 1B: Certain events can be brought about only with measurements
and a precise combination offactors

Since we arrive by aeroplane at our conventions, let us not announce there

that science is a mere construction. While in the air we have been hoping
that factors such as the weight, speed, and amount of fuel have been correctly
calculated in relation to the curvature of the wing. While we are in the air,
science is not just agame.
To keep both points and think them together can lead to an empiricism that
is not naive. On the aeroplane we know that the empirical plays some role.
Let us see if we can specify its role:

1. Many events (e.g. jlying) can be brought about only by certain carefully
measured procedures. This shows that what responds is stubbornly
empirical. Empirical findings do not come just from hypotheses alone
We can see that empirical results are more than the hypotheses also because:

2. Whatever we study (nature, reality, the world, events, experience, practice

..... ) often gives back not only the precision we already know, but surprising
and more precise effects which could not possibly follow just from the theory
and hypothesis we had at the start
This makes it quite clear that there is no mere construction, no one-directional
top-down determination by history, theory, or a "horizon" of assumptions.
Although the empirical and the approach are not separable, the determination
moves in both directions.


3. On the other hand, whatever we study responds also to other theories and
procedures, but with different new precision
Since it responds to various systems, it cannot be how one system renders it.

4. Whatever we study is very orderly indeed, but this cannot be the kind of
order that conceptual systems have, since it can respond precisely to
mutually exclusive systems

5. Since the jindings exceed the hypotheses, they have objectivity, but since
they are responses to various procedures, they have a responsive objectivity
Although what I have said so far is obvious, there has been no way to fonnulate
what is empirical and objective in science, because in our new sense of the
empirical, it is a response to wh at we do. Let us see if our fonnulations enable
us to think further.
Implicit assumptions such as our interests and our methodology partly
detennine what we do. They limit the validity of this responsive kind of
objectivity. But just how do they limit it? We cannot be satisfied with the
answer that this is a matter of degree. The demanding accuracy of the empirical
is not a matter of degree. We fail completely if we are even slightly inaccurate.
We must examine the interface between our activities and the responsive
objectivity more exactly.
In what sense do we interact with a continuing thing, a stable referent, and
in what sense does the identity of the referent depend on how we study "it?"
The problem cannot be solved along the lines of the famous story of five
blind men examining an elephant from different sides. They report different
findings depending on wh at part of the elephant they touch. That is not
much of a problem, because the story assurnes an elephant. If the world
(events, experience, let us put " ....." to indicate the many quite different
words that might be used here) consisted of distinct things like elephants,
the problem would not be difficult. One could have many attitudes, theories,
and findings about "the same thing," and eventually reconcile them when the
thing becomes more wholly known. But, as Austin put it, things don 't come
in "handy denotative packages." The thing does not remain the same.
For example, in animal psychology the Skinnerians study pigeons in a box.
If the pigeon behaves in a certain way, it may be rewarded by a food pellet,
or punished by an electric shock. Skinnerians have found that punishment
quickly suppresses a behavior to zero, but as soon as the punishment no longer
comes, the behavior rises to three or four times its original frequency. The
finding has established that punishment is an extremely counterproductive
mode of education. This is only one of their great findings.
The Ethologists study animals in the wild. They find that all animals behave
in very complex ways which were never learned. For example, a pigeon raised


in isolation up to a certain age can later build a nest without ever having
observed or learned it. A great many such inherited behaviors now make it
plain that living bodies come with complex behavior sequences "built in" (as
the Ethologists call it).
So far the story of the elephant could still apply. Isn 't it the same pigeon
studied from different angles? No, it turns out it is not the same pigeon.
The Ethologists study each species. They find inherited behavior more
complex in the next species high er on the evolutionary scale. In contrast, the
Skinnerians are not really studying pigeons. The object of their study is the
conditioning of any animal. The Skinnerians study a stable referent that is
common to most of the animal kingdom.
But although the object of study differs, can we not still ask: Isn't the
physical thing in the space within the feathers the same? No, that is not so,
either. The Skinnerians buy their pigeons from factories that breed pigeons
just for science. For many generations these pigeons have only sat in cages.
Most of the behaviors found by Ethologists have been bred out of them.
Science changes wh at it studies. Each group interacts with a stable referent,
but it is not the same pigeon.
For many years the chemical LSD was administered to research subjects
in small, whitewashed hospital rooms. The experimenter observed through a
peephole in the door. Every precaution was taken to avoid confounding the
effects of the chemical with other factors. But "it" is not "the same" when
taken along with music and company. The chemical is not one thing with its
own set of traits, nor is the human body.
The assistants in a research program on human infants are instructed not to
emit emotional responses that could affect the infant. A student teIls me that
his supervisor stands behind hirn and firmly holds his head by the hair, so
that it hurts whenever he unconsciously nods to the crying infant. But other
investigators study the capacities of infants that are responded to. They say
that mother and infant are a single system, and that is "the thing" they study.
The infant is not a single thing with one set of traits.

6. The responsive order responds with "stable" referents, but different ones
to different approach es .
If we can accept the difficulties, we can specify more characteristics of the
responsive order. Alternative approaches develop separate webs of precise
findings. Precision develops within each web, but they are not consistent with
each other. Confticting webs develop at the advanced edge of science. We
can wish they would develop also at other points, so that we would not have
to acquiesce to one "agreed upon" monolith of science, since we know that
alternatives are possible at any point. Perhaps they exist but we have not heard


of them because they are being ignored by the scientific community. Perhaps
we can regularly invite more of them.
Quine2 rightly saw that the order of nature cannot be just one of these
"webs." Although they can be intemally consistent, they cannot be reconciled.
Even if they could be, we know in advance that more of them will soon
form. Since we know it in advance, we can assert it in advance: Nature .....
can respond with surprising and precise detail, but differently to different
The responsive order provides a "reality" ( ..... ) to check against. We can
check each approach (procedure, performance, set of experiments, measure-
ments) against the feedback of an equally precise "reality." But there is no
way in which we could "check" so as to decide between these "realities."
When philosophers deny the checking, they mean the second order check-
ing. But we need to change the question. Why should we continue to assume
that there ought to be only one consistent system? Let us rather ask how to
operate with more than one.
We need to raise the quality of the current debate. One side defends the
insight that the second order checking is impossible. The other side defends
the first order checking and its superiority over unchecked assertions. Both
sides understand this difference, but they wrongly assume that empiricism
requires a checkable reality to adjudicate between the variety. They both
assume that a denial of second order checking destroys the objectivity of first
order checking. Both sides believe that without second order checking the
result is the kind of thing I reported in my stories at the start.
Since the responsive order includes the production of the systems and pic-
tures, it cannot be a system like them. It cannot consist of mutually exclusive
systems nor can it be a picture of inconsistent pictures. We need to think of
it as comprising not only the systems, but also the procedures and we who
institute them. Then we do not have the trouble of the impossible picture of
People readily acknowledge that pictures vary with different approaches,
but then they still want one picture. They look for criteria to decide wh ich
approach to use, because this seems to determine which picture will be con-
sidered the true one. If there are no such criteria, the result seems to be
relativism - and still a relativism ofpictures.
The possibilities of action and change are greater than the possibilities of a
single picture or system. But objectivity is not therefore lost. It can be found
in the orderly and regular character of the processes in which pictures and
systems are generated. With this "responsive" kind of objectivity there is no
reason why all interactive events should be determinable by one system of
measurement, one grid of comparisons, one picture.


From within the responsive order it is not odd that different actions make
different changes and enable different measures and precisions. This does not
mean that we construct the infant; or that infants have no nature, or that we
don't engage a real infant, although it (. .... ) can become a stable referent in
many ways (the infant unresponded to, the infant + mother, or some other
regular referent) in response to our approaches.

7. Whatever we do engages what we study so that its changes are objectively

its own responses, but they are responses in and to activity
Let us now examine the various things we do and the responses to it. We
engage in active procedures with actual findings. And we also formulate
theoretical concepts. Procedures and findings are not separable from the
concepts that define them. But let me show that procedures and findings do
have a specifiable kind of independence from the concepts, wh ich has not
been sufficiently remarked upon.

8. Theories can contradict each other, but findings cannot

For example, the Skinnerians despise Ethology. Naturalistic observation is
not science at all, they say. What does it predict and control? On their side,
the Ethologists pity the Skinnerians. What can one leam about an animal, if
one keeps it in a box? The poor Skinnerians see almost nothing of an animal's
behavior. But despite the most intense rejection neither can wipe out the
findings of the other. Their theories are mutually exclusive but their findings
are not. When punishment stops, the punished behavior will rise to several
times its original frequency. Nothing the Ethologists have found can keep this
from being the resul t. And, if you present certain things to a natural pigeon, it
will immediately go into a long sequence of complex behaviors wh ich it has
never observed or leamed. No Skinnerian finding stops the bird from doing
Findings cannot contradict each other, even when contradictory theories led
to them. It shows that a finding is not just the creature of a theory. Something
empirical about findings makes it impossible to discard them.

9. A procedure can be instituted even if we reject the concepts: Procedures

cannot contradict each other either
Procedures have an independence from concepts also in another way: They
arise not only from logical inference. Crease3 points out that experiments
have the character of "performances." What enters into a performance is
more than the script or score. It inc1udes a whole background of intuitive
practices. All sorts of trials and errors, hunches and wildly derived ideas enter
into the design of experiments. In a laboratory many improvised moves occur.


One may employ procedures that lack theory for years, as weIl as theory that
lacks procedures.

10. Procedures follow directly from concepts only after many retroactive
revisions ofboth. Even then it may be wise to reject the concepts, and devise
new on es from the greater intricacy that is involved in doing any procedure
We see that although concepts are implicitly involved in all our activity,
they need not determine the activity. Although findings and procedures are
not separable from concepts, they do not function only within the "horizon"
of the concepts, nor do they function like concepts. They have empirical
characteristics which make them independent of the concepts that seem to
define them.
Let us therefore undertake areversal ofthe traditional philosophical proce-
dure according to which doing (interaction, experiencing, procedure, finding,
practice, ordinary speech, experiment ..... ) is considered derivative from pre-
existing determinants, (theory, history, language, culture, cognitive systems,
comparison, horizon of conditions ..... ). Our revers al is a second insight. 1t
comes after the a hard-won insight that observation and experience are insep-
arable from all sorts of social and theoretical assumptions. After that insight,
one can recognize that interaction (..... ) always again exceeds and precedes
the supposed determinants. Here I must refer to a longer work conceming
this revers al. 4
Later I will show how "pure" logical inference can be examined and set
apart, within the wider responsive order in which interaction has priority over
logical consistency.
Let us now ask about the converse: Do theoretical concepts have any degree
of independence from the procedures? Of course the concepts are not sepa-
rable from past procedures and findings, but at a given moment suppose we
sit back and think, for example about punishment and reward. This refers to
all animal organisms. If we change to thinking about nesting behavior, we
refer to just a few species. There is an objectivity involved each time, but it is
responsive to our referring. Our mere thinking and relating - Le., comparing
- constellates (creates, differentiates, synthesizes, lifts out, refers to ..... ) dif-
ferent referents, but their objective responses are not deducible from the mere
identity determination. If in addition to this identity we still assume aseparate
single set in nature, we assume someone (the idealobserver?) who compares
them. Referents can be constituted and reconstituted by mere comparison,
but when given identity, theyrespond objectively and empirically, not at all
arbitrarily. To think that there is no single set of individuated and located
referent things has been considered the worst degree of relativism, as if it
must destroy the objectivity of the responses. We can reverse this. Comparing
and identity are less fundamental than empirical events.


Another activity of ours is similar. When we "only" measure, we are not

disturbed by the fact that we have constructed the measuring scale, because
we obtain the thing's objective measure on the scale. The trees don 't compare
each other; we bring the comparing. Nevertheless, this tree is objectively and
precisely so much higher than that one. The fact that it is length depends on
the measure, but this tree's length depends on the tree. On any scale we find
objective precision. But different measures compare a thing within a different
set of other things. The scale of length sets up all things that can have length.
If we measure its atomic radiation, we refer to a different assembly of things.
The referent-assembly can vary not only in extension (part of acelI, the tree,
the ecological system), but on many dimensions of comparison. The variety
does not destroy the objectivity of the empirical responses.

11. The measure is constructed, but the precision has responsive objectivity
"Mere" comparison is not really possible because earlier interactions are
involved in anything, even if we are only thinking just now. Measuring is
not supposed to change anything, but it involves procedures that may have
interactional effects.

12. Some interactions make some "mere" measurements impossible

This forces us to notice that there are two different kinds of responsive
objectivity: Mere comparing brings the objective (and precise) empirical
response of wh at we compare. On the other hand, actual events or interactions
are active changes; they are an entirely different kind of objective response.
We understand each kind, but there is a pitfall when we need both at once.
Then we may wrongly assurne that comparing and referent-identity must
come before actual events. But comparing and localizing are disturbed by
interaction; they are not interaction. We need them to define interactions, but
that does not reduce interaction to comparing and referring.
Before Newton motion was considered "relative," merely a change in a
thing's relations to other things in our location system. Then Newton's water
bucket at the end of a twisted rope showed that there is something utterly
different and empirically independent when a thing moves. But Newton con-
tinued to think of motion as if it were the change in space and time relations.
So he concluded that the space and time relations (wh ich are really just pas-
sive comparisons) have to be considered objective as weIl. Location became
"absolute," so that the comparing was no longer something sharply different
from empirical effects. But this was a short-cut that did not deal with just
how space-time relations are objective - differently from how movement and
interaction are objective.
Newton's space and time relations led directly to Kanfs "conditions of
any appearance." Comparing was given primacy over empirical events. The


comparing process then became independent as Hegel 's "movement" of dif-

ferences. The comparing was no longer static but it still seemed to determine
everything else. Einstein modified but did not alter the claim of comparing
to overarch events. The transformation equations still maintain consistent
localization across quantum interactions. Relativity theory limits the.greater
number of solutions one could write for quantum mechanics alone. Physics
may be moving past those restrictions. Logic and analyticity would not be
lost, but localization would no longer have a status equal to interaction. (CRL)
If one assurnes that localization and reference must be the consistent frame,
then the fact that interactions upset localization seems to be a loss of objec-
tivity. But in a responsive order this rather indicates that something more than
mere comparison is happening. Perhaps objectivity would be better supported
by the ways in wh ich interactive effects can be independent of comparison
and localization. In a responsive order there is no reason why a consistency
of comparative relations between points should encompass all interactional
Changed relations are not changes. Positions don 't relate to each other. They
are results of comparing, referring. They are relations imposed from outside
upon passive, merely referred-to entities. An ob server gives them relations to
each other. Their samenesses and differences are not their own unless we first
reduce them to those relations. The comparing has no effect on them, unless
we think of "them" as mere comparisons. The patterns are not events, only
arrangements we place before ourselves. Localization assurnes individuated
entities that are only "there," only referred to, only related by position. Actual
happenings and interactions are supposed to come second, and to leave such a
system consistent and undisturbed. Even if one such picture stays consistent,
why should we think of changes, interactions, and events as mere changes of
the picture?
Many people accept the fact that comparison and interaction are insepara-
ble, but then they conclude that interaction is only comparison. The empirical
roles I have been setting out show that if we give priority to interactions
over comparisons, we can understand the specific objectivity of both. On the
other hand, if comparison is given priority over interaction, then the empir-
ical disappears and we lose the objectivity of both. We have established a
number of respects in which more happens (interaction, the empirical ..... )
than can be derived from comparisons. We have seen enough to refrain from
reducing interaction to comparison. We were able to specify some indepen-
dent empirical roles of findings and procedures (interactions), as weIl as of
stable referents and precision (comparing). Within a responsive order both
have objectivity.


2. Explication and carrying forward

If logical consistency does not determine the responsive order, wh at remains

the same? And, is it not nonsense to assert that the order of nature ..... is not
wh at our assertions assert?"

Exhibit 2A: Putnam 5 asks: HIs water necessarily H20?"

Was it H20 before this was discovered?

Since science changes over time, truth cannot be correspondence. But:

Exhibit 2B: Nature does not change when a law is discovered

Our procedures do change nature. And new laws are rarely just new concepts
alone. They come from, and lead to procedures. New laws can formulate ways
in which we can now change nature so as to undo some of our previous laws
Our powers to change nature are ever increasing. New procedures bring
forth more varied "things," new responses from nature ..... Human beings are
nature still developing, and we also make fabulous nature-changing processes.
"H20" allows us to separate Hand 0 in ways that may not have happened
before. We also produce water from Hand 0 wh ich could not be done before.
Now we consider all the water in the world as if someone had made it by
combining Hand O. I will return to this "made" character that scientific
patterns bring to things. We must reformulate exhibit 2B. In what sense does
nature stay the same?
Putnam assurnes that our world obeys something he calls "the laws of
nature." He takes them as "physicallaws" that are independent ofwhether we
know them or not. We can be with hirn in spirit, but his carefully differentiated
discussion makes no distinction between "the laws" and what does not change
in nature, whatever that is ..... I will soon discuss the reason why Putnam and
current thinkers refuse such a distinction. I think it would bring hirn c10ser
to the realism he wants, if he made the distinction. If he had a term for the
" ....." (the responsive order), he would not have to use "the laws" for both.
The unchanging order is not the same kind as a set of laws.
Science is a process of retrospective revision. The concepts that were
derived last are put first (or the modifications that new findings require are put
first), so that the findings follow from them. At a given date most of science
(or each web) is arranged with logical consistency from premises, but there
is no logical consistency across the changed assertions from year to year.
What we study (..... ) seems determined by the laws of science; its behavior
seems to consist of the latest factors and patterns. But since they will be


different in a few years, its behavior is not actually detennined by the current
scientific patterns or by those we will assert in the future. So the things are
not determined by the conceptual patterns! Can we face this conclusion, and
is there a way to think further?
The traditional move is to sidestep the question, to deny that we can even
speak of anything empirical as if we have only the sequence of changing
"Constructivism" reduces everything to comparisons. Sometimes they are
spoken of as if they did the comparing themselves. "Difference" happens.
Events are thought of as "differences" happening. I consider this a kind
of Idealism. Hegel said "the differences march." Interaction is reduced to
comparisons. 6
Constructivism negates but retains the assumptions of correspondence and
representation since it assumes that if they don't hold, then we have nothing
but the sequence of assertions. On the other hand, if we develop terms for a
responsive order, we can relate the sequence to something empirical, and we
can examine the sequence in a different way. Hegel said that everything true
is retained in science when it advances. Kuhn has convinced many people that
science does not advance; it simply changes. Promising work is thrown out
when there is a shift in scientific style. Certain questions are no longer asked.
The hypotheses change and so do the findings. But Kuhn does not say that
there is never any relationship between the changing statements, or that any
and all proposed changes would be equally (un)justifiable. But why need we
assume either that everything true is retained, or that nothing is? Rather than
these popular simplifications, we can notice that various relations sometimes
obtain. We may be able to characterize them more exactly.
For example, in later years there are almost always many more terms than
earlier. Sometimes one cannot even find "the same" field. Where before there
were three tenns, now there are 23 none of which are the earlier three. This
recognizable relationship is neither logical deduction nor just difference. 7
Naive empiricists say that the later versions "make explicit" what "was" (is
now said to have been) "implicit" before. "Constructivists" deny anything to
which the versions relate. But we can use these terms more intricately:

13. In relation to the future we can always speak of something that is now
implicit. But explication is not an equation. It does not displace the implicit:
it carries the implicit along with it. The explication carries the implicit
forward 8
Explication has parts, factors, patterns; whereas wh at "was" implicit did not.
When we say that what we now assert "was" already so before (H20 for
example), we must recall Wittgenstein's battle against reading a formulated
rule back behind the performance which precedes it. The retroactive "was"


is not the linear "was." But it is not just a lie or no relation at all. 1 have
developed the recognizable marks of the term "explication" in other works.
It is one among many relations that may obtain. Note that it is both a relation
between two versions, and their relation to what (..... ) they carry forward
wh ich is not separable but noticeable in the transition.
The retroactive "was" does not move back; it is a carrying forward. It
can generate a new more intricate scheme of time which includes linear and
retroactive time. 9 Other terms of this kind have been developed: Next we
discuss: shall we accept more-than-Iogical terms?
So far 1 have tried to show that our assertions are related to something that
functions empirically. A discourse about this is possible if we do not assurne
that representation is the only possible relation to something empirical, so
that its denial must leave everything arbitrary.

3. The logicalorder employed within the responsive order

The uniqueness and singleness of logical inference must be retained. The

responsive order shows itself in many different roles. Of course there are
many kinds of logic as weIl, and they all involve many kinds of assumptions
as weIl as the implicit effort to hold the implicit aside, to make "pure" logical
inference possible. The actual process of logical inference and its assumptions
can be studied within the wider order. But we must recognize that logical
inference is distinguishable from any other process.
Postmodernism merges the two orders and loses them both. We need both.
We lose ourselves if everything is reduced just to what can follow from
premises. But to deny the possibility of logical inference leaves philosophy
helpless, while logic changes the world.
On the other hand, the responsive order is "more orderly" than a logically
patterned system. But can the word "order" be used in this way? Some
philosophers might argue that what we call "carrying forward" is nothing
more than a paradox - i.e., neither the same nor different - just the sort of
thing postmodernists delight in. Others will argue that something more-than-
logical is simply "ineffable." They all assurne that language is conceptually
structured. But Peirce, Dewey, and Mead, Dilthey, Heidegger, and especially
Wittgenstein were already one step beyond this problem.
Wittgenstein showed convincingly that it is the logical models which must
be put in question. What happens in ordinary situations is more intricate
("verwickelter") than the artificial models. 10 He showed that one can use the
same word in many new situations which give them immediate new meanings.
The use of words is not arbitrary, but it is not governed or limited by logical
patterns. Ordinary language and situations are an intricacy.


14. We can say that the responsive order is an intricacy. Words and
procedures have immediate effects when they occur in interactions
Logical patterns are implicit in all human life, but they carry forward; they
do not limit like premises. The concept "carrying forward ....." inc1udes the
linear time pattern of "forward," but the pattern is exceeded by the sense it
makes in use. So the word says the relation to the responsive order which
its use involves. The ":..=.:." is another term of this kind. We can put a " ....."
after any assertion. (We need not always write it.) Thereby we take any
assertion not as an equation but as a carrying forward. Anything we study is
thereby formally opened to being carried forward in other ways. Then "it"
may acquire different parts, perhaps more parts. We can think it as implicit,
as an unseparated multiplicity ..... , more than can be reduced to individuated
units. It is more intricate than a pattern; it can function in multischematic
relationships. These terms bring a " ....." which does what they say. When
words are used to characterize the responsive order, they say and instance
how their logical structure is exceeded. 11
Let me cite some relations between logic and the more-than-Iogical order.
For example, computers cannot recognize metaphors. But metaphors do not
lack order! We may understand a metaphor exactly, yet find ourselves at a
loss to convey it in logical terms. The sense it makes is more precise. When it
expresses something about one thing in terms of another, it crosses them in a
way that makes more meaning than either had before. It is easy to state many
similarities. We can also find many differences to say wh at the metaphor does
not mean. But we cannot easily state the crossing which is the metaphor. We
must let the experienced crossing continue to function as such. Logic and
metaphor cannot replace each other. Ordinary language is metaphor-like, an
immediate crossing ofwords and situation. 12

15. When Jactors (Jorms, distinctions) function implicitly, they cross in the
situation (. .... ). The result is not their lowest common denominator. The
crossed multiplicity is more precise than any logical Jormulations
Now we can say how an unseparated multiplicity has more order: It makes
more meaning than its crossed factors stated separately. In the crossing each
factor changes what the others are. If we think of the changes in science in
this way, we could say that the factors of science are not actually working
as themselves; they are changed by other crossing factors that we have not
(yet) discovered. And those, in turn, by others. The result is more orderly than
could follow from explicit factors.
The implicitly crossed multiplicity is always prior; it is an "original cross-
ing." Crossing a horse with a donkey produces a mule. The horse and the
donkey must exist as themselves first. Only then can they cross. But in the


responsive order the mule comes first. Creating parents for it is one way to
carry it forward.
Mules produce no offspring, whereas crossing implicitly enriches each
factor so that more can come from each, than if it remained itself. So this
analogy would be an unproductive mule, if it could function only logically.
But here it precisions (and is precisioned by) saying that the factors are
"already crossed." So it enabled us to say something that it does not contain:
"the mules come first."
In such a use the concept "already crossed ....." says how its logical pattern
of crossing is exceeded by the crossing it says. "Crossing" might give the
misleading impression that we think of events as consisting just of factors,
although crossed. But factors always work-in a situation (experience, proce-
dure, interaction, event ..... ). The "-,-,-,-,-,-" brings this working-in, and enables
us to think from it. Crossing is one way we can speak about the responsive
order as more orderly than a logical order.
Understanding anything exactly is a crossing. For example, a new statement
must cross implicitly with a great many other things we know. As long as
we must think the explicit statement, it obstructs the smooth way in wh ich
everything else we know implicitly governs our next thought and practice. 13
Let us now examine this kind of thinking process, and see if it can help us to
enter into the assumptions which "pure" logical inference implicitly holds to
one side.

4. Dialectic and hermeneutic

In the his tory of philosophy, did no one develop a way of thinking with con-
cepts that exceed their logical form, to move back and forth between logic
and a wider implicit order? McKeon has shown that one ever-contemporary
variant of philosophy uses a continual breaking of logical patterns as its very
method. 14 Two examples come to mind immediately: dialectic and hermeneu-
tic. Let us understand them in our terms.
We might retain much from Hegel 's dialectic although we reject the assump-
tion that everything true is always saved when concepts change. This would
be nicely self-instancing - we would not guarantee that we retain everything
Hegel was right about. But he shows us a kind of truth that does not depend
on static statements - a truth that may be saved when terms change. But Hegel
gave his dialectic a permanent formulation. There can be no formulation of
how formulations change in explication.
Currently what is used of dialectic is only the constant possibility of contra-
diction and paradox. The rejection of Hegel has made people unfamiliar with
other types and powers of dialectic. For example, Plato's dialectic should


be resurrected; his was different each time. But most people know only a
Plato who proposed eternal forms. Yet Plato makes fun of this view in the
Parmenides. The only permanent "form" Plato proposed was the "idea of the
good," which is not a form, he said. It is whatever makes some assertions
untenable. Although there may be a violent refusal to admit it, people cannot
help but recognize when Socrates cites an instance in wh ich their argument
implies something they do not want to mean. Cavell has pointed to this implic-
it level of statements - which Socrates could inquire into - what we had to
have meant, and how we may want to change it when we have pursued some
of its implicit import. 15
Meno tells Socrates the famous puzzle of Gorgias: "It is impossible to
inquire into anything, because either you know wh at you are inquiring into,
then there is no inquiry. Or you do not know it, then how can you know what
you are asking about?" Socrates soon shows that no thing is fully known,
nor is anything utterly unknown. The smallest bit of knowledge implicitly
contains more, if one pursues it (Meno 86b). Knowledge does not come in
individuated units or referents that stay the same, or become just different.
But in dialectic the role of the implicit is subtle. How can one find it, to be
led further?
We find it when our argument becomes untenable, because then we are not
left with nothing. We ask ourselves "What was it that led me to say what 1
said?" The good sense we were trying to make is still there, only now it is a
since we now reject our formulation. But the " ....." can lead to a new
H , "

statement. This is not easy because the is now Jurther crossed because
H "

we saw a consequence of our previous statement. All consequences are not

already implicit. There is no Laplacian system. Now a great many less than
perfect statements may come to us, statements that do not carry what is new
..... forward. We may reject those and prefer to remain with ...... We see how
an implicit kind of truth functions in transitions between statements.

16. What makes implicit sense ..... can be carriedforward into language
Then new patterns can be formed from it, but this is harder. We may fall into
old ones.
Plato showed that discourse is not arbitrary although every argument can
be made to contradict itself. With our concepts we can notice:

17. Logic does not generate its own contradictions, but it can always be
made to contradict itself if some detail from the implicit situation is added
into any unit
This is a precise relationship between logical inference and the more than


In dialectic the role of the implicit is not always recognized. In the her-
meneutic process one cannot miss it. Dilthey developed a general hermeneutic
from its role in elucidating texts, books, paintings, buildings - what he called
an "expression." He says that one begins without understanding the parts or
the whole very weIl. Only the wh oIe gives the parts their roles and meanings.
But of course we arrive at an understanding of the whole only part by part.
A better grasp of any part can change the sense of the whole. So it should be
asked how hermeneutic can ever get started. The weIl known "hermeneutic
cirele" is often the only way we come to understand something, but how do
we do it?
The meaning of the parts is not fixed; they must grow in meaning. With
our terms we can articulate this. A hermeneutic cirele would be vicious
and impossible if we could think only with distinctions, parts, units, factors,
pattemed facts, formed things. We could only combine the individuated units
that we already understand. Many theorists still assume that we can understand
another person only if we have the same experiences. What a dull world
that would bel With our new terms we can say: When experiences function
implicitly, they cross with every new event. Statements bring an implicit mesh
which grows even if the statement remains the same.
We understand a difficult text better after reading it many times. A sentence
which was a senseless jumble before, now plainIy says something. We may
later reinterpret it many times, but the sentence is never again a jumble. It
shows how earlier understandings continue implicitly. But they cross; they do
not limit our further steps.
Hermeneutic is a way of thinking which does not need unchangeable parts
or individuated units. The parts neither stay thesame nor become different.
But this is not a contradiction; it is the relation we have called "carrying
forward." It cannot long seem strange - it is the most ubiquitous kind of
transition we find in thinking. We only lacked the terms to talk about it, and
to think deliberately with it.
Dilthey held that we neverreally have the same understanding as the author
had. If we understand a work at all, we understand it hetter than its author did.
We must create the author's process out of our own, thereby augmenting both.
In our terms we can say that they cross: Some of each becomes implicit in the
other. The author's statements do not change, but implicitly they now contain
our own experience as weIl. So they constitute a "better" understanding than
the author's. In the crossing our own experiences are implicitly precisioned
so that they can form the author's exact meaning. We might render a point in
other words and examples, yet render it exactly. Conversely, someone might
repeat the author's words, and go on to a total misunderstanding. This use


of the word "exactly" functions like "truth" did for uso It is like grasping a

18. Exact understanding does not reduce to combined or rearranged units

Dilthey's point is largely lost today. People follow Gadamer who says that we
always understand another person differently, as if understanding had to be the
same or different. Gadamer does not mean that we can only misunderstand,
but to say what he wants to say requires the kind of terms we are developing.
Meaning is not composed of individuated entities; it is an order-for contin-
uation, an order-for carrying forward. From our own exact understanding we
can make further moves that the author could not have made from the given
spot. And conversely, when we turn the page we find the author going on as
we could not have done alone. And yet we can follow the author's next move
from our understanding of the previous one. Understanding is not composed
of unchanged parts that we have in advance. It is an implicit crossing in which
the "parts" can always be further reprecisioned. Therefore a new and "exact"
understanding can be made in different people, that is to say from different
crossed multiplicities. Then the meaning is exact, but different further moves
are possible from each. Similarly, if we make a point, others can go much

19. When we carry an implicit sense forward into language, the more unique
and odd it was, the more universally significant it may become
With our terms and hermeneutic we can now lead beyond relativism:

20. Anything once found remains implicit and participates in our further
steps ofthought, even ifwe discard the approach with which wefound it
Mutually exclusive approaches can function in a crossing; indeed there is
always a weIter of historically transmitted forms in any human moment. We
can retain anything we found with one of them, even if we explicitly discard
the whole approach. We can carry the implicit sense ..... forward with another
approach. It will not be the same; "it" will lose and also gain. From the new
..... we canformulate so me ofthe differences, although we rarely have time to
do it. No formulation covers both previous formulations, but our next step is
informed by both (though not by all ofHegel's kind oftruth, perhaps). We can
implicitly retain much of what both theories help find (bring, differentiate,
synthesize, make, lift out ..... ).
There would be relativism if there were nothing but forms and formed
things. They would cancel each other, or we would always have to chose one.
But when they function implicitly they do not function as a determinative
horizon. In crossing each comes to imply more than could ever follow from
its explicit form. We reverse the tradition al way of reading formulations back


as the basis of experiencing. Instead, the fonnulations are only relative, but
relative to the more precise experiential (practical, situational ..... ) feedback
of the responsive order. Henneneutic shows this especially weIl.
There are two strands of henneneutic: The older one grants science its
logical methods and proposes only to examine the larger social context of
science and its uses. The newer strand considers science itself as henneneutic.
We share much with both strands. We have shown much that is henneneutical
in science itself, but we cannot attempt to reject the special character oflogical
inference. In the next sections let us enter the context of science, and examine
some of the assumptions which it is its essential feature to ignore.
Henneneutic places the logicalorder within the wider implicitly crossed
order. Henneneutic involves the kind of truth and the carrying forward kind
of continuity thatdoes not depend on a congruence of fonn. It shows how the
same statement can have more or less meaning, and how "the same" meaning
can lead to a sequence of statements. It shows how a point once understood
remains implicit even if we discard its fonnulation. Henneneutic provides
a process of thinking wh ich moves back and forth between the explicit and
the implicit, without reducing them to each other. We can employ logically
structured statements that remain fixed, and also think with implicit meanings.

5. Science within the wider order

Science does not include its context. One result of this is that when it has a
satisfactory analysis, it finds no reason to pursue the existence of anything it
has not found. Then it claims to know all the factors. The caterpillars are eating
the food plants and the trees. In the lab a powerful insecticide kills caterpillars.
In application it kills great numbers of them, but the next year they are much
more numerous than before. Wasn 't it "the same" chemical and "the same"
caterpillars? It takes a while to discover the parasites of the caterpillars. Then
we find that the insecticide is relatively more effective against the parasites
than against the caterpillars. When the unexpected happens, the difference is
investigated, the factors are altered and the claim to know ail the factors is
reissued. The rub is that there is no finite set of "all" factors.
But what if we could separate just the known patterns, if those could be
physically taken away from any others that might cross? There is a way. Sup-
pose we build the known patterns of one thing into another thing, something
else wh ich does not nonnally have those patterns? Now our known patterns
are not connected to the crossed multiplicity of the new thing. There will still
be both, but not the unknown factors that cross in the first thing. Those can no
longer be discovered because they have been left behind, while we are putting
the patterns into a second thing. We separate the gasoline from the rest of the


oil, and put it alone into smelted, separated and purified metal so that it acts
only with air and sparks. Is this familiar? We have just derived - the machine!
In terms of "crossing" we can define a machine as a set of known patterns
separated from the thing in which other factors could cross with them. Now
we can notice that science renders everything as a machine!
I said this earlier when I pointed out that H20 makes all water seem as if
someone had composed it. A machine embodies a set of externally imposed
relations. Science transforms crossed interna! relations into extern al relations
between separable units.
Computers are the perfect example - they are embodiments of pure logical
inferences and scientific patterns, but in a physical medium in which they
can no Ion ger cross with other factors, as they would in the actual situation
we are studying. Once transformed into computer patterns, nothing internally
related to it can cross.
Actual events are interactions, never just patterns and factors. In practice
the computer people encounter all sorts of unexpected results when they
first run a program. Only by running it can one find out what will happen.
Even supposedly pure patterns are a crossing. This does not mean that the
postmodernists are right to deny logic as such. Computer programs cannot be
devised without logic. But the processes actually happen within the crossed
responsive order. As characteristic 10) implies, only empirical trials and
retroactive revision make machines possible.
We can think with the wider responsive order, as well as with the patterns
themselves. In no way can we denigrate them! They lead to the wonderful
technology wh ich enables bill ions more people to live, and manY of them
better than ever before. We only want to relate logic systematically to its
wider context.
The concept of "crossing" leads to a type of research that is now missing.
For example, the cells that secrete a certain chemical in the human body can
be separated and placed in a dish. Now they secrete "the same" chemical
cheaply and easily. The porcelain dish will not bring what might sometimes
cross with this process when it happens in the whole human body. Currently
it is customary to test for all the differences of which one can think. If none of
those are found, it is announced that there is "no difference." This violates the
well known principle that one cannot "prove the null hypotheses." One could
find no difference between any two different things if one does not use the
right instruments. And we know that new instruments will soon be developed.
But how can one test for differences one cannot even think of? We need to
study the production and effects of such chemicals in the body over a long
time and under various circumstances. Then we might find what occasionally
crosses into this process. It would not be expensive. Rather than opposing all


innovations on principle, or rushing to market, this kind of research would

continue long after a product is put on the market. Therefore it might not be
supported by either of the currently opposed groups.
Scientists are very concerned people, but there is no easy bridge between
their concern and their science. We need to establish not just some research
but a whole new field on the interface between humans and machines.
For example, there is very little research concerning computer-and-user
together. The research wh ich develops word-processing computers rarely
studies computer-and-secretary. IBM has changed the keyboard three times,
but the odd and rarely used marks are still in all the convenient positions. The
finger has to avoid the little-used slash after every sentence to find the period.
Has there been no cheap study of (say) thirty typists typing for two weeks
with various keyboards? When I inquired at one company I was told that the
designer's assistants (not even the secretaries!) try out the keyboards.
The aeroplanes fly ever faster, but consider the seats. There seems to have
been no research on (say) thirty people of varying sizes trying to sleep in
various positions, so that the sharp edges could be designed to make sleeping
maximally possible.
Studies of machine and human together are not considered part of the tech-
nological process. They are relegated to the business side. Called "operational
research," they are only cost-benefit studies conducted by a business that uses
the equipment, to devise its own most efficient personnel arrangements with
existing machines. Such studies are not used as feedback in the next design.
Following Turing, there is a famous question: "lfyou were totally satisfied
that a computer behind a screen produced the same conversational responses
as a human speaker, would there then still be a difference?" The argument is
that humans differ from machines only "metaphysically" (not really) if the
behavior is the same.
Now it must be pointed out that the usual discussion of the issue assumes
this "If". You are invited to assurne it, and then struggle for the difference, but
it was already assumed that there is no difference. If there is no difference,
would there be a difference? Obviously this makes any difference problematic.
Another fallacy: Artificial Intelligence buffs argue that desire is "only meta-
physical," since they can produce a machine that seems to want something
and to go after it. So purposeful behavior seems possible without any pur-
poseful wanting. But of course there is a purposeful wanting in the case of
the machine. It is the wanting of the designers who watch anxiously to see
whether it will do what they wanted. Is this fallacy an oversight? Or is it rather
that in the logicalorder one cannot formulate wanting, purpose, or humans?
In a science fiction story a computerized robot-man realizes its condition
and what is planned for hirn. (When it can realize - whatever "realize" is -


the robot becomes a "hirn"). In the story he escapes and is caught. He has the
reader's sympathy throughout. The story might seem to corroborate Turing,
since it assumes that a robot could perform as a human can. But really it
shows the opposite. Rather than showing that humans are machines (except
in some metaphysical sense), it shows that if a machine could do this ..... ,
then the machine would be human. The "this is (among much else)

wanting, feeling, realizing, appreciating .... It would not matter whether it is

metaphysically human or not; if it can feel its condition and want something
else, it is no longer a machine.
Why are animals treated as mere raw material? It is because wanting,
feeling, realizing, appreciating ..... drop out. If we articulate how animals
appear in science, Le., as machines, we can notice how people are rendered -
in the same way: as machines.
In the hospital yourleg is strapped up high and suspended. The doctor uses
amazing technology to treat your leg. Of course you are attached to your leg
but we don 't study that. For days you lie on your back staring at the ceiling
- nothing there, not even TV. In arecent revolutionary study the hypothesis
was that patients would get weIl faster when given the right to make a cup of
coffee whenever they wish.
Humans cannot appear within the science that underlies our social prac-
tices. Even the difference between living and non-living processes cannot be
formulated. Of course there are large segments of our society with otherviews
of human nature, and they may seem culturally dominant. They can obstruct
and delay technological innovations, but they cannot interact or modify sci-
ence in a rational discourse. The bridges are missing. 16 The scientific patterns
drop the human out. But since nothing can currently modify them, what else
can our social policies eventually enact?

It can be important to know that the actual policies 0/ one' s society assume
that one is a machine. We are in fact in the position ofthat robot-man, except
that we don't quite yet appreciate our condition!
Wittgenstein would say "We don 't comfort computers when they have
trouble. We comfort people and animals." The actual quotation is:

If someone has a pain in his hand ... one does not comfort the hand, but
the sufferer: One looks into his face" (PI, 286).
"The human body is the best picture ofthe soul." (PI, H, iv)

Without substituting theoretical terms Wittgenstein can speak about the intri-
cate way in which wh at is usually called "self" and "body" are related. We are


developing ways to move back and forth between the natural and the logical
order. 17
In the current polarized debates, only one group appreciates the power of
logic, while the other is alone in knowing its limits. We need a society-wide
understanding of the uniqueness of logic, as weIl as the irreducible roles of
humans making sense. A discipline moving between the two orders could do
what I have outlined, and of course much more that cannot even be envisioned
now. 18
Now let us ask: Exactly why must the logicalorder drop us out, and how
can we deal with this fact within the responsive order?

6. Interaction vs. logic and perception

It is a huge misunderstanding of our current world to denigrate logic. And

quite apart from that, why would one want to? Or why slight positional
patterns, for example the beautiful c1arity with which three little boxes across
and then three down lead to the same spot as first three down and then three
across? The same spot. Here at least we can define all the factors that make
something the same. (This is where "the same" lives.) A problem might go
through many pages and programs, yet come to the same answer that someone
else obtains in another way. We can come to a total c1arity on why we both
arrive at the same answer - the only answer. And think of the excitement
when wh at I just said doesn't hold, when the pure forms themselves lead to
many wild logical problems that seem inherently answerable and yet we find
no answer!
With logical patterns we constellate a wonderful world. Positional patterns
are inherently movable and can be reproduced on any other thing. With them
we generate aspace in which they can be freely moved regardless of what
else might be there. Our familiar empty, geometrie space is the space of the
mobility of patterns. Everything else now seems to exist within their empty
space. In that space we can separate factors and rearrange them. We create a
patterned, stretched out version of wh at happens in the more intrieate order
in whieh we live. (PM, vii)
So one mistake is to miss the unique character of the logieal order. Another
is to assurne that it must supervene over other kinds. Still another that its
relations are equivalent to events, actions, or interactions.
Patterns are mere proportions, repeatable samenesses and differences. They
are comparisons. That is why they require the ob server - the comparer - who
(as Kant put it) retains the one while turning to the other. Without this there
are no likenesses or differences. They are results of comparing. Samenesses


and differences are passive products. They do not do anything. They cannot
exist alone or determine anything.
Why is nature only said to "obey" laws? Why would nature (wh at we study
.; ... ) not be active? Does it not consist also of active interactions, inc1uding
our activities? Nature seems only passive because we use logic to study
it, and logic consists of positional relations, external relations. The action
of projecting those patterns and transforming everything into them cannot
appear within them. We cannot appear in the world presented by science
because something is presented to someone; it is something that appears to
someone. How does the idea even arise that we should be something presented,
something that appears - to whom? We cannot be appearances to an observer
who is in turn only an appearance presented to uso The presented world comes
from perception.
Philosophy cannot begin with perception. It has long been traditional to
consider perception as the beginning and model instance of all experience.
What has been said here leads us to challenge this ancient assumption, and to
replace it by giving bodily interaction priority overperception. 1t is perception
which has led to the whole problematic of space, time, and appearance - the
conditions of appearance which cannot appear in the appearance.
Perception creates two dualities. The percept as "an appearance" splits itself
off from the reality which it only indicates. Secondly, the percept also divides
itself from the perceiver to whom it appears. The to-whom cannot appear.
Since the percept appears and the to-whom does not, the percept seems to
come first. The to-whom seems to be something added on. Percepts are flat,
passive, seen, imagined, presented. Their to-whom drops out. The assumption
that a location system must overarch empirical events can be traced to the
assumption that experience is perception.
With the percept comes the whole familiar problematic of interpretation
(and Nietzsche's puzzle: there are only interpretations; nothing to interpret).
This problematic will surely arise if one takes perception as the basic model
of experience (events, situations ..... ).
The world presented by science is made along the lines of percepts. The
perceived order is "already there." Human interpretations must be brought to
it. 1t has only extern al relations, and even these must be lodged in observers.
The relations are between points, locations, positions. The number 14 is
defined by its position between 13 and 15 in the order of counting. But the
continuity which defines the positions happens only if someone counts. The
positions do not relate to each other of their own accord. Science presents
organized entities whose relations are given to them by an extern al observer
who maintains the continuity of their relations.


In philosophy this problematic has long been traditional and accepted, as

if there is no way out. But this is so only because perception is assumed
to be the basic kind of experience. We should not begin with perception. If
we do not, then it does not seem strange that an interactional order is wider
than positionallogic. Perception and logic are inherently products that point
beyond themselves. They point to interaction. We can build on the work of
Wittgenstein and Heidegger: We do not first interpret things; we live and act
in them. We inhale, cry, and feed. We are always already within interactions
(situations, practice, action, performance ..... ).
Scientific procedures are interactions, not mere interpretations projected by
a floating human community of speakers communicating about meaningless
objects. People from a different community might not interpret a cloud cham-
ber track as a particle, but it is unlikely that they would build cloud chambers
there, and only interpret their observations differently.
Can we put interaction first? Wittgenstein and Heidegger give us leads in
this direction. We can say that every living species is a being-in its world. Its
living activity "discloses" possibilities of the responsive order, which cannot
emerge in any other way.19 But Wittgenstein and Heidegger spoke from
interaction in the human world. If we take this into account, we may be able
to use their way to put interaction first.
Let us first understand the human version of "interaction first," and then
transpose it.
For example, Wittgenstein writes: "Why cannot my left hand give my right
hand money?"(PI, 268). Here we can distinguish between perception and
interaction. Certainly we can perceive one hand putting money into the other,
but this is not what "giving money" means. Wittgenstein is not speaking
as an ob server of extemal objects, but where does he stand? Where does
giving money happen? Wittgenstein (in PI) speaks from within situations and
Am I right that perceptions occur only within interactions, or can one still
argue that the interactions are based on prior perceptions and interpretations?
"Giving money" might seem to depend on a culturally shared interpretation.
And since we frequently misinterpret events and other people, someone might
argue that the interactions depend on our shared interpretations. But interpre-
tations of what? In an interaction, what would be the object that we perceive
and variously interpret? No, we have already lived interactionally to gener-
ate the events and objects which we then interpret. Printed bills are not first
simply there, awaiting cultural interpretation. I do very often misunderstand
my wife, but this is possible only within our marriage interaction. It did not
happen so much before we were married. Perceptiti and interpretation must
be considered secondary within already ongoing interactions.


Of course, the scientific interactions do not seem to happen directly in

Wittgenstein 's situations. It might still seem that interaction with each other
differs utterly from interaction with nature. Money and c10ud chambers are
too far apart. It might seem that money comes to be in interaction with others
who respond to us as we do to them, whereas c10ud chambers are constructed
out ofmeaningless objects. Then the human interaction drops out of"nature,"
as I have already said. But this gap arises only ifwe accept how a logicalorder
renders animals - as objects who do not interpret, upon whom all connections
and interpretations must be imposed. Within science humans are no more
than this, as we saw, but even outside science the human interpreters are left
floating in empty space. We must reunderstand animal bodies in order to
understand our own body. (PM, VI)
Our own animal body still functions and still comes with intricate behavior.
Its ethologically "built in" behavior has been elaborated but not replaced by
history and language. Its roles in language can be deliberately employed and
carried forward. Our bodies do orient in abstract empty space, but this is
a less original capacity than how they sense and imply their situations. We
live immediately in our human situations. Most of the day we perform most
actions directly from the body-sense of each situation. Our bodies experience
(feeI, are ..... ) our situations, and imply our next actions and words. The
phrases come to us to say, and change, a situation before we need to think
about it. And if they don 't come, we have to pause and wait for them - to
come. 20
So we can conc1ude that philosophy cannot begin with perception any more
than with patterns. We are always already in a wider responsive order which
inc1udes us and our comparing, and more importantly responds to us as doers,
and as humans saying metaphorical phrases in originally crossed situations.
A new empiricism which honors both orders can enable us to move between
them in many ways.


l. Gendlin, E.T. and Lemke, J., "A Critique of Relativity and Localization," Mathematical
Modelling 4 (1983) pp. 61-72. Hereafter CRL.
2. Quine, W.V., Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1969).
3. Crease, R.P., The Play 0/ Nature (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), pp.
4. Experiencing and the Creation 0/ Meaning (New York: Free Press, Macmillan, 1962);
Paperback Edition, (Evanston: Northwestem University Press, 1997). Hereafter ECM.
5. See the series of articles in Putnam, H., Realism with a Human Face (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1990), pp. 54-131. For Aristotle the referent of "water" did not include
ice and steam which were different elements. But Aristotle's procedure of using heat to


convert elements still works, of course. Putnam points out that ways have been found to
reconstruct the older referent (for example, common sense "water") from the later more
numerous terms. This is also a characteristic of explication. One can look back in many
interesting ways which are not available in the forward direction. For example, Hegelian
dialectic had no trouble arranging past advances, but a great many attempts have shown
that it is nearly useless in further study.
6. The Idealism is not intended today. The "movement" of difference is meant to correct the
earlier view that science and discourse have their source in us as subjective "agents." But
difference is comparison.
7. But isn't this relation the opposite of Occam's and Kepler's long-standing rule that the
explanation with the fewest terms is the truest and most elegant? The two relations can
be distinguished: Someone may want to resurrect an older theory, but no one wants to go
back to all the simpler versions of 1970. We do not call them all "more elegant." These
are only two of many different relations we find, - although each is stated as if it were the
only one.
We can specify other relations: A sub-sub-detail of the situational intricacy of pro-
cedures or findings can generate a new overarching category. A detail may define new
generalizations that alter the whole theory wh ich first led to finding that detail. This pro-
vides another traceable relationship between later and earlier versions. It also allows us
to reopen everything at those junctures when we think about a new empirical detail. A
detail may be logically deduced from a set of conceptual patterns. But when it is found
empirically, "the same" detail may implicitly contain and lead to further detail which may
be inconsistent with that very theory. This is another way we can notice that an empirical
detail is not the same thing as one deduced from a theory, although the same proposition
may seem to state both. A new formulation may arise through the linkage of deduced
detail which - when found empirically, - first "confirms" the theory, and then turns out
to contain more than can follow from the theory. Attention to the implicit intricacy of the
empirical detail may help one form new concepts.
8. The term "carrying forward" has been derived in other places in my work. But it is
characteristic of such terms that they are derived in use. Therefore they can be derived
from any fresh use they acquire. Those who know the term find it indispensably coming
in a whole range of different contexts in which there is a continuity other than logical
deduction. No single conceptual pattern determines its many uses. Language (the use
of words) is a responsive order. See "Thinking Beyond Patterns: Body, Language and
Situations," in The Presence ofFeeling in Thought, ed. B. den Ouden and M. Moen, (New
York: Peter Lang, 1992), pp. 25-151. Hereafter TBP.
9. See chapter IVB, A Process Model, in eight parts, 422 pp., available on http://www.focus-, or as (New York: Focusing Institute Publications, 1996). Hereafter
10. Philosophicallnvestigations 182, hereafter PI. See my "What Happens When Wittgenstein
Asks: 'What Happens When ... 7' "Paperfrom the Conference: "Zur Sprache Kommen: Die
Ordnung und das Offene nach Wittgenstein." University of Potsdam 1996. Philosophical
Forum 28/3, (1997).
11. See "How Philosophy Cannot Appeal to Experience, and How It Can," in Language
Beyond Postmodernism: Saying, Thinking, and Experiencing in Gendlin's Philosophy, ed.
D.M. Levin (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1997). Hereafter HPC. See also
ECM and "Crossing and Dipping: Some Terms for Approaching the Interface Between
Natural Understanding and Logical Formation," Minds and Machines 5/4 (1995) 547-560.
Hereafter CD.
12. See CD and my "Reply to Mark Johnson," in Language Beyond Postmodernism
13. See "crossing" and "restored implicit governing" in HPC and CD.
14. McKeon, R.P., Freedom and History and Other Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1990) and Thought, Action, and Passion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,


15. Cavell, S., "Must We Mean What We Say?" in Ordinary Language, ed. V.C. Chappel
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964).
16. Patrick Heelan has a promising approach. He develops a single two-sided term consisting
of the scientific rendering on one side, and its location in the human world on the other.
See Space-Perception and the Philosophy of Science (Berkeley: University of Califomia
Press, 1983).
17. Wittgenstein planned to publish his Tractatus and his Philosophical Investigations under
the title: "Philosophical Investigations set against the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus."
"Philosophische Untersuchungen der Logisch-philosophischen Abhandlung entgengen-
gestellt." What an elegant way to contrast the two orders by juxtaposing one work on
each! This title is discussed in Michael Nedo's volume introducing the new publication of
Wittgenstein's works in parallel German and English. See Nedo, M, Introduction, Ludwig
Wittgenstein, Wien er Ausgabe (Vienna: Springer-Verlag, 1993), pA2.
18. For example, a discourse that employs both orders could provide a context for bioengi-
neering. It could define the kinds of research which one can formulate only with both
orders. It would also enable the various interests to be represented at an early stage. For
example, billions of dollars were invested in bio-engineering as soon as a few applications
became probable, before anyone could know what they will really be. Those billions are
now a force that makes the new technologies alm ost unstoppable, but everyone including
the investors might have Iiked to know the issues in advance.
On not knowing the uses in advance Rouse, J., Knowledge and Power: Toward a
Political Philosophy of Science (Ithaca: Comell University Press, 1987).
A structured discourse would also give the scientists a voice in deciding what is done
with their discoveries. For example, one biochemist in a drug company developed a
chemical that has the effect of lengthening the time before a cancer spreads. He does not
know by how much time. Of course it is the product department that decides about uses.
It decided that testing the drug in relation to cancer was too expensive. Since the drug also
darkens the skin, it is now used in the company's sun tan lotion.
This example does not show that the govemment requires too many tests, nor that
companies are selfish. The department decided rationally within the bounds of what it
is empowered to consider. My point is that no other agency is appropriately empowered
to bring up other considerations. Such an agency could share the risk of more research
and perform other functions, if the science/human interface becomes a special field that
develops beyond the current polarization.
Currently one side views the market as an extension of evolutionary selection. The
other sees only profits for a few corporations. But no general position can cope with these
issues. The circumstances differ each time.
The Monsanto company's soy beans are engineered to resist only Monsanto's herbi-
cides. In this case it seems easy to decide for whose benefit the market works, but more
information along several parameters might change our minds.
Cows engineered to give more milk have swollen udders and fall iII more often. In the
U.S. the same amount of milk as before will be produced by fewer farms. Many will go
out of business. But perhaps in India these cows might be a blessing. My point is that there
is a whole field here which the wider order opens.
Another issue: Evolutionary selection benefited the given species. Is it wise in the long
run to engineer new animals without considering their benefit? For example, a combination
cowpig was created a few years ago. It was in constant pain. This "evolution" was not
in the interest of the creature. The purpose was an all-lean pig for the market. The farm
organizations stopped this development, to keep one company from patenting a "superior"
animal and eliminating everyone else who now raises pigs. But the creature's own interest
could not enter in. Of course it cannot even be conceptualized in logical terms. But could
an interface discipline add something to the market, to approach evolutionary selection?


In a similar way, much that matters to us about human beings is not detectable because
of the inherent character of our scientific terms. With the responsive order we neither
disorganize those, nor reduce everything to them.
19. On my use of Heidegger's "being-in" see "Befindlichkeit," Review of Existential Psychol-
ogy and Psychiatry 16/1-3 (1978179): pp. 43-71.
20. See my "The Primacy of the Body, Not the Primacy of Perception." Man and World
25/3-4 (1992): 341-353 and "A Philosophical Critique of the Concept of Narcissism," in
Pathologies ofthe Modern Self, ed. D. Levin (NY: New York University Press, 1987), pp.
251-304. For psychological and socia! applications of this philosophy see Focusing, 2nd
edition. (New York: Bantam Books, 1981) and