Jan 22, 2006

Underlying philosophy

My view on science is the idea that scientific disciplines and schools of thought are each but one perspective on a complex reality. Although this sounds trivially obvious, most scientsists themselves tend to set their discipline as absloute in practice and deny the possibility of gaining integration of knowledge by switching their perspective. There is no other "true" representation of reality than that supplied by the filters, rules and assumptions of their methodology, tools, data, school of thought, and dicsipline. This leads to a tree of ever more fine-grained questions which are often not that important and productive compared to other untackled issues - the reverse salients of scientific endeavor. This effect seems to be particularly pronounced in economics, where the neoclasssical gold standard is based on the assumption of a hyperrational homo economicus.

However, different perspectives supply different information on the same reality that need to be integrated into a more encompassing famework of elements and their interactions than a single perspective allows to come up with. This problem is described in the example of several blind sages analysing the different parts of an elephant - coming to totally different conclusions on what an elephant is. Systems science has tried to solve this issue by supplying a common language that pertains to all disciplines. While it has had some successes, largely it has failed as scientists working in a specific perspective did not perceive the need for another, at times woolly, description language. They had theirs already. So we need to increase the perception that scientists can profit from increasing (not to say getting) their perspective by taking a different view on their research issues. First, it allows to confirm information that is found in both perspectives. Second it allows to work towards a more general model by asking why some issues can not be integrated and third what is necessary to do so leading to the integrative framework. This position seems to go back to Moritz Schlick founder of the Vienna circle from which logical-empiricist methodolgical stances emerged.

Most other research interests are related to this question of framing social change processes in evolutionary terms. They supply the variety and need for openness arguments for democratic systems. I also think an evolutionary framework can supply the lattice or matrix of constraints, laws, rules heuristics that we need if we want to understand, analyse and influence the development of social systems.

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