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Styles of Knowing

Styles of Knowing: A New History of Science from Ancient Times to the Present

Chunglin Kwa
Translated by David McKay
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Styles of Knowing
    Book Description:

    Now available in English,Styles of Knowingexplores the development of various scientific reasoning processes in cultural-historical context. Influenced by historian Alistair Crombie'sStyles of Scientific Thinking in the European Tradition,Chunglin Kwa organizes his book according to six distinct styles: deductive, experimental, analytical-hypothetical, taxonomic, statistical, and evolutionary. Instead of featuring individual scientific disciplines in different chapters, each chapter explains the historical applications of each style's unique criterion for good science. Kwa shows also how styles have influenced each other and transformed over time. In a chapter written especially for American audiences, Kwa examines how changes in engineering and technology during the twentieth century affected the balance among the various styles of science.Based on extensive research in Greek and Latin primary sources and numerous modern secondary sources, Kwa demonstrates the heterogeneous nature of scientific discovery. This accessible and innovative introduction to scientific change provides a foundational history for the classroom, historians, and nonspecialists.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7774-2
    Subjects: General Science, History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. 1 Introduction: The Six Styles of Knowing
    (pp. 1-11)

    A style of scientific knowing is more than a method of scientific practice. This book differentiates between six styles: the deductive (in which science is built on first principles), the experimental, the hypothetical-analogical, the taxonomic, the statistical, and the evolutionary. Each of these styles has its own criterion for good science, the proper way of arriving at “the truth.” There is no way to deduce or derive the styles of science from anything else; they form their own justification. The proposal that there are six different styles of science was first made by the historian Alistair Crombie in his magnum...

  2. 2 The Deductive Style of Science
    (pp. 12-26)

    The ancient greeks established the concept that scientific explanation, in the ideal case, means inferring or deducing a natural phenomenon from a higher-order principle. Even today, deduction is the most important form of scientific explanation and is central to our image of good, fundamental science. In the twentieth century, some philosophers of science declared that the one true scientific method was a variant of this Greek form of deductive reasoning: the so-called hypothetico-deductive (or hypothetical-deductive) model. This claim was incorrect—there are other methods and styles in science—but it indicates the high status of the deductive style.

    Relative to...

  3. 3 The Deductive Style in a Christian Context
    (pp. 27-45)

    For a very long time, deductive explanation of natural phenomena remained the gold standard in scientific inquiry. This standard was tied up with the very definition of science. Thomas Aquinas said thatscientiawas the knowledge of eternal and necessary truths (from which knowledge of more specific natural phenomena could be deduced). Whatever could not be proved wasopinio, a very broad category (ever broader, in fact, as time went on). Opinions are not devoid of value, Aquinas argued, certainly not if they are so plausible that they are universally believed, especially by the best people.¹ But one aim of...

  4. 4 From Scholar to Virtuoso: The Renaissance Origins of the Experimental Style
    (pp. 46-71)

    Aristotle made observations, but did not perform experiments. Archimedes performed experiments, but kept quiet about them, at least in his formal arguments. In Greek and Roman antiquity, experiment was not regarded as a valid path to knowledge. Experimentation, generally in the form of trial and error, was the province of the arts and crafts, and of engineering. Science studied nature, which was understood to exclude human intervention. In the Middle Ages, some scholars posed questions that lent themselves to experimental investigation, but in practice this led merely to a slight expansion of the scope for personal experience and observation.


  5. 5 The Experimental Style II: The Skeptics and Their Opponents
    (pp. 72-91)

    The final greek philosopher that Renaissance humanists reclaimed for the Western tradition was Sextus Empiricus. We do not know much about him; he lived around AD 180 and was a disciple of Pyrrhon, the great Skeptic of the ancient world. Sextus probably did not attract a great deal of notice during his life, since there were other philosophers with similar views. Coincidentally, however, he is the only radical Skeptic whose writings have survived. Before the rediscovery of Sextus, Diogenes Laërtius had provided some information on Pyrrhon, and Cicero was known to have advocated a much milder form of Skepticism. When...

  6. 6 The Experimental Style III: Alchemy and the New Sciences
    (pp. 92-133)

    Surveying the whole range of seventeenth-century sciences, we can identify two broad categories. Thomas Kuhn called the first group—mathematics, astronomy, harmonics, optics, and statics—the classical sciences because of their roots in classical antiquity. A new group of sciences had joined them, including metallurgy, magnetism, chemistry (“chymistry”), and the study of heat. Kuhn called these Baconian, after the English statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon.¹

    The new sciences were not taught at universities; they were “lower” sciences, and their practitioners were generally amateurs (or physicians). In the seventeenth-century Republic of Sciences, these amateurs were, in Kuhn’s words, second-class citizens, except...

  7. 7 The Hypothetical Style: Analogies between nature and Technology
    (pp. 134-164)

    In the middle ages, there was a well-known theological argument that man will never be able to understand nature, because nature was created by God, and man cannot fathom God’s purposes. But in the domain of technology, Nicholas of Cusa (Cusanus) wrote in 1450, man is a “second god.”¹ In other words, what man makes himself, he can understand completely.

    Cusanus’s argument shed a different light on Aristotle’s view that there was a sharp distinction between nature and technology, providing a conceptual basis for using “unnatural” technology to understand unforced nature. Yet there was a price to pay: this understanding...

  8. 8 The Taxonomic Style
    (pp. 165-195)

    Of all the styles of science, the taxonomic is the least respected. A taxonomy is an arrangement of facts, things, or entities on the basis of a comparative method. It brings order, but only a provisional order, because it lacks a prior theoretical basis—or at least, this has been the dominant belief for the past hundred years. If any foundation is available for a taxonomic system, then according to the usual line of argument, it is not a product of the taxonomy itself; in chemistry, for instance, the periodic table of elements is a system that we could not...

  9. 9 Statistical Analysis as a Style of Science
    (pp. 196-220)

    Rather than defining exactly what statistics is, it is easier to say what statistics is about: namely, groups of entities (“populations” in modern statistical parlance). Those entities can be voters, or recruits, or observations. Statistics does not deal in individual cases, but in multitudes of individuals, preferably all more or less of the same kind.

    Likewise, individual entities and cases are not central to the taxonomic or the evolutionary style. As we have seen, the taxonomic style places individuals in a roughly hierarchical framework or simply in a fixed order; it aims to form distinct groups and, at a minimum,...

  10. 10 The Evolutionary Style
    (pp. 221-251)

    Charles darwin publishedOn the Origin of Speciesin 1859—a very late date, in at least two respects. He had arrived back in England in 1836 from a five-year voyage around the world on the HMSBeagle. Upon his return, he immediately began to flesh out the ideas in his notebooks, and he wrote up his theory of evolution the following year. But it took Darwin more than twenty years to go through his notes and write his book. In fact, he might have taken much longer if an acquaintance, Alfred Russell Wallace, had not decided to publish a...

  11. 11 Science in the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 252-276)

    One might not expect a hierarchy to exist for the six styles of knowing, since it is not as if any one style forms the foundation for any the others. Yet through much of the twentieth century, there was, in fact, hierarchy of styles, with the deductive style at the apex. This bolstered the status of physics as standing at the apex of the disciplines.¹

    Nevertheless, much of what was presented as theoretical and deductive science consisted of relatively modest middle-level theories. In other cases, supposed premises or first principles involved a concealed analogy, a hypothetical assumption underlying the deductive...