Many a learned man say that traditional and modern culture is two sides of the same story, just told differently. Culture is a system of learned and shared meanings. People’s sharing often courses knowledge generation and learning through generations, and this has over time come to be known as culture. Traditional and modern culture are closely related since they are both ways of thinking, ways of relating to one another and one’s surroundings. This paper explores the foundation of the three sciences and why science is the most important. Additionally, it looks at what knowledge is and why some say that one should take a theoretical approach to it while others claim that one’s approach, in reality, is practical. These questions seem to make the most regarding of the quotations given and a slight interest as well.
What principles make up the three sciences, and why is natural science seen as the most important?
The basis of all ‘videnskab’ is the production of knowledge about the world. The building blocks of this knowledge are the same: Hypothesis, data, empirical examination, theory. These building blocks can come in different orders depending on which method one uses. Deductive or the ‘top-down’ approach tests hypothesis and theory with data whereas the inductive or ‘bottom-up’ approach to research generates a new hypothesis and theory from data obtained. The main difference between these approaches is that the deductive approach aims to tests hypothesis while the inductive approach focuses on generating new theory and data. One can also say that an inductive approach moves from the general to the more specific while the deductive approach goes from the specific to the more general. Thus, when using the inductive method, one wishes to generate new knowledge whereas deductive research might aim to disprove an existing theory. One might see these methods as inherently different, but when doing research, one might realise that they complement each other perfectly. In some cases, researchers might need to use both to get the results they want. For example, when a researcher faces an object of description, should see she starts out by forming a hypothesis based on her observation thus gathering data. Further, she subjects the object to several different examinations and thus using theoretical concepts to reach her conclusion. Research within both the humanities and science stem from astute observations. Despite this fact, giving an insightful account of an event plays a more significant role in the humanities than in science. At times, one hears about biologists describing a single specimen or astronomers describing a new star. Here, the inductive method is a great tool to go beyond the specific and to the more general. The phenomenon of generalised statements and generalisation overall are harder to find in the humanities than in science.
In the humanities, the preferred method is hermeneutical whereas within the natural science the hypothetical-deductive is more widely used. Both methods have their similarities and differences. However, the hypothetical-deductive method used to analyse real-world observations while the hermeneutical strives to correctly understand a text and insist that primary sources be pivotal. So, one can say to some extent that it is registering versus understanding. In short, one can say that there are two main differences between the humanities and science. Firstly, there is a difference regarding their objects of description. In science, the focus is on physical and biological entities where the human conscious and practice are out of the scope of the object. The same cannot be said for the humanities, human practices and consciousness are indeed part of the object of description. Secondly, there is a significant difference regarding method. In science, there is an excellent focus on separating the observer and object from one another while the humanities establish a profound understanding between the observer and the object. The essential difference is that of the object of description. Thus, one can claim that human understanding is not only based on what one observes in the physical world. Hence, one cannot find laws that have been around since the beginning of time in the humanities, the simple explanation for this the nature of the object of description, which means it is not a methodological flaw. For this reason, universal hypothesis and theories are far less critical in the humanities than in the sciences. Humanists are more interested in the properties of specific objects of description, i.e., texts, subcultures. The need to be specific makes capturing verity an essential component of the humanities. In the humanities, generalisations depend on regularities as opposed to eternal laws. In most cases, experiments are not possible, and if they are, they are often unethical. Therefore, one often sees that general observations and connections are made based on specific passages of specific writings. When generalisations are made they move from texts to authors, periods, genre. In short, the significant difference between science and humanities is the role of the observer and how he/she interacts with the object of description. The humanities are the only ‘science’ where the researcher’s interaction with the object is crucial for producing something meaningful. Thus, it might prove more challenging to separate statement and findings in the humanities than in the sciences. One should be aware that the individual does not create every minute detail of the object since language came before the individual. It is not just within the humanities methods differ. There are also instances of this within science; therefore, one always has to adjust the method to the object of description. Plus, subjective understanding is highly valued in the humanities because it is necessary in order to get access to the object of description. Despite this, the object of description has properties that exist independently from what the subject might think.
What is knowledge and why do some argue that one needs a purely theoretical approach to such while others claim that one has a practical approach instead?
According to Nagel knowledge is a mental state, she might be right to suggest that but wrong to argue that knowledge is prior to belief. Thus, being able to recognise a belief one needs to have a concept of knowledge. Knowledge is often said to be stored in databases and libraries and shared through a concept known as the ‘knowledge economy,’ which is the more common name of information-based commerce. As with many other resources, knowledge can be acquired, used for a wide range of purposes and therefore losing it is also a possibility. Knowledge has a closer connection to us than resources such as water. Many find it tempting to identify knowledge with the help of facts, but not every fact has its basis in fact. Some even go as far as to argue that facts are facts just by being noted but this is far from true. As Nagel puts it ‘without a mind to access knowledge, the resources we have stored in databases and libraries are merely electronic traces or ink on paper.’1 Further, common knowledge might be shared by countless people, but everything that is known is attached to a subject. Therefore, it is near impossible to find knowledge which has no attachment to a subject.
Firstly, one has the example of a group claiming that a fact is known just because every member knows it. Secondly, one has the instance of an orchestra knowing Beethoven’s entire Ninth Symphony, even though they only know their part. Finally, one can say that a rogue nation can launch a nuclear missile even if no one within that nation knows anything about how to manage such a launch.2
All these examples suggest that a group can combine their member’s knowledge to achieve what they wish to achieve in creative ways. Furthermore, questions like ‘is there a God’ or ‘what we know about nonhuman animals.’ Questions such as these draw us into difficult biological, theological and ethical debates. For this reason, many epistemologists tend to examine the knowledge of a single entity rather than tackling the knowledge of the majority.
Many a hermeneutic thinker argues that our understanding of said knowledge is an interpretive act which includes signs, words, events which one then pieces together to make a whole. Thus, facts and words will first make sense when one adapts it to one’s reality; as a result, different words can carry different weight for different people. This process needs to occur in order for these words to become a part of one’s mental landscape and most importantly before one can describe an event or a text accurately in one’s own terms. So, one has not wrapped one’s mind around a poem’s message before one can explain it in one’s own words. Additionally, hermeneutic thinkers fancy that the integration of the new knowledge and understanding of such happens unbeknownst when one is in a familiar cultural environment in which these idioms and objects have a fixed definition.
Now imagine a concert attendee after finding a parking spot for his/her car and walking six city blocks in the blistering cold, and while queuing for half an hour he/she spots an agreeable seat in the theatre. The seat in question does not appear to be a useless observation but rather a place of comfort where enjoying the anticipated performance is possible.3
If one saw this from a theoretical perspective, one would see the seat regarding its compositional components or its measurements. This way of perceiving things is only to happen if one is to study it separately from the whole, i.e., if the seat collapses under one’s weight when one sits down, then it is necessary to adopt a more scientific approach to one’s experience. Then, one might find more interest in inspecting the overall structure of the seat and what the root of the malfunction might be. So, if hermeneutic philosophers are right in their prediction that one’s primary mode of perception is practical rather than theoretical, then the way in which one experience the world is further from a science experiment than how one perceives things like art. Building upon this one may argue that theories help to generate scientific knowledge and when these theories are applied to explain available evidence one moves into a domain of practice. Therefore, one may say that philosophers suggest that one use one’s interests and desires to explain what is in front of him/her rather than generate new theories which generate new knowledge.
To summarise, the most significant difference between science and the humanities is the object of description and how the research interact with it. Scientists tend to separate the observer from the object while humanists establish a relationship between the observer and the object of description. For humanists, human practice and consciousness play a vital role in the description of the object, this means that desires and interests are fascinating to humanists as well. On this note, hermeneutic thinkers contest that our way of perceiving the world is practical rather than theoretical and they go on to argue that one’s experience of one’s surroundings is closer to that of art than that of a science experiment. One uses prior knowledge to make sense of the task put forth rather than generating new knowledge.