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SCIENCE, SCIENTIFIC METHOD, AND LANGUAGE
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
1. Roots of Science
Compare the just born human child and the just born calf. How helpless the human child is! Certain abilities are demonstrated by young ones of the non-human animal kingdom at their birth. These abilities seem to be far superior to those possessed by a just born human child. However, very soon the human child blossoms into an organism not matched by other animals. The human animal discovers how various things around him operate. This knowledge is highly essential for him because he is not built with mechanisms for maintaining his existence automatically. His knowledge of the environment, his knowledge how things around him operate and his ability to manipulate the things around him and their operations go a long way in making him survive. His present position within the animal kingdom is in large measure a consequence of his having learned how to exploit his intellectual capacities for a discovery of things and their operations around him. Science has its roots in this instinctive urge of humans. Science, when identified thus, is an essential survival mechanism of humans and a part of their own being, which has now become institutionalised.
Science is variously defined. It is defined as knowledge, as concerned with fact about the world we live in, as systematic inquiry into a fairly well defined subject matter, and as what a scientist does. Content of science is defined as our knowledge of the nature of things and their causal relationships. Science is also defined as a vast collection of facts of in exact and unambiguous knowledge. This knowledge is expected to be expressed in such a manner that anyone who takes the trouble can contest its truth. It is also defined as a collection of rules or laws, which express the connection between facts. It is grounded in experience but is not concerned with experiences only.
In his efforts to discover things and their operations around him, human child soon comes to use language as a tool. Language can then be viewed as a collection of concepts and the ways these concepts may be composed and expressed using the code. Our experience enriches the concepts in stock, which enrich and guide our experience in their turn. We soon construct our world according to our conceptual and linguistic equipment. A language has its own logic of observation of the world around it and it has its own manner of referring to the reality around. In fact, the notion reality is used generally as occurring within a particular language system the participants are employing at the moment. Human languages have an empirical reference and as a consequence we are able to make statements involving concepts, which can be experimentally tested through a comparison with what is observed. One should, however, be cautious: what is real in scientific contexts need not be considered real in ordinary contexts. The word real or reality is used in different contexts involving different types of empirical languages. Ordinary language is empirical and scientific language is also empirical, but their quality and import need not be identical.
In the paragraph above, we referred to language, reality and experience. The interrelationship between language and reality is a wide field and is not the subject matter of our study. Accordingly, only a broad hint was presented above without affecting or accepting in any manner this or that position. For instance, it is often argued that concepts are derived from our experience and it is this derivation aspect that gives concepts their meaning. On the other hand, it is also argued that if we confront the world with an empty head, then our experience will be deservedly meaningless. It is claimed that concepts are not given meaning by experience but that it is concepts that give experience meaning. In any case, use of language for acquisition, analysis, classification, categorization and so on for expression of concepts is an ontological process in a human child; thus, one is not wrong if he suggests that language use for science commences in the very early developmental stage of a child. In fact, early language acquisition itself in a manner can be characterized as acquisition of language of science.
The just born child is a scientist because he aims at discovering things and their relationships around him. His language acquisition is the acquisition of scientific language. The child invents or discards concepts when the existing conceptual framework around which his world is built is found inadequate in some manner. We invent concepts because we need them to construct the world around us. Stating facts is a chief concern of language: 'The world crystallizes into fact according to our language'. A world, which is not in some way crystallized by a language, is inconceivable - for the simple reason that we cannot say anything about it.
Scientific language evolves from the ordinary language which itself in the ontological development must be considered as the scientific code of a low but basic variety. There soon develops a conflict between the inherited conceptual framework represented by the ordinary language and the institutionalised conceptual framework acquired through conscious efforts represented by institutionalised language of science. Language of science is an extension of ordinary language. It is a superposed variety, sometimes in direct conflict with or shying away from ordinary language. This happens because of conflicts between the conceptual frameworks of these two varieties. Scientific language and ordinary language can thus be viewed as presenting two different viewpoints about the things and their operations around humans. These two views in their total effect may be identified as different, but in many individual aspects may be one and the same; in some aspects they may not only be different but also in conflict with one another; in some other aspects they may be inclusive of one another.
Some consider also that scientific language evolves as a means of dealing with aspects of the world for which ordinary language is inadequate. We would like to advocate the difference position rather than the inadequacy position because, as we already suggested, the language of science is a qualitatively different ontological extension of the ordinary language. The difference position is further strengthened because the language of science and ordinary language are based upon the same grammatical code, the difference revolving mainly around the choice of or preference for specified structures. Also note that the conceptual frames represented by them are different and both have their own functions. Hence, instead of saying that ordinary language is inadequate, one may better put the ordinary and scientific languages as different. Language acquisition by children begins and stops with the recognition of the fact that rubber is not brittle but there are other solids that are brittle. A scientist, however, wants to know why some solids are brittle and others not. In this extension of the question, language of science has its roots. Language, both ordinary and scientific, 'usually develops by a process of piecemeal alteration'. We earlier pointed out in chapter 1 that languages evolve to meet the requirements of their users. The scientific language also evolves to meet the new requirements of changing concepts. However, the piecemeal alteration process by itself results in the language becoming intolerably cumbersome. And when this happens, the whole language and its associated conceptual framework may be discarded.
We take the position in this book that conceptual revolution in science, whether on a minor or major scale, involves seeing familiar phenomena in a new light. The facts are changed as we change the "language" in which we report our experience. To perceive anew while perhaps not perceiving anything physically new requires imagination. The process of science depends upon the scientist's ability to see the unfamiliar as an example of the familiar, to see therefore the familiar anew, and to see it with new words. For this is discovery. This holds true not only for scientific inquiry but also for every other human activity including poetry. Thus the nature of science may be viewed as linguistic evolution, that is, evolution towards languages of greater adequacy and flexibility.
2. Philosophy of Science
Conscious effort, achievement of knowledge explicitly formulated, generality and systematic inquiry and ordering are some of the facets of science which we have already referred to. Science has become institutionalised, and with the help of science man has come to achieve great mastery, both intellectual and practical, over his environment and other species. The great potential of science enabling humans to master their environment by bits and pieces, has been a subject matter for wonder, astonishment, investigation, discussion and concern of reflective men throughout the ages and in different cultures. Philosophical writings give a central or prominent position to a discussion of the aims, the methods and all other matters related to validity, limitations, social and moral significance of science. These discussions, thoughts and writings constitute an area called the philosophy of science. This field has a very wide scope comprising matters that at a quick glance would reveal no underlying relationship between them. This field is characterized by a conglomeration of conceptions, sometimes in conflict with one another and incompatible with one another as well. Some of the issues dealt with in this field are the epistemology of sense perceptions, problems concerning the genesis, the development and the social effects of scientific ideas, etc., axiomatization of various branches of theoretical inquiry, proposed justification processes of inductive procedures, criteria for meaningful discourse and types of definitional techniques, the structure of scientific laws and the status and function of theoretical ideas. In essence the designation philosophy of science does not denote a reasonably well-defined domain of enquiry. One may limit the philosophy of science to:
Thus philosophy of science is an area of the science of philosophy that concentrates on the philosophical bases of science.
Philosophy of science may be considered as a separate discipline. But this discipline is not based upon a single school of philosophy. There are many schools of philosophy presenting different tenets as bases of scientific inquiry. Thus we have the positivist school of philosophy of science (Positivism is defined its a philosophical system concerned with positive facts and phenomena. It excludes speculation upon ultimate causes or origins.), the empiricist school of philosophy of science and the linguistic school of philosophy of science and so on. In spite of the existence of such differing schools of philosophy and the resultant different approaches to the philosophy of science, there are certain commonly agreed upon descriptions of procedures adopted in scientific research. In fact these procedures are not really the result of the deliberations of the different schools of philosophy but are the result of cumulative efforts of the practitioners of science who may or may not have knowledge of the philosophical import of what they do. We shall present these procedures and link them with the special characteristic features of the use of language in sciences. But before doing that, we shall present certain assumptions of the school of linguistic philosophy that looks at all the acquisition and manipulation of knowledge as a process of refinement of concepts through the refinement and/or consideration of language use. It is claimed that these sentences, which embody the highly confirmed concepts of science, are to be studied philosophically and that in the examination of the kinds of sentences and the kinds of terms figuring in these sentences the progress of science will depend. In fact, these sentences and kinds of terms figuring in these sentences are taken to constitute language of science. Hence the study of the language of science has direct relevance for the philosophical inquiry of science, its methods, conclusions, etc.
3. Linguistic Philosophy and Science
Linguistic philosophy takes the view that philosophical problems are problems that may be solved or shown as no problem at all either by reforming the language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use. According to this position the logical structure of our thought is concealed or misrepresented in language. Peculiarities of linguistic form such as analogies, metaphors and similes may misrepresent or conceal the logical structure. Once we appreciate this possibility and once we make the meaning of our words clear and the way they are combined in language explicit, most of the questions would be found as non-questions. Most of the unsolved problems are due to confusions in the way the language is used - the way the questions are asked. The problems must be considered as linguistic confusions, which can be cleared up. This is so because language does not consist only of rules of words, their derivation and use, and their combination according to syntactic constraints but also an enormous number of conventions not expressly formulated but always presupposed in understanding every day language. Formulating and bringing these tacit conventions to consciousness form the process of the clarification of ideas - the basis upon which new ideas are brought out.
As we already stated, linguistic philosophy takes the view that philosophical problems are problems that may be solved or shown as no problem at all either by reforming the language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use. This may be done by analysing the meanings of words and the logical relations between them in language. Such an inquiry is pursued to solve many problems related to determinism, scepticism and causation. Linguistic philosophy approach is important for the study of language use in science because it emphasizes, focuses and is based upon the pivotal role of language in the development, analysis, categorization and so on of knowledge. Secondly it is important because it insists upon looking at sentences and their structures as used for the expression of ideas.
Linguistic philosophy is not a single, unified school of philosophy, although it has its own characteristics, which mark it different from other schools of thought in philosophy. It is an analytical philosophy.
Generally speaking, the approaches of linguistic philosophy can be divided into two, viz., the Ordinary Language Philosophy and the Ideal Language Philosophy. Though these two approaches differ from each other in many respects, they agree in the view that language plays a crucial role in the solution of philosophical problems and that new knowledge is nothing but the clarification of the linguistic usage leading to pertinent questions in the processes of theory construction and experimentation and validation of hypotheses.
4. Ideal Language Philosophy
Bertrand Russell believed that by means of a study of syntax we could arrive at considerable knowledge concerning the structure of the world. The linguistic programme for metaphysical inquiry recognizes the possible correspondence between sentence structure and structure of fact. Each of the facts of the world has its ontological structure. If a sentence has to assert a fact it must have a logical structure, which has something in common with the ontological structure of fact. In other words, there is a correspondence between the structure of a sentence and the structure of the fact that is expressed by that sentence. Investigation of facts, then, is facilitated or is achieved by an investigation of sentences that express those facts: 'the royal road to metaphysical knowledge consists of investigating the structures of sentences'. This approach is adopted in spite of the frequently occurring fallacy of verbalism - the fallacy that consists in mistaking the properties of words for the properties of things. It is clear that not all properties of sentences are also properties of the facts asserted by these sentences. In a language the same fact may be asserted by several sentences with widely different structures.
Recognizing the sometimes pernicious influence of language, and at the same time persuaded that language analysis can be a valuable tool in philosophical inquiry, Russell concluded that common language is not sufficiently logical. We must first construct an artificial logical language before we can properly investigate our problem. The nature of such an ideal language, however, has never been completely specified. Generally speaking, an ideal language must be neither vague nor ambiguous. It should be logical. The ideal is a language that prevents every logical mistake.
If we have a logically perfect language, then its structure will have something in common with the structure of the world and by examining the one we shall come to understand the other. Thus an ideal language is a sufficient tool for this technique of philosophical inquiry. But it is also a necessary tool in that an imperfect language will have a misleading structure, which will render unsound any inferences drawn from its structure about the structure of the world. (See section 3.12 for a characterization of the notions sufficient and necessary conditions.) Ordinary languages have the relational property of vagueness. The proper way of exhibiting the structure of our world is to construct an ideal language in which to talk about, it. For, the structure of such language is, in some sense, a picture of the structure of the world.
A language that can be spoken about the world has to fulfil two criteria in order to be ideal in the sense of this thesis. One of these criteria demands that in such a language the so-called philosophical puzzles disappear, or as some put it, that they cannot even be stated in it. The second condition is a certain condition of completeness. The ideal language must be complete or exhaustive. This completeness is a different process. Physical science is becoming more complete and exhaustive day by day; in this sense physical science approaches a goal or ideal. But does that mean that our physicists know or for that matter care to know which leaves the next storm will shake from a particular tree? This kind of exhaustiveness is not the ideal, nor is it useful, and perhaps can never be achieved. So, the ideal languages idea, according to Russell, does not aim at that kind of exhaustiveness. Ideal language is not a language to be actually spoken; it is only a blueprint or scheme which is complete and exhaustive enough to show, in principle, 'the structure and systematic arrangement of all the major areas of our experience', The language of science, however, is actually spoken and written, and is used to achieve greater efficiency, and precision. Note that Russell's arguments suggest that language of science is not identical to ideal language because the second criterion of completeness or exhaustiveness is not met by it.
Ideal language is, by definition, a symbolism, which would be entirely free from the philosophical defects which Russell claimed to find in ordinary language. If language had been invented by scientifically trained observers for purposes of philosophy and logic, precisely this symbolism could have resulted. And it would be logically perfect in the sense of conforming to what logic requires of a language, which is to avoid contradiction. Every symbol would be a logically proper name denoting objects of acquaintance. There would be one word and no more for every simple object, and everything that is not simple will be expressed by a combination of words. These words, which have meaning in the absence of instances of the universals (for instance, shades of colour given by sense data) they denote, would not be included in the ideal language. By definition only those words that denote the entities present would be included. Again by definition, the words presently used in an ordinary language must be considered as unintelligible in the absence of the entities they denote. Proper names in the grammatical sense and all other types of words in the ordinary language would be disqualified for inclusion in the ideal language. They all play a dubious role, because they function as logical descriptions while they are not really so.
Note that the need for an ideal language is felt because of a demonstration of the inefficiency and inadequacy of ordinary language. Note also that a similar assessment of ordinary language is behind the scientists' efforts at developing, perfecting and using language for the expression of sciences.
5. Ordinary Language Philosophy
The Oxford philosopher Austin holds that there is little point in tightening up or reforming ordinary usage until we know what this usage is. He thinks that if we spent more time in observing how we ordinarily use certain words, our eyes would be opened to the difference between normal usage and philosophical usage. The senses given to certain ordinary words by philosophers differ from the senses they have in nonphilosophical discourse. We find that philosophers do make use of ordinary connotations of ordinary words, but they use those words in contexts wherein such words would not be ordinarily used. Philosopher Austin offers no guarantee that this realization of differences in use of the same words would dissolve all the philosophical problems. And yet it is worth our while and efforts if the reforms of language (as proposed by philosophers of ideal language school) are postponed until our present linguistic resources are fully exploited.
The ordinary language philosopher does not claim that all the puzzles of various types of philosophical propositions would be solved by looking at the manner of using ordinary language. The solution to puzzles both real and apparent is not sought by explaining the peculiar nature of the subject matter of sentences in which the puzzles are expressed, 'but by reflecting upon the peculiar manner in which these sentences work'. The ordinary language philosopher will demonstrate how these statements go against ordinary language use. Such recourse to the ordinary language may be objected to by saying that ordinary men are ignorant, misinformed, and therefore frequently mistaken. One may assert that the sentences and phrases used by people need not always refer to truth only. When a person says I know for certain, it does not mean all the time that he knows for certain whatever thing is referred to by him. For example, at one time, everyone declared that the earth was flat, when it was actually round.
In order to answer the objection raised above, we need to consider that there are two ways in which a person may be wrong when he makes an empirical statement: he may be making a mistake as to what the empirical facts are, or, he may know the empirical facts all right and yet use the wrong language to describe those facts. The first is being mistaken about the facts, and the second is the use of incorrect language or improper language or wrong language.
Let us consider the statement referred to earlier that the earth was flat. This statement was believed right but has now been proved wrong empirically. The position here is that by uttering the statement people were making a mistake about the fact and were not using incorrect language. They were using perfectly correct language to describe what they thought to be the case. Let us consider another case: two people agree as to what the empirical facts are and yet disagree in their statements. (This is similar to what happens when the same data is interpreted differently by different persons or by the same person at different times). Two people look at an animal and have a clear and close up view of it. Their descriptions of the animal are in perfect agreement. And yet one of them says it is a fox; the other says it is a wolf. Their disagreement could be called linguistic. There is a right and a wrong with respect to linguistic disagreements. One or the other, or both of them is using incorrect language.
Let us consider yet another case. This is the same as the preceding one with one exception. The man, who says it is a wolf, agrees with the other man on the characteristics of the animal. He agrees also that the animal is ordinarily called a fox. And yet he continues to insist that it was a wolf. Such a response would show that his position is absurd.
There are two types of expressions used in a language. In the first category we have expressions of the sort "earlier", "later", "to the left of", "behind", etc. In the second category, we have expressions such as "ghost", and "God". The difference between these two types of expressions is as follows: whereas we can teach a person the meaning of the word ghost without showing him an instance of the true application of that word (i.e., the meaning of the word ghost can be explained in terms of the meanings of words already known), we cannot teach a person the meaning of these other expressions without showing him instances of true applications of those expressions. The former must be considered ordinary expressions in the language, as there have been many situations of the kind they describe. So, many people have learned the correct use of those expressions because the situations they describe have occurred several times. Thus whenever a paradox is met with, to prove that the expression involved is an ordinary expression is to completely refute the paradox. Ordinary language is correct language because it is based on repeated instances and if an expression is proved to be an ordinary expression, that expression should be considered as correct language. It is on empirical evidences that ordinary language is founded.
As an application of the principles of ordinary language philosophy, let us consider the statement that all words are vague. A philosophising biologist may not be able to identify the characteristics of inanimate things separate from the characteristics of animate things. So, he may report that all matter is really animate. This utterance is paradoxical and false, as it constitutes an offence against ordinary language. In ordinary language we call things like fish and fowl animate, and things like rocks and tables inanimate. Certain words of our language operate in pairs: large and small, animate and inanimate, vague and clear, certain and probable. A number of a pair requires its opposite - animate is contrasted with inanimate, probability with certainty, vagueness with clearness. Suppose that a philosopher wishes to remove from use one member of the pair. When he says that all words are really vague, he proposes that we never apply the word clear anymore. That is, we abolish its use. But once we do what he says, it is 'no longer correct to call any material thing animate, no longer correct to call any empirical statement certain, no longer correct to say of any word that its meaning is clear. Would this be an improvement?'
If the word clear were abolished in the contrasting pair clear-vague, the word vague would have to perform the function previously performed by two words vague and clear. But the function of the pair cannot be performed by only one member. The vagueness is to be contrasted with clearness. If the language is reformed as suggested above, vagueness could be contrasted with nothing. Hence the word vague would simply be dropped as a useless word and we should be compelled to adopt a new pair of words with which to express the same distinctions formerly expressed by the words clear and vague. 'The revision of our language would have accomplished nothing'. Thus the argument is presented against attempts to perform the ordinary language, to make it ideal to express the logic of proposition. With this argument, the argument of vagueness, imprecision, etc., against ordinary language is challenged. When we talk of scientific language we decry the so-called defects of ordinary language. This has a parallel in the controversy raging between the ideal and ordinary language philosophers. But as regards the use of ordinary language for the expression of sciences the battle seems to have been completely lost for the advocates of ordinary language with the institutionalisation of scientific inquiry. It is more or less inconceivable now to use in any large scale the ordinary language for the expression of sciences. An elaborate technical terminology established by conventions (misconceived or not) does not make the use of ordinary language a practical proposition in sciences. However, the ordinary language is sought after in other related activities, which are claimed to spring from the fountain of science. This will be dealt with in section 3.14. In any case the ordinary language philosophy highlights the importance of the role of language in scientific inquiries.
6. A Brief Critique of Linguistic Philosophy
The linguistic philosophy - linguistic approach to philosophical problems - has been criticized in many ways. There have been, throughout the history of philosophy, doubts about relevance and usefulness of language in solving philosophical problems. It is accepted that analysis of language used in propositions may have 'some corrective value, but can make no positive contribution to philosophy'. An analysis of the language in which we describe the world may give us great insight into the description, but not into what is described! Many philosophers consider language as a hindrance rather than an aid in philosophical investigations. (Consider the position the scientists take regarding the usefulness of ordinary language for the description and explanation of scientific facts).
Within the school of linguistic philosophy there have also been direct and strong mutual criticism. For example, the ideal language philosophy's claim that what we need is an ideal language free of vagueness and ambiguousness has been attacked on several grounds. In the earlier section an argument was presented that by reforming the language we would fail to appreciate the different functions performed by words vague and clear in their individual capacity as well as in their capacity when occurring as a contrasting pair. The result of the abolition of the use of words like clear would be that a language perfect in the sense of not being vague can be used only in a world in which all species were fixed, and no borderline cases could occur.
The ideal language programme proposes to investigate the ontological structure of the world through an investigation of the logical or ideal language. Even if a logically perfect language could be devised, the proposed programme for investigating the ontological structure of the world by means of investigating the logical structure of ideal language is impossible to fulfil. For, the project must have the following sequence. First, an ideal language must be set up, and then through it the metaphysical structure of the world is to be discovered. Thus it is clear that the construction of a logically perfect language is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end of more general philosophical inquiry. But until the completion of such a philosophical investigation, no language can be considered idea!
The essence of an ideal language, as conceived by the proponents of the programme under discussion, is that its logical structure corresponds with, or mirrors in some sense, the ontological structure of fact. Hence a language can be ideal only by comparing its logical structure with the ontological structure of the world, which must be known independently if the comparison is to be significant. The critics claim that because of this circularity we must reject the ideal language programme.
The ordinary language philosophy is criticized on several counts. According to the steps followed in ordinary language philosophy, first we show that the philosophical statement is not an empirical statement, that it does not concern the empirical facts. Secondly, on the basis of the first step, we demonstrate that the philosopher is really trying to tell us something about language. Thirdly, the demonstration that what the philosopher aims at is not empirical fact but only a fact about language itself would amount to be refutation of the statement. In ordinary language people use words differently but this difference does not mean that people have different beliefs concerning which belief is more nearly correct. This is more or less like the use of regional dialects. Hence judgement about correctness of ordinary language, as assiduously asserted by ordinary language philosophers, is difficult to make. As regards the refutation process, it is more a proposal than a process at all. As regards the method of learning vis-ŕ-vis ordinary language which states that occurrence of situations shown leads to learning, the following argument is given: the learning can be achieved not only through occurrence of actual situation but also through several other methods: through a method of contrast we learn the meaning of certain by having it contrasted with doubtful; through a method of limits, one may convey the meaning of perfect circle by exhibiting a sequence of shapes which seem to approach circularity as a limit. There could also be a method of illusion. The distinction between what is learnt ostensively and what is learnt descriptively (proposed by the ordinary language philosophers) is not necessary and correct. These two sorts of learning go hand in hand.
It is contended by ordinary language philosophers that reformation, systematisation, etc., would neglect and destroy the immense richness and complexity of ordinary language and to replace it with neat simplicities. But the critics of ordinary language philosophy point out that this richness of ordinary language often turns out to be an embarrds de richesse. They argue that science proceeds in large measure by simplifying, by abstracting, and by neglecting factors that have a measure of relevance in order to arrive at approximations. Even the terms of ordinary language philosophy cannot be taught giving the meanings of such terms ostensively. We are to proceed by giving some of the rules for the use of such a term and by exhibiting its use on some occasions, by showing how it is located in a network of other concepts and so on. 'It is neither possible nor necessary nor desirable that every term, expression, or sentence of science or philosophy be translatable into ordinary language, the observation language, or the like'.
The ideal language philosophers contend that 'in the effort to describe our experiences we are constantly putting words to new uses, connected with, but not identical with, their familiar uses applying them to states of affairs which are both like and unlike those to which the words are most familiarly applied. Surely something like this accounts, in large measure, for the evolution of natural languages; ordinary language is constantly being reformed.' Thus the ideal language philosophers suspect that many cases of ordinary language analysis proposed by ordinary language philosophers are indeed disguised reformations! Perhaps the difference (between the activities of ideal language and ordinary language philosophers) lies in degree only.
The need to reform the ordinary language arises, according to the ideal language philosophers, on three counts. First, 'there is the need, for certain philosophical purposes, to abstract and to systematically eliminate irrelevancies. Second, in many cases we must reform in order to analyse at all, because mere examination of ordinary use will not reveal the sought-for rule and because the more interesting terms of ordinary language are also systematically ambiguous. Third, the implicit rules that are present in the ordinary language game may indirectly reflect beliefs, which are false. The clarity of thought. . . . can be attained only if, while granting the fusions of the various functions of language, we remain on our guard against their confusions.'
7. Relevance of Linguistic Philosophy for Science
We said in section 3.3. that there is no single school of linguistic philosophy and that there are different approaches to problems within the same school. We identified two major approaches, ordinary language and ideal language, within the linguistic school. Within each of these approaches also philosophers may differ from each other in terms of the emphasis they lay on various factors. The uniting thesis of the two approaches is the statement that the philosophical questions are questions of language; the dissolution of problems of science can be achieved by a careful description of the language in which the facts and the questions raised against the facts are couched. But the difference, among others, lies in the position one takes as to whether there is any need to reform the ordinary language. We have been focussing our attention on the nature and relationships of answers provided for a question. The new approach wants us first to explore the questions, to find out what is meant by a question, and, in essence, to understand, before any effort is made to find an answer, the nature of the question itself. This is so because there is a definite possibility that the form of the question itself might conceal an error - might be a hindrance to arrive at the fact. Thus linguistic philosophy explores the questions raised in sciences and finds out whether the questions are of a right type. It also investigates the language in which the laws of science are couched to find out whether the laws are indeed laws.
Every scientific discipline, one time, or other, comes to a crisis and refuses to proceed in its old direction. The way out for its progress, for its liberation from the crisis, is found by an examination of its fundamental concepts thus far accepted without reservations. In this examination of fundamental concepts, philosophic attitude plays a crucial role, because the description and explanation of structure of concepts, the analysis of language used and the classification of meaning are all the job of the linguistic philosopher. In the pursuit of identifying and solving or dissolving the paradoxes faced by sciences, linguistic philosophical approach plays a very crucial role. The linguistic philosophers themselves are engaged in studying the characteristics of grammar - characteristics of philosophical grammar - for the solution or dissolution of philosophical paradoxes, including those of sciences referred to above. As already stated several times language includes not only the rules of derivation and use of words and rules of syntax but also an enormous number of conventions nowhere expressly formulated but always presupposed. It also includes the rules governing mathematical calculations, the rules of logical inference and ostensive definitions and so on. The philosophical grammar of the linguistic philosopher aims at formulating and bringing to consciousness these tacit conventions for the philosophical clarification of ideas. Since clarification of ideas and raising appropriate and clear questions for the scrutiny of facts is an integral part of scientific work, the need to have a conscious knowledge of philosophical grammar becomes clear.
8. Philosophical Grammar
The exemplification of the notion of rule is a crucial point pursued in the study of philosophical grammar. A rule is something which guides an activity, and it can serve three different purposes: (i) as a constituent of what we call its application, (ii) in mastering an activity, and, (iii) as justification of an activity. Another important area is the study of the meaning of meaning. The interrelationship between explanation procedures and the uses of words is another important area. The philosophical grammar studies the use of analogies in language, families of concepts, and different meanings of one word. It investigates the characteristics of names and the naming processes. Names in general, names of physical objects, proper names of people, the criterion of identity, ostensive definition processes and names of species are all dealt with. Questions such as how we can make ourselves understood by means of language, how do we know that other people attach the same meaning to words that we do, and what are the removable and irremovable barriers to understanding are raised. Other questions are as follows: What sort of experience is presupposed by mutual understanding? What is structural description? What are its characteristics? In what ways is structural description different from the description of properties and relations? What is a proposition? How do we understand a sentence? Can a sentence be framed as the expression of a fact? What are the psychological criteria for a proposition? Is the forming of a sentence preceded by a consciousness of its content? How come persons understand the new sentences without having learned the facts to which the new sentences refer? Is there something in common between a fact and the sentence that expresses it? Is this due to common structure? Is it true that there is a natural correspondence between reality and language, and that it is only correspondence, which accounts for the fact that reality, is describable by language? How can we communicate a new fact - is this because the fact has a definite structure, which we can imitate in grouping together our words; is it that we understand the sentence because we see it in the structure of the fact? Is it not strange that with a limited vocabulary we can describe an unlimited number of different situations? Scholars report that one and the same fact may be expressed in a thousand different languages, that these thousand different propositions will have the same structure, and that the fact, which these propositions express, will have the same structure too. But what are we to understand by the structure of a fact? The same fact can be expressed by sentences, which have entirely different structures. (Consider the notion of style detailed earlier, which is anchored on this same facility). Which of these is to be the, structure of the fact?
The philosophical grammar investigates also how propositions are combined. The nature of questions is a serious pursuit within philosophical grammar. Whether there can be logical connections between questions, whether there is a basic form to which all questions can be reduced, how are question and answer fitted together, when is a question significant, whether there are insoluble and yet significant questions - all these are intended to be subject matter for philosophical grammar. Is the idea of the question connected with that of search? Can a question be asserted or denied? Can questions be classified into different types such as questions which cannot be negated at all, questions which can be negated, and which thereby acquire a new meaning, and questions which if negated remain unchanged? On what do these differences rest? What different sorts of answers can be given to questions? How do question and answer fit together? When do we understand a question (i) only when we know the way to the solution, (ii) or when we can state what a possible answer would look like, (iii) or simply when we know the meaning of the words used in asking the question? When is a question meaningless?
The philosophical grammar, thus, is different from the linguistic grammar in many respects. Linguists restrict their studies to the study of linguistic structures. They are interested in the ways in which these linguistic structures are put to use. But such interests are restricted to the structural description, and description of the relations that exist between elements. Linguists are interested in analysing how language, a system of systems, operates. The philosophical grammarian is interested in the study of language to classify the concepts in philosophy in general. One may even go to the extent of saying that the construction of philosophical grammar in the hands of a linguistic philosopher amounts to constructing a tool; but, for the linguist, construction of a grammar is an end in itself. Even the goals of philosophical grammar and the linguistic grammar may be different from one another; both have to depend on each other at least to some extent to derive mutual benefits-in the understanding of language, how it works, how it influences our scientific process and how working and use of language clarifies the concepts underlying a problem, how grammatical categories can be refined further and so on. A mutual give and take seems to be of much immediate necessity from the point of view of linguistic philosophers at least for two reasons: first of all, more often than not, linguistic philosophers do not have a sound knowledge and appreciation of linguistic structures per se. If clarification of ideas is sought in linguistic philosophy, through a clarification of linguistic structures employed for the expression of ideas the need for a firmer, better and more comprehensive understanding of linguistic structures of a language becomes obvious. Secondly, developments in linguistics, especially the recent ones, have a lot to throw light upon aspects of problems deliberated currently by linguistic philosophers. For instance, consider the notion suggested and accepted by linguistic philosophers that we understand the meaning conveyed by sentences, both new and old, on the basis of the meaning of words in the sentences and on the basis of how these words are put in an order in a sentence. This is true of several cases, but there is also the need to posit a distinction between surface structure and the deep structure. The philosophical grammarians now will do well to recognize the distinction between surface and deep structures and incorporate it in their speculations on how we understand the meaning of a sentence. Likewise, the theory of common structure for individual facts propounded by philosophers like Wittgenstein and Schlick can be seen in the light of the discussion in linguistics about universals of language. As for linguistics, the aloofness, which it wantonly sought, is broken mainly because of its practitioners' current interest in allied disciplines including linguistic philosophy. The philosophical grammar recognizes more fully the chief characteristics of language use; pursuing further this line of research with a firm grounding and footing in linguistics will widen our understanding of the uses to which the structures are put and will contribute to an understanding of human beings as integrated wholes.
9. New Direction in Linguistic Philosophy
Let us see now what new directions linguistic philosophy can profitably take from the point of view of transformational-generative grammar, a school of linguistics propounded vigorously by Noam Chomsky and at the moment a widely followed linguistic theory. This theory proposes that we distinguish the surface from the deeper, and identify the more profound reality that underlies the surface appearance. Natural languages have an underlying reality very different from their surface form and this underlying reality can be discovered and substantiated through the method of hypothetical postulation and empirical verification. How deceptive the surface appearances are can be appreciated by the following illustrations. The cow was found by the farmer and The cow was found by the stream look rather alike but convey different meanings. The farmer found the cow and The cow was found by the farmer look different in their structural composition, but are related, or can be viewed as springing from the same source as they mean the same thing. The sentence Flying planes can be dangerous has more than one interpretation and each of these interpretations are different from the other.
Differences or deceptive appearances of the surface form are further cited in chapter 5 where we discuss the use of sentences in science.
The distinction between surface and underlying forms are discovered and substantiated through the method of hypothetical postulation and empirical verification. This has a parallel in the scientific method - in a method Democretus, who lived more than 2000 years ago, used successfully to demonstrate that there are spaces between the atoms. He proposed the view that continuity is only the surface appearance of matter and that if reality matter is composed of tiny particles with empty spaces between them. This Democretean concept of matter originated as a purely hypothetical postulation. But when it proved to yield better predictions and explanations of the observable behaviour of physical objects and substances than the concept of continuity, it received scientific acceptance. Later on the original hypothetical postulation was also experimentally demonstrated.
The early Wittgenstein (early Wittgenstein because during the later period of his philosophical expositions he has changed several of his original ideas) and many other philosophers occupied themselves with the problem of logical form and with how the logical form is represented in sentence structure. They were worried that the overt grammatical form of a sentence is often a misleading guide to its logical form. Some sought a framework for the logical form in mathematics. Some sought to achieve it by reducing sentence to a set of logical simples and their relations. The latter Wittgenstein discarded the process of reducing sentences to a set of logical simples and their relations for arriving at and the representation of the logical form of sentences. He preferred comparing and contrasting the ways in which different sentences are used in different realms of life. Language disguises thought but thought can be retrieved through appropriate analysis. Wittgenstein replaced the notion of logical form or meaning with a new one according to which meaning lies in the public use of linguistic forms. He proposed an analysis, which suggests that we understand meaning in terms of an examination of the public features of the ways speakers actually use sentences to carry on social intercourse.
The generative grammarian-linguistic philosopher proposes that the distinction between logical form and grammatical form, between the thought or meaning of a sentence and its phonetic or orthographic shape is an appearance-reality distinction (Katz, 1972). He suggests that it is possible to infer the form of the thought beneath the outward form of sentence 'if we are willing to penetrate the disguise in the way physicists penetrated the disguise in which nature presents matter to us in sense experience'. But is there any reason to believe that we can penetrate the disguise at all?
Katz (1972) reports: One reason for us to believe we can penetrate phonetic or orthographic clothing is that speakers of a natural language do exactly this when other speakers successfully communicate with them. We may suppose that in the process of learning the language, speakers have acquired a system of rules for relating sound and meaning and that they use these rules to obtain their own internal representation of the thoughts of other speakers from the speech sounds through which such thoughts are expressed. We may suppose further that if in order to understand another's speech a speaker must penetrate the phonetic disguise of another's thought, and if such penetration is achieved by a system of rules that determines the thought from the phonetic shape, then a knowledge of such a system, in the form of a theory that formulates these rules, would itself uncover the underlying logical form of sentences. If linguists would discover the principles by which the speakers of a language perform the encoding and decoding of thoughts in linguistic communication, then they would succeed in doing just what Wittgenstein said was impossible.
One of the tenets of Wittgenstein's later philosophy is that an understanding of the logical features of language is not to be obtained from the theories, but through an understanding of how words are actually used. Theory construction for him is rather based always upon (unsound) analogy, which leads to further misunderstandings, and not to any solution of the problem. Wittgenstein is also against 'the tendency to purify, to sublime, the signs themselves'. But one may like to point out, as against the Wittgenstein position that theory construction can be of different types. One should make a distinction between theory construction towards logically perfect artificial languages intended to replace natural languages (opposed correctly by Wittgenstein) and the type of theory construction towards systems of descriptive and explanatory principles like those found in natural sciences, like those adopted by generative grammarians in their study of language.
10. Philosophy of Language
In the ideal language philosophical approach the effort is to either reform the ordinary language or to replace it with an impersonal and objective artificial language to proceed with the solution of philosophical problems. This approach aims at constructing an ideal artificial language into which sentences on nonphilosophical matters of fact, mathematical truth, etc, can be translated. This ideal language would not include or accept for translation meaningless speculation. It is ideal because it accommodates only facts and truth. Ordinary philosophers also believe that the formulation of philosophical questions in the idiom of natural language leads to confusion. But they find it unnecessary to reform the ordinary language or to construct artificial languages. In this approach the effort is to identify the language uses to clarify and dissolve the philosophical problems. The philosophers adopt the Wittgenstein method of examining the ways the speakers use their language. In both the approaches language plays a crucial role, but the study of its linguistic structure was not thorough and was of only secondary importance. The structure of language was almost taken for granted; its description was never the main focus in the ordinary language philosophy. The linguistic philosophy or philosophy of language proposed by Katz following the tenets of the linguistic school of transformational-generative grammar emphasizes the role of grammar in identifying the universals of human knowledge and in fact suggests that classification of philosophical problems would benefit a lot by first understanding the basic structures of language.
Katz finds that although the ideal language philosophers and ordinary language philosophers differ among themselves on many counts, there is yet another area in which they share a critical presupposition. This is their assumption, not explicitly stated but understood as an implication, 'that natural languages have no underlying reality, that their surface structure and the public aspects of the way their words and sentences are used are all there is to take account of in studying them'. One group of philosophers is led to believe, as a consequence, that natural languages are unsystematic, irregular and logically imperfect. Ordinary language philosophers are reluctant 'to theorize about the structure of natural language and to concentrate their efforts on the attempt to describe the details of linguistic use'. It is precisely by doing the latter job that the transformational grammarian hopes to reveal 'the structure underlying surface irregularity to provide information about the logical form of sentences that is useful in formulating answers to traditional philosophical questions'.
The philosophy of language proposed by Katz agrees with both the schools of linguistic philosophy in some respects, but it differs from them in assuming a distinction between surface appearance and underlying reality. With the ideal language philosophers it agrees with the need to have a formalized system of rules, not imposed by constructing an ideal language but by a description and explanation of natural languages. Furthermore, 'the formal rules of linguistic theory must represent the real relations in language that underlie their connection of sound and meaning, and they must be open to empirical verification in terms of facts that come to light in the linguists' field work'. In this respect, the language philosophy of the generative grammarian agrees with the ordinary language philosopher because the generative grammarian also insists on accurate description of language use.
Katz asserts that description by itself is not enough. It may be considered as the first stage in constructing explanations that posit linguistic structures, which cannot be observed in speech. 'Description provides the evidence for such underlying linguistic structures which in turn is explained by a grammatical theory of underlying linguistic structures. Accordingly we can say that our conception of the philosophy of language has the virtue of both logical positivism and ordinary language philosophy without incurring the vices of either'. However, Katz will not commit that there is always a relation between linguistic structure and concepts which gives rise to philosophical problems. We would only emphasize that 'the philosophical problems that can be dealt with linguistically are ones that depend on features of the underlying reality of language. The features of the underlying reality of language on which they depend are universal. If both assumptions are generally right, then the philosophy of language must look to the theory of linguistic universals for the concepts and principles to use in constructing solutions to philosophical problems'.
11. Relevance of Philosophy of Language and Linguistic Philosophy for Science
We have discussed at length aspects of linguistic philosophy in this book, which deals with the role of language and the uses of language in science. Although the reason may have been made clear indirectly in the earlier discussion, we would like to make explicit the relevance of discussing linguistic philosophy. We take the position that when we wish to study the employment of language in the expression of sciences, we must know the characteristics of language, and know how language can be described. We must know the processes of theory construction. We must know what approaches there are which links up use of language with the acquisition of knowledge, etc. The linguistic philosophy school, more than any other schools of Philosophy, lays greater emphasis on the role of language in theory construction. As we already reported, a section of this school believes that the philosophical problems and the scientific problems can be solved by first dissecting the questions by which such problems are perceived and posed. The unsolvable problems and the astounding progress in the sciences were all due to changes in the direction of attention in crucial stages of science and these changes in the direction of attention were largely made possible by a classification of the language used. As the questions rose regarding an apparent problem may rest upon misunderstandings, the analytic method of the linguistic philosophy frees us from the misunderstandings by making the meanings of our words and the way they are combined in language so clear that 'we no longer feel driven to ask the questions'. Even if the claim of linguistic philosophy may seem to be a tall one, it points to the importance of language use in solution of scientific problems. Language is used in sciences not only to coin technical terms as tokens of concepts, but also to present the findings, and in the processes of theory construction. More often than not, theory construction and presentation of theories in sciences take the help of analogy, metaphor, imagery and so on, which in their turn are liable to be misinterpreted. Even technical terms of sciences may be based on analogy, metaphor, imagery and so on. Misinterpretation of these - analogy, metaphor, and imagery - can hamper in the course of time a real understanding of the basic issues. Hence the importance of the analytic method of the linguistic philosophy to identify the language uses in science vis-ŕ-vis solutions for problems, and theory construction.
In the deliberations of the ideal language philosophy school, we find the germs of the basis of language use in science to some extent in the sense that both aim at an impersonal, objective, precise language that is divorced of the connotations of everyday language. Both will go to the extreme of constructing a new language or reforming the old one with codified denotations. The need for such a transformation was felt by scientists because of the need to fix the meaning of an expression for easy inter-lingual, inter-national communication and because of the need to shed its unwanted past - as science sprang and evolved from common folk practices, it took with it the imprecise, emotional and non-objective folk language. There is no doubt that fixing the meanings/denotations of terms has led to greater clarity and quicker progress of sciences. And yet the language of science cannot be completely divorced from day to day language. We have reached a state, a condition in which our day-to-day language use is heavily influenced by the characteristics of language use in sciences. But at the same time, leaders in sciences continue to draw terms and metaphors heavily from the ordinary language for an explication of even highly sophisticated and novel scientific concepts. The ordinary language has at least the function of relief in the deliberations of science.
The relationship between language use in sciences and the identification and accumulation of knowledge of new concepts may be looked at in three different ways. The technical terms and usage came into existence (are coined) after the identification/discovery of new concepts. Or, the clarification of existing linguistic usage leads to a new concept/view and this view leads to the coinage of technical terms and usage. Thirdly, it may be viewed as if the identification and accumulation of new concepts occur hand in hand with the coinage of technical terms. It is hard to single out any one of the above three as the way in which we operate in sciences. All the three have their own role.
Apart from the above, the processes identified in the construction of ideal language will be a source for work related to construction of technical usage and it will be helpful in this process if we continue the comparison of ideal language with the language used for the expression of sciences. In fact some philosophers assume that the ideal language will be modelled out of science language. But this has been correctly rejected by the majority of ideal language philosophers. There are general tendencies between the attempted ideal language and the science language, some of which we have already identified. If the ideal language philosophy reflects scientists' urge to coin terms that are bereft of folk beliefs and uses, and that have well defined and predetermined meanings to achieve less ambiguous, forthright and formalized communication of ideas, the ordinary language philosophy represents and demonstrates the need to anchor our efforts on to everyday language for various reasons. Each science has to depend on everyday language in the sense that the syntax used in sentences continues to be from the ordinary language. Scientific theory construction, elucidation and exemplification continue to benefit by their association with and the use of ordinary language.
The linguistic turn (or about turn?) suggested by Katz distinguishes between the deep and surface structures and this distinction is directly relevant for the coinage of correct terms with least ambiguity and anomaly. The ten questions (namely: What is the difference between meaningfulness and meaninglessness? What is sameness of meaning? What is the difference between synonymy and non-synonymy? What is multiplicity of meaning or ambiguity? What is truth by virtue of meaning and what is falsehood by virtue of meaning? What is semantic redundancy? What is entailment by virtue of meaning? What is presupposition? What is a self-answered question?) are directly relevant to the problems of expression of sciences too. Even though science is considered to be a less ambiguous activity engaged in solution of problems, etc., and even though the language of science is supposed to be precise, notions of linguistics are essential to maintain the precision sought by the language of science and to resolve any confusion that may arise. A better knowledge of trends in linguistic philosophy, linguistics, scientific method, etc., is necessary for developing and refining the language of science. Katz's distinction between deep and surface structures and emphasis on deep structures for an understanding of the reality beneath the surface structures should be related to better procedures and steps for the clarification of questions raised in sciences.
12. Scientific Method
We shall now see, in brief, the steps and requirements of scientific method and how these steps are intimately linked with and leading to specialized language expressions in science. In science one comes up with construction of hypotheses, designing and conducting experiments, argumentation, proof and falsification, reporting of the findings and so on. Each of these activities involves use of language. However, the quantum and kinds of language in terms of vocabulary and sentence types may differ from one form of activity to the other even within a single field and within a single experiment. The quantum of language differs because of a tendency to use more and more symbols - mainly mathematical-with less language vocabulary and sentence types. But even such types must fall into some pattern and this pattern has some links of derivation and use with ordinary language and, on most occasions, is constructed on the basis of ordinary language.
In an earlier section we tried to give a characterization for the term science. For a layman the word science is in many respects an ambiguous term. He may include under science fields such as astronomy, chemistry and biology. But when it comes to engineering, medicine, etc., he is not sure. He may be sure that politics, history, art, religion, etc., are not included under science. The classification into arts, sciences, applied sciences, technology, fine arts, humanities, social sciences and so on offered by universities also add to this uncertainty. "Unscientific" for a layman is inexact, bad arrangement, jumping to conclusions without sufficient evidence, allowing personal prejudices to influence the reporting of findings, magic, superstition and so on. By "scientific" a layman means that which is exact, orderly, substantiated by evidence, use of instruments, well founded authority and so on. To be scientific in a not so well defined manner is the new belief, the new superstition and the new way of life.
The history of science and its methods of research are intimately connected with the history of thought processes of mankind. Various methods have been proposed, utilized and discarded, only to be revived in subsequent periods. The deductive method was once considered the apex of all the methods and as the universal method for the acquisition of knowledge. The question of empirical verification was relegated to the background. One was expected to start with adequate ideas and deduce from these all the other attributes of things. As an antidote to overemphasis on the usefulness of deductive method, philosophical treatises on scientific methods began devoting all their energies to the installation of inductive methods! All the while, however, scientists, or at least a majority of them never bothered to formulate and present separately the scientific method or methods they followed. The scientific method was what the scientists followed in their scientific efforts and was to be found 'in the kind of theories and working hypotheses the scientist propounded, in their common mode of posing problems, their shared theoretical aims, in the commonly accepted standards and cannons of evidence, validity and proof.' Scientists established a tradition of their own and those who shared in this tradition spoke a common language and engaged in a dialogue with one another. Our aim here is to identify this commonly shared method.
One may state that scientific method is used to arrive at truth. But truth is indeed difficult to define and is highly variable. For a sage, truth is mystic, initiative, subjective and transcendental, whereas for a scientist truth is verifiable and is a public event. It is empirical in content and rational in nature.
Scientific theory is meant for the consumption of the community of scientists and generally takes the premise-conclusion form. This is so because, as stated earlier, scientific theory is public and should meet the verifiability criterion. It is thus generally in the form of propositions. These propositions assert relationships, which govern events under consideration. Logical consequences of certain basic assumptions are also presented. The validity of the propositions is a matter of direct empirical verification or indirect confirmation through successful predictions derived from them. As a consequence of a general revolt against the earlier deductive methods, there has been a rather excessive reliance on observed facts for an understanding of the principles governing them - through a method of abstraction of general principles from the observed facts. However, science throughout the ages has not always followed pure empiricism. The same "fact" in a given specified situation would be seen in a different way by an artist, artiste, physicist, poet and so on. Each would use the raw material for a different purpose, in his own way. This is so because each has his own framework and within this framework he interprets and uses the raw material in his own way. Hence great scientists have recognized that refusal to go beyond pure empiricism, in the sense of refusal to go beyond experience, is not going to be of much help in solving problems and for the progress of science.
Let us consider for a moment the language requirements of science as characterized above. The language used must be public to the extent that it should be understood and can be used by all the practitioners of a field. It should be public to the extent that it is couched in such sentences, sentence patterns and words that are of empirical and not mystic or incoherent, stray, or unstructured nature. As the scientific theory takes the premise-conclusion form, the sentences, sentence patterns and the words used must be of a type that will present assertion in matter-of-fact statements, use conditional clauses for deductions, use descriptive statements for descriptions and must be ordered in such a way that the previous sentence flows into the next, the succeeding taking its cue from the preceding one. Empirical verification is couched in terms, which present the description of occurrences and repeated occurrences of an event. Through the use of conditional, comparative and conclusion-deriving sentence patterns the interrelationships will be demonstrated. Method of abstraction will use a lot of descriptive sentences for observed facts, whereas going beyond pure empiricism requires a lot of metaphors, analogy, imagery, etc., in the scientists' effort to make his language more public, to make his fellow scientists to understand his ideas as well as to meet the verifiability criterion. Note also that the form of scientific theories does not depend upon their modes of origin, but in making the theory explicit and thereby public. In this process it is constrained and guided by language use.
In its systematic and classificatory stage a science relates its theoretical concepts required for an understanding of the facts directly to observable properties of the material. The scientific theory at this stage gives the appearance of abstractive nature - the theory seems to be abstracted from the observed facts. But when the same science advances further (if one takes objection to the use of the word advance, we may say instead that the same science changes its mode of operation due to the recognition of the inadequacy of basing its theory only on observable facts), it will come to depend more and more upon postulates and concepts, which can only be indirectly related to anything observable in the sense of the word. In the construction of theory of a particular science one may adopt any number and kinds of modes. It may be achieved through abstraction from observable facts, by proposing postulates, through analysis-collation, classification and summarizing of the facts, through breaking up the problem into smaller and smaller parts to concentrate only on essential aspects, through analogy, through metaphor, through items borrowed from other disciplines and so on. For all these, for selection and classification, one needs a framework and, indeed, one works within a framework for whatever it is worth. One also needs familiarity with the subject matter - one does not have to be formally trained, but familiarity is necessary; one also needs imagination to imagine new patterns. Simplicity, uniformity and causality are some of the other important characteristics of scientific theory.
It is said that scientific inquiry originates in a problem situation and that it proceeds through several steps. Some of the major stages are as follows: (a) breaking up the problem into its component parts, (b) collecting, by observation and experimentation, all the available relevant facts and clarifying them according to some common properties, (c) proposing a hypothesis that would explain all the observed facts and resolve the problem situation, (d) if the hypothesis permits it, working out of its logical implications for making predictions of phenomena not known so far, and, (e) the testing of these predictions against observation.
We would now present, in brief, some of the activities undertaken in several of the steps listed above. Before doing so we would like to emphasize that, although a scientific theory proposed would have the capacity to explain observed facts as its logically necessary consequences, although it would be compatible with other theories, and although the proposed theory meets the criterion of testability, the truth propounded by the theory is always probable. The final authority for any theory of science is facts. Hence it is liable to be modified, rejected, incorporated or absorbed into a more comprehensive theory, if fresh evidence warrants such a step. Accordingly, 'scientific truth is tentative, and scientific method self-correcting in character'. The language use here, then, is characterized by sentences, sentence patterns and words that would continually remind one about the tentative nature of conclusion. One expects and finds the use of modals and other adverbials expressing probability. But note that this tentative nature of the scientific theory is different from the tentative or speculative nature of doubtful conclusion, conclusions not based on facts.
The first step in a scientific inquiry is choice of a suitable problem. Choice of a suitable problem depends upon the interests the investigator has. That is, the problem should interest the investigator. New ideas in some form or the other will have to be the forerunner for the choice of a problem - new ideas are necessary if the scientific inquiry is in a field which has been intensively and extensively investigated in the past. But these new ideas should have relevance and significance for an understanding of the field. In terms of language use, as the choice of a problem is based on something that already exists, the same language conventions in terms of vocabulary and sentence patterns would also govern the expression of the chosen problem, if and only if no radical or revolutionary idea is involved. A radical or revolutionary idea brings with itself a new mode of expression. Hardly a revolution worth its name has taken place without corresponding change in the modes of expression.
After the choice of the problem, statement of the problem should be attended to. This is an important task and the time spent in making a clear statement is well expended, because in restating the problem in different ways, in redefining it, in expressing its limits and in characterizing it in so many other ways we may be led to its solution, we may have the way to its solution pointed out to us. A statement, a good statement, of the problem depends upon the knowledge an investigator has about the background of the problem. One should know how the problem arose, why it is important, how it falls into a general pattern and what will be done with the results and so on. In order to achieve a good knowledge of the problem, one should keep in touch with literature on the field. But efficient and fast literature search depends upon a good knowledge of the material one has in a given field. It is correctly said that more reading leads to more knowledge and more competence in formulating the ideas.
After the statement of the problem the investigator begins observation. Observation implies selection. Hence the observation of selected parts of nature means limiting what is to be observed. This limitation is to be decided on the basis of what is significant, relevant and important for an understanding of the problem and its solution. Modern scientific inquiry depends not only on empirical observation but also heavily upon indirect methods of observation. One does not observe electrons directly. Observations in these matters are done indirectly using instruments or through certain other cues. Sense perception still plays a crucial role and the language in which the sense/perception is stated is generally of a descriptive, classificatory type. The vocabulary used in the description of sense perception may not have "critical precision", in spite of efforts to avoid and not to reveal personal involvement. Sense perception leads to an appreciation of the surface structure, which, as we have stated already, cannot be identified with reality. More abstract and mathematical form of language with precise vocabulary seems to be the choice for stating this underlying reality. From the description of the surface structure we go to an explanation of the underlying reality. This underlying reality is usually observed only indirectly and is generally proved with the help of formulae, mathematical calculations and other instrumental devices. Hence a change from one form of expression, from the descriptive and classificatory language to mathematical formulae and abstract language, is warranted. And yet the linguistic conditions for expression of surface structure appearances as well as the underlying reality are the same: language used must be public, precise, devoid of ambiguities, coherent, cogent and relevant. In some sciences the descriptive statements adopted for the surface structure may be used for a characterization of the underlying reality also.
Sense perceptions are, strictly speaking, private. But they have to be translated into a public language for the communication to be effective. Sense perceptions by themselves are not a subject matter of study in a field other than, perhaps, psychology. Sciences use sense perceptions as a tool to acquire knowledge and to talk about objects and events. These objects and events are not broken down further into sense perceptions. Sense perceptions have their reality in these objects and senses.
From observation we go to description. We adopt precise definitions so that a specific word or phrase has the same meaning to all scientists and in all its occurrence within the scientific inquiry. A scientist observes and makes an immediate recording of the data he observed in a notebook. He makes a conscious effort to avoid biases. As we already stated we select a material for observation and in this process we may have been led by some kind of hypothesis. This is unavoidable and without this we would not know as to what we should observe. However, it is important that what led to selection of a material for observation should not come to restrict our observations. We should arrange the conditions, and make observations in such a way that the observer's bias will not distort the observations.
Because analysis and conclusions depend upon what is being observed, checks and repetition of scientific work must be welcomed and encouraged to confirm the analysis and conclusions. Again for obtaining validity and confirmation a scientific observer is required to allow others to have a glimpse of the phenomena in which he is interested. Some events cannot be reproduced at will and may occur rather rarely. These will require multiple independent observers in addition to instrumental recording of the phenomena. Instruments are sometimes meant to be used to attain greater objectivity. All these necessitate the use of commonly accepted technical terms with commonly accepted meanings.
There is a tendency these days for the scientific observation to be rather excessively quantitative. Another feature is the use of instruments that we have already referred to. Greater objectivity is one of the reasons for accepting these two trends. However, interpretation is an intense mental phenomenon. To that extent these trends seem to be misdirected. It is for the practising scientist to decide the kind of objectivity, and such a decision should be based on principles that can be explicitly formulated.
There have been questions raised as to whether repetitions of a phenomenon are, indeed, possible. Some believe that every phenomenon is unique by itself and, therefore, cannot be observed again - conditions in which the phenomenon is "repeated", will never be the same. But this is an extreme view. Although the conditions in which "repetitions" were sought have been a subject matter of controversy both in philosophy and sciences, scientists do have certain ways of ensuring the occurrence of same conditions. One event is considered to be the cause of another event if by suppressing the previous one we can suppress the latter. If this is not possible, both events may be the effect of a third event. A scheme of connections is sought. Prediction and control, thus, are important activities in science.
The problem is usually broken into a number of parts for separate and concerted treatment. That is, the problem will be analysed into parts, but this analysis is possible only if there are mutually interacting and at least partly independent parts. Analysis is accompanied by simplification - abstraction of features from real events to create idealized events, and derivation of simplified events from the idealized events. Generally an attempt is made to construct a real situation or an approximation to a real situation through a synthesis of relatively simple parts.
After the selection of the part and its observation comes the stage of hypothesis. Hypothesis may be considered as trial idea about what is being observed. It begins at the observational stage or even before it along with the very conception of the problem. Some hypotheses are mere generalizations of observations. Some may posit connections between events and some may posit cause and effect relationship. Analogy, metaphor, imagery and so on are employed in formulating hypotheses. A hypothesis does not prove anything until and unless it is tested. One is tempted to accept and behave as if a hypothesis itself is conclusion or proof of what is being proposed. One has a tendency to propose a hypothesis upon which another hypothesis and upon which still another hypothesis is proposed - all along giving an appearance that the preceding one is the proof for the succeeding one. This is an illusory act 'about which we should indeed be very cautious. Scientific writing and pursuit through Indian languages (for that matter, in developing languages in general) suffers from this defect. A hypothesis not tested and validated should not be taken for a law. As it has been correctly pointed out in many textbooks, probability is not a substitute for evidence, however great may be our wish or need for believing it to be so.
We have already referred to the role played by induction and deduction in the history of scientific method. Presently, for most of our scientific work, induction seems to be the basic method. Induction is defined as 'the process of drawing inferences about a whole class from observations on a few of its members'.
Testing of hypotheses would include seeing whether or not the generalization suggested by the hypothesis holds for the cases observed. Testing may lead to refinement, elaboration or rejection of the hypothesis depending upon the new facts brought out by observations. On the basis of the above, new hypotheses may also be proposed and attempts made to test them. A hypothesis is a hypothesis only if it fits the facts on hand and is compatible with the rest of the data as well as with the other assumptions of science. The last condition should be so interpreted as not to eliminate proposals suggesting changes in fundamental assumptions of a discipline.
Scientists make a distinction between a condition that is necessary for the truth of some statement and a condition that is sufficient. Suppose that we place a condition that a number end in a zero. This condition is sufficient to prove that the number is divisible by 5. However, this condition is not necessary. We may also have a condition that a number be even for its divisibility by 6. This is a necessary condition but it is not sufficient. Note that it is both necessary and sufficient that a number be even for its square to be even.
We have already referred to the fact that scientific truth should not be considered as a statement of absolute truth. Scientific truth is valid truth, and is of a long-standing nature. But scientists as a rule will not accept that a finding on a particular matter is the last word on that matter. Because of this voluntarily assumed temporary nature of scientific truth, the language stating the findings and conclusions of a scientific inquiry is generally of a guarded nature, there being no reference to the permanence of facts. In addition, the desire to describe a new phenomenon under observation in terms of familiar concepts has led to widespread use of all kinds of illustrations and models. Model building is a favourite game in sciences, which deal with material for the proof of which indirect observation is the main method or at least one of the chief methods. In its advanced stage a science seeks to build its theory not on the basis of low-level empirical facts through empiricism only, but also through indirect observation, references based upon rational deductions and proof. In all these cases the unfamiliar is sought to be explained with the help of the familiar and the concrete. And in this effort, we find the use of analogy in language of sciences; we find also its merits and weaknesses. Scientists should know the limits of such model building and the limits of use of such language. For such model building can lead to a narrow view, which in its turn, leads to comparisons, and deductions based on materials of no direct relevance.
In designing an experiment, thus, an investigator must have a good basic understanding of the nature of the problem, and associated theories and research already done. He should be able to break the problem into smaller parts for observation. He must devise crucial experiments. In order to carry out the experiment successfully he must have a clear idea of what the experiment is about. He must be able to identify the essential characteristics - the variables, both controlled and experimental. He must be able to undertake the sampling. These are various types of controls, which we have not dealt with here. The investigator must make a conscious effort to eliminate bias through methods such as randomisation. This preoccupation with the avoidance of bias of different sorts at all costs is the basis for impersonal language insisted upon in reporting scientific findings.
There are a large number of statistical methods that are applied in processing data. These methods are now part of the scientific method. The investigator must know how to handle the apparatus - how to prepare appropriate apparatus. The rich data obtained through an inquiry must be processed and conclusions arrived at. In this last phase, the imagination, critical acumen and composite background of the scientist will be found more than desirable. One would also find out easily that no amount of mathematical formulae would be a substitute for the above. Likewise, ordinary language, which at times is considered a hindrance for precision, will be found extremely handy in expressing truths in a much more elegant manner. Symbolic logic is of no use in simple problems, as it is found to be slower and more confusing than ordinary verbal processes, hence the need to emphasize ordinary verbal language also for the expression of sciences. We must bear in mind that sections of science are amenable to different kinds of language - verbal, symbolic, algebraic, etc.
In a section of a subsequent chapter we discuss style sheets of journals, the requirements of a good scientific style and so on. Further in chapter 6, we discuss points that should be imparted to mother tongue and second language users of scientific language. We would like to emphasize in this section that no scientific inquiry is complete unless its findings or lack of them are reported. Science progresses by bits and pieces, but at times the progress may occur by leaps and bounds, through a sudden blossoming of a new astounding idea. (See Kuhn (1962) for an exposition of this theme.) Whatever it may be, the idea must be reported to the practitioners of the field. This is done through articles, notes, books, letters and so on. Each of these forms has its own format. The general format of such materials, especially the most popular of present times, namely, articles, is as follows: title, abstract, introductory section, general description of the method used, details of experimental set up, actual data obtained, discussion of the analysis of data, conclusions of analysis and acknowledgements, followed by appendices and references. The readership aimed at is generally well defined in articles on specified fields. The sentences, sentence patterns and words used also seem to be more or less well defined. Most reports will use certain words and phrases more often than others. As the focus is on particular concepts, sentence patterns used are of a limited range in articles.
14. Types of Scientific Language
We have earlier raised a question as to whether there is or there can be a single language of science. Our answer to the question was that each discipline may have a language of its own but the languages of various sciences share a common mode and convention. This mode and convention may be the language of science from which the languages of particular sciences draw their rules and regulations. We have, to some extent, contrasted the use of language for science with the use of ordinary language. There are, however, many areas that do not fall within the area of sciences, but still use some sort of a language of science for necessity or for ornamental purposes. These areas and the languages they use are a sort of link between the language of science and ordinary language, between sciences and everyday existence.
To a layman science generally means technology. He tends to measure the greatness or usefulness of a scientific field from the technology or the day-to-day applications it has given rise to. However, technology is not science, because science, by definition, is primarily a quest for knowledge, whereas technology is a quest for the application of sciences. And yet application brings with it a set of new knowledge, which may contribute to an enrichment or refinement or rejection of knowledge given by science. However, the impact of technology on human life has been, indeed, great. The changes brought by it have been of a far reaching and of a fundamental nature. Equally important is the influence of technology on languages and cultures. It is not an exaggeration when we say that the flow from the language of science to the ordinary language is generally through technology.
A commonly followed classification of the types of language used in sciences and related activities are as follows: technical language, workshop language and consumer language. It is the first variety that is used in pure sciences. The second variety is used in technological level, where applications are aimed at. The third variety is generally meant for a non-scientist. The technical language is the subject matter of our study. The other two varieties depend upon it for most of their core concepts and may be considered as resulting from a process of simplification to suit the users and uses in the second category and to suit the target audience in the case of the third category. A technical language, as we have seen and asserted, is marked by its formal style. The workshop language tends to have a style closer to that of ordinary language. In fact it may be considered as an expression lying between scientific and consumer languages. Workshop language borrows from dialects whereas the technical language is marked by its standardized vocabulary and a choice and use of selected sentence patterns.
The consumer or the sales language is marked by a blend of colloquial and other catchy expressions. It is much closer to ordinary language than the workshop language. Science language takes the conceptual framework as its focus. The workshop language presents things in a concrete form with illustrations. The workshop and sales languages introduce sentences and words with or without specified meanings. There is more of metaphor, analogy, imagery, abbreviation, idiom, slang, colloquialism, informality and familiarity. It is as if these devices are employed to reduce the burden. They have a function similar to the one performed by the work-songs. As opposed to the above, the sales language has persuasion as its main focus. Think of the silk merchant of Oliver Goldsmith! The success of the sales language is measured and judged by the quantum of sales it makes. Accordingly, it should have a charm, fancy and fashion, most of these being of a transitory nature just as fashions are. Another characteristic may also be considered. Workshop language is an heir of the old artisan languages. In the sales language scientific words are generally used out of a compelling need. In the workshop language, there is a tendency to replace a scientific word by a common or a code name in the workshop language. Human languages differ from one another in the choice of sentence patterns for the technical, workshop and sales languages. We shall discuss the preferred patterns as found in technical language in chapter 5. We shall, however, point out here that in English the passive sentence pattern is preferred for the technical language, non-passive for the workshop languages and verbless constructions for the sales language.
Other classifications are also available. Some classify the expressions into ordinary language, scientific language and an intermediary used in popular science. Some others insist upon a distinction between fundamental science, technical applications, science as taught and popularised, and specific lexicon belonging to a particular branch of science and technology. For instance, André Phal (1968), a French linguist, suggests that the system of scientific language is not substantially different from that of ordinary language. He draws our attention to the need for a wide vocabulaire usuel and to the different degrees of specificity in scientific terminology. He suggests five subdivisions:
Hilton (1971), looking at the language of mechanical engineering, divides it into the following:
In all the above it is clear that a distinction is identified and maintained between ordinary language and scientific language on the one hand, and scientific language and language of applications on the other. This gives us a broad picture of language use.
The Prague School of linguistics argues in favour of a functional approach to the study of language and recognizes that each "functional dialect and style" has its own linguistic devices and modes of utilization. Each functional use of language, thus, has its own "natural" way of expression - its own "automatisations". The use of automatisations of one functional use of language in another functional use of language leads to foregrounding. By automatisation we refer to the stimulus normally expected in a particular situation. Foregrounding refers to a stimulus not expected in that particular situation and which, thus, provokes special attention. Yet another process is intellectualisation. This process leads us to the goal of making precise, rigorous, abstract statements, and to the development of capabilities to express the continuity and complexity of thought. In essence, the process of intellectualisation reinforces the intellectual side of speech. It culminates in scientific language to 'reflect the rigour of objective (scientific) thinking in which the terms approximate concepts and the sentences approximate logical judgements'.
Intellectualisation leads to expansion of the vocabulary by new terms and also to changes in the structure of the lexicon. It brings to the fore the need for unequivocal words, special distinctions between words of rather synonymous dimensions and the need for words which would make abstract summary (to capture the conceptualisation through single words or phrases). Intellectualisation affects the sentence structure also. Certain preferences for one or the other sentence structure are exhibited. A desire to achieve a parallelism between the grammatical and logical structures is also manifest.
The concept of the language of science as visualized and described by the Prague School of linguistics may be seen in the background of everyday language and workaday language. Simple intelligibility characterizes the everyday language. In this language specificity or definiteness between the utterance and the object referred to by the utterance is given by convention, by the situation in which the utterance is uttered and by the shared knowledge of various circumstances by the participants. The objectivity is thus coloured and is quite limited. In workaday language, specificity or definiteness is clear, given by convention, by decisions and also by the objectivity of the utterance. The utterance is understood independent of the concrete situation and personage.
The language of science is characterized by its accuracy. The language is defined and codified. Definition, and codification or convention gives the words and phrases accurate meaning. Even the new words and phrases a scientist uses would be given a definitely delimited meaning. That is, all these expression are automatised. These phrases and words lose their automatised character and become either unintelligible or foregrounded when used in utterances meant for non-specialists. This becomes clear when we compare a statement in the language of science used in theoretical formulation with the one having the same content but used for purposes of popularisation or workaday communication. To quote Havrinek (1932), 'we see clearly that, with essentially the same subject matter (the same thematic plane), the linguistic shape of the utterance (the grammatico-semantic plane) changes in accord with its purpose, and that one of the basic components of this difference is the difference in automatisation: a scientific subject matter must be rid of technical automatisations in a popular presentation (journalistic and the like) and be expressed, at least in part, by means of the automatisations of everyday language and everyday subject matter acquires in scientific styling, instead of the automatisations of conversational speech which would be preserved in case of a popular presentation, the corresponding automatisations of technical language'. When the automatisations of the language of science or of workaday language are used in conversational speech, these become foregrounded. In essence, according to the Prague School of linguistics, the language of science is directed towards an accurate description of the content, the workaday technical language towards a definite, clear and specific expression and the conversational speech towards a generally accessible communication. In the language of science and also in workaday language continuity of the expression is maintained only through the linguistic aspects used. (Situation, personages, etc., do not have a significant role.) The language of science, moreover, aims at achieving a maximum parallelism between the linguistic expression and the gradual development of the subject matter. In workaday language, however, a conscious attempt is made to disturb this parallelism through several devices such as frequent repetition of the same subject matter in different words, asking questions to the listener or the reader, and leaving gaps in the expressions to be filled in by the listener or the reader. As a consequence, only the "high" points in the thematic progression are dealt with in the workaday language.
An interesting point of investigation within the framework of Prague School is about the likely differences in the scientific discourses of men and women. Tesitelova (1978) identifies certain differences in the manner scientific language is used by men and women. The monological discourses of women show a tendency towards shorter communication and a more concentrated concern for the theme. This concern leads to the occurrence of a large number of thematically conditioned words (mostly terms). In general, however, the line of difference is dependent more on the speaker's line of specialization than on sex.
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