Algemene semantiek: de wetenschappelijke methode

Hieronder een beschrijving van het proces van de wetenschap zoals gegeven door de psycholoog Wendell Johnson, in zijn boek over de algemene semantiek getiteld People in Quandaries  . Johnson concentreert zich op een speciaal aspect ervan, de dynamiek, en formuleert het in de richting van de toepassing waar het hem, en ons, om gaat, namelijk als een manier van denken voor het hele leven, en niet alleen voor toepassing in de wetenschap. Maar eerst een wat algemenere vorm van het basisproces:

Uit: Wendell Johnson, People in Quandaries, p. 49-50:

The basic features of science as a method

... we may examine briefly some of the more "obvious" - but very important and not at all commonly employed - features of scientific method.
    We may say, in briefest summary, that the method of science consists in (a) asking dear answerable questions in order to direct one's (b) observations, which are made in a calm and unprejudiced manner, and which are then (c) reported as accurately as possible and in such a way as to answer the questions that were asked to begin with, after which (d) any pertinent beliefs or assumptions that were held before the observations were made are revised in light of the observations made and the answers obtained. Then more questions are asked in accordance with the newly revised notions, further observations are made, new answers are arrived at, beliefs and assumptions are again revised, after which the whole process starts over again. In fact, it never stops. Science as method is continuous. All its conclusions are held subject to the further revision that new observations may require. It is a method of keeping one's information, beliefs, and theories up to date. It is, above all, a method of changing one's mind - sufficiently often. ...

 Red.:   Een in de context van de wetenschap geformuleerde vorm van deze beschrijving uit andere bron is het hiernaast staande schema. Wat daar nog eens goed tot uitdrukking komt, is dat het hier gaat om een cirkelproces dat vele cycli doorloopt, in de figuur aangeduid door 'Pass Many' en door Johnson als '... a method of changing one's mind - sufficiently often.', en dat pas na het doorlopen van die vele cycli het richting (geaccepteerde) theorie gaat - voor een vergrote versie en een aantal soortgelijke schematische beschrijvingen, zie Wetenschappelijke methode  . Overigens is ook deze figuur natuurlijk een vorm van theorie, iets dat gebouwd is op vele ervaringen, en in de praktijk ziet men vele afwijkingen en bekortingen ervan - zie ook weer de andere figuren in Wetenschappelijke methode  .

In de alinea die direct volgt op het voorgaande citaat gaat Johnson verder in op de dynamiek van het proces, geformuleerd in de richting van de toepassing waar het hem, en ons, om gaat, namelijk als een manier om om te gaan met taal als de weerslag van ons denken:

Uit Wendell Johnson, People in Quandaries, p. 58-61:

...  So far we have indicated, as we have said, five important features of science as general method and orientation, science as a way of life. In brief summary these are:
   1. The basic notion that reality is to be regarded as a process. Process implies continuous change. Continuous change implies a never-ending series of differences in ourselves and in the various aspects of reality to which we must remain adjusted. No two things are exactly alike; no one thing stays the same. The point of view which such a notion represents is the fundamental point of view of science.
   2. Adaptability, a readiness to change as changing conditions require, is fostered by such a point of view. Adaptability is a prominent feature of a scientific way of life.
   3. Of the four main steps involved in scientific method, three are concerned primarily with the use of language: the asking of the questions that guide our observations, the reporting of the observations in such a way as to answer the questions, and the revising of beliefs to the extent that such revising is required by the answers obtained. (The fourth step, which is not directly concerned with language, is that of making the indicated observations.) The language of science is the better part of the method of science.
   4. The language of science is meaningful, in the sense that it refers directly or indirectly to experience or observable actualities.
As meaningful language it is clear and it is designed to be accurate or valid. It is continually directed by two great questions: "What do you mean?" and "How do you know?"
   5. The language of science not only involves meaningful, clear, and valid statements, but also centers around clearly answerable questions. The use of language in a scientific way involves a peculiarly important rule: The terminology of the question determines the terminology of the answer. There is no place in scientific language, there is no place in the language of sanity, for vague or meaningless - that is to say, unanswerable - questions. Such questions are maladjustive, tragically misdirective of human energy. In a scientific way of life they are ruled out; they are frankly abandoned. As was said at the conclusion of the preceding chapter, the good will and well-being which the patriarch and the moralist so often and so disastrously fail to achieve, the scientist would seek to gain by teaching people how to put nature and themselves only the kind of questions that can be answered with practical clarity. ...

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