Cognitive Situation

Any research activity is conducted within the framework of a specific cognitive situation generated by some general cognitive goal and particular cognitive tasks formulated within the latter’s context [Barantsev 1983; Yudin 1997]. In natural science, such a goal is determined by an aspiration to comprehend a certain phenomenon of Nature; in systematics, this is taxonomic reality. Under the provisions of non-classical science, this general goal cannot be reduced to specific tasks in a single trivial way, so a cognitive problem arises [Prytkov 2013]. Therefore, research activity is designed to resolve the respective cognitive problem within the framework of the respective cognitive situation. For example, in systematics, among them are the problem of the Natural System, the problems of homology and species, etc.: they collectively shape the overall cognitive situation this discipline deals with.

Both the particular research problem and the cognitive situation constructed upon it are conditioned by certain philosophical-scientific and historical contexts [Miller 1996; Rozov 2002; McCray 2006]. The variety of these contexts entails the respective variety of cognitive situations, while the historical changes in the contexts entail the respective changes of situations; such changes constitute the content of the conceptual history of systematics.

Cognitive Triangle

The structure of the cognitive situation is formed generally by its three basic components: ontic (= ontological), epistemic (= epistemological), and subjective.

Ontology considers the question “what?”—what is the studied object? With this are defined the object itself, its main properties, the processes associated with it, etc.—certainly not all of them but those considered significant within a particular cognitive situation. Here belong issues concerning the correct ways of defining both taxonomic reality and its manifestations, speculations about their causes, real v.y. nominal status of the taxa and their ranks, etc.

Epistemology addresses the question “how?”—how research should be conducted to obtain the knowledge sought about the object defined by the ontic component. It concerns the scientific status of knowledge, how it could be obtained and substantiated, etc. An important part of epistemology is methodology: it substantiates research methods and develops the criteria for their scientific consistency, suitability for taxonomic research, etc.

The subject component is about who decides what and how should be investigated; this “who” may be a scientific community, a particular scientific group (school, lab, etc.), and eventually a researcher. The role of the subject (in a broad sense) in a cognitive situation is rarely taken into account, but it is very significant. At a personal level, it manifests itself in a subjective preference for a holistic or reduction perception of the cognizing reality, for an intuitive or analytical way of knowing it. At a higher level, it manifests itself, for example, in the social regulation of preferences in the choice of tasks, methods, etc. on the grounds not related to science itself (see the beginning of Chapter 5). So the most important issues here concern the character of the subject’s influence on the structure of a cognitive situation.

Generally speaking, it is the subjective component that shapes the entire cognitive situation and establishes mutual interrelationships between all its basic components: due to this “subject effect,” they do not occur in isolation from each other but interact in a complex manner. Both their triplicity and interdependence make it possible to represent the entire cognitive situation metaphorically as a cognitive triangle.' Its vertices correspond to its basic components, the edges reflect their interrelationships, and its center corresponds to a certain concept (taxonomic theory). So the latter appears as a result of the complex interaction of all three components and should be considered taking this interaction into account.

The interrelation of the first two components of the cognitive situation is fixed by the principle of onto-epistemic correspondence-, it goes back to the ancient ideas of unity of Nature and Method, and in terms of the contemporary philosophy of science it means the following [Pavlinov 2018]. On the one hand, the object under

' There are several versions of the triadic representation of things related to cognitive activity. Some of them ascend to Pierce’s semiotic triade, some (for instance, in cognitive psychology, behaviorism, etc.) are more original [Surov 2002; Mechkovskaya 2007; Atkin 2013; Innis2020], The concept of cognitive triangle does not claim to be quite original; it is introduced to emphasize interrelations between the three basic components of a cognitive situation.

study (a part of ontology) is outlined depending on certain epistemic considerations (first of all, on supposed cognizability by scientific means). On the other hand, some important methodological principles (epistemology) are developed based on certain fundamental properties attributed to the object under study. For instance, in systematics, a purely empirical view of Nature, devoid of any metaphysics, reduces it to “physically” perceived organisms; from a more holistic standpoint, certain speculations about causes of the diversity of organisms constitute an important part of the ontology. In cladistic systematics, specific methods of phylogenetic reconstructions are substantiated by reference to the divergent character of phylogenesis [Hennig 1966; Wiley 1981; Pavlinov 2015]. The onto-epistemic correspondence in numerical phyletics is opposite: based on the properties of statistical method of maximum likelihood, phylogeny is presumed to be a stochastic process [Felsenstein 1982. 1983.2004].

The fundamental significance of the onto-epistemic correspondence for systematics is quite obvious. Since biodiversity does not lend itself to direct manipulations in experiments, and since phylogeny, as one of its supposed causes, is not reproducible and observed, some logical arguments are needed to substantiate certain correspondence of the results obtained by a particular analytical method to what is assumed to be the studied reality. And the principle in question is a key part of these arguments.

The problem of instrumentalism [Rieppel 2007; Pavlinov 2018] is to be mentioned in this regard. It means that the epistemic assessment of taxonomic knowledge prevails over the ontic, which is characteristic of the approaches that substantiate consistency of the research methods with reference to their logical (axiomatic, etc.) foundation. As a result, something like inverse correspondence appears: the method as such dictates how the reality should be comprehended and studied, so the properties of the method indirectly shape the properties of the reality.

 
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