Between Monism and Pluralism

Each of this pair of regulators with opposite meaning largely determines the basic motivation of all cognitive activity. One of them focuses on the cognition of the object with the aim of explaining it with a certain unified—and therefore the only true— theory. Another admits different explanations of the object with the (approximately) same truth status according to its different conceptualizations. In science, they are usually termed scientific monism and scientific pluralism, and were mentioned in Section 3.1, where classical and non-classical science philosophies were considered. They concern both the ontic and epistemic components of the cognitive situation.

Scientific monism is common to all classical cognitive doctrines; it is formalized as the fundamental principle of the unit)! of both Nature and scientific knowledge about it. The historical roots of this cognitive paradigm were laid in ancient natural philosophy; in the post-ancient tradition it was strengthened by biblical monotheistic faith, then this monistic worldview passed from natural theology into natural science, and it is based on the following assumptions [Hempel 1965; Gaydenko 2003]. At the level of ontology, it is recognized that the surrounding world (Umgebung) is organized strictly deterministically and structured uniformly by the action of a single global fundamental cause (ontic monism).3 Accordingly, at the level of epistemology, it is recognized that there is a single acceptable way of comprehending and describing Umgebung—a unified scientific Method leading to a single “final” theory expressing the overall structure of Nature (epistemic monism). Such a theory presumes the reduction of all manifestations of Umgebung to a certain basic level, at which a certain initial or final cause acts; it is the latter that constitutes an ultimate end of cognition, and an aspiration to get to this end determines the cumulative equifinal development of the entire science. According to strict monism, any discrepancies reflect the incompleteness of current scientific knowledge and therefore have a temporary transitory status. In a moderate form, monism acknowledges the admissibility of different theoretical concepts that interpret the same object in different ways, but with an undoubted dominance of one of them as “the most truthful.” As different scientific philosophical doctrines imply different understandings of “truthfulness” itself, a fundamental problem arises concerning the recognition of the “by far most truthful” among them.

Scientific monism tends to generate a kind of scientific dogmatism, akin to religious dogmatism, and intolerance inherent in it. It is the main source of the hot

It should be kept in mind, however, that in ancient times, two fundamentally different ontologies competed, Platonic and Aristotelean, with descending and ascending cascades of causal relationships, respectively.

conflicts between the followers of different theories and research programs, each claiming to lead to “an ultimate truth” and, accordingly, to be a “guide” for the rest of the scientific community. The ethical principle of tolerance [Popper 1959] was proposed as a certain protection against pressure from this kind of dogmatism, calling for a more open-minded attitude towards different points of view as a normal manifestation of scientific pluralism; but it seems to work rather poorly.

Scientific pluralism can be traced back to the ancient idea of the plurality of worlds, which was later developed by Giordano Bruno and then by G. Leibniz. In modern non-classical science, the main position of this ontic pluralism presumes that the surrounding world (Umgebung) is organized quasi-deterministically by the action of a complex set of different local causes, so it is structured by their quasi-independent actions into fragments, levels, etc., each with its own essential properties. This makes them causally irreducible to either each other or any most fundamental phenomenon. At the epistemic level, pluralism began with a denial of the self-evident and unified status of Aristotelian logic, which led to the emergence of several logical systems (see Section 3.5). Modern epistemic pluralism forms the basis of non-classical scientific rationality supported by evolutionary epistemology [Hull 1988; Lektorsky 2001; Gaydenko 2003; Stepin 2005; Kellert et al. 2006]. It presumes a non-monolithic character of science with respect to both general principles of scientific research and scientific knowledge inferred from them. Accordingly, in constructing some general cognitive situation of natural science, it is recognized first that there are many admissible ways of reducing overall Umgebung to certain different local Umwelts. Each of the latter forms a specific ontic component of a particular cognitive situation, to which corresponds a specific epistemic component that develops a specific methodology. Within every cognitive situation thus construed, its theoretical carcass is elaborated for studying a particular Umwelt within a particular research program. These particular theories about different Umwelts are not reducible to a unified “final” theory; instead, it is their totality that, with some approximation, makes up an overall theoretical framework for understanding Umgebung according to the principle of complementarity [Armand 2008].

It follows from the last thesis that scientific pluralism, contrary to a widespread misconception, does not imply the denial of truth: it only means that there is no “universal theory of everything” with its classical “unified truth,” but there is a certain set of “local” theories with their corresponding “local truths” in total compounding a non-classical “multiple truth.” An important question as to whether some of them can be considered fundamentally untruthful is largely decided based on the background knowledge. For example, in a cognitive situation shaped by the strictly materialistic world picture, any reference to the supra material causes of Nature is excluded from the very beginning as fundamentally untrue.

One of the fundamental problems raised with scientific pluralism is the incommensurability’ of theories elaborated within different conceptual spaces [Kuhn 1977; Laudan 1981; Hacking 1983]. To eliminate this undesirable effect of splitting the overall cognitive situation into quasi-isolated fragments, it is necessary to develop some conceptual translators as a tool for the mutual interpretation of such theories [Wang 2002; Kellert et al. 2006]. They constitute a part of meta-theoretical knowledge, which once again brings us to a realization of the fundamental significance of the conceptual pyramid.

Taxonomic monism dominates in classical systematics: it means that taxonomic reality should be described within a unified conceptual space by means of a single (and therefore the only) “truthful” taxonomic theory. Accordingly, a unified and therefore the only classification based on such a theory should necessarily be developed. This position is most fully manifested in the conviction that “there can be only one natural classification” [Rozov 1995: 16], which indirectly presumes there is only one possible way to cut Nature at its “joints” to uncover really “natural” kinds [Lam 2020]. Moderate monism recognizes that there can be many taxonomic theories, but one of them can and should claim priority status; ideologists of each particular taxonomic theory (phenetic, phylogenetic, biosystematic, etc.), for quite understandable reason, attribute this status to it.

On the contrary, taxonomic pluralism adopted by non-classical systematics allows for a plurality of taxonomic theories and research programs implementing them, each dealing with a particular manifestation of taxonomic reality [Pavlinov 2011a, 2018, 2020]. The basis for such pluralism at the ontological level is shaped by acknowledging the irreducible multidimensionality of taxonomic reality as its fundamental property, with its manifestations being delineated naturally by reference to the respective natural causes structuring biota. Based on their properties, particular taxonomic theories (typological, phylogenetic, etc.) develop both specific criteria of naturalness of classifications and, respectively, classifications themselves meeting these specific criteria. Another important manifestation of taxonomic pluralism presumes a possibility that different taxonomic theories may be elaborated for different groups of organisms taking into account their biological specifics, including the peculiarities of the structure of their diversity. In particular, different species concepts can and should be developed for different groups with evident biological specificity of intra- and interspecific relations [Pavlinov 2013a]. At an empirical level, taxonomic pluralism presumes a multiplicity of classifications related to the same manifestation of taxonomic reality: this position is formalized by the fundamental principle of taxonomic uncertainty [Zarenkov 1988; Pavlinov 2018], and one of its epistemic causes is an irreducible multiplicity of classification algorithms [Sneath and Sokal 1973].

 
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