Scientific practice as ecological-enactive co-construction

Guilherme Sanches de Oliveira*, Thomas van Es, Inês Hipólito

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Philosophy of science has undergone a naturalistic turn, moving away from traditional idealized concerns with the logical structure of scientific theories and toward focusing on real-world scientific practice, especially in domains such as modeling and experimentation. As part of this shift, recent work has explored how the project of philosophically understanding science as a natural phenomenon can be enriched by drawing from different fields and disciplines, including niche construction theory in evolutionary biology, on the one hand, and ecological and enactive views in embodied cognitive science, on the other. But these insights have so far been explored in separation from each other, without clear indication of whether they can work together. Moreover, the focus on particular practices, however insightful, has tended to lack consideration of potential further implications for a naturalized understanding of science as a whole (i.e., above and beyond those particular practices). Motivated by these developments, here we sketch a broad-ranging view of science, scientific practice and scientific knowledge in terms of ecological-enactive co-construction. The view we propose situates science in the biological, evolutionary context of human embodied cognitive activity aimed at addressing the demands of life. This motivates reframing theory as practice, and reconceptualizing scientific knowledge in ecological terms, as relational and world-involving. Our view also brings to the forefront of attention the fundamental link between ideas about the nature of mind, of science and of nature itself, which we explore by outlining how our proposal differs from more conservative, and narrower, conceptions of “cognitive niche construction.”

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalSynthese
Volume202
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • Cognition
  • Ecological psychology
  • Enactivism
  • Naturalism
  • Niche construction
  • Scientific practice
  • Theory

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