Problems related to the scientific explanation are placed within the centre of epistemological disputes whose roots lead far away back in time up to antique philosophy. Yet there is not a coherent approach still in pedagogy and either any clarification to settle what the weight and explanation types specific are for such explanations to which they inevitably make appeal. There is only throughout various magazines what could be featured by a rejection of responsibly reporting it to the great questions belonging to the science philosophy or a non-conditioned adoption of restrictive approach postulates of neo-positivist or hermeneutic types.
Starting from such ascertainments the present paper is in search of a specific for the pedagogical explanation especially of the causal and teleological one while delimiting the main concepts gravitating around the explaining concept, developing classifications of the explaining types through a comparison analysis of the modalities to build explaining patterns (either inductive, deductive or transductive). Based on reviewing over 50 given definitions, given în the speciality literature to the concept of “explanation”, its prevailing features have been identified (from logic, linguistics, systemic, praxeology views).
The author draws-up her own definition of the scientific explanation. Contrary to non-scientific explanations and to explanation taken as a type of speech, as a didactic method or as a manner of thinking the scientific explanation can be defined as a scientific application for establishing knowledge by puttind into light laws, conditions, relationships, functions, purposes, trends, on which any event is based (chapter 1.1).
Having got such working definition as a reference issue merits and limits are further reviewed of explanations inductively and deductively built but also based an analogy on the so-called «fuzzy-logic» or on the principles of constructivism (chapter 1.2). Chapter 1.3 is centred on elaborating a classification of the main types of scientific explanation and on identifying some criteria of validating explanations.
All these landmarks allowed for searching the status of scientific explanation inside educational sciences while developing a series of judgements to reason for certifying the explaining ability as a sign of scientific maturity for the educational sciences (chapter 2.1).
There are nevertheless to be identified at a careful deep sight both meritorious and limiting features of pedagogical explanations that endanger to be partial, narrow, circumstantial, non-conclusive, temporary, ambiguous, possible, circular, non-achieved. There are to be listed among the praiseworthy features of a good explanation within the field of educational sciences the following: the contribution to augmenting the conceptual accuracy, to validating theories, elaborating assumptions, building patterns, wording generalities, building typologies and classifications, improving methodologies of research and not în the least developing an epistemology of educational sciences and evidence of their scientific maturity (chapter 2.2).
The ranges outlined on the educational sciences interface to other research fields call for specific types of explanations having got features validation and limits that are easier to identify. Beyond such transfers, the sciences of education try to elaborate their own explaining manners or at least such manners to be more appropiate to the object of research and their propensity towards acting. Such assertions are held into chapter 2.4 by an analysis of the explaining specific of comparative and experimental pedagogy.
Examples submitted allowed for a classification of such explanations that have been circulated across the sciences of education and for identifying those types of explanation having got the greatest weight in the sciences of education. Here they are:
¨ upon EXPLANANS - teleological, genetic, causative, functional-systemical, predictable, retroactive, statistical explanation,
¨ upon EXPLANANDUM -positive and negative explanations,
¨ upon construction -inductive, deductive and transductive explanations, downwards spiral type explanations (“Pygmalion” effect type), upwards spiral type (see “zone of the proximo development”) but also circular explanations.
The second co-ordinate of the present paper is focused on the causative explanation and on the teleological explanation în the sciences of education. In order to put their prevailing features into light a comparation table has been built that is to be seen from the side of:
¨ scope of explanation;
¨ type of prevailing determinism;
¨ form of expression;
¨ logic structure;
¨ relationship with understanding;
¨ philosophical bases.
Should we make use of a distinction practised by G.H. von Wright and the two explaining manners along with their hybrids have been organised on a continuous (from the causative and quasi-causative explanation to the quasi-teleological and teleological one) and have been analysed based on four reference issues, namely:
¨ central concept (cause, occasion, function, intent/purpose);
¨ question to which the said type of explanation is appropriate;
¨ frequency of its utilisation in the sciences of education;
¨ heuristic value and examples (Chapter 3.1).
On such basis it was proceeded within chapter 3.2 to the study of causative approach of education while identifying four points of view on the causality that have an echo also în the philosophy of education. We called such trends as follows: theological theory (Plato, Neo-Platonists, St. Thomas, Neo-Thomists, some existentialists); theory of regularities (Hume, Mill, neo-positivists); theory of necessary and sufficient conditions (von Wright); the agent’s theory (R. Hare). The constructivist theory and operationalist theory are to be added to the former ones.
There are two main types of causality that actually concern the sciences of education, namely: linear causality and branched-out causality. The latter actually expresses the reason for causality în the sciences of education that allows for several alternates that have been reviewed and illustrated by examples în the present book. Causative approach is located within the sciences of education some place between the system causative analysis and the causative explanation while it especially takes the form of inventories. In chapter 3.2.4 the manners are analysed of causatively approaching some aspects of the educational field such as: causality of school failure, causality of school and professional lack of decision, causality of juvenile deviatory behaviour, as well as attempts of positive explanations (Williams) but also certain confusions and reductionists approaches.
The second explanatory modality subject to investigation is the teleological explanation (chapter 3.3) focused on concepts of “teleology”, “finality” and “intentionality”. All alike the study of causative explanation that requires no detailed debate of the nomical connections issue, the study of teleological explanation neither requires to widely treat on taxonomies, levels or sources of educational scopes.
It is the construction of the practical inference that mostly interests, such construction from at the basis of teleological explanation and especially elucidating such issues generating reductionism. The teleological explanation is irreducible to the causative one (as Russell and Braithwaite believed and even Nagel did). Some explanations, otherwise valid and productive, may became reductionist the moment they require the hegemony on the human actions range. This is the case for neuro-physiological explanations and also the cybernetic and the ones based on conditioning (chapter 3.3.2).
The paper ends with open issues of predictable pedagogical determinism and of teleological pedagogic determinism while attempting to eliminate any confusion between determinism and causality or the one between determinism as a philosophical issue and determinism as an issue of the natural sciences.
The reader is let to judge by himself on the findings of such paper hereto. In the author’s opinion the need further transcending is that to develop an epistemology for the sciences of education and such development to be proceeded to throughout Romanian theoretical area. Looking up the future of education we feel ourselves convicted that a prospective demise of epistemology would assume too high risks for the sciences of education to be by all means accepted ever.
© Universitatea din Bucuresti 2002.
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Comments to: Alis Elena OANCEA; Text editor: Laura POPESCU; Last update:December, 2002