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REASON Retreat in Herrsching

The REASON group went on a 2-day retreat to discuss the epistemological foundations of scientific reasoning and argumentation

03.02.2015 at 00:00 

“What is scientific reasoning and argumentation in comparison to reasoning and argumentation?”

This question has been smoldering in the background ever since the REASON program was started and is since discussed in several SIGs (Special Interest Groups) and groups in parallel. Daniel Sommerhoff and Katharina Engelmann initiated and organized a 2-day retreat additional to the Reason program to address this question.

This additional retreat was meant to shed some light on this question and to find out what criteria are used to determine whether or to which extent reasoning or argumentation is considered to be “scientific” in the various disciplines. Looking into literature many different frameworks of scientific reasoning can be found, but most are either vague or relate to a specific context or discipline. As an interdisciplinary program the REASON program has the opportunity to build bridges and find the greatest common divisor between different views and opinions. The REASON paper “Scientific reasoning and argumentation: Advancing an interdisciplinary research agenda” (Fischer et al., 2014) was a first step into this direction.

Emanating from our individual understandings and views of scientific reasoning and argumentation we spend the first day of the retreat in searching for criteria and creating clusters of criteria, that we think are most relevant, in order to distinguish scientific reasoning and argumentation from reasoning and argumentation. We found an agreement in several clusters concerning the goals of scientific reasoning and argumentation; its basis in theory and explicit reference to evidence; and certain methodological approaches that could be evaluated by their compliance to criteria such as justification, falsification, inter-subjectivity, and systematicity. Moreover, we invited Prof. Dr. Dr. Gerhard Vollmer, an physicist and philosopher, whose area of expertise includes epistemology and philosophy of science, logic, and natural philosophy. He gave a keynote introducing a philosophical background to scientific reasoning and criteria by which scientific reasoning and argumentation of scientists and non-scientists could be evaluated, such as noncircularity, internal and external consistency, explanatory power, and testability (e.g. Vollmer, 1993, p. 20-21). The first day ended with a joint dinner and evening program (Bowling). Many participants used this informal setting to continue some discussions with Prof. Vollmer.

On the second day, we discussed in small groups in order to connect individual criteria and enrich them with a collective meaning. The aim here was not to give a universal definition of scientific reasoning or to judge, whether standards in one discipline are superior to standards in other disciplines, but rather to collect criteria, evaluate their importance within the various disciplines and to find commonalities.