Volume 26, 2018
General Theory of Modal Fields and Modal Explanations in Human and Environmental Sciences
The idea of ‘modal fields’ is inspired by regional and pluralistic ontologies, which were sketched and developed by Hegel, Husserl and especially Nicolai Hartmann. It suggests that the world is structured by spheres which are not reducible to each other, and that modal fields denote the scope of real possibilities inside the spheres. It is, for example, possible to distinguish between physical, biological, ecological, economic and technological possibilities/modal fields. It is also possible to define, for the purpose of scientific research, very specific modal fields. For example, we can ask “What are the physiological or social possibilities of ants?”, or “What are the social and psychological possibilities of fundamental religious sects?” It is possible to apply this ontological theory to philosophy of science in order to clarify the scope and limits of causal explanations and hermeneutic understanding especially in human and environmental sciences. In general, this ontological theory serves as a fruitful basis for the kind of scientific thinking which is open to counterfactuals and possibilities and which considers deterministic causal thinking too restricted for human and environmental sciences. On the other hand, this theory avoids the individualistic and anthropocentric presuppositions of hermeneutical understanding, connecting it to the real subjective and objective (economical, technological, ecological, etc.) possibilities in a certain historical situation.