Explanatory Pluralism

The central concern [here] … has been with the de facto multiplicity of explanatory styles in scientific practice, reflecting the manifest diversity of epistemological goals which researchers bring to their task. But I also want to argue that the investigation of processes as inherently complex as biological development may in fact require such diversity. Explanatory pluralism, I suggest, is now not simply a reflection of differences in epistemological cultures but a positive virtue in itself, representing our best chance of coming to terms with the world around us.

Evelyn Fox Keller, Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development With Models, Metaphors, and Machines (Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 300.

Iin facilitating multiple interpretations of the same artifact, the PECE annotation module supports another design logic, the promotion of explanatory pluralism. Interpretive differences are a signature feature of most humanities research, as they are in the tradition of cultural anthropology in which PECE is situated. The expectation in the humanities is that different researchers will develop alternative understandings of the same object or event; the expectation in the natural sciences is that researchers will converge on a single, “best” perspective. In actual fact, however, such convergence either takes an inordinately long time, or is forced by reasons other than Reason. Feminist philosopher and theoretical biologist Evelyn Fox Keller has shown that the capacity to entertain and develop multiple theories for complex objects and phenomena has historically been crucial to the vital growth and development of the life sciences. Yet most digital infrastructure in the natural sciences has an implicit or explicit goal of conveying researchers as quickly as possible to a single possible answer. By design, PECE encourages the creation and assembling of multiple interpretations, hypotheses, and theories in the firm belief that such explorations of multiple possibilities is necessary for the kinds of complex conditions PECE researchers seek to understand.

The image is Jean Metzinger's Danseuse au café (1912). Wikipedia:

Turning his attention fully towards the geometric abstraction of form, Metzinger allowed the viewer to reconstruct the original volume mentally and to imagine the object depicted within space. But this wasn't the space of Euclidean geometry and its associated classical one-point perspective in use and unquestioned since the onset of the Renaissance. This was an all-out multi-frontal attack on the narrow limitations of academicism, on pre-20th century empiricism, on positivism, determinism and the untenable notions of absolute space, absolute time and absolute truth. It was a revolt inline with those leveled by the mathematician Henri Poincaré and the philosophers William James, Friedrich Nietzsche and Henri Bergson. This was an embrace of Riemannian geometry, of the relativity of knowledge, of realities hidden by human vision, an embrace of the world that surpassed material appearances. Poincaré, in Science & Method, The Relativity of Space (1897), wrote: "Absolute space exists no longer; there is only space relative to a certain initial position of the body."[32]

Thus the characteristic property of space, that of having three dimensions, is only a property of our distribution board, a property residing, so to speak, in the human intelligence. The destruction of some of these connections that is to say of these associations of ideas, would be sufficient to give us a different distribution board, and that might be enough to endow space with a fourth dimension. [...] It quite seems, indeed, that it would be possible to translate our physics into the language of geometry of four dimensions. (Henri Poincaré, 1897)[32]

Now liberated from the one-to-one relationship between a fixed coordinate in space captured at a single moment in time assumed by classical vanishing-point perspective, the artist became free to explore notions of simultaneity, whereby several positions in space captured at successive time intervals could be depicted within the bounds of a single painting.[33]

This picture plane, write Metzinger and Gleizes (in Du "Cubisme", 1912), "reflects the viewer's personality back upon his understanding, pictorial space may be defined as a sensible passage between two subjective spaces." The forms situated within this space, they continue, "spring from a dynamism which we profess to command. In order that our intelligence may possess it, let us first exercise our sensibility."[38]