Observation and Classification

To assure the reliable presentation and interpretation of experience, the scientific process begins with observation and classification: we categorize and label certain parts of the experience as "is-a" the subject of analysis, and other parts as "not is-a". We can give specific names to the constituents of the experience, if that seems useful. Initially, our sense of that utility is guided by our personal experience regarding the significance of each constituent to the final outcome of the experience, whether desirable or undesirable.

Observation and classification, as Fido learned, are focused by our personal drives. European science took off in the Renaissance because the artisan and trade communities had a unifying personal incentive - economic gain - that focused their attention on improving the quality and reliability of their work. Moreover, they had a context of shared experience that grounded the abstractions they developed, and so facilitated their translation into the activities of craftsmen.

For purposes of explication, consider the sky. As putative scientists, we might observe the diurnal cycle of the sun and stars. The moon adds a repetitive 28-day cycle to that procession, and the stars themselves appear to progress through the heavens on a 365-day cycle.

The display is interrupted by the elements: clouds of various kinds, and smoke from fires. The length of the day varies with the prevailing weather. These changes have an immediate behavioral significance for primitive communities, as the availability of game and forage changes, and so celestial mechanics is observed as a subject of study in almost every culture following the advent of agriculture.