1.1. Approaching the issue
The task of setting out (to use a neutral word) the goals of a human activity may be approached in a variety of ways depending on conditions such as who is involved in the activity and who has the power to determine the goals. In the case of the goals of a scientific discipline, the question may, in principle, be approached by established scientific methods: * Deductive approach: The highest and most general goal is taken as an axiom, more specific and lower-level goals are deduced from it. * Inductive approach: By methods of the sociology of science, the goals actually pursued by scientists may be ascertained; by sociological methods, it may be ascertained what goals a community thinks should be pursued by the sciences that it entertains. The deductive approach suffers at least from the following shortcomings: * The postulation of the highest goal is itself outside the scope of science. * Clean deduction is only possible in the logical disciplines. What is called deduction in (the rest of) philosophy, the humanities and social sciences is really informal and heavily dependent on the interpretation of words. The inductive approach suffers at least from the following shortcomings: * Just like other people, scientists occasionally pursue selfish or idiosyncratic goals, which a purely inductive approach would not be able to separate out. * The extra-scientific members of a social community – be they politicians or citizens – have limited presuppositions of making a rational contribution to the discussion of the goals of a science, lacking both knowledge and experience of the nature and possibilities of scientific work and presuppositions for appreciating the spiritual side of objective knowledge (see below). On the basis of available evidence, it is safe to say that few of them can distinguish between scientific insight and technological “progress”. Thus, if one wants at all a scientific approach to the problem of the goals of a discipline, one would have to combine – as usual – deductive and inductive methods, hoping that they will compensate for each other's shortcomings. It would certainly be reasonable to do this scientific work (from time to time). However, it has apparently not been done. I will therefore abide by taking a common-sense approach to the problem, informed both by some epistemology of linguistics and by some experience with linguistic work. 1.2. Fundamentals
Like any human activity, linguistics has a place in a teleonomic hierarchy (see teleonomische Hierarchie) which is headed by its ultimate goals. Science is the pursuit of objective knowledge/understanding (Greek epistēmē, German Erkenntnis). The attainment of such knowledge is its ultimate goal. This goal is itself subordinate to the goal of human life, which is the improvement of the conditio humana. It is in the nature of human cognition – as opposed to God's cognition –, that it can be fully achieved only in communication. To say that the goal is objective knowledge is therefore almost tantamount to saying that it is rational communication. This rephrasing also serves the purpose of avoiding a static conception of ‘objective knowledge’. In the more specific discussion below, the role of communication in the achievements of the goals of a science will come up again. Understanding has two sides, a spiritual and a practical one. * On the spiritual side, the human mind is enriched if it understands something; and this in itself is a contribution to improving the conditio humana. * On the practical side, understanding something is a presupposition for controlling it. Controlling1 the world in which we live is another contribution to improving the conditio humana. Some sciences make a stronger contribution to the spiritual side, others make a stronger contribution to the practical side. This is the basis for the distinction between pure and applied science. Linguistics is the study of...
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