The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy

Ken Kawasaki *

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of English and Japanese Linguistic Assumptions Influencing Pupil?  Learning of Science


Canadian and International Education, 31 (1)

June 2002, 19-51




Linguistic Mode of Cognition in Science Education

Objects of Comparison

Definite Article

The Japanese Language Mode of Science Education

Ways of Thinking

To the World of Idea

Into the Phenomenal World

Language-Laden Cognition

Concluding Remarks





Abstract nouns are essential for scientific thought.  Because the Japanese language has never contained abstract nouns in contrast to languages in the West and because people tend to see the world in terms of the language they use, Japanese science pupils likely develop different science concepts from their counterparts in Western countries.  As a natural consequence of language-laden cognition, this article proposes a theoretical framework “linguistic mode of science education” to remind science educators of varying worldviews in language-culture units.  The framework serves science educators in accomplishing equitable treatment of the Japanese culture where people have a different worldview from the Western scientific one, and may be applicable to all non-Western countries, with appropriate linguistic interpretation.  The article also describes linguistic features of Standard Average European languages used in developing scientific thoughts.  These fundamental features, contrasted with different features of the Japanese language, lead to the proposed framework “linguistic mode of science education.”  Awareness by science educators of linguistic conceptual incommensurabilities is the first step toward overcoming them.  Identifying science education with foreign language education is the second step.

* Faculty of Education, Kochi University




In the past two centuries, linguists, ethnologists and cultural anthropologists have noticed many people who live by cultural principles different from Western ones.  For instance, Whorf (1959, p. 57) found that American First Nations (Native Americans) established forms of time and space of their own; these forms are by no means identical with those that Western cultures have taken for granted.  He understood a language-cognition relationship, which is known as linguistic relativity: “all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated” (Whorf, 1959, p. 214).  Since then, linguistic relativity has been open to dispute; for example, Cole & Scribner (1974, p. 59) state that their review “makes untenable any strong version of linguistic relativity.”  However, they also acknowledge that “few would be likely to allow linguistic relativity no role whatsoever” (Cole & Scribner, 1974, p. 59).  They give a moderate illustration of it, a weak version: “the world is differently experienced and conceived in different language communities” (Cole and Scribner 1974, p. 41).  Thus, people in a specific language-culture unit share an innate worldview appearing to be objective only to the people within it.

Consequently, those science educators who have a worldwide perspective on science education are confronted with different worldviews pupils share according to their respective languages.  Some worldviews may agree with the worldview of Western modern science, referred to as W-science [1] hereafter, and others may not.  If pupils share a different worldview from the W-scientific one, it is particularly significant for science educators to take account of a relationship between the W-scientific worldview and the worldview shared in a linguistic community concerned.  Since the community’s worldview disagrees with the W-scientific worldview, it is highly probable that pupils learn ideas different from W-scientific ideas taught in the science classroom.  In other words, the ideas pupils learn might not be W-scientific ideas but their cultural counterparts of W-science.  This is a typical misunderstanding in science education conducted in a different language-culture setting.

The present article describes how this is the case for Japanese pupils instructed in the Japanese language, within which they achieve Japanese language-laden cognition quite different from that achieved through European languages.  The potential dissimilarity between


Japanese and Western pupils suggests a potential for conceptual confusion.  As the first step to avoid the confusion, this article also introduces a notion “linguistic mode of science education” in order to remind science educators of variable worldviews in language-culture units.  This notion will function as a theoretical framework in science education research, and will serve science educators in accomplishing equitable treatment of both the Japanese and the W-scientific worldviews in the science classroom.

The following example will show how the theoretical framework carries out an educational function in the science classroom.  Imagine the question of forming the concept “acceleration”: Can Japanese and Western pupils share the same concept for “acceleration?”  Clearly, a general feeling experienced in vehicles is not acceleration in its original sense of physics, because the feeling is perceived by human senses.  Physics has accomplished a formulation of “acceleration” as mathematical expression so as to separate something independent of human senses from sensible things.  If pupils live by a culture where everything is understood in connection only with what the senses can perceive, it is almost impossible for pupils to understand the concept “acceleration.”  As I will explain in detail later, Western pupils are linguistically guaranteed to distinguish between sensible things and something independent of. human senses.  However, the Japanese language does not guarantee pupils this distinction; in other words, the Japanese language does not include such terms as refer to something independent of human senses traditionally.  This must cause language-origin conceptual confusion in Japanese pupils’ mind.  The theoretical framework will remind science educators of conceptual confusion of this type, and will lead them to another idea of science education in a different language-culture milieu from the Western one.

In the context of the present comparative study based on the framework “linguistic mode of science education,” I will focus on a role of abstract nouns in the English language, one of the languages which has developed W-science, because the W-scientific worldview consists of abstract nouns and because the Japanese language does not have definite ways to conceive abstract nouns traditionally.  The case will be made that this definitely causes language-culture incommensurability that brings about pupils’ conceptual confusion in science education in Japan.  Adducing examples of language-culture incommensurability, the present article argues that a different type of knowledge from the W-scientific knowledge may be an object of pupils’ attention in the science classroom.  Even when science teachers


and their pupils utter a W-scientific term that is by nature abstract, the term inevitably refers to something concrete in this linguistic setting.  This article will discuss how to reconcile the contradiction between the two types of knowledge by analysing the linguistic milieu of each linguistic community.


Linguistic Mode of Cognition in Science Education

If science educators realize the potential for the language-origin conceptual confusion, they must be interested to investigate how the W-scientific reality relates to a language and to consider the nature of the W-scientific reality.  The following gives a general description of the language-cognition relationship:

Man cannot come into direct contact with the elements composing his world as such.  These elements constitute a world meaningless in itself, one which might aptly be described as disorderly and chaotic.  One must conclude that the role of language is to bring order to this world and fashion in it meaningful and controllable objects, properties, and actions. (Suzuki, 1993, p. 40)

A language functions to articulate things, to formulate relationships between them and to bring order to this world.  In acquiring a specific language, one’s mind articulates the world and reflects the articulated world at the same time.  In learning the first language, a learner’s mind recognizes reality and shares a cultural worldview by tradition, because the language is shared.  If such a worldview differs from the W-scientific worldview, science educators have to make their attitude to science education clear: the attitude to replace the pupils’ innate worldview with W-scientific worldview (i.e., W-scientism) or to take both worldviews equitably into consideration in science education (i.e., a cultural relativism the present article assumes).


Objects of Comparison

Cultural relativism requires science educators to accept two different worldviews in science education.  This is an issue concerning not objectivity but subjectivity, because the term “objectivity” implies a single correct worldview in the present context.  In order to ensure


equitable treatment of both worldviews, science educators have to grapple with the issue concerning subjectivity.  It is de Saussure who illuminated the role of subjectivity in consideration of objects: He insisted “far from it being the object that antedates the viewpoint, it would seem that it is the viewpoint that creates the object” (de Saussure, 1966, p. 8).  This characterizes structural linguistics, which I paraphrased with an emphasis on the systematic features of created objects by words: A viewpoint creates its own system of objects (Kawasaki, 1996).  The paraphrase is equivalent to the position that subjectivity creates objectivity, and is a direct consequence of anti-essentialism (e.g., Burr, 1995, p. 5).

An excellent example of this paraphrase is found in Whorf’s notion “Standard Average European [2],” (SAE) conceived when deliberately contrasting European languages with the American First Nations’ languages.  This is a created object of consideration by his viewpoint, and lumps the following languages into one group: “English, French, German and other European languages with the possible (but doubtful) exception of Balto-Slavic and non-Indo-European” (Whorf, 1959, p. 138).  According to his viewpoint which considers SAE linguistic backgrounds similar to each other, similar worldviews must be discovered in the West (see Note 2).  Then, a single group of cultures is found in the West, and any difference between Western cultures is overlooked.  Consequently, Whorf’s viewpoint produces a single cultural group as an object of consideration, Western culture.  Therefore, from a non-Western point of view, it is justified to compare a non-Western culture with Western culture.

For example, in Whorf’s investigation of an American First Nation’s language (i.e., a non-Western culture), he did not consider differences between Western cultures as a primary issue.  For the same reason, a Western viewpoint that lumps Chinese, Korean and Japanese moral philosophies into one group according to Confucianism is justifiable in a comparative study of a Western moral philosophy with Confucianism.  In this comparative study, differences in moral philosophy between Chinese, Korean and Japanese ones must be less significant.  In another investigation from a different point of view, when one intends to clarify differences in moral beliefs between Korea and Japan, the researcher must ignore differences in moral belief between districts in each country.

In a similar way, a comparative study needs to establish the most appropriate viewpoint to create a system of objects of consideration,


and the viewpoint always ignores less significant differences to the comparative study concerned.  This means that a system of objects of consideration depends on a viewpoint: a viewpoint creates a system of objects.  Consequently, the question “what is this object?” is less significant than another “what viewpoint does create this system of objects?” in structuralism or anti-essentialism.  In other words, the question “what is this object?’ is objectivity-conscious, and the other question “what viewpoint does create this system of objects?” is subjectivity-conscious.

The viewpoint the present article has just established is the same as Whorf did.  Focusing on linguistic or cultural differences between the West and Japan, a non-Western country, I deliberately pay no attention to differences in culture among Western cultural units.  Furthermore, the Western worldview seems identical with the W-scientific worldview according to the viewpoint, because SAE languages have developed both (see below).  This viewpoint conceives the Japanese culture as an object of consideration at the same time, and finds the Japanese language as a non-SAE language, which has developed the Japanese worldview and the Japanese system of objects.  In the finding the viewpoint lumps all Japanese regional dialects into a linguistic group, the Japanese language.  Since the Japanese linguistic articulation is independent of the SAE articulation, the Japanese worldview definitely shows linguistic or cultural incommensurability with the W-scientific worldview (Kawasaki, 1996).


Definite Article

Burnet, who is known as the editor of the Burnet Oxford Classical Texts, asserted in the author’s preface to Early Greek Philosophy:

My aim has been to show that a new thing came into the world with the early Ionian teachers - the thing we call science - and that they first pointed the way which Europe has followed ever since, so that, as I have said elsewhere, it is an adequate description of science to say that it is “thinking about the world in the Greek way.”  That is why science has never existed except among peoples who have come under the influence of Greece. (Burnet, 1975, p. v)

This is much more crucial to science education in the non-West than Western people can imagine, because those who live by non-


Western cultures cannot relate their tradition to the Greco-Roman civilization.  To learn “thinking about the world in the Greek way” means that non-Western people who learn W-science have to alienate themselves from their non-Western cultures.

By contrast, Western people need not alienate themselves from the Greco-Roman civilization.  It is typical that Snell (1960, p. 227) identified the West as the linear successor to the legacy of the Greco-Roman civilization.  He pointed out that the essence of the W-scientific premises correlated with the maturity in the use of definite and indefinite articles in the Ancient Greek language.  His identifying differentiates the West from the non-West.  Therefore, Snell’s viewpoint to create the two worlds as an object-system of consideration is similar to that which Kawasaki (1996) established on the basis of the notion “SAE.”  Snell (1960, p. 228) argued that the definite article in the Ancient Greek language had become “a seed for the growth of scientific concepts.”

The article is capable of making a substantive out of an adjective or a verb; and these substantivations, in the field of philosophy and science, serve as the stable objects of our thinking.  But the substantives formed in this way do not refer to the same order of things as ordinary concrete nouns; ordinary material things are not the same as the objects of thought created by these substantivations. (Snell, 1960, p. 229)

The definite article in the Ancient Greek language made it possible to form the abstract nouns whose referents were beyond the phenomenal, material or tangible world (i.e., in the world of Idea, to use the Platonic term).

Although today’s English system of articles is greatly simplified, the definite article “the” can play the same role as Snell pointed out.  In front of the singular form of a countable noun, for instance, “the” can make a general statement about all things of a particular type: “The computer allows us to deal with a lot of data very quickly.”  In this example, the compound “the computer” refers to “the Idea of computer,” not concretely to actual computers in the phenomenal world.  In the same way, when “the” is placed in front of an adjective, the compound refers its Idea corresponding to everyone or everything that can be described by the adjective: “the true, the good and the


beautiful.”  The compound “the true” refers to something that everything true shares: the Idea of truth.

These compounds do not refer to anything particular in the phenomenal world.  Their referents ought to be found in the world of Idea according to the distinction between the world of Idea and the phenomenal world.  In this manner, the English language has formulated methods for conceiving abstract nouns that do not refer to anything in the phenomenal world.  Then, whoever uses an English noun has to decide which world its referent belongs to, though he or she seems to make the decision sub-consciously.  This linguistic decision leads English-speaking people to conceive the two opposite notions: “the phenomenal world” and “the world of Idea,” between which Plato drew the fundamental distinction (Boar, 1973b, p. 347).

Conversely, owing to this fundamental distinction, Western people have clarified whether an object of consideration belongs to the phenomenal world or to the world of Idea where everything is universal and eternal.  The reason why W-science is believed to be universal is the belief that W-scientists strive to search the world of Idea for the W-scientific reality.  Therefore, every W-scientific explanation assumes the form that W-scientific phenomena are explained in terms of abstract things or things in the world of Idea.  This can be paraphrased as the following general form of explanation: Every explanation demands a system of assumptions or describes “what exists in terms of what ought to exist” (Boar, 1973a, p. 547).  W-science fundamentally requires abstract nouns in order to describe “what ought to exist” in the world of Idea.


The Japanese Language Mode of Science Education

In contrast to this SAE linguistic function by which abstract nouns are generated, “the Japanese language does not have any fully established method of composing abstract nouns,” nor has it an “established method of turning adjectives into corresponding abstract nouns” (Nakamura, 1993, p. 533).  As a matter of fact, the Japanese language has never contained articles that perform the same function as in the English language.  This means that the Japanese culture has never developed the dichotomy between “the world of Idea” and “the phenomenal world.”  Therefore, the Japanese culture does not conceive the notion similar to “the world of Idea.”  I have to stress that the lack


of the abstract-making function is by no means a linguistic flaw of the Japanese language.  This must be understood as a characteristic of the Japanese language in a cross-cultural perspective.

Instead of conceiving the world of Idea, Japanese thought places exclusive emphasis on the phenomenal world, as Nakamura (1993) describes:

[W]e should notice that the Japanese are willing to accept the phenomenal world as Absolute because of their disposition to lay a greater emphasis upon intuitive sensible concrete events, rather than upon universals.  This way of thinking with emphasis upon the fluid, arresting character of observed events regards the phenomenal world itself as Absolute and rejects the recognition of anything existing over the phenomenal world. (p. 350)

A typical example of language-culture incommensurability must be realized.  In this English expression the term “Absolute” is a Japanese counterpart of “the supernatural” in the Western culture, but “Absolute” thus appears as neither universal nor immutable in the context of the Japanese culture.

The expression “particular and mutable Absolute” agrees linguistically with the point that no Japanese term refers to things beyond the phenomenal world, but, to Western people, it might appear as a contradiction in terms, e.g., the mortal God.  In the Japanese culture, the notion “particular and mutable Absolute” can refer to “what ought to exist.”  According to this linguistic characteristic, for instance, Ekken, a distinguished Japanese Confucianist in the early eighteenth century, “did not understand the distinction between the realms ‘above form’ and ‘below form’,” nor was he “inclined to recognize the realm which transcends and underlies the natural world of the senses” (Nakamura, 1993, pp. 541-542).  In this sense, “Absolute” plays a similar role to that of “reality” in Western thinking; however, Western people must experience a feeling of incompatibility because of its fluid nature.  Western people’s sense of incompatibility stems from the difference in linguistic features between the English and Japanese languages, because these languages differently formulate “what ought to exist.”


In science education, since the notion “what ought to exist” builds up pupils’ background of knowledge, science educators should take notice of the linguistic diversity in worldview.  A difference must arise in what pupils search for in the phenomenal world between the West and Japan.  In the West, abstract nouns induce pupils to search the world of Idea for something universal and immutable.  Whereas in Japan pupils search the phenomenal world for “Absolute” according to the Japanese worldview.  In order to distinguish between these linguistic settings for science education from the viewpoint of abstract noun, I proposed the notion “linguistic mode of science education” (Kawasaki, 1999): the English language mode of science education, the SAE-language modes of it, the Japanese language mode of it, etc.  I expect that these different modes will remind science educators of the different linguistic settings for science education.  Hereafter, “the Japanese language mode of science education” is abbreviated to “the JLSE.”  Generally, non-SAE-language modes of science education may induce linguistic conceptual conflicts the same as the JLSE.

Ways of Thinking

In order to clarify the essence of the JLSE, it is significant to inquire about the notion “ways of thinking” from the linguistic viewpoint.  According to Nakamura (1993):

The phrase “ways of thinking” refers to any individual’s thinking in which the characteristic features of the thinking habits of the culture to which he belongs are revealed.  “Ways of thinking” as here used will designate especially ways of thinking about concrete, empirical questions, which may, on many occasions, involve also value-judgements and question of values in ethics, religion, aesthetics, and other such human concerns.  The thinker need not himself be aware of any way of thinking when he is engaged in operation of thinking... (p. 5)

In addition to the foregoing, Nakamura (1993, p. 5) argues: “In studying the ways of thinking of a people, we find one of the first clues in their language.”  As I have just revealed, the notion “what ought to exist” is associated with whether a language contains the method to formulate abstract nouns, and then establishes a. reference frame according to which people are “engaged in operation of thinking.”  W-


science is regarded as one example of ways of thinking because abstract nouns are needed in W-scientific explanations.  Thus, an investigation of “what ought to exist” clarifies differences between the W-scientific way of thinking and the Japanese way of thinking.

At the same time, Nakamura (1993, p. 5) elucidates two notions: “rules of logic” and “system of thought.”  On one hand, “rules of logic” are those explicitly expressed formal rules put forward by logicians: Typically they are the laws of identity, contradiction and the excluded middle.  Since those similar “rules of logic” are found universally, they appear to be independent of cultures.  Thus, “rules of logic” do not purport to describe how people think.  On the other hand, a “system of thought” is a coherent, self-conscious system of thought that sprang from one or more of several ways of thinking.  Since W-science is a coherent system of thought, the “W-scientific system of thought” seems to be more acceptable than the “W-scientific way of thinking.”  However, the present article chooses the “W-scientific way of thinking” in order to give an emphasis to W-scientific premises of which science educators are usually unaware.

Regardless of the differences in ways of thinking, science educators in Japan teach the W-scientific content in the setting provided by the Japanese language.  Consequently, science educators with the W-scientific worldview might be perplexed with the Japanese way of thinking in pupils, because the Japanese way of thinking has been developed without abstract nouns.  In the West, on the contrary, science educators find that the Western way or SAE way of thinking shares abstract nouns or concepts with the W-scientific way of thinking.  Thus, the SAE modes of science education agree with the W-scientific content about abstract nouns.  For this reason, the language-culture setting for science education in Japan must be distinguished from that in the West (Ogata & Kawasaki, 1988).  Ogawa (1998, p. 148) makes such a distinction by using the term “Japanized science education.”


To the World of Idea

Science educators are inclined to overlook a historical fact that characterizes the Western way of thinking.  As Moor (1972) pointed out in the “Introduction” to Movements of Thought in the Nineteenth Century written by Mead (1972), the Western way of thinking stems from medieval theology (i.e., Christian theology):


The rationalism which colors European thought since 1600, and which pervades our contemporary scientific period through the assumption of the knowability of nature, of the uniformity of nature, and, consequently of the universality of natural laws, is rooted in medieval theology.  Picturing the universe as carrying out the purpose of a divine, rational being, any irrational element was excluded automatically, since God not only was intelligent but had the power to make his intelligence effective.  From this source come the rationalistic characteristics of modern science.  Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton, to mention only four, applied mathematics to the universe with an almost naïve trust.  Mathematics, the most rational of our disciplines, would fit a rational world. (Moor, 1972, p. xii)

Since 1600, Christian theology has been incorporated into the W-scientific system of premises to which W-science always refers.

Combining the Platonic Ideas with Christian faith, Western philosophy developed the role of things beyond the phenomenal world:

In Saint Augustine the Platonic ideas became ideas in the mind of God, ideas in accordance with which He had created the world.  In the Wisdom of Solomon (11: 20) one reads, “... Thou hast ordered all things by measure and number and weight,” a verse which during the Middle Ages was understood to be the basis of all physical science.  But measure and number and weight were mathematical ideas and since Neo-Platonism was highly colored with Pythagoreanism, it became almost a rule to identify the ideas on the mind of God with the mathematical ideas. (Boas, l973a, p. 546)

In this context, the Platonic Ideas are: “it [the world] must have been constructed on the pattern of what is apprehensible by reason and understanding and eternally unchanging; from which again it follows that the world is a likeness of something else” (Plato, 1977, p. 41).  W-science gives descriptions of what happens in the world of Idea,


because “Nature was an embodiment of the divine wisdom” (Boss, 1973a, p. 546), the divine wisdom which conceived the Platonic Ideas.  In addition to this, there is another dominant feature in the tradition of Western philosophy: “change is to be lamented and the Sage will reject the mutable in his search for the permanent” (Boas, 1973b, p. 347).

These features formulate what W-scientific knowledge ought to be.  W-scientific laws are believed to assume mathematical forms, because mathematics represents the immutable.  Since anything immutable is found only beyond the phenomenal world, W-science essentially describes what happens in the world of Idea in terms of abstract nouns or concepts (i.e., Ideas).  Boas (1973a, p. 543) summarized the properties of Ideas as follows: “they are universals, class-characters, analogous to mathematical figures; they are timeless and unchanging; they are ideals, not existent objects in space-time; they are known only to the reason.”  These properties aptly illustrate the role of abstract nouns or concepts as “what ought to exist” in the W-scientific way of thinking.  Thus, only abstract concepts can describe W-scientific knowledge: a knowledge system accessible only by reason.

Throughout the history of Western philosophy, Western people tend to discredit what is known only by sense organs.  In The Republic (Plato, 1987), for instance, Socrates says:

The stars that decorate the sky, though we rightly regard them as the finest and most perfect of visible things, are far inferior, just because they are visible, to the true realities; that is, to the true relative velocities, in pure numbers and perfect figures, of the orbits and what they carry in them, which are perceptible to reason and thought but not visible to the eye. (pp. 277-278)

There is a clear distinction between what is known only by sense organs and what is known by reason; the former is inferior to the latter.  Obviously, this distinction agrees with that between the phenomenal world and the world of Idea.

Realizing two types of what is known (i.e., by sense organs and by reason), Western philosophy fostered the belief that knowledge is of two sorts: “one immediate, sensory, direct grasping of that which is known, and the other mediated, ‘intellectual,’ inferential” (Boas, 1973a,


p. 542).  In terms of the two sorts of knowledge, Plato explains how to approach the world of Idea:

… it proceeds from consideration of species backwards to recognition of the genus, and then from general back to higher entities still, so far as reason can go, until by the agency of intuition there may come, in final stage, a sudden flash of understanding, with the recognition of the Idea of the Good itself, the final ultimate premise on which the meaning and validity of all our assumptions depend.  Knowledge of this ultimate Idea will make possible a reverse process, a logical synthesis, showing how conclusions follow naturally upon one another. (Bluck, 1949, p. 90)

Clearly, this explains how to conduct the W-scientific investigation.  First, what is known by sense organs must be accumulated.  However, one should not rely on them, because the knowledge of reality “exists elsewhere than in the realm of sense” (Bluck, 1949, p. 118).  Then, the W-scientific investigation demands the “inferential” type of knowledge: what is known by reason.  Finally, only after sufficient logical examinations convert what is known by sense organs into what is known by reason, one can approach the world of Idea by the agency of intuition.  In this way of thinking, one can understand W-scientific realities, and then find W-scientific laws which these realities follow in the world of Idea.  In W-scientific investigations, the first step appears to be identical to the final one, because:

The notion that ideas can be apprehended by a kind of vision or intuition, by looking and seeing them, has never been lost in Occidental philosophy, for knowing as a kind of insight, illumination, revelation, has almost always been retained. (Boas, 1973a, p. 542)

However similar the first and the final steps are, sufficient reasoning at the second step is essential to arriving at the final step.

Since Plato did not lay down explicit criteria by which the thinker can judge his or her endeavour at each step to be sufficient, the


relationship between these three steps has been a critical issue in the philosophy of W-science.  The criteria for taking the succeeding steps seem to be rather arbitrary.  In particular, since the criterion for the final step is to be fulfilled by “a sudden flash of understanding,” no one can know the goal of his or her reasoning beforehand.  For instance, Popper offers a modern paraphrase of “a sudden flash of understanding:”

The advance of science is not due to the fact that more and more perceptual experiences accumulate in the course of time.  Nor is it due to the fact that we are making ever better use of our senses.  Out of uninterpreted sense-experiences science cannot be distilled, no matter how industriously we gather and sort them.  Bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought, are our only means for interpreting nature: our only organon, our only instrument, for grasping her. (Popper, 1980, p. 280)

The reason why “bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought” play a key role is that the role of intuition is beyond the rational sphere of intelligence.  Many science educators overlook this irrational and unjustified activity in W-science; they tend to confine every W-scientific activity to the rational sphere of intelligence.  However, the role of intuition can be described rationally in principle even though intuition as such is irrational.

In order to understand the W-scientific procedure, science educators have to pay attention to the philosophy of W-science; it is a series of inquiries into the arbitrariness in the criteria as Popper has done.  For instance, the new philosophy of W-science insists that the first step is contingent on the second: a “theory-laden” understanding (Hanson, 1958, p. 19).  For another instance, Poincaré (1952, p. 141) implies that “science is built up of facts, as a house is built up of stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.”  Since he assumes a blueprint for the house, his words accord closely with the essence of “theory-laden” understanding.  If Poincaré had noticed the new philosophy of science, he would have suggested in addition to the house-metaphor as follows: Before gathering the stones, an architect has to complete the planning for the house.  Definitely, the facts obtained from experiments are already organized and codified by reason to a certain extent.  Poincaré (1952, pp. 142-143) went further as follows: “we are not restricted to our experiment, we correct it.”  This is exactly the same stance as Plato


adopted.  It is “the agency of intuition” that makes the correction to the experimental facts.  When conducting W-scientific experiments, scientists bridge the gap between these two realms according to the Western cultural tradition that Plato established.

In fact, those who are familiar innately with Western ways of thinking can bridge the gap in their subconsciousness, because the thinker need not be aware of it when engaged in thinking.  This leap into the world of Idea has never been explained in the philosophy of W-science.

Just why value was associated with the timeless and immutable has never been explained, if indeed any explanation of it is possible.  The association seems to be spontaneous and it is probable that value and duration form a couple which seems to many men to require no explanation. (Boas, 1973b, p. 347)

In other words, this association is internalized, and remains unchanged throughout the history of Western intelligence.  Therefore, anyone unfamiliar with a Western way of thinking (i.e., non-Western people who are not brought up in Western cultures) must be perplexed with this “agency,” “correction” or “leap.”

Owing to the internalized spontaneous association, confusion occasionally arises about the correction to the experimental results even in the realm of Western intelligence.  For instance, Broad and Wade (1982) express their conviction of deceit in Betrayers of the Truth.  In the second chapter entitled “Deceit in History,” they state: “The great scientists of the past were not all so honest and they did not always obtain the experimental results they reported” (p. 22).  However, all the cases they examine in the second chapter of the book, from Ptolemy to Millikan, can be qualified as proper for the W-scientific way of thinking.  For example, even though Millikan might make corrections to his experimental data by “trimming” and “cooking” (Broad & Wade, 1982, pp. 29-30), his procedure is justifiable as essential in the W-scientific way of thinking according to Poincaré’s indication cited before: “we are not restricted to our experiment, we correct it.”  In his procedure, Millikan’s reason leapt from the phenomenal world to the world of Idea to reveal the W-scientific reality by means of “bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought” as Popper points out.  Millikan must be a witness to the revelation that “the sky and the earth are married together, and the divine mysteries impressed upon the land


are discovered” (Debus, 1978, p. 120).  This is not anachronistic though the quotation from Debus is about chemical philosophy in the Renaissance.  Millikan seems to have shared the same attitude to reality as alchemists in the Renaissance.  This is the mainstream of the W-scientific way of thinking inaccessible to non-Western people.

Of course, the notion of knowledge does change in the history of Western philosophy.  As von Glasersfeld (1995, p. 7) indicates, the current notion of knowledge is dissimilar to that in the Renaissance: “The most important is that the customary conception of truth as the correct representation of states or events of an external world is replaced by the notion of validity.”  This very shift from “truth” to “validity” is the notion generated from the Western point of view.  It is clear that “truth” implied something related to the Creator in the Renaissance.  “Validity” still retains the similar relationship to the Creator, because only sound reasoning can justify “validity.”  Both terms hold “reasoning” in high regard; the two terms, “the Creator” and “reasoning,” are significant members in logos-associated relations [3] (Kawasaki, 1996).

Thus, from the viewpoint of the non-West, the W-scientific way of thinking has a highly respected and sound reasoning throughout the Western history of intelligence; it is the legitimate successor to the Greco-Roman ways of thinking.  Insofar as the W-scientific way of thinking legitimizes mathematical forms to describe W-scientific phenomena, it associates, as the result of Western people’s subconsciousness, essentially with the Biblical phrase: “Thou hast ordered all things by measure and number and weight.”  Regardless of linguistic, cultural or religious setting for science education, science educators practically assume the shape of Christian faith in association with the world of Idea; they are subconsciously led to this assumption accepting the universality of W-science uncritically.


Into the Phenomenal World

Since Japanese nouns are basically concrete as stated above, they can not correctly refer to the W-scientific concepts which are essentially abstract, for instance, acceleration, a point mass, a rigid body, an ideal gas, etc.  Owing to lack of such abstract nouns, the Japanese people are apt to consider that “what is the case” is identical with “what appears to be so” because abstract nouns are required for describing “what appears to be so.”  In other words, the Japanese way of


thinking does not seem to show a tendency to establish the dichotomy between “what is the case” and “what appears to be so.”  This may lead the Japanese pupils to confuse results obtained from experiments (i.e., “what is the care”) with W-scientific truths described by W-scientific laws consisting of abstract nouns (i.e., “what appears to be so”).  This must be a fundamental issue that needs to be discussed in science education research from a cross-cultural viewpoint.  In the Japanese language setting for science education, pupils might be led not to search for abstract concepts in the world of Idea but to inquire into the phenomenal world.

A fundamental character of the Japanese way of thinking may become more comprehensible to Western people if they are aware that Japanese people essentially discredit what is expressed in words [4]. This devaluing of words is identical to the devaluing of logical reasoning or of discussing reality which is known only by reason.  For instance, Zen school, a school of Japanized Buddhism, assiduously cultivated this attitude against words.

A word is a finger that points at the moon.  The goal of Zen pupils is the moon itself, not the pointing finger.  Zen masters, therefore, will never stop cursing words and letters. (Shigematsu, 1981, p. 3)

Similarly, they repeatedly insisted: “Once you preach, the point is gone” (Shigemalsu, 1981, p. 83).  Instead of valuing logical reasoning, Zen masters placed confidence in what was known directly by their sense organs.  In this way of thinking, the masters hate abstract nouns for their thinking.  They think their thoughts only within the phenomenal and concrete world.  Hence, the Japanese way of thinking gives a clear contrast to the Western way of thinking by discrediting logical reasoning and confining their thoughts to the phenomenal world.  These characteristics closely relate to the linguistic point that the Japanese language has never formulated the way to conceive abstract concepts.

Furthermore, in studying Buddhahood, some religious persons refused to use any logical reasoning.  In other words, they deliberately chose not to embrace logical reasoning in their search for Buddhahood, because the phenomenal world was “Absolute” and because it is the Japanese counterpart of “the supernatural” as stated above.  Shinran, a Buddhist monk of Pure Land school of Japanized Buddhism in the thirteenth century, wrote about jinen,” which is expressed by the same


two kanji characters as “shizen.”  This Japanese term is significant to the JLSE, because it considers this term equivalent to the English term “nature” (Kawasaki, 1996).  Since kanji characters are basically ideographs, the difference in pronunciation is of little significance.

Ji” means “of itself’ - not through the practicer’s calculation.  It signifies being made so.  Nen” means “to be made so” - it is not through the practicer’s calculation; it is through the working of Tathagata’s Vow… Jinen signifies being made so from the very beginning.  Amida’s Vow is, from the very beginning, designed to bring each of us to entrust ourselves to it - saying “Namu-amida butsu” - and to receive us into the Pure Land; none of this is through our calculation.  Thus, there is no room for the practicer to be concerned about being good or bad.  This is the meaning of jinen as I have been taught. (Shinran, 1977, p. 530)

On the belief that everyone had already obtained salvation by Amida’s Vow, Japanese people accepted a feature of jinenor “shizen” in the Japanese way of thinking as follows: Japanese people were inclined to avoid reasoning about jinenor “shizen” logically, simply because conducting such an act indicated distrust of Amida’s Vow.

The philosophy of Dogen, a great Japanese Zen master in the thirteenth century, shows an excellent example of confining thoughts to the phenomenal world.  He found Buddhahood in impermanence there.  “Impermanence is the Buddhahood” is the doctrine upheld by Dogen:

The impermanence of grass, trees and forests is verily the Buddhahood.  The impermanence of the person’s body and mind is verily the Buddhahood.  The impermanence of the (land) country and scenery is verily the Buddhahood. (Nakamura, 1993, p. 352)

Dogen identified the Buddhahood with the impermanence of “grass, trees and forest,” “the person’s body and mind” and “the (land) country and scenery.”  Since Buddhahood is identical to “Absolute,” Japanese people believe it to be already revealed as impermanence in the realm of senses.  Nakamura (1993, p. 352) concludes: “there is nothing that is not exposed to us.”  Taking for granted that “there is


nothing that is not exposed to us,” Japanese people have explained the world in terms of concrete nouns or concepts.  From this point of view, both abstract concepts and the world of Idea are clumsy and unnecessary.  Japanese philosophers have never rejected the mutable in their search for “Absolute.”

Owing to this linguistic setting, the JLSE leads pupils to produce misunderstandings about W-scientific concepts, because all things that the JLSE pupils refer to exist only within the phenomenal world according to the characteristic of the Japanese language that has never coined “the world of Idea.”  Translation of W-scientific terms into the Japanese language is the root of pupils’ misunderstandings.  The translation has already woven W-scientific terms pupils use into the Japanese language.  Therefore, it is impossibly difficult for science teachers to realize the language-culture incommensurability that lies between “nature” and its Japanese equivalent “shizen” (Kawasaki, 1996), for example.  Since science education is conducted in the Japanese language, the translation conceals language-culture incommensurability in the science classroom.

It is true that shizenusually shares some referents with the English term “nature.”  For example, they are “grass, trees and forest,” “the person’s body and mind” and “the (land) country and scenery.”  This is the reason that shizenis picked up as an equivalent of “nature,” but Kawasaki (1996) proved by examining English translations of Japanese literature that “shizen” refers to “one’s natural self’ and “conscience” in addition to these examples I have just given.  Furthermore, in the Japanese language, shizenrefers even to something supernatural (Kawasaki, 1996), because “Absolute” does exist in their concrete aspect of sensibility showing itself in the fluid nature of them.  Since shizenconnotes “Absolute,” it may be an ethical model which one must accept, not an object of studying, examining or scrutinizing (Kawasaki, 1990).  Kawasaki, Hujimura and Kawahara (1999) reveal such an attitude toward “shizen,” not “nature,” in data from a research questionnaire responded to by Japanese high school pupils.  The result implies that they assume the linguistic, cultural or traditional thought about “shizen: They consider shizento be a model they must follow.  This philosophical connotation of the term is the very reflection of the Japanese way of thinking.

Hence, it is extremely difficult for pupils who have such a view on shizento understand the function of W-scientific laws of conservation (e.g., the conservation law of energy or mass) because


these laws are obtained through searching the immutability for the world of Idea.  Shizenis by nature mutable and the Japanese counterpart of “a natural phenomenon” is also mutable.  Then, “what appears to be so” is mutable for the Japanese language-culture reason that the world of Idea is never presupposed.  Therefore, following the Japanese way of thinking, the JLSE subconsciously emphasizes the agency of intuition throughout an investigation of the phenomenal world.  When pupils look closer at a Japanese counterpart of “a natural phenomenon,” the Japanese term kansatsuleads them to an intuition for feeling empathy with their objects concerned (Kawasaki, 1999).  Surprisingly, the JLSE considers this attitude as equivalent to the English term “to observe,” and consequently the JLSE pupils refuse to objectify W-scientific objects (Kawasaki 1992).  Ogawa (1998, p. 156) focused on the objectives of the JLSE: “pupils are to learn by direct interaction with Shizen, feel Shizen, feel empathy with Shizen, and to love Shizen.”  These goals result in oppressing pupils’ objective reasoning throughout their activity in science lessons.

This means that the JLSE pupils assume a subject-object relationship different from that assumed in the W-scientific way of thinking (Kawasaki, 1999).  Since the JLSE pupils do not have their deliberate intention to find something universal and immutable beyond the phenomenal world, they are led to feel empathy with their objects in accordance with the JLSE objectives as pointed out in the foregoing.  When the JLSE pupils observe biological objects, in particular, the JLSE science teachers emphasize this attitude toward the objects.  The JLSE science teachers envisage pupils’ merging with their objects mentally and feeling empathy even with physical and chemical objects eventually (Kawasaki, 1992).  This is the Japanese cultural articulation of an attitude toward shizen,” the Japanese equivalent of “nature.”  Thus, irrespective of the context of the W-scientific way of thinking, “experiments” and “observations” are conducted in the JLSE.

Consequently, the JLSE considerably alters the significance of “experiment” in the science classroom.  The Japanese term “jikken,” the equivalent of “experiment,” may not be the bridge between the phenomenal world and the world of Idea, because the world of Idea is never conceived in the JLSE pupils’ mind.  Examining the pupils’ activity jikken in the science classroom of the fourth grade of primary school, Nakayama and Iwakiri (1999) suggest that pupils try to give a full description of diversity of a W-scientific phenomenon they are really faced with, not to confirm their conclusion asserting ideals or universals according to the W-scientific way of thinking.  The JLSE


pupils’ stance on learning must stem from the philosophy of Ogyu Sorai, a Japanese Confucianist in the early eighteenth century. Nakamura (1993) points out:

learning consists, to him [Ogyu], in knowing as many particular things as possible: “Learning consists in widening one’s information, absorbing extensively anything and everything one comes upon.” (p. 537)

This is the same attitude toward the phenomenal world as the JLSE pupils assume: They prefer to amass knowledge of particular facts that exist in the phenomenal world (Nakayama & Iwakiri, 1999).  The JLSE pupils’ attitude toward experiment is in the tradition of the Japanese culture rather than W-science.

For the sake of contrast, the JLSE pupils are inclined to stop their objective reasoning after jikkenwhereas pupils in SAE modes of science education start their objective reasoning after “experiment.”  The JLSE pupils’ attitude toward natural phenomena agrees exactly with the following tendency in the Japanese belief system: “Among the Japanese, however, there is a strong tendency to understand such a universal law only in reference to some particular or specific phase of things” (Nakamura, 1993, p. 395).  Both universal laws and the things from which universal laws are derived are considered by Japanese people to be in the same realm of knowledge (i.e., knowledge about the phenomenal world).

All the characteristics of the JLSE I have described are attributable to the fact that the Japanese language traditionally contains no abstract nouns or concepts of which the world of Idea consists.  A point needs stressing here: only the cross-cultural viewpoint formed by the present article can adduce these examples.  All of them might appear as evidence in favour of the significance of the JLSE; however, these examples neither establish nor strengthen the viewpoint in the strict sense of anti-essentialism.  It is the viewpoint that reveals the examples because they are characteristics of objects created by the viewpoint (Kawasaki, 1996).  As a rule, to give an account of a viewpoint just established is an essential procedure for making examples meaningful in cross-cultural studies.  Again I have to emphasize that issues concerning viewpoint are not of objectivity but of subjectivity.


Language-Laden Cognition

Most modes of science education, irrespective of its linguistic setting, aim to teach the W-scientific content produced by the W-scientific way of thinking.  In the JLSE, however, the lack of abstract nouns could make a Japanese science classroom incommensurate with a Western science classroom.  Even when the JLSE teacher uses the same teaching materials as an English science teacher, what is taught differs linguistically (i.e., cognitively).  The same educational situation must take place in non-SAE-linguistic modes of science education.

In order to improve this linguistic situation in the JLSE, science educators have to be aware that the W-scientific content is inseparable from the notion “the world of Idea” and that this inseparability stems from the linguistic and religious backgrounds of Western culture.  Science educators’ awareness of it might lead the JLSE to encounter religious backgrounds where Christian religious values challenge Japanese values.  In a practical way, the JLSE has resolved this dilemma by emphasizing the technological usefulness of W-science: the technological aspect of W-science.  W-science appears to be universal in this aspect, because every machine works in the same way throughout the world.  However, this emphasis on the technological aspect leads science educators to fail to notice that W-science has its innate way of recognizing the outside world.  It creates and articulates the W-scientific system of objects according to the W-scientific way of thinking.  In this sense, W-science functions as a language commensurable and compatible with SAE languages.

Thus, W-science has a recognizing aspect in the same way that every human language has its recognizing aspect to create its system of objects and perceive them.  The recognizing aspect of W-science is developed linguistically, culturally and religiously as discussed above.  In order to illuminate the recognizing aspect of W-science, I proposed the separation of W-science into the recognizing and technological aspects in science education research (Kawasaki, 1996).  Within the framework of this dichotomy between the two aspects, science educators can naturally accept that the recognizing aspect of W-science does depend linguistically on Western culture.

Then, from the present cross-cultural viewpoint that this article has just offered, difference in the recognizing aspect between W-science as an SAE language and the Japanese language becomes a contemporary issue not only in the JLSE but also in other non-SAE-linguistic modes


of science education, because similar language-culture settings for science education must be provided in the non-West.  There, investigation of the difference in the recognizing aspect will find dissimilarities in a non-Western way of thinking.  In contrast with the W-scientific way of thinking, the Japanese way of thinking might appear to lack the reasoning step before the leap into the world of Idea.  For a culturally equitable study of the JLSE, however, science educators should remember that the Japanese way of thinking is neither incoherent nor inferior to the Western way of thinking.  This simply shows a variety of ways of thinking.  On the basis of what is known by sense organs, the Japanese way of thinking leads Japanese people of intelligence to search the phenomenal world for “Absolute.”  At this step, kansatsu,” the Japanese type of intuition, is educationally required.  The JLSE has uncritically replaced “to observe” by the Japanese term kansatsu,” of which a possible English equivalent is “to contemplate” (Kawasaki, 1999).

This means that the JLSE encourages pupils “to contemplate” their objects in the science classroom in harmony with pupils’ feeling empathy with their objects as discussed above.  In the context of the Japanese language, the term kansatsuconforms to the Japanese system of objects.  This kansasuactivity might be similar to the final step in bridging the gap between the phenomenal world and the world of Idea in the Western way of thinking.  However, kansatsu is accomplished only within the phenomenal world as discussed above.  According to the W-scientific way of thinking, the world of Idea must be supposed in the activity “to observe.”  The reason why science educators in the JLSE pay no attention to this linguistic incommensurability is that the Japanese concepts shizenand kansatsuare believed to be equivalent to the W-scientific concepts “nature” and “to observe,” respectively.  As Kawasaki (1999) revealed, shizenis contemplated in the activity kansatsu. Therefore, in this translation, the JLSE unwittingly revises the phrase “to observe a natural phenomenon concerned” into “to contemplate a natural phenomenon in which ‘Absolute’ might be found.”

In an investigation of the JLSE, science educators’ lack of awareness of linguistic diversity needs to be discussed.  Owing to this attitude toward shizen,” what pupils find deviates noticeably from what the W-scientific way of thinking expects.  As stated above, the research questionnaire (Kawasaki, Hujimura & Kawahara, 1999) shows that they consider shizento be an ethical model they must follow rather than an object to examine and control.  The JLSE pupils are


inclined to assume not the Western attitude toward “nature” but the traditional attitude toward shizen in harmony with the philosophy of Tao Te Ching, which “is a fundamental text in the development of culture and thought in China and East Asia”. (Izutsu, 2001, p. 9)

Man models himself on earth.

Earth models itself on heaven.

Heaven models itself on the Way.

And the Way models itself on (its own) spontaneity

[shizen]. (Izutsu, 2001, p. 73)

Since the term “spontaneity” should be identified with shizenin the foregoing, it is reasonable that the JLSE pupils consider shizento be an ethical model they must follow.

The reason why this deviation in meaning takes place is the collocation characterized by the language that pupils use.  As a rule, an object can follow limited transitive verbs in sensible and reasonable sentences; for instance, the sentence “I write a picture” must sound odd to English-speaking people.  The verb “to write” is distinguished from “to draw” in the English language even if the same pencil is used on the same sheet of paper.  The word “picture” is seldom combined with “to write” in a usual sequence in the English language.  In the same way, the Japanese word shizen,” (i.e., the Japanese equivalent of “nature”) does not form a collocation of a Japanese verb equivalent to the English verb “to observe” (i.e., the activity of objectifying and watching carefully).  In the context of W-science, the word “nature” follows the verb “to observe” of course.  Such linguistic combinations of nouns and verbs fundamentally figure out a way of thinking in a linguistic community.

By using the notion “syncagmatic relations,” Culler explains this linguistic fact in general as follows: “Syntagmatic relations define combinatory possibilities: the relations between elements which might combine in a sequence” (Culler, 1988, 48).  Obviously, syntagmatic relations formed in a language are no longer available to any other languages.  Therefore, a difference in syntagmatic relations essentially causes language-culture incommensurability.  Then, the difference between the syntagmatic relations “nature” and shizenformed in the respective languages explains the incommensurability between the two words, the incommensurability which I explained from the difference in associated relations formed around these words (Kawasaki, 1996).  This is another way to explain this incommensurability, and the two


ways are closely interrelated.  Thus, the difference in syntagmatic relations plays a critical role not only in translation but also in pupils’ cognition in the JLSE, and consideration of the difference must lead science educators to a mirror argument on the Japanese culture in the JLSE.  By making pupils aware of this linguistic difference in cognition, science educators may greatly improve the linguistic setting for the JLSE.

To distinguish between language-culture settings for science education will lead science educators to conceive the notion “language-laden cognition.”  This is basically similar to the notion “theory-laden observation” in the new philosophy of science.  Hanson (1958, p. 19) drew science philosophers’ attention to “theory-laden understanding.”  Adducing the case where an observer sees a physicist measuring electrical resistance, Brown (1979, p. 83) explained, “it is more important for the moment to note that irrespective of what the scientist is ‘really’ doing, what we learn by observing him is not determined solely by what he is doing but also depends on what the observer already knows.”  In this context, what the observer already knows is not restricted to the W-scientific knowledge the observer has already acquired.  Brown (1979, p. 83) argues, “if our knowledge and beliefs play a central role in determining what we perceive, then the scientific theories that a scientist holds should play the same sort of role in determining what he observes in the course of his research.”  Therefore, since what the observer already knows is associated with everything that he or she has linguistically internalized, the notion of “theory-laden observation” is derived from “language-laden cognition.”  Hence, the notion “language-laden cognition” has a wider spectrum than “theory-laden observation.”

Consequently, “language-laden cognition” is applicable to science education research from a culturally equitable point of view.  It is also highly beneficial to science educators who intend to improve the linguistic situation for pupils.  Science educators who conceive the notion “language-laden cognition” will understand that two types of knowledge must be taken into account in science classrooms in Japan: the knowledge built up in the world of Idea and the other knowledge built up in the phenomenal world.  After becoming cognizant of both types of knowledge, science educators will be able to relativize the W-scientific worldview to the Japanese inherent worldview.  Then, they will distinguish the English mode of science education from the JLSE.  Conversely, this may lead them to relativize other linguistic modes of science education, thus assuming a cross-cultural perspective.



Concluding Remarks

Recently, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement carried out (TIMSS), the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, mainly in 1994.  According to the TIMSS report [5], Japan is a member of the highest scoring group, as in the previous two studies.  Many science educators familiar with the TIMSS report might wonder and doubt that the JLSE has such trouble in conducting science education.  Their doubt pointedly illustrates the problem this article has just raised.  The JLSE pupils’ higher score in the TIMSS report does not necessarily mean that they have become practiced in learning the W-scientific way of thinking, because “rules of logic” play a critical role in mathematics and science tests.  As pointed in the foregoing, “rules of logic” appear to be independent of various ways of thinking.  Pupils can achieve a higher score if they skillfully understand how “rules of logic” operate.

However, those pupils who consider shizento be a model they must follow (Kawasaki, Hujimura & Kawahara, 1999) encounter difficulties in understanding W-science under the present complicated circumstances of the JLSE: 1) their understanding of shizenis not identical to the English language mode of science education pupils’ understanding of “nature” but 2) the JLSE pupils are under the impression that their understanding is shared throughout the world.  These difficulties which translation creates and conceals have no relation to their TIMSS score as stated above.  The point to which the present article intends to draw science educators’ attention is that the JLSE pupils as well as teachers unwittingly substitute the W-scientific worldview for the Japanese cultural worldview.  Consequently, the JLSE pupils cannot avoid the conflict between these two worldviews (Kawasaki, 1990), a conflict which may cause pupils’ cultural identity crisis.

In the science classroom, the JLSE pupils must understand the content in a much different way, due to the following three closely interrelated linguistic factors I have focused on: linguistic relativity, cultural premises expressed as “what ought to exist,” and language-laden cognition, all of which are issues concerning pupils’ viewpoint (i.e., pupils’ subjectivity).  Linguistic relativity results in the differences in worldviews; a worldview determines corresponding cultural premises as “what ought to exist.”  Conversely, the cultural premises legitimize the worldview.  Furthermore, the cultural premises formulate the way to discover “what ought to exist,” which in turn determines


what is to be discovered.  What is finally discovered is the result of language-laden cognition.  According to this cognitive procedure, the JLSE pupils interpret the W-scientific knowledge as something about the phenomenal world, though the W-scientific knowledge essentially expresses what happens in the world of Idea.  The JLSE pupils can neither establish their traditional worldview which their language-culture unit expects them to share nor clarify the relationship between the W-scientific and the Japanese traditional worldviews in the JLSE.  This may lead the JLSE pupils to their identity crisis of culture.

In order to circumvent this crisis, Japanese science education could be taught through the English language; consequently, pupils would avoid changing their language-culture identity in science education conducted in such a way.  However, Japanese pupils must meet another problem of acquiring the English language.  For handling this dilemma, I proposed a strategy: to identify science education with foreign language education (Kawasaki, 1996).  This does not mean that science education should be taught through the English language, but expects science educators to take consideration of the fact that W-science is described in a language incommensurate with the Japanese language.  Science educators must be led to take pupils’, as well as science educators’, language-laden cognition into consideration.  In foreign language education, pupils are not confused by learning cultural values embedded in the foreign language, though they always come up against linguistic incommensurability.  Foreign language educators achieve this by emphasizing that the foreign language is incommensurate with pupils’ first language.  Definitely, foreign language education does not aim to replace pupils’ first language by the foreign language concerned.  Hence, the notion “language-laden cognition” makes it possible to conduct science education without pupils losing their language-culture identity.

Taking account of language-laden cognition, I would like to suggest a new principal objective of the JLSE: to have pupils gain experience in carrying out the English language-laden cognition.  Even in the JLSE, this objective must encourage pupils to study W-science with a critical mind, on the basis of which they will develop language-culture relativism.  However, this relativism will become blurred owing to the universality of technology when science education intends to support society by attempting to industrialize it.  This is the reason that I separated W-science into two aspects: the recognizing aspect and the technological aspect that links directly to the global economy.  The role of “inspiration” in the technological aspect is more comprehensible


than that of “intuition” in the recognizing aspect, because every mechanism exists and appears to be universal in the phenomenal world.  In spite of this disunion, the language-culture relativism and the universality of technology are compatible in science education if science educators are always aware of the recognizing aspect of W-science.

With the aid of the awareness of the recognizing aspect, the notion “language-laden cognition” will deepen science educators’ understanding of what pupils already know, and what and how pupils will learn through their linguistic activity.  Such understanding presents an essential prerequisite for a constructivist approach that focuses on personal frameworks of understanding (Hodson, 1998, p. 51).  Since the personal frameworks of understanding are subordinate to their linguistic or cultural framework, the understanding of language-laden cognition will guide the constructivist approach.  These two types of frameworks, personal and linguistic (i.e., cultural), are complementary and must be distinguished from each other.  The constructivist approach will guide science educators’ investigation into personal frameworks of understanding.  At the same time, researchers should investigate the linguistic framework from a similar viewpoint to that of this article.  This requires science educators to make a clear distinction between the linguistic or cultural relativism and another type of relativism concerning individuals.

The perspective kept throughout this article might be clarified further by comparing it to Kuhn’s (1970, pp. 160-173) perspective.  It is true that Kuhnianism has accomplished relativization of W-science in a historic perspective, but it takes no account of non-Western worldviews: non-Western types of subjectivity.  Excluding non-Western worldviews, Kuhnianism seems to argue that W-science is universal.  The present viewpoint is not the same as Kuhnianism holds.  This article has described what W-science preserves throughout the Western history of intelligence whereas Kuhnianism focuses on how it has changed.  My objective is relativizing W-science in a cross-cultural perspective: relativizing W-science from the viewpoint of science education in non-Western countries.  Then, Kuhnianism is less significant to this article.  The relationship between Kuhnianism and the present stance on the relativization of W-science will be discussed elsewhere from the viewpoint of anti-essentialism.



I am grateful to Professor Glen Aikenhead for his encouraging me to complete this work with helpful suggestions in the CLAGS-STEP Project: International Joint Research on Culture, Language and Gender Sensitive Science Teacher Education Programme funded by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (No. 12308006) from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture.  I would like to thank other members of this project, Professors Dale Baker, Pauline Chinn, Narishige Inagaki, Tetsuo Isozaki, Olugbemiro Jegede, Hayashi Nakayama, Tomoyuki Nogami, Masakata Ogawa (Principal Investigator), Hisashi Otsuji, Kate Scantlebury, Svein Sjoberg, Manabu Sumida and Togo Tsukahara, for valuable discussions in the Kobe Meeting.


1. The term “W-science” is an abbreviation for “Western ethno-science” that refers to Western Modern science, and causes an enumeration a list of ethno-sciences namely, the Japanese ethno­science, the Javanese ethno-science, etc., as Kawasaki (1996) discussed.  By means of calling Western Modern science “Western ethno-science,” this article cautiously gives neither educational nor social privilege to W-science.

2. This article relates “SAE” to the notion “the West.”  The West is an area where people use SAE languages as their first language.  Furthermore, the concept “Western” relates to an individual’s linguistic identity.  When the individual’s first language is an SAE language, from the viewpoint of cognitive form, this article regards him or her as Western.

3. Associated relations are a cloud of words formed around a pivotal word in a specific language.  One conducts one’s thoughts and actions according to the cloud.  Therefore, to form associated relations is a cause to link the language closely with features of the corresponding culture.  In the main, whoever conducts reasoning in an SAE language follow logos-associated relations: the God, the Creator, reason, ratio, creature, nature etc.  Obviously, non-SAE-speaking people do not form these associated relations innately.  Kawasaki (1996) gives the detailed explanation of this notion.


4. It is highly probable that the Eastern cultures may share a similar cultural tendency against words.  For simplicity, I restrict this article only to the Japanese culture.

5. The author referred to the TIMSS report included in the following: National Institute for Educational Policy Research (1997). Chuugakkono Sugakukyouiku Rikakyouiku no Kokusaihikaku (The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement). Tokyo: Toyokan (in Japanese).



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