Prof. Mireille Hildebrandt presented on The New Methodenstreit in Machine Learning at the International Conference on Explaining Machines, at the University of Bielefeld, Germany (the place where famous philosopher Luhmann worked most of his life). The Conference is part of a 12-year project on Constructing Explainability, a collaboration across different regions and discipline, bringing together computer science, social science and the humanities.
Prof. Hildebrandt discussed why and how we can learn from the century old ‘Methodenstreit’ that raged in the social sciences ever since the desire to be ‘like’ the natural sciences became mainstream. She traced the different meanings of explanation in terms of reasons and causes, the difference between explanation and justification (highly relevant for law) and finally the key difference between Verstehen (understanding) and Erklaeren (explaining) that defined the difference between causal reasoning and hermeneutical understanding. She proposed to seek ‘a new hermeneutics’ with regard to computational systems, noting that the issue of proxies will be a key point of interest to develop such ‘a new hermeneutics’. For machine learning to be possible, those who develop the research design have to make a whole range of upstream design decisions that have a number of downstream implications and basically determine the affordance of the system. Many of these decisions concern the choice of proxies, that allow the translation of real world events, states or goals into machine readable proxies. This ‘translation’ or ‘transformation’ should be the focal point of a new hermeneutics, as it will allow to highlight how the practice of understanding is transformed into a practice of logical reasoning, preparing for causal explanations. Hildebrandt’s talk paves the way for the monograph on ‘A new hermeneutics for computational law’ that will be one of the key outputs of the COHUBICOL project.
For slides, click here.