Beyond good and evil: prelude to a science of the future

Endre Kadar, J. Effken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The central goal of ecological psychology is to develop a theory of how humans cope successfully with everyday tasks such as navigating safely through the environment. Achieving this seemingly simple goal has proved to be exceedingly difficult. The authors suggest that one of the reasons for the difficulty comes from a perhaps surprising source: the tension between two radically different ways of knowing, artistic (aesthetic) and scientific (empirical–theoretical). James J. Gibson utilized both ways of knowing throughout his career. His creativity cannot be denied, as evidenced by his many novel and intuitive ideas (e.g., the field of safe travel, perceptual systems, affordances); and he often sought to learn from artists. Nevertheless, Gibson never gave up on empirical research, consistently applying rigorous scientific methodology in his experimental work. Robert E. Shaw too utilized both ways of knowing, often seeking insights from art and applying these in his theory building and empirical research. In this article, the authors argue that reconciling these two seemingly disparate ways of knowing is a difficult, but nonetheless worthwhile, task that could benefit the field. As a basis for this claim, they first use a phenomenological and hermeneutic critique of science to argue that ecological scientists need to assess critically the representationalist tradition in experimental science, focusing particularly on key assumptions of geometry and logic. The authors then propose that, if it is to achieve its goals, ecological psychology must find novel ways to understand how humans cope with everyday tasks. Finally, they argue that lessons from modern and postmodern artists' rejection of formal logic and the representationalist tradition, as well as their search for novel techniques, can be instructive and informative for the students of ecological psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-363
Number of pages45
JournalEcological Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond good and evil: prelude to a science of the future'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this