A travesty of the nature of scientific thought

The scientific paper in its orthodox form does embody a totally mistaken conception, even a travesty, of the nature of scientific thought. …

The scientific paper is a fraud in the sense that it does give a totally misleading narrative of the processes of thought that go into the making of scientific discoveries. The inductive format of the scientific paper should be discarded. The discussion which in the traditional scientific paper goes last should surely come at the beginning. The scientific facts and scientific acts should follow the discussion, and scientists should not be ashamed to admit, as many of them apparently are ashamed to admit, that hypotheses appear in their minds along uncharted by-ways of thought; that they are imaginative and inspirational in character; that they are indeed adventures of the mind.

Scientism, backatcha!

Thus I oppose the attempt to proclaim the method of understanding as the characterisitic of the humanities, the mark by which we may distinguish them from the natural sciences. And when its supporters denounce a view like mine as ‘positivistic’ or ‘scientistic’,* then I may perhaps answer that they themselves seem to accept, implicitly and uncritically, that positivism or scientism is the only philosophy appropriate to the natural sciences. [185]

* The term ‘scientism’ meant originally ‘the slavish imitation of the method and language of [natural] science’, especially by social scientists; it was introduced in this sense by Hayek in his ‘Scientism in the Study of Society’, now in his The Counter-Revolution of Science, 1962. In The Poverty of Historicism, p. 105, I suggested its use as a name for the aping of what is widely mistaken for the method of science; and Hayek now agrees (in his Preface to his Studies in Philo­sophy, Politics and Economics, which contains a very generous acknowledgement) that the methods actually practised by natural scientists are different from ‘what most of them told us … and urged the representatives of other disciplines to imitate’.

Any objective question is subject to proof

Questions of ultimate ends are not amenable to direct proof. Whatever can be proved to be good, must be so by being shown to be a means to something admitted to be good without proof. The medical art is proved to be good by its conducing to health; but how is it possible to prove that health is good? … There is a larger meaning of the word proof, in which this question is as amenable to it as any other of the disputed questions of philosophy. The subject is within the cognisance of the rational faculty; and neither does that faculty deal with it solely in the way of intuition. Considerations may be presented capable of determining the intellect either to give or withhold its assent to the doctrine; and this is equivalent to proof. [ch. I, 157-8]

Operating with World 3 objects

[A]ll the important things we can say about an act of knowledge consist of pointing out the third-world objects of the act—a theory or proposition—and its relation to other third-world objects, such as the arguments bearing on the prob­lem as well as the objects known. [163]

Objective understanding

I have given here some reasons for the autonomous existence of an objective third world because I hope to make a contribution to the theory of understanding (‘hermeneutics’), which has been much discussed by students of the humanities (‘Geisteswissenschaften’, ‘moral and mental sciences’). Here I will start from the assumption that it is the understanding of objects belonging to the third world which constitutes the central problem of the humanities. This, it appears, is a radical departure from the fundamental dogma accepted by almost all students of the humanities (as the term indicates), and especially by those who are interested in the problem of understanding. I mean of course the dogma that the objects of our understanding belong mainly to the second world, or that they are at any rate to be ex­plained in psychological terms. [162]

The self as a product of World 3

But the human consciousness of self transcends, I suggest, all purely biological thought. I may put it like this: I have little doubt that animals are conscious, and especially that they feel pain and that a dog can be full of joy when his master returns. But I conjecture that only a human being capable of speech can reflect upon himself. I think that every organism has a programme. But I also think that only a human being can be conscious of parts of this programme, and revise them critically.

Most organisms, if not all, are programmed to explore their environment, taking risks in doing so. But they do not take these risks consciously. Though they have an instinct for self preservation, they are not aware of death. It is only man who may consciously face death in his search for knowledge.

A higher animal may have a character: it may have what we may call virtues or vices. A dog may be brave, affable, and loyal; or it may be vicious and treacherous. But I think that only a man can make an effort to become a better man: to master his fears, his laziness, his selfishness; to get over his lack of self control.

In all these matters it is the anchorage of the self in World 3 that makes the difference. The basis of it is human lan­guage which makes it possible for us to be not only subjects, centres of action, but also objects of our own critical thought, of our own critical judgement. This is made possible by the social character of language; by the fact that we can speak about other people, and that we can understand them when they speak about themselves.

The social character of language together with the fact that we owe our status as selves – our humanity, our rationality – to language, and thus to others, seems to me important. As selves, as human beings, we are all products of World 3 which, in its turn, is a product of countless human minds.

I have described World 3 as consisting of the products of the human mind. But human minds react, in their turn, to these products: there is a feedback. The mind of a painter, for example, or of an engineer, is greatly influenced by the very objects on which he is working. And he is also influenced by the work of others, predecessors as well as contem­poraries. This influence is both conscious and unconscious. It bears upon expectations, upon preferences, upon pro­grammes. In so far as we are the products of other minds, and of our own minds, we ourselves may be said to belong to World 3. [!!!]

The blockheadedness of IQ

It seems likely that there are innate differences of intelligence. But it seems almost impossible that a matter so many-sided and complex as human inborn knowledge and intelligence (quickness of grasp, depth of understanding, crea­tivity, clarity of expression, etc.) can be measured by a one-dimensional function like the “Intelligence Quotient” (I.Q.). As Peter Medawar … writes:

“One doesn’t have to be a physicist or even a gardener to realize that the quality of an entity as diverse and complex as soil depends upon … [a] large number of variables … [Yet] it is only in recent years that the hunt for single-value characterizations of soil properties has been virtually abandoned.”

The single-valued I.Q. is still far from being abandoned, even though this kind of criticism is leading, slowly and belatedly, to attempts to investigate such things as “creativity”. However, the success of thes attempts is very doubtful: creativity is also many-sided and complex.

We must be clear that it is perfectly possible that an intellectual giant like Einstein may have a comparatively low I.Q. and that among people with an unusually high I.Q. talents of the kind that lead to creative World 3 achievements may be quite rare, just as it may happen that an otherwise highly gifted child may suffer from dyslexia. (I have myself known an I.Q. genius who was a blockhead.) [123]

The task of being a person

Against this, I suggest that being a self is partly the result of inborn dispositions and partly the result of experience, especially social experience. The newborn child has many inborn ways of acting and of responding, and many inborn tendencies to develop new responses and new activities. Among these tendencies is a tendency to develop into a person conscious of himself. But in order to achieve this, much must happen. A human child growing up in social iso­lation will fail to attain a full consciousness of self.

Thus I suggest that not only perception and language have to be learned – actively – but even the task of being a person; and I further suggest that this involves not merely a close contact with the World 2 of other persons, but also a close contact with the World 3 of language and of theories such as a theory of time (or something equivalent). [111]

Learning to be a self

In this section my thesis is that we – that is to say our personalities, our selves – are anchored in all the three worlds, and especially in World 3.

It seems to me of considerable importance that we are not born as selves, but that we have to learn that we are selves; in fact we have to learn to be selves. This learning process is one in which we learn about World 1, World 2, and especially about World 3. [108-9]

Explanatory reductionism

This reductionist idea is interesting and important; and whenever we can explain entities and events on a higher level by those of a lower level, we can speak of a great scientific success, and can say that we have added much to our understanding of the higher level. As a research programme, reductionism is not only important, but it is part of the programme of science whose aim is to explain and to understand.

However, do we really have good reasons to hope that a reduction the the lowest level will be achieved? [18]

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