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The recklessly critical quest for truth

With the idol of certainty (including that of degrees of imperfect certainty or probability) there falls one of the defences of obscurantism which bar the way of scientific advance. For the worship of this idol hampers not only the boldness of our questions, but also the rigour and the integrity of our tests. The wrong view of science betrays itself in the craving to be right; for it is not his possession of knowledge, of irrefutable truth, that makes the man of science, but his persistent and recklessly critical quest for truth.

Has our attitude, then, to be one of resignation? Have we to say that science can fulfill only its biological task; that it can, at best, merely prove its mettle in practical applications which may corroborate it? Are its intellectual problems insolu­ble? I do not think so. Science never pursues the illusory aim of making its answers final, or even probable. Its advance is, rather, towards an infinite yet attainable aim: that of ever discovering new, deeper, and more general problems, and of subjecting our ever tentative answers to ever renewed and ever more rigorous tests. [281]

1 comment

  1. PeterM says:

    So which are we actually striving for: something we know is unattainable or, if attained, unknowable (truth) or something that is relative to our problems and our theories (corroboration)? Essentially, this question is re­solved in favour of the latter in Objective Knowledge. With a critical extension, however, we can still use the term “truth” for what we actually (sometimes) do attain.

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