Aping the physical sciences

Some of the things which put me out of step and which I like to criticize are:

(1) Fashions: I do not believe in fashions, trends, tendencies, or schools, either in science or in philosophy. In fact, I think that the history of mankind could well be described as a history of outbreaks of fashionable philosophical and religious maladies. These fashions can have only one serious function—that of evoking criticism. Nonetheless I do believe in the rationalist tradition of a commonwealth of learning, and in the urgent need to preserve this tradition.

(2) The aping of physical science: I dislike the attempt, made in fields outside the physical sciences, to ape the physical sciences by practising their alleged ‘methods’—measurement and ‘induction from observation’. The doctrine that there is as much science in a subject as there is mathematics in it, or as much as there is measurement or ‘precision’ in it, rests upon a complete misunderstanding. On the contrary, the following maxim holds for all sciences: Never aim at more precision than is required by the problem in hand.  [7]

1 comment

  1. Cf. Feynman’s “Cargo Cult Science”.

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