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’.

1 comment

  1. PeterM says:

    Cf. Mill, Feynman, Medawar.

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