Unity and Diversity in Science

  • Joseph Agassi
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 28)


The idea of the unity of science is the historically very important idea of total rationality and objectivity.

This idea is a Utopian dream, and a rather dangerous one.

The Popperian view of rationality as a goal directed, i.e., as problem-solving, method of trial and error is a better view or rationality.

Solutions to problems offer the element of unification, and their criticisms offer the element of diversification.


Pure Reason Good Citizen Major Theory Natural Theology Protestant Ethic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. The development of a new theory of rationality, following the lead of Chapter 24 of Popper’s The Open Society, seems to me to be a collective effort, but Bartley has the lion’s share. The following is a partial list of the efforts in this direction.K. R. Popper, Logic of Scientific Discovery, London 1959, Preface to The English Edition, 1958, and new footnotes pp. 44,98, 206 (and compare with old note on p. 55), and new appendixes ix (introductory part), and xi. The Open Society, 4th ed., London and New York (Paperback), 1962, Vol. 2, Addendum. Conjectures and Refutations, London and New York 1963, 1965, Preface to 1st and 2nd ed., Chapters 4 (originally 1948), 5, 8, (2), 10 (v, vi). See also his ‘Naturgesetze und theoretische Systeme’, in in Ratio (Oxford) 1, No. 1 (1957) 24-35, both reprinted in his Objective Knowledge, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1972.J. O. Wisdom, Foundation of Inference in Natural Science, London 1951, final chapter. ‘Respect for Persons, the Pleasure Principle, and Obligation’ in Atti del XII Congress Internationale di Filosofia, Vol. VII, G. C. Sansoni, Florence, 1958-9. ‘The Refutability of “Irrefutable” Laws’, Brit. J. Phil. Sci. 13 (1963).J. W. N. Watkins, ‘Confirmable and Influential Metaphysics’, Mind 61 (1958), The Haunted Universe’, The Listener 57 (1957), ‘Epistemology and Polities’, in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, London 1957.W. W. Bartley, ‘I Call Myself a Protestant’, Harper’s, May, 1959, reprinted in Essays of Our Time (ed. by L. Hamalian and E. L. Volpe), New York 1960. The Retreat to Commitment, Knopf, New York, 1962, ‘How is the House of Science Built?’, Architectural Association Journal, February 1965. ‘Rationality vs. Theories of Rationality’, in The Critical Approach to Science and Philosophy. Essays in Honor of K. R. Popper (ed. by M. Bunge), Macmillan, London, 1964. ‘Theories of Demarcation and the History of the Philosophy of Science, in Problems in the Philosophy of Science, Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965 (ed. by I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave), Amsterdam 1968.I. Lakatos, ‘Proofs and Refutations (in four parts)’, Brit. J. Phil. Sci., 1963-4. ‘Infinite Regress’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (Supplementary Volume 36, London 1962).P. K. Feyerabend, Knowledge Without Foundation, Oberlin 1961. ‘How to be a Good Empiricist — A Plea for Tolerance in Matters Epistemological’, in Philosophy of Science, The Delaware Seminar (ed. by Bernard Baumrin), New York 1963. ‘Problems of Empiricism’, in Beyond the Edge of Certainty (ed. by R. G. Colodny), Prentice Hall, 1965. See also his contributions to Vols. II and III of Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science.I. C. Jarvie, The Revolution in Anthropology, London 1964 (see Index, art. ‘Rationality’). The Objectivity of Criticism of the Arts’, Ratio 9 (1967).Jarvie and Agassi, The Problem of Rationality of Magic’, Brit. J. ofSoc. 18 (1967). Reprinted in R. Wilson (ed.), Rationality, Oxford, 1972, Harper Torchbook. Also: ‘Magic and Rationality Again’, Brit. J. Soc. 24 (1973).440M. Bunge, The Myth of Simplicity, Prentice Hall 1963; Scientific Research, 2 vols., Springer, Heidelberg-N.Y., 1967.S. Anderson, ‘Planning for Fullness’, in Planning for Diversity and Choice (ed. by S. Anderson), MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1968.J. Agassi, ‘Epistemology as an Aid to Science’, Brit. J. Phil. Sci., 1958. ‘Science in Flux: Footnotes to Popper’, Boston Studies, Vol. Ill, Reidel, Dordrecht, 1967 reprinted here. ‘Rationality and the Tu Quoque Argument’, Inquiry 16 (1973).Finally, Tom Settle, Agassi, and Jarvie, ‘The Grounds of Reason’, Philosophy 46, 1971. Towards a Theory of Openness to Criticism’, Phil. Soc. Sci. 4 (1974). Google Scholar
  2. The pessimistic mood which crept into 19th-century philosophy is a fascinating topicwhich I am not qualified to discuss. Largely, I should only say in parentheses, it is theirrationalists’ tribute to reason that their despair of reason led to total despair — evenagainst their will. Walter Kaufmann is right in viewing Hegel, for example, as by andlarge a pessimist (Philosophical Review 60, 1951) — quite contrary to Hegel’s ownpretended optimism and progressivism (and rationality of sorts), one should add. TheMalthusian view was rational and, in at least one aspect, pessimistic; yet, the evilpredicted by Malthus was a matter to overcome by a technicality; and when a technicalsuggestion to overcome the evil was made, it was advocated with incredible zest andgreat zeal. Darwinism, too, had an aspect which could be viewed pessimistically, andthe advocates of German nationalism did stress it; but the rationalists saw in Darwinismthe strongest support for progressivism. The first collapse of the equation of the twodichotomies — rationalist-irrationalist and optimist-pessimist — takes place with Freud’sworld-view, since he was both a staunch rationalist and a confirmed pessimist. This is,perhaps, one of the most traumatic aspects of Freudianism.Nprman O. Brown, in Life against Death, the Psychoanalytical Meaning of History(Wesleyan University, 1959, Part 5, Chapter XV, section: ‘Rationality and Irrationality’)says: That the instinct of psychoanalysis — for it too has instincts which it represses -makes it want to attack the rationality of prudential calculation and quantitative scienceis an indubitable but not widely advertised fact. It is concealed by the use of a quitenaive and traditional (therefore unpsychoanalytical) notion of the ‘reality-principle’and ‘reality-thinking’. Behind this naive notion of ‘reality-thinking’ is Freud’s unquestioning(he could not question everything) attitude to science, that Comtian attitudewhich saw man passing through the stages of magic and religion till it finally arrivesat the scientific stage, where he is at last mature — i.e., where he has abandoned thepleasure-principle, has adapted himself to reality, and has learned to direct his libidotoward real objects in the outer world. Behind this scientistic pose of the psychoanalystlies the repressed problem of the psychoanalysis of psychoanalysis itself.Here we see the ideal of rationality in the double sense of (a) objective comprehensionand (b) it being used successfully in purposive action. This is optimism regarding boththe descriptive and the prescriptive aspects of reason — welded so well that Browncannot but see a conflict between Freud’s rationalism and pessimism.Kleist sounds like a precursor of Freud and Adler, not, as some presume, becauseof his intense obsessive personality (such abound in history), but because he despairedof reason (after reading Kant, recognizing his excellence, and not being satisfied withhim), yet remained crystal clear and rational in style as well as in mode or reasoning- psychological or otherwise. Thomas Mann’s claim that he was a romantic (Prefaceto English ed. of The Marquise of O ) is based on most incredibly weak evidence(such as Kleist’s making the midwife reaffirm the view that with the exception of theHoly Virgin no woman ever conceived without sexual intercourse; in the describedcircumstances, what else can a Christian midwife say?).Mann’s claim that Kleist is a romantic (meaning somewhat mystic, meaning irrationalist)is a deduction from Kleist’s pessimism and Mann’s equation of the twodichotomies — rationalist-irrationalist and optimist-pessimist. There are other rationalisticpessimists, of course, prior to Freud, the most notable of which is a certainliterary school in Russia, culminating with Chekhov (and excluding pessimistic irrationalistslike Dostoevsky and optimists like Tolstoy). Mann’s essay on Chekhov isan attempt to explain away Chekhov the rationalistic pessimist. It looks as if Mannheld on to the equation of the two dichotomies in order to convert his commitmentto rationalism into a much-desired but never-quite-felt optimism (see also note 15below). See his ambivalent attitude to Freud whose views are used optimistically inTonio Kroger, but not everywhere else. Indeed, here lies Mann’s literary effort, in hisstruggle through reason towards optimism, the 20th-century fallen Faust. See HenryHatfield, ‘Religion in Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers\ Boston UniversityGraduate Journal 15 (Fall 1967).To conclude, rationalism or irrationalism can, apriori, be optimistic or pessimistic,depending on many factors. That irrationalism should lead to pessimism is, however,quite reasonable (in view of the high value of reason), though not very pleasant, ofcourse. But then, pessimistic rationalism is the least pleasant choice (Eeclesiastes). This,however, is not to say that optimistic rationalism is easy — see the quotation fromBasil Willey in the next note. The easiest, obviously, is optimistic irrationalism, alsoknown as fools’-paradise. This exhausts the possibilities, unless we become moredetailed and cautious in describing rationalism and optimism. Google Scholar
  3. See Spinoza, Ethics (trans. A. Boyle), Everyman’s 1910, Pt. IV, Prop. XLVio Prop. HI.The following extracts are sufficiently indicative.“Prop. XLV. Hatred can never be good.Prop. XLVl. He who lives under the guidance of reason endeavors as much aspossible to repay his fellow’s hatred, rage, contempt, etc. with love and nobleness.Prop. XLVll. The emotions of hope and fear cannot be in themselves good. Proof. — The emotions of hope and fear are not given without pain.Note. — To this must be added that these emotions indicate a want of knowledge andweakness of mind …Prop. XLV1IL The emotions of partiality and disparagement are always bad.Prop. XLIX. Partiality easily renders the man who is overestimated proud.Prop. LI I. Self-complacency can arise from reason, and that self-complacency whicharises from reason alone is the greatest.Note. — Self-complacency is the greatest good we expect.Prop. LX1. Desire which arises from reason can have no excess.”Spinoza is not likely to have been influenced by Bacon, yet the similarity betweenthe above passage about the deficiency of hope and the following, from Bacon’s Meditationes Sacrae, ‘On Earthly Hope’ (Works, ed. by J. Spedding, R. L. Ellis, andD. D. Heath, new ed., London 1870, vii, p. 248), is neither accidental nor insignificant.“Certainly … to keep the mind tranquil and steadfast … I hold to be the chief firmamentof human life; but such tranquility as depends on hope I reject, as light andunsure.” See Aristotle, Metaphysics, XII, 1972b-1073a; Moses Maimonides, Guidefor the Perplexed, Shlomo Pines’ translation, Chicago 1963, part III, Chapters 51 and52; Gershom G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, paperback edition, NewYork 1961, pp. 131–132; cp. pp. 56-59, 345. Consult also works referred to in note10 below.It is hard for me to comprehend how Kant’s affinity with Spinoza has been so persistently overlooked. In his Critique of Pure Reason Pt. II, Ch. II: The Canons ofPure Reason’, Section 2: The Ideal of the Highest Good, as a Determining Groundof the Ultimate End of Pure Reason’, quotes Leibniz (A812B840) but makes noreference to Spinoza. Yet, clearly, its sentiment (A816B844) is Spinozist, its conclusion(A814B842) is Spinozist, and its critique of previous attempts to arrive at the sameconclusion (A815B843) is obviously a critique of Spinoza’s system. But the greatestcompliment in that section, also not explicitly directed at anyone in particular(A817B845), is perhaps the most obvious allusion to the Ethics of Spinoza: ‘Accordinglywe find, in the history of human reason, that until moral concepts were sufficientlypurified and determined, and until the systematic unity of their ends [i.e. the intellectuallove of God] was understood in accordance with these concepts and from necessaryprinciples, the knowledge of nature, and even a quite considerable development ofreason in many [?] other sciences, could give rise only to crude and incoherent conceptsol the~Deity,or … resulted in an astonishing indifference …. (The observation of theindifference, I suppose, is in an allusion to Descartes.) See also Ch. Ill, The Architectonicof Pure Reason’ (A840B868): “The legislation of human reason (philosophy)has two objects, nature and freedom, and therefore contains not only the law of nature,but also the moral law, presenting them at first in two distinct systems but ultimatelyin one single philosophical system.”Note also that the principle of “architectonic of pure reason” (Ch. Ill) itself providesa whole system of metaphysics culminating with rational theology. Kant asserts thattoo much was claimed for metaphysics once, thus leading it to disrepute; but “we shallalways return to metaphysics as to a beloved one with whom we have had a quarrel.”… “Mathematics, natural science … have a high value [but merely] as means … to endsthat are necessary and essential to humanity. … Metaphysics is the full and completedevelopment of human reason … it is an indispensable discipline … [T] hat, as merespeculation, it serves rather to prevent error than to extend knowledge, does notdetract from the value. On the contrary this gives it dignity and authority, throughthat censorship which secures general order and harmony, and indeed the wellbeingof the scientific commonwealth, preventing those who labour courageously andfruitfully on its behalf from losing sight of the supreme end, the happiness of allmankind.”Schiller criticised Kant’s moral philosophy (Vber Anmuth und Wurde, 1793) as tooaustere — “carrying with [the sense of duty] a monastic cast of mind”, as Kant puts itin his reply to it in his Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (note (in the secondedition) to the first Observation in Book I, p. 18 of Harper Torchbook ed., transl. byT. M. Greene and H. H. Hudson, New York 1960). “The majesty of the moral law(as of the law on Sinai) instils awe (not dread, which repels, nor yet charm, whichinvites familiarity)”, replies Kant. (The ‘Anmuth’ in Schiller’s title is the charm Kantrefers to.) See also F. Oberweg, A History of Philosophy (transl. by G. S. Morris),4th ed., London 1885, Vol. 2, p. 198.The same view has been stated by Sir Leslie Stephen, in his History of EnglishThought in the Eighteenth Century, 3rd ed., New York 1902, 1927, Vol. 1, pp. 19-20:“Newton laid down mathematical doctrines which were speedily accepted by allmathematicians. To study Newton is therefore to study the history of mathematicalinvestigation of the time. The difference between his views and those of other inquirersis simply a difference of extent, not of substance. One thinker has more knowledge anda wider intellectual horizon; but all thinkers agree so far as their knowledge goes.If the same statement held true in philosophy, we should simply have to expound the views of Locke and Hume, and to show how those views were developed by laterinquirers. The thoughts of the greatest man would include those of the less, and afforda starting point for his successors. In fact, however, we have to consider a complexprocess of antagonistic theorizing, where every position is in turn assumed and abandoned,instead of a simple evolution of thought. … Men have been arguing metaphysicalquestions for many centuries without deciding them. Why are these studies, soapparently fruitless, so perennially fascinating? … What is this world in which we live?What are the ultimate limits of our knowledge? How can it be increased? … What arethe rules to be deduced for the conduct of life? If we could answer [metaphysical]questions, we could satisfy the demand of the intellect for a firm basis of knowledgeand a systematic coordination of all discoverable truth. B u t . . . the true theory is reducedby blundering into every possible error …”See also Basil Willey, The Eighteenth Century Background, Studies on the Idea ofNature in the Thought of the Period, London 1940, p. 44: “Optimism at this level — thelevel at which Spinoza could declare that omnis existentia est perfectio — so far frombeing a facile or complacent creed, is admittedly almost impossibly Hard to attain, andcan never be long sustained by flesh and blood. … With a Spinoza or a Leibniz,unquestionably, it represents the conclusion of long and arduous metaphysical reflection.But with Pangloss … Thoreau … or Browning …, it generally seems to denotecontentment. … In the early and middle years of the eighteenth century the wealthyand the educated of Europe must have enjoyed almost the nearest approach to earthlyfelicity ever known to man. Centuries of superstition, error, and strife, lay behind…. The vulgar’, not yet indoctrinated with the Rights of Man, were contented withtheir lot. … The universe had been explained….”For further details of the 18th-century unitary views see next note.For the difference between Christian ethics and ‘scientific’ ethics see Paul Hazard,European Thought in the Eighteenth Century from Montesquieu to Lessing, New Haven1954, Chapters IV-VI, esp. p. 64ff.The references to H. G. Wells and to Russell ( The Scientific Outlook) I have borrowedfrom A. E. Baker, Canon of York, Science, Christianity, and Truth, London 1943, whichI consider a charming and informative period piece, pp. 109, 104-5. See also Russell’sReligion and Science, London 1935, p. 175: “When Canon Streeter says that ‘scienceis not enough’, he is, in one sense, uttering a truism. Science does not include art, orfriendship, or various other elements in life. But of course more than that is meant.”I think when Russell says this truth is a truism (i.e. widely accepted) he overlooks thefact that in the rationalist tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries (which the Canonwas fighting in 1930) this was anything but a truism. Indeed, not only an apologeticCanon, but even an ally to Russell such as Schrodinger, had to repeat the truism andeven at a much later day; and a truth, however obvious to Russell, which is repeatedby such a polished and laconic writer as Schrodinger, is not quite a truism. SeeE. Schrodinger, ‘On the Peculiarity of the Scientific World-View’ and The Spirit ofScience’, both reprinted in What is Life and Other Scientific Essays, Doubleday Anchor,New York, 1956, Mind and Matter, Cambridge 1958, pp. 44-7: “Dear reader or, betterstill, dear lady reader, recall the bright, joyful eyes with which your child beams … andthen let the physicist tell you that in reality nothing emerges from these eyes. … Inreality! A strange reality! Something seems to be missing in it.” Google Scholar
  4. For the cliches of the period see Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation,New York 1967, pp. 34-6; see also John T. Mertz, A History of European Thought inthe Nineteenth Century, Dover, New York, 1965,1, 147.For Condorcet’s martyrdom see Henry Ellis, The Centenary of Condorcet, an Address,London 1894, and J. S. Schapiro, Condorcet and the Rise of Liberalism, New York 1934,ihp. 105-9: “… a modern instance comparable to Socrates … calmly writing on theperfectability of mankind under the shadow of the guillotine. [His] true greatness … was… evident … in his attitude towards the Revolution which now threatens to destroyhim. ‘I have the good fortune’ he declared, ‘to write in a country in which neitherfear, … nor respect for national prejudice has the power to suppress or to veil anyuniversal truth’.”For Madame Roland’s martyrdom see Carl L. Becker, The Heavenly City of theEighteenth Century Philosophers, New Haven 1932, Chapter 3, Section III (paperbacked., 1959, pp. 151 ff.).For Berthollet’s son’s suicide see Dr. Thomas Thomson, History of Chemistry,London 1830, II, p. 151.Kleist’s suicide was not in spite of optimism, but due to despair — he could “neitherlearn nor gain anything” by staying alive, he said. Even in the deepest despair, hisEnlightenment background (see note 2 above) was showing. So with Freud, who wasin constant terror lest he lost his originality and thus be driven to suicide. See my‘Revolutions in Science, Occasional or Permanent?’, Organon (Warsaw) 3 (1966). Google Scholar
  5. L.Wittgenstein, ‘A lecture on Ethics’, ‘Philosophical Review, January 1965, 8-9:I will mention another experience straight away which I also know and which others of you might be acquainted with: it is, what one might call, the experience of feeling am safe, nothing can injure me whatever happens.’ … The first thing I have to say is, that the verbal expression which we give to these experiences is nonsense! … We all know what it means in ordinary life to be safe. … To be safe essentially [s/c] means that it is physically impossible that certain things should happen to me and therefore it’snonsense to say that I am safe whatever happens. … This is a misuse of the word ‘safe. … I want to impress on you that a certain characteristic misuse of our language runs through all ethical and religious expression….” For the connection between the senses of absolute security and of omnipotence, see, e.g., Freud, ‘On Narcissism: An Introduction’ (1914), Collected Papers, Vol. IV, London 1946, p. 98, and Thomas Freeman, John L. Cameron, and Andrew McGhie, Chronic Schizophrenia, Tavistock Publication, London, 1958, pp. 26-42. Cf. Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein, A Memoir (with a ‘Biographical Sketch’ by G. H. von Wright), O.U.P., London, 1958, pp. 70-71 for the close link Wittgenstein saw between the remarks on absolute safety and religion. See loc. cit., pp. 3, 10-11, 20-21, and 32 for Wittgenstein’s own character. See also L. Wittgenstein, Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Oxford 1956 (ed. by G. H. von Wright, R. Rhees, and G. E. M. Anscombe, transl. by G. E. M. Anscombe), Pt. IV, Section 53, p. 157: “The philosopher is a man who has to cure himself of many sicknesses of the understanding before he can arrive at the notion of the souijd human understanding. If in the midst of life we are in death, so in sanity we are surrounded by madness.” The customary reference to Wittgenstein’s use of psychotherapeutic terminology as if it were metaphorical, I suppose, is myopic or more likely mythical. See also the quotation from Wittgenstein in note 15 below. Google Scholar
  6. Robert McRae, The Problem of the Unity of Sciences: Bacon to Kant, Toronto 1961, claims (Preface) that it is not even clear what exactly is the thesis of the unity of science: “The differences in the conception of unity” he adds (viii), “are in some cases so great that one may wonder indeed whether they belong within the discussion of the same subject.” Therefore, his book is mainly an attempt “to bring them together at the onset systematically and unhistorically, to make it clear that there is in fact a common subject”. One might expect the modern followers of the new movement for the unity of science to be more explicit. The impression one gets from browsing in the literature, however, is disappointing. There is little on the topic, and that little contains complaints, such as the one launched by P. Oppenheim and H. Putnam in their ‘Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis’, in Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. II (ed. by H. Feigl, M. Scriven, and G. Maxwell), Minneapolis 1958, opening sentence: “The expression ‘Unity of Science’ is often encountered, but its precise content is difficult to specify in a satisfactory manner.” “A concern with Unity of Science”, they add, “hardly needs justification”, and they justify it by the need for “counterbalancing specialization”. In their conclusion, Oppenheim and Putnam admit that the Unity of Science has thus far been adumbrated “without very deepgoing justification”. “It has been our aim”, in the paper here cited, they add, “first to provide precise definitions for the crucial concepts involved, and, second, reply to the frequently made accusations that belief in the attainability of unitary science is ‘a mere act of faith’.” The definition of Oppenheim and Putnam, incidentally, is the theory of the reduction of all science to microphysics in a hierarchy of steps reminiscent of Comte’s hierarchy of sciences. I am not clear about it all, since they do not refer to Comte and they do not explain how to reduce, say, general relativity to microphysics. Their ‘justification’ of the unity of science is inductive: it has been impressively successful in the past, etc. Perhaps Herbert Feigl sketches (‘Unity of Science and Unitary Science’, in Readings in the Philosophy of Science (ed. by H. Feigl and M. Brodbeck), New York 1953) the same view — it is hard to say on account of his brevity. The modern place for the thesis of the unity of science seems to me to be, perhaps, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, which, of course, nobody claims to be in full comprehension of (see note 14 below). The clearest expression of the modern view seems to me to be that of Rudolf Carnap. See his The Logical Structure of the World and Pseudoproblems in Philosophy (transl. by Rolf A. George), Berkeley, 1967, Introduction, p. 9: “there is only one domain of objects and therefore only one science …”, (p. 10) “in construction theory we sometimes speak of constructed objects, sometimes of constructed concepts, without differentiating.” This is neutral monism, cf. p. 284: “177. Construction Theory Contradicts Neither Realism, Idealism, nor Phenomenalism.” See also p. 290: “180. About the Limitations of Scientific Knowledge. … There is no question whose answer is in principle unattainable by science … [there exist] ‘mere technical obstaclefs]’, not an ‘obstacle insurmountable in principle’.” Nonetheless, Carnap’s view is not as classical as it sounds. See pp. 292-3: “181. Faith and Knowledge. … we do not here wish to make either a negative or a positive value judgment about faith and intuition (in the nonrational sense). They are areas of life just like poetry and love … as far as their content is concerned, they are altogether different from science. Those nonrational areas … and science … can neither confirm nor disprove one another.” See also pp. 296-7: “183. Rationalism? … For us there is no ‘Ignoramibus’; nevertheless, there are perhaps unsolvable riddles of life. This is not a contradiction. Ignoramibus would mean: there are questions to which it is in principle impossible to find answers. However, the ‘riddles of life’ are not questions but practical situations. The ‘riddle of death’… has nothing to do with questions about death…. These questions can be answered by biology, but these answers are of no help to a grieved person. … Rather, the riddle consists in the task of ‘getting over’ this life situation. …”Contrast this with Spinoza’s solution of the problem of death: Ethics, IV, Prop. LXVII: “A free man thinks of nothing less than of death, and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life. Proof. — A free man, that is, one who lives according to the dictate of reason alone …” Spinoza says the extraordinary and Carnap says what is widely accepted and expressed in a multiform of manners and styles. In The Story of Gilgamesh Gilgamesh does not change his view of life when he loses his alter ego Enkidu; he simply loses the taste for life. In his suicide note, likewise,. Stephan Zweig implies clearly that in his view life is still worth living and fighting for — if one has the strength; yet he simply lacked the strength to start all over again past middle age. All this well illustrates Carnap’s view. By immense contrast, Spinoza says, science proves that life is worth living to such a high degree and in such a poignant manner, that he who sees the proof can have no emotional problem facing life, no matter under what conditions. This is the optimism which, Basil Willey observes (see note 3 above), is so hard to sustain emotionally for a thinking person with strong feelings, and yet so easy to sustain for a shallow person like Pangloss. It is easy, then, to overcome the emotional problems of death if one does not suffer them strongly. Otherwise all philosophy is not enough of a consolation. Philosophy is not enough of a consolation, may I add, because the optimism to the extent which both Spinoza and Carnap advocate is not very convincing: perhaps the intellectual problem of death cannot exist, but the optimism with which they both dismiss it is doubtful. So Carnap’s view of the emotional problem of death is true; yet it tallies less well with his view of the intellectual problem of death, than Spinoza’s view of the emotional problem tallies with the same view of the intellectual problem: Spinoza’s optimism is more of one cloth than Carnap’s. To conclude, it may be said that much as the thesis of the unity of science does exist and writers on it do have much in common, it is hard to make the thesis so specific as to declare that it does or does not contain reductionism of this or that sort. The unity may be of approach, of method, of language, or of subject-matter. The subject-matter may be mother-nature or atomic facts or physics. The unity may be the indifference to various existing diversities of opinions, e.g., concerning the mind-body problems. It is even hard to say whether Oppenheim and Putnam are reductionists although doubtless, reductionism of some sort is what they advocate as the thesis of the unity of science. Similarly, when Schrodinger attacks reductionism he is attacking the traditional unity thesis, just as Russell does; but unlike Russell, Schrodinger is advocating a deeper doctrine of unity. Google Scholar
  7. F. Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, Book II: Human Learning, III: Philosophy,2: Natural, (1) science, (2) metaphysical. Works (ed. by J. Spedding, R. L. Ellis, and D. D. Heath), new ed., London’1870, pp. 361-2; see also ibid., p. 321. Note that Bacon uses both images of the pyramid and of the ladder. See also notes 12, 17, and 24 below.Google Scholar
  8. I do not mean to say that the inductive method is used in science, of course, but rather that scientists often said (and believed) that they used that method regularly. And sometimes, no doubt, after sufficiently idealizing experiments, and adding to them some powerful thought-experiments, they could indeed apply the inductive method to them, and perhaps they did. Funnily enough, it is because this practice was recommended by both apriorists and inductivists that it is not easy to say where they differ. They differ, of course, mainly in their claims for the final ground for knowledge, and this difference is somehow reflected in their different views on method, but it is not so easy to say how.Laplace, in his System of the World, Book 5, reports that the victory of Newtonianism over Cartesianism signified the victory of inductivism over deductivism. For my part, I think the story is somewhat more complicated, and linked with the success of the Royal Society, the success of British politics, its link with Locke’s theories of toleration and of balance of power, and with Locke’s friendship with Newton — as well, of course, as the inductivism of Newton, Locke, and the Royal Society. See also P. Duhem, The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory, Princeton 1964, Part I, Chapter IV, Section 8: The Diffusion of the English Methods’. See also Paul Hazard, European Thought, etc. and H. B. Acton’s The Philosophy of Language in Revolutionary France’, Proc. British Academy, 1960, reprinted in Studies in Philosophy (ed. by J. N. Findlay), Oxford Paperbacks, 1966. Nevertheless, apriorism was by no means dead, and the traditions of Euler, Kant, Oersted, and Helmholtz, kept it alive and very significant indeed yet, doubtless, it was more than somewhat disreputable to be an apriorist in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And it is this last point that is pertinent to the text above, since the unity thesis obviously squares less easily with inductivism than with apriorism. Google Scholar
  9. Descartes, Correspondence (ed. by Ch. Adam and G. Milhaud), Paris 1936, Vol. I, to Mersenne, 23 December 1630 (p. 184): “About this [making useful experiment] I have nothing to say after what Verulam [Bacon] has written about it, namely, without being too curious to research into all the small particulars touching on a matter, mainly one must make general collections of all those things that are most common and which are very certain and which can be known without expenditure: such as, that all colchea are rotated in the same direction, and to know if this is the same after the equinox; that the bodies of all animals are divided into three parts, caput, pectus, and ventrem, and also other examples; since these are those which serve infallibly in the search for truth. For more detailed items, it is impossible that one does not get many superfluous ones, and even false ones, because one does not know the truth of things before one makes them [the experiments].” Op. cit., to Mersenne, 10 May 1632 (p. 226), a follow-up on the previous letter: “You have informed me elsewhere that you know eople who are pleased to work for the advancement of the sciences, even of their desire to make all arts of experiments at their own expense. If any one of this disposition would want to undertake to write a history of celestial appearances, according to the method of Verulam [Bacon], and if without putting forward neither any reason nor any hypothesis, he would describe for us exactly the heavens as it appears now, which position each fixed star is in respect to its neighbors, which difference, either of size or of color or of clarity or of more or less twinkling, etc.; item, if this corresponds to what the ancient astronomers have written of it and what difference he has found in it (since I do not at all doubt that the stars do not ever change their relative positions because one deems them fixed).”And he goes on about comets and their orbs, and about ecliptics and apogees of planets, “very useful to the public … will relieve me of a lot of labour, but I do not hope that someone else will do it. …” (My translation.) See also Martha Ornstein, The Role of Scientific Societies in the Seventeenth Century, Chicago 1928, pp. 44-6, for an exposition of Descartes’ Baconianism. See also Leibniz’s praise of Bacon, and its roots in the influence of Bacon’s doctrine of prejudice on him, in Ellis’s preface to Thoughts on the Nature of Things Works, op cit., Vol. 3, pp. 70 ff.). “We do well to think highly of Verulam”, i.e. Bacon, says Leibniz, “for his hard sayings have deep meaning in them.” And the “hard sayings” are criticisms of the scholastics, whom Leibniz admired all his life, alone in the world of radicalists whose contempt for everything mediaeval was constantly mounting. Spinoza, however, dismissed Bacon as confused and dogmatic, especially regarding his doctrine of prejudice (of the cause of error); see his first letter to Oldenburg, Works, Dover, New York, 1951, Vol. II, p. 278. Nevertheless, one should note that he dismisses both Bacon and Descartes in the same letter, and expressly at Oldenburg’s invitation. His final verdict of Bacon is, that whatever valuable he has said, has since been better said by Descartes. Concerning the dispute regarding the French philosophers and their following Bacon or Descartes, see C. C. Gillispie’s and L. Pearce Williams’ contributions to Critical Problems in the History of Science (ed. by M. Clagett), Madison 1959, and comments there; see also R. Emerson’s ‘Peter Gay and the Heavenly City’, in Journal Hist. Ideas 28 (1967), and references there. There is, of course, the idea that science is both inductive and deductive, or both compositive and resolutive, or both synthetic and analytic (these are three sets of more-or-less synonymous, though always intolerably vague, terms). This idea may be methodological, and it may be epistemological. See J. H. Randall Jr., The School of Padua, Padova 1961, and comments on it in J. W. N. Watkins, Hobbes’ System of Ideas, London 1965, Section 9. See also Justus von Liebig, Induktion und Deduktion, 1865, and F. Engels, Anti-Diihring. There is a paper by G. Buchdahl on ‘Descartes’ Anticipation of a Logic of Scientific Discovery’, in Scientific Change (ed. by A. C. Crombie), New York 1963, and comments on it by N. R. Hanson there. I find Buchdahl’s summary of his problem in his second paragraph (p. 399) incomprehensible, as he raises the question, how shall we handle the question of scientific truth, which second question he leaves unformulated. Still, I suppose Hanson is right when he says (p. 461) Buchdahl has rendered us a service “in revealing as myth-eaten the picture of Descartes as a naive Cartesian rationalist”. To say that Descartes was not quite a Cartesian, as Hanson rightly says, is not the same as to say that Marx was not a Marxist. For, what Marx meant was that he was at liberty to change his mind, whereas what Hanson means is much more interesting. When one has a major theory which one assumes to be true, one may accept only conclusions from that major theory, or also other truths which ought to follow from, or at least harmonize with, that major theory, even though we may not know how. And, of course, two truths must harmonize; but one’s major theory may turn out to be false after all. In this sense, we may say, our false major theory did. not prevent us from accepting truths which contradict it: had we known these truths contradict the major theory we would simply have given up the major theory. And so, what Hanson says to Buchdahl is that quoting instances from Descartes which are, say, inductive-deductive in character, does not prove that Cartesianism is inductive-deductive, but merely that Descartes could think out of character while believing that he was thinking in character.Buchdahl’s error is part of a thesis of A. C. Crombie’s Robert Grosseteste and theOrigins of Experimental Science 1100-1700, Oxford 1953. There Grosseteste’s philosophyis linked with the view of the school of Padua, and the view of that school is declaredto be the one both widely preached and widely practiced in the seventeenth century.If this were so, then the book’s lengthy title would indeed read, ‘Robert Grossetesteas the Origin of Experimental Science’. The thesis is expressed at the end of theIntroduction (p. 13): “Grosseteste took the double, inductive-deductive proceduredescribed by Aristotle in the Posterior Analytics”, he says. “He found the inductiveside illustrated by the writings of the medical school and the deductive side illustrated by the writings of Euclid, Ptolemy, and others. … Grosseteste was favoured … byunusual opportunities to make his influence felt. … With Grosseteste, Oxford becamethe first centre of the methodological revolution with which modern science began.On the continent, Grosseteste’s influence may be traced with certainty in several writers,and there is evidence to suggest that the methodology of the Oxford school exerted adecisive influence on European science as a whole.” Paris, he admits, was alsoinfluential, and was somewhat independent of Oxford. But “Oxford took the lead…. There is no doubt that from the time of Grosseteste the experimental science … beganto appear in centre after centre….”In his Conclusion Crombie follows Randall in claiming that Padua was the mostimportant 16th-century methodological centre, adding in a footnote (p. 297): “Accordingto Randall … the Paduan teacher Paulus Venetus was sent by his Order to Oxfordin 1390 and remained there for three years … after which he taught for two more yearsin Paris”, and this, we are led to believe, was the world’s most significant, world shaking,travel-grant. “In his various encyclopedic writings he fully though critically expoundedOxford ideas on logic and dynamics”, says Crombie in a manner of proof.Those who need criticism of such a ‘proof’, can consult N. Gilbert, ‘Galileo and theSchool of Padua’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 1 (1963) 223-31, and BenjaminNelson’s ‘The Modern Revolution in Science and Philosophy’, Boston Studies, vol. Ill,especially p. 10.So much for Crombie’s claim of Grosseteste’s influence on Padua. As to Padua’sinfluence on posterity, he tells us that, for instance, (p. 301), “Francis Bacon’s methodof discovering the form was precisely the ‘double procedure’ worked out during thepreceding four centuries”. And (p. 302), “His method was mentioned and used bymore than one seventeenth century scientist, particularly in England. For example,Harvey [this is no slip of Crombie’s pen but a point supported by a very scholarlyreference], Hooke, and Boyle all referred to it in the midst of their investigations.”Not only “Bacon’s method … was precisely the ‘double procedure’”, Galileo’s was too,it seems (p. 303). “The originality of Galileo’s method lay precisely in his effectivecombination of mathematics with experiment.” “To connect the observation with atheory” Crombie adds (p. 305), “Galileo described precisely the double procedure ofresolution and composition which his predecessors in Oxford and Padua had madefamiliar.” Precisely Bacon, Galileo, everybody, is precisely Grosseteste.Crombie’s thesis is no less than that all important methodologists preached and allimportant scientists practiced the method of induction-deduction, or resolutioncomposition,or analysis-synthesis — including Bacon and Galileo. It is amazing to methat in the mid-20th century such a thesis should be advocated, and that the volumewhich contains this as part of a major thesis (the thesis being, all this goes back toGrosseteste) should be viewed as a scholarly contribution merely because it is (doubtlessly)very scholarly.Nevertheless, incredible as the thesis that Galileo and Bacon preached the sameview, there is a certain amount of truth in it. In retrospect we may differ so much fromboth that we may see their differences as a family quarrel, much as they would notlike our viewpoint. This can be said by one who, like myself, rejects both the inductiveand the deductive view (in favour of the skeptic view). But Crombie agrees with bothBacon and Galileo, which is by no means an easy feat.In defense of Crombie one can say, it is in epistemology that Bacon and Galileodiffer, not in methodology. In my view, however, the opposite is the case. The methodologicaldifferences between the inductivist and the apriorist are much easier to delineate than the epistemological ones. In method the empiricists insist that experience playsa role much more crucial than intuition, and apriorists hold the converse; inepistemologyit is hard to maintain the same distinction with equal clarity and sharpness. AlreadyKant, in the last chapter of his Critique of Pure Reason, on the history of pure reason,makes the observation that though the distinction between intuitionism and sensationalism(a priorism and inductivism) is subtle, these two positions are represented byschools which go back uninterrupted to the very beginning of ancient philosophy.Unfortunately, Kant does not elaborate here. We shall return to this point in notes 17and 24 below.Note also in Crombie (ed.), op. cit., Henry Guerlac’s ‘Some Historical Assumptionsof the History of Science’, especially Section III, on historians’ failure to treat scienceas a unity, let alone as a part of the intellectual unity of our tradition. See, however,Koyre’s comments on Guerlac there and Koyre’s subtle move from unity proper tointerconnectedness and its problems. Google Scholar
  10. See H. A. Wolfson, Philo, Cambridge, Mass., 1947, especially the first and finalchapters, and Crescas’ Critique of Aristotle, Cambridge, Mass., 1929, especially thefirst chapter. See also his ‘Extradeical and Intradeical Interpretations of Platonic Ideas’,in Ideas in Cultural Perspective (ed. by P. P. Wiener and A. Noland), New Brunswick1962. See also J. L. Blau, The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance,New York 1948, and 1965; Frances A. Yates, Giordano Bruno, Chicago 1964;P. P. Wiener, ‘Problems and Methods in the History of Ideas’, in Wiener and Noland,op. cit., esp. p. 28. Google Scholar
  11. Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, Shlomo Pines’ translation, Universityof Chicago, 1963, Pt. I, Ch. 31 on “the insufficiency of the human intellect and itshaving a limit at which it stops”. Ch. 32: “In regard to matters that it is not in thenature of man to grasp, it i s . . . very harmful to occupy oneself with them.” Ch. 72: “Andjust as in the body of man … so are there in the world…. Accordingly it behooves youto represent to yourself in this fashion the whole of this sphere as one living individualpossessing a soul. …” Ch. 73, the tenth premise, note to the reader: “We wish consequentlyto find something that would enable us to distinguish the things cognizedintellectually from those imagined. For if the philosopher says, as he does: That whichexists is my witness and by means of it we discern the necessary, the possible, and theimpossible; the adherent of the Law says to him: The dispute between us is with regardto this point. For we claim that that which exists was made in virtue of will and wasnot a necessary consequence. Now if it was made in this fashion, it is admissible thatit should be made in a different way, unless intellectual representation decides, asyou think it decides, that something different from what exists at present is not admissible….” Google Scholar
  12. The argument is repeated by Russell, see references in note 3 above.12 F. Bacon, Principles and Origins According to the Fable of Cupid and Coelum etc.,third paragraph (Works, New Ed., London 1870, V, p. 465): “And certainly it is theprerogative of God alone, that when his nature is inquired by the senses, exclusionshall not end in affirmation.”See C. W. Lemmi, Classical Deities in Bacon, Baltimore 1933, pp. 50, 57, and 60.The note on p. 58 reads: In other words, I think it probable that Bacon’s Thoughtson the Nature of Things is an expansion of Comes’s chapter of Cupid.”In Novum Organum (I, Aph. 75) Bacon speaks of systematic doubt as of “a calumnyof nature herself” and (I, Aph. 129) of the arts and sciences as “that right over naturewhich belongs to [the human race] by divine bequest”. His metaphor of speculations as chaining Nature, and his claim that we must woo Nature so that she reveals Hercharms are systematic, and appear both in the Preface to his Novum Organum andearly in that work (Book I, Aphs. 1 , 3 ; also Aph. 102) and elsewhere.This sentiment of Bacon’s is deeply engrained in the western tradition. I shall quoteonly two passages illustrating it, on account of their interest.Sir Charles Sherrington opens his classical Man on His Nature, Pelican 1940, thus:“As to Natural Theology and what we are to understand by it, more than one wellknownstatement offers us counsel. Bolingbroke, type in his way of eighteenth-centuryculture, wrote to Alexander Pope, the poet, ‘What I understand by the first philosophy[metaphysics] is “natural theology, and I consider the constant contemplation ofNature, by which I mean the whole system of God’s works as far as it lies open to us,as the common spring of all sciences, and of that’, i.e. Natural Theology. There is, too,Lord Bacon’s famous definition (De Augment is, iii, 2), that ‘spark of knowledge ofGod which may be had by the light of nature and the consideration of created things;and thus can be fairly held to be divine in respect of its object and natural in respect ofits source of information.” (For the metaphors ‘spark’, ‘light’, etc., see Evelyn Underhill,Mysticism, 12th ed., London 1930, and G. G. Scholem, op. cit.JIt sounds funny to quote Sherrington quoting Bolingbroke quoting Bacon, but thatis the stuff traditions are made of. The following is Basil Willey’s comment (op. cit p. 156–7)on Holbach’s comment on Clarke; do I have to say not Clarke but Clarke’scomment on Bacon? It is perhaps more important to stress that according to Willey,Holbach, in a manner characteristic of the whole 18th century, “declares that all ourmisfortunes are due to our neglecting and departing from Nature. … Our errors cannotbe ‘natural’, are not what Nature intended.” And he goes on to expose Holbach’s erroras a typical “eighteenth century mental habit”, namely “that of honouring Naturewith a reverence which, in spite of professed atheism, is in fact religious or transfusedfrom religion”. Holbach, he says (p. 161) “treats Clarke rather as Marx afterwardstreated Hegel; all that Clarke says of ‘God’, he assures us, may truly be said, andintelligibly said of ‘Matter’ or ‘Nature’ …”. Google Scholar
  13. Werner Heisenberg, ‘Science as a Means of International Understanding’, in hisPhilosophic Problems of Nuclear Science (transl. by F. C. Hayes, London 1952), reprintedin Great Essays by Nobel Prize Winners (ed. by C. Hamalian and E. L. Volpe),New York 1960. See also Heisenberg’s ‘The Role of Modern Physics in the PresentDevelopment of Human Thinking’, in his Physics and Philosophy, New York 1958.Heisenberg’s metaphor of the way or highway to God may be an allusion toMax Brod’s Tycho Brake’s Way to God: of course the word ‘way’, ‘method’, ‘tao’,frequently had religious as well as scientific-religious connotations, and so Brod’s use,as well as Heisenberg’s, is quite common.Google Scholar
  14. L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, London 1922, p. 67. “4.022. Theproposition shows its sense. The proposition shows how things stand, if it is true. Andit says, that they do so stand.” P. 79: “4.121…. That which expresses itself in language,we cannot express by language. The proposition shows the logical form of reality.They exhibit it.” No less! “4.1212. What can be shown cannot be said.” What this laststatement can mean without being obviously false I have no idea. No idea at all. P. 187:“6.522. There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the. mystical.” I donot know how well it shows itself, but I do agree.See also M. Black, A Companion to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, Ithaca 1964, pp. 190-192:“The Notion of Showing. Wittgenstein uses the verb ‘to show’, or its cognates, veryoften … forty occurrences. … Unfortunately, this crucial concept is most elusive.” Black says that what shows itself is a symbol — and that the showing is immediate — ‘ina flash’. This is not very illuminating.See also L. Wittgenstein, Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, op. cit., Pt. V,Section 9, p. 167: “Take a theme like that of Haydn’s (St. Antony Chorale), take thepart of one of Brahms’s variations corresponding to the first part of the theme, andset the task of constructing the second part of the variation in the style of the first part.That is a problem of the same kind as mathematical problems are. If the solution isfound, say as Brahms gives it, then there is no doubt; — that is the solution.” And so on.This goes for rationality, though I think it can be sharply contrasted with the followingquote from Husserl which is a marvellous open defense of a new, unknown, kind ofrationality!In the concluding summary of his ‘The Crisis of European Man’. Husserl characterisesthe ‘crises’ as the “seeming collapse of rationalism”. It is only a crisis of a falsetheory of rationality, he adds, based on ‘naturalism’ and ‘objectivism’, not of “theessence of rationalism itself” (E. Husserl, Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy,Harper Torchbook 1965, p. 191). It never occurred to Husserl to doubt essentialismand thus justificationism and certitude, any more than to Wittgenstein. And so he couldnot but conclude that the choice is between “the ruin of Europe… fallen into a barbarianhatred of spirit” and “a heroism of reason” (ibid., p. 192). But at least he knew andconfessed inability to offer a satisfactory theory of rationality. In other words, thoughhe stuck to his concepts of rationality and of essence, he viewed them as opentextured,and stressed this openness beautifully.Now, obviously, at least prima facie, the idea of rationality had better be opentextured,but this can hardly be said of the idea of essence. See the defence of the opentexturedconcept of rationality in Aron Gurwitsch, ‘The Last Works of Edmund Husserl’in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 17, No. 3 (1957), p. 396: “ Historical formsof rationality, however, must be distinguished from the idea of rationalism or rationality,a Platonic idea which is specified and approximated in those historical forms. Surmountinga certain historical form of rationalism is one thing; abandoning the veryidea of rationalism is quite another. … Philosophy and the idea of rationalism are oneand the same. …” Google Scholar
  15. For Bartley and for Lakatos see note 1 above.15 Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism (transl. by Rev. K. G. Bury, Loeb ClassicalLibrary, London and New York 1933) I, Ch. XII, “What is the End of Skepticism?… the Skeptic’s end is quietude in respect of matters of opinion and moderate feelingin respect of things unavoidable. … The man who determines nothing … neither shunsnor pursues anything eagerly; and, in consequence, he is unperturbed. …… The Skeptics were in hopes of gaining quietude by means of a decision … andbeing unable to effect this they suspended judgment; and they found that quietude, asif by chance, followed upon their suspense. … We do not suppose, however, that theSkeptic is wholly untroubled….“As far as inner logic is concerned, one must consider the skeptical hypothesis — nonjustificationismleads to ataraxia — empirically refuted. The Greek word ‘ataraxia’, heretranslated as ‘quietude’ and ‘unperturbedness’, is somewhat hard to render, since it isa quasi-religious term overloaded with nuance and overtone, and since modern experienceand modern psychology enable us to distinguish with ease a variety of states ofundisturbedness, from the insensitive yet most optimistic and the sensitive yet philosophical.It is easy, for example, to contrast the Zen-Buddhist matter-of-fact calmthrough-cultivated-philosophic-indifference — particularly as understood and/or mis understood in the West (see A. Koestler, The Lotus and the Robot, London 1960) — withthe self-assured calm-through-cultivated-philosophic-optimism of early 19th-centuryEnglish writings, whether literary (Jane Austen) or scientific (Sir John Leslie, JohnDalton, Dr. Thomas Thomson). Perhaps the nearest modern variant of ataraxia is tobe found in the 17th-century writings — due to imitation, I think, rather than eitheraccident or inner logic. We have in the 17th century a skeptic and justificationist, Boyleand Spinoza, exhibiting it in a marvellous fashion. In central European late 19th centurywe find a certain degree of irritation accompanying all intellectual discourse, manifesting,it seems, an ideological opposition to ataraxia; so I read the atmosphere emanatingfrom works of Kirchhoff and Boltzmann, Thomas Mann, and Freud. I should evensay that a certain irritation at the idea of ataraxia is present in the works of Wittgensteinand of Popper alike — again, indifferently to the justificationism of the one and theskepticism of the other. Unless Popper will repudiate my calling him a skeptic, thatis to say my identifying skepticism with non-justificationism. But even the refusal toidentify skepticism with non-justificationism, to wit, the preference to ally skepticismwith cynicism (in the modern deprecating sense, not in the ancient austere sense) andnihilism (alluded to in Heisenberg’s text cited above) — even this refusal is but a profounddistaste for ataraxia; which refusal, regrettable as it is, nonetheless refutes Sextus’shypothesis that skepticism leads to ataraxia; or, if you wish to put it in a different way,a non-justificationist’s refusal (such as Popper’s) to identify non-justificationism withskepticism refutes Sextus’s thesis that non-justificationism is identical with skepticism.Since the word ‘skeptic’ means searcher, it is a bit hard to see why the desire to haveataraxia seems to exclude the desire to search for the truth. There may be a differentexplanation for this. Possibly this is due to Kant’s discussion of the difference betweenHume’s censorial skepticism and his own critical skepticism, which encourages thesearch for arguments even beyond their legitimate limit; see Critique of Pure Reason,Pt. II, Ch. I, Section 2, ‘Impossibility of skeptical satisfaction of the Pure Reason thatis in conflict with itself’ (A760B788). Another possible line is expressed by LudwigEdelstein (Crombie, op. city p. 34). “A Platonic metaphor expresses the same thoughtin a different way. He who does not learn to work like a slave for the possession of thetruth will never reach it” (.Republic IV, 494D). This sentiment is expressed bySchopenhauer in his attack on Hegel, approvingly quoted by Popper (Open Society,II, Chapter 12), “Who can really believe that truth also will come to light, just as aby-product?”The answer to this rhetoric question is, all those people who are able to maintainany measure of a critical attitude towards Protestant ethics. And, let me repeat,Protestant ethics so-called, is Cabbalistic-alchemist ritualistic apologetics. As a matterof fact, unpleasant to the labour pietists, truth ever so often does come to light as aby-product. Whatever is the proper method of science, be it the one described by Popperor not, clearly it is not the one consciously adopted by the fathers of the scientificrevolution: if they have adopted it, they did so unintentionally — as the unintendedconsequence of their conscious and different intentions — and so the proper method,and the truths it had revealed, came quite as by-products.It is amazing how similar in Baconian — ‘Protestant’, if you will — sentiment, arePopper and Wittgenstein. See Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophische Bemerkungen ( R. Rhees), Oxford 1964, Foreword: “… I would like to say ‘this book has beenwritten for the greater glory of God’, but nowadays this would be contemptible, i.e.,it would not be understood aright. Namely, it has been written in good will and asfar as it has not been written in good will but out of vanity etc., so far the author would like to have it condemmed. He cannot purge it further of these ingredients thanhe is himself clean of them.” (My translation.) Clearly, according to this passage,vanity is a sinful intent that cannot possibly lead to the discovery of the truth. And,according to this passage, any motive other than “the greater glory of God” is vainor sinful: Of course, this does nt)t mean that Wittgenstein — and his like — would opposeataraxia, but ataraxia, so it seems, must only come at the very end of a very hard day’swork: this is the ambivalent irritability about ataraxia here-and-now which I havealluded to above. I join Feyerabend in saying, a good intellectual debate over a glassof beer makes the beer taste better — even though beer is not exactly my cup of tea.Thus, the question, does ataraxia help learning must be answered with, sometimes.It can only be reopened after developing a better theory of both peace of mind andwork. There are varieties of peace of mind; and varieties of hard work; and of thevirtues and defects of either. One might then work out a view of the impact of philosophyon states of mind — somewhat similarly to, but more critically than, ErikErikson’s study of William James. As he shows, James was depressed by determinism,and was finally able to overcome his depression by refuting determinism to his ownsatisfaction. (See Erikson’s introduction, to Emotional Problems of the Student (ed. byG. B. Blaine Jr. and C. C. McArthur), Appleton-Century-Croft, New York, 1961).Or, in reverse, a state of mind may appear to influence philosophy. See John StuartMill’s story in his Autobiography, where he blames his early utilitarianism for hisdepression and where he narrates how his emergence from the depression led him toa new version of his utilitarianism. (See, however, Ruth Borchard’s Mill, The Man,London 1957.)Finally, Bartley has drawn my attention to the possibility that not all ancient skepticsshared Sextus’s view of ataraxia as a by-product, that for some of them possibly theend of all discourse should be ataraxia — thus making them more akin to Zen Buddhiststhen to Socrates. See John Owen, Evenings with the Skeptics, or Free Discussion onFree Thinkers, London 1881, “Arkesilaos might easily have taken his own test of, andideas concerning, truth,, as possessing not only subjective but an objective validity”(Vol. I, p. 307), and remarks on “the pursuit of ataraxia” (309), “the probability ofKarneades is … a compromise between dogmatists and absolute Skeptics” (318, 319),“the perpetual appeal Ataraxia [had for Sextus] in its accurate definition… [is] opposedto a [truly skeptic] philosophy which makes non-definition the chief principle in itsmethod” (338-9). Google Scholar
  16. R. Boyle, Works (ed. by Th. Birch), 1st ed., 1744, Vol. I l l , p. 432a ff.: “… the studyof physick has one prerogative, (above divinity). … I mean the certainty and clearness,and the resulting satisfactoriness of our knowledge of physical, in comparison withany we can have of theological, matters, whose being dark and uncertain, the natureof the things themselves, and the numerous controversies of differing sects about them,sufficiently manifest…. Cartesius was [so] sensible of a dependence of physical demonstration uponmetaphysical truths, that he would not allow any certainty not only to them, but evento geometrical demonstrations, until he had evinced that there is a God, and that hecannot deceive men, that make use of their faculties aright.[But] when … Descartes … demonstrate] …, the presumed physico-mathematicaldemonstration can produce in a wary mind but a moral certainty, and not the greatest… that is possible to be attained….”In the above paragraph the demonstration referred to pertains to comets, and cometswere at the time the biggest trouble for Cartesians since the 1661 comet moved in the wrong direction along its orbit thus destroying the vortices. (See Laplace, System ofthe World, Book V.)See also op. cit.9 Vol. IV, p. 346a: “… And for the rule … that there is always thesame quantity of motion … the proof he [Descartes] offers, being drawn from theimmutability of God, seems very metaphysical, and not very cogent to me, who fear,that the properties and extent of the divine immutability are not so well known to usmortals,’ as to allow Cartesius to make it, in our case, an argument apriori.”B. Scharfstein stresses in his ‘Descartes’ Dream’ (Philosophical Forum, Vol. I,1968-69), the fact that Descartes thought active curiosity a sin and tried very hard tobe a passive student; that, indeed, Descartes expressed this sentiment strongly on hisdeath-bed. This is not merely a psychological factor, certainly not in the 17th centurywhen receptivity was contrasted with (sinful) willfulness by Bacon (doctrine of idola,end of Sylva), Locke (Conduct of the Understanding), Descartes (Discourse) and Spinoza(The Improvement of the Understanding, and letter to Oldenburg cited above). Google Scholar
  17. The idea that development can be not from the little satisfactory to the muchsatisfactory (Bacon) but from the more unsatisfactory through the less unsatisfactoryto the perfect, can be found in Plato’s Symposium (211c), “starting from individualbeauties, the quest for the universal beauty must find him ever mounting the heavenlyladder, stepping from rung to rung … until at last he comes to know what beauty is… and once you have seen it, you will never be seduced again” by (lesser) beautiesof particular things, but stick to the highest “vision” of “the heavenly beauty”itself, i.e. the ideal of beauty, thus achieving knowledge, virtue, and perhaps evenimmortality.The very same rejection of the ladder can be found in Aristotle, more didacticallystated and with its ed’ges trimmed: “the premisses of demonstrative knowledge mustbe true, primary, immediate, more knowable than, and prior to, the conclusion” wherethe premiss is a theory and the conclusion an observed fact (Post. Anal, i, 2, 71b).It is quite clear that to Aristotle empirical experience is the ladder as far as demonstrableknowledge is concerned but the real basis as far as probable knowledge isconcerned.Whereas the empirical background to demonstrable knowledge is, according toAristotle, removable — it is not a justification — as a part of the hierarchy of causalexplanation it is no more removable than a corollary of a mathematical theorem isremovable from mathematics: the first principles are the very causes of all facts; oncewe know them we have a causal hierarchy of causes and effects, each step being theeffect of the higher step and the cause of the lower step, as well as being the conclusionfrom the higher step and the premiss to the lower step — except for the first principleswhich are causes or premisses alone and the (general) facts which are the effects orconclusion alone. Here is a ladder, or a pyramid, which was transmitted in the Renaissanceby Sir Francis Bacon to the modern world, and reinforced by thinkers likeAugust Comte. (See note 6 above.)It is important, if confusion is to be avoided, to note that there are two ladders here.One is for justifying our theories and hence, as I am arguing, methodological; andthis ladder can be thrown away once the goal — knowledge — has been achieved. Theother ladder is imbedded in knowledge itself, and is, thus, epistemological; it cannotbe removed. (See also the ladder in Boethius, Consolatione, I, 1 and in Frances A. Yates,The Art of Memory, Chicago, 1966, Index, Art. Ladder.)To return to Bacon, he uses the metaphor of removing the ladder, but only whenhe clearly deals with methodology, not with epistemology. When he insists that ancient knowledge was attained by induction, he worries about the absence of historical evidence for this. The evidence, he claims (Novum Organum, I, Aph. 125), has beenremoved — just in the manner in which builders remove scaffoldings and ladders outof sight.Goethe reverted the metaphor: the scaffolding cannot usually be evidence as evidenceis legitimately a part of science, and so he viewed hypotheses as scaffoldings. See hisMaximen und Reflexionen (Goethe, Gedenkausgabe der Werke, Briefe, und Gesprache,Zurich 1949, Vol. 9, p. 653, para. 1222): “Hypotheses are scaffoldings which one putsup before building and which one tears down once the building is complete. They areindispensable for the worker: only one should not take the scaffolding for the building.”(My translation.) The same idea is put more tersely in R. T. H. Laennec’s Traite deI’ausculation mediate et des maladies de poumons et du coeur, Paris 1826, I, 280 (seeE. H. Ackerknecht, Medicine at the Paris Hospital, 1794-1848, Baltimore 1967, p. 9)and also in Herschel’s Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy, Londonand Philadelphia 1830-31, Pt. II, Ch. 7, para. 216, p. 153: …“ to lay any great stresson hypotheses … except inasmuch as they serve as a scaffold for the erection of generallaws is to quite mistake the scaffold for the pile.Let us not inquire as to the loss of the empirical data by the ancients, and overlookthe questionability of Bacon’s simile of movable ladders and scaffoldings here. Can anempiricist treat hypotheses as scaffoldings? (Not that Goethe was an empiricist; theabove quoted empiricist maxim is followed by a few anti-empiricist ones. But Herschelwas as much of an empiricist as any thinker, and his metaphor stuck.) Admittedly,it seems quite innocuous for an empiricist to say that hypotheses are mere scaffoldings,meaning, finally the basis for science is empirical fact not conjectures; but if epistemologically .we remove empirical evidence too — as both Plato and Aristotle maintain — thenwhere is the difference between apriorism and inductivism? We see here, again, howright Kant was to claim that the difference is subtle (see note 9 above).One may defend Sir John Herschel by claiming that he was no Platonist-Aristotelian;he removes hypotheses as scaffoldings but never the empirical basis. But this is overshootingthe target. Herschel insists on the certitude of Newtonian mechanics, but noton its empirical foundation: he quite permits a priori proof of it as much as a posterioriproofs. He does not really care, and so we cannot care more than he and insist ondeclaring him apriorist or inductivist.Those who did insist on inductivism while rejecting apriorism, for example Ampere,had to be more subtle: for them both hypothesis and experience are ladders to beremoved, but hypothesis must be removed first. This is not merely an order ofchronology but also an order of priority, even of emotional priority. As G. E. M. deSte. Croix suggests (Crombie, ed., op. cit., p. 84), Plato’s idea of removing the ladderpresents not only apriorism, but also a characteristic aprioristic contempt towardsexperience, which Plato sometimes exhibited (in the Republic and later works). It isvery interesting that Bacon quotes (Advancement, II: ‘History of Nature WroughtMechanical’) Plato’s other discussion of the ladder, also leading to the first principlesof beauty, not the Symposium (where neither contempt nor praise for facts is registered)but Greater Hippias, where Socrates pokes ironic fun at those who are impatientlycontemptuous of lower forms of beauty. Bacon reads this to say, you can remove theladder, but only after having used it. (Attitudes to empirical knowledge in Plato’sworks may be used as means of attacking the Socratic problem.)There is also the question of the vulnerability of the ladder here. The empiricist aswell as the apriorist view hypotheses as highly vulnerable and so, of course, somethingthat must be sooner or later removed “out of sight” (Bacon). But whereas apriorists view evidence of the senses as vulnerable temporary means (Socrates of Plato’s earlydialogues, Bruno, Galileo, Descartes), empiricists view evidence of the senses as finaleven if removable (Aristotle, Bacon, Herschel, Whewell).Thus, it is possible to view empiricism or inductivism as a double-secure system,where our hierarchy of final knowledge is based both on immediate intuitions and onempirical facts. Perhaps this represents Herschel’s view better.In my view, not only Plato and his followers, but, clearly Socrates too, felt that inprinciple apriorism should do.This may explain why it was so hard to penetrate the classical arguments for scientificcertitude and criticize them. For a discussion of the 20th-century background toE. A. Burtt’s Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, London 1925, seemy ‘Science in Flux\ Boston Studies, III, p. 304, this volume, pp. 20, 39.It would be unfair to Burtt, however, to suggest that in our day and age his idea(there is no finality in science) is common property. Some writers fail to adhere to iteven while advocating it. I shall give one example here: Heisenberg’s ‘Recent Changesin the Foundation of Exact Science’ (op. cit.). Heisenberg attempts to criticize the viewthat there is finality in science. “Even Kant’s philosophy, intended as a critique ofpremature dogmatizing in scientific concepts, could not prevent the torpescence of thescientific concept of the universe — it may even be said that it encouraged it” (p. 22).And Heisenberg blames this on Kant’s apriorism. But Heisenberg’s explanation maybe false. How well Heisenberg himself — not an apriorist — has succeeded in preventing“premature dogmatizing and ”torpescence“ may be surmised from the following sentence,two paragraphs later: ”… modern physics has shown that the structure ofclassical physics — as that of modern physics — is complete in itself.“ What this exactlymeans I do not know, as I do not know how a theory can declare itself complete orincomplete, in itself or besides itself. But it sounds to me to be not exactly devoid ofthe attitude condemned in Kant. It sounds to me that Heisenberg’s ‘complete’ meansfor modern physics what Kant’s ”premature dogmatizing“ means for classical naturalphilosophy (see my ‘Is Physics Complete?’, Synthese, 1958). Indeed, one may ask,does Heisenberg disagree with Kant about the finality of classical physics? The answeris, no: ”Columbus’s discoveries were immaterial to the geography of the Mediterraneancountries, and it would be quite wrong to claim that … [he] had made obsolete thepositive geographical knowledge of the day. It is equally wrong to speak today of arevolution in physics. Modern physics has changed nothing in the great classicaldisciplines … only the conception of hitherto unexplored regions, formed prematurely… has undergone a decisive transformation (p. 18).Now, the idea that Columbus’s discoveries were immaterial to Mediterraneangeography is such a folly, that Heisenberg himself has to modify it, replacing the word‘geography’ with ‘positive geography’. All that remains now to do is define ‘positive’.‘Positive geography’ evidently has nothing to do with views of the Mediterranean basinas the centre of the earth. Indeed the concept of positive geography, that is to say,of cartography of a refined form acceptable to Heisenberg’s taste, did not exist inthat day; nor were there at the time maps accurate enough to be viewed as positive;nor is positive cartography of the Mediterranean basin indifferent to the question ofthe curvature of the earth. At most Heisenberg could say that as a result of theColumbian revolution, the scientific revolution, etc., we can now say in retrospect thatan idealized and improved version of pre-Columbian Mediterranean cartography is avery good approximation to post-Columbian cartography.One may say that the idealization and correction of past theories have to be accepted anyway; and that then the difference between their being first approximation to, andbeing parts and parcels of, present day theories, is so negligible it may be ignored.First, this sounds dogmatic to me; second, when one insists on there being no correctionat all, no change, and even in violent language (“it is equally wrong”), than it shouldbe stressed that corrections were made, however small; third, the whole picture ofscience is rendered hyper-positivistic in order to render this idea plausible — which isa high cost for a very small return.I cannot escape the impression that even Heisenberg feels uncomfortable about hisown position and its all too seemingly dogmatic character. For, I think he proceedsfrom the above quoted passage to an attack on Kant’s dogmatism as an expressionof some unease. As if to draw attention to Kant’s alleged even worse dogmatism.But Kant lived before Einstein, and so his error is easier to sympathise with thanHeisenberg’s. Google Scholar
  18. Robespierre’s famous speech, his Report on the Relations Between Religious andMoral Ideas and Republican Principles of May 7, 1794, expresses all this very well.The art of government, he says, “has hitherto been the art of cheating and corruptingmen, but … ought to be that of enlightening and improving them”. He proves theexistence of God and the immortality of the soul thus. Man needs enlightenment andimprovement. In order to achieve these man needs “more respect for himself and hisfellowmen”. In order to achieve these he needs faith in God and in the immortalityof the soul. Finally, “I cannot see how Nature can have suggested to man fictions thatwere more useful than reality.” This is fascinating, and a shrewd combination of aCartesian and a Kantian mode of arguing. A Cartesian argument is from God’s veracityand its form is, if an inquiry went properly yet the outcome was not the truth, thenGod would be a liar; which is absurd. A Kantian argument is transcendental and itsform is, if such and such were not the case then knowledge would be impossible;but knowledge exists. Robespierre argues from the existence of knowledge and moralityto the existence of religion and from the existence of religion in a proper manner to itstruth — a combined Kantian-cum-Cartesian argument. This is not a small achievementfor an allegedly verbose second-hand-ideas-spouting mere politician.Since the above argument is rational, Robespierre continues, it is binding yet nonpartisan:opponents to it are merely irrational. “You fanatics have nothing to hopefrom us. To recall men to the worship of the Supreme Being is to deal fanaticism amortal blow. All follies fall to the ground before Reason; all fictions fade away in thelight of truth. Without compulsion, and without persecution, all sects are to be mergedin the universal religion of virtue.” (Italics mine.) (J. M. Thompson, Leaders of theFrench Revolution, London 1929; New York 1967, pp. 236-7.)In his second speech of July 26, 1794, he is even sharper. “I know but two parties,that of good citizens and that of the bad. … There does exist a generous ambition … anegoism of enlightened men. … What then are we to do? … to establish a single control… and thus to crush all factions under the weight of national authority, and to buildon their ruins the power of justice and freedom” (ibid., pp. 139-141).See also J. L. Talmon, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, London 1952, particularlythe quote from Lemercier (p. 36) on the beneficial ‘despotism of evidence’, andon the “‘natural and irresistible force of evidence’ which rules out any arbitrary actionon the part of the administration”, and the quote from Dubois (p. 167): “Either thereexists no demonstrable ethics at all, or there should exist only one — just as there existsonly one geometry.” (Translations mine.)See also H. B. Acton, ‘Prejudice’, Revue internationale de philosophie 21 (1952);J. W. N. Watkins, ‘Milton’s Vision of a Reformed England’, The Listener, January 22,1959 ; and F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, London 1960, p. 527, n. 15 onJefferson’s opposition to academic freedom.As to the sentiment prevalent today, Popper claims that the slogan ‘Vox populi — voxdei’, i.e. the idea that public opinion has already achieved a state of near perfection,is very widespread in western democracies, he even says it is the official ideology ofwestern liberalism, and he wishes to combat it. See Popper’s ‘Public Opinion andLiberal Principles’ in his Conjectures and Refutations. The same view, or a similar one,is criticized by Michael Oakeshott in his ‘Rationalism in Polities’, though from a veryconservative viewpoint; M. Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics, London 1962. Google Scholar
  19. De Finetti’s view was foreshadowed by Wollaston, as reported by Faraday in‘Observations on Mental Education’, alternatively, ‘Observations on the Education ofthe Judgment’, Lectures on Education Delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain,London 1854, reprint, 1855; also in Modern Culture, etc. (ed. by E. L. Youman), London1867; also in Science and Education: Lectures Delivered in the Royal Institution (ed. bySir E. Ray Lankester), London (1917); also in M. Faraday, Experimental Researchesin Chemistry and Physics, London 1859.For De Finetti’s views, see Studies in Subjective Probability (ed. by H. E. Kyburg Jr.and H. E. Smokier), New York 1964, and bibliography there. See also H. E. Kyburg,‘Recent Work in Inductive Logic’, American Philosophical Quarterly 1, No. 4 (1964),and bibliography there.The sentiment is well expressed in J. W. N. Watkins, ‘Decision and Uncertainty’Brit. J. Phil. Sci. 6 (1955), which is a review-article of Shackle’s Expectation in Economics.See his summary (p. 78): “Although there are ineradicable elements of uncertainty inhuman life, and although it is the most significant decisions whose outcomes tend tobe the most uncertain, the classical theory of decision-taking, common to both thephilosophical and the economic utilitarians of the 19th century, presupposed foreknowledgeof the decision’s outcome. In the 20th century foreknowledge was reducedto knowledge of the probabilities of the possible outcomes of a decision, in line withthe tendency to substitute probability for certainty.” Google Scholar
  20. S. E. Toulmin, ‘Crucial Experiments: Priestley and Lavoisier’, J. Hist. Ideas 18 (1957),reprinted in Roots of Scientific Thought: A Cultural Perspective (ed. by P. P. Wiener andA. Noland), New York 1957.Google Scholar
  21. Priestley’s case is discussed in my Towards An Historiography of Science, Mouton,The Hague, 1963, ‘12. Priestley’s Dissent’, and in my ‘Revolutions in Science, Occasionalor Permanent?’, Organon 3 (1966). Google Scholar
  22. The best description I know of all this is in F. L. Will, T h e Preferability of ProbableBeliefs’, Journal of Philosophy 62 (1965). I do not pretend to understand Will’s discussion- nor do I consider it interesting — but I do think his conclusion (pp. 66-7) isstriking. There is, he says, “no logical room for such questions” as why prefer probablebeliefs. To say probably A often means, to say A is preferable; or else it “serves … toexpress and appraise the grounds of possible assertions. … And in some uses thespecification of the strength of the grounds for a proposition may not, for somewhatspecial reasons, close the question of the credibility of that proposition. … In somecircumstances the appraisal … may be made in such a way that the acceptability orcredibility of the proposition … [also depends] upon whether the person … is, infixing [!] his beliefs, acting within what may be referred to collectively as the institutionof human knowledge.” Whether Will has in mind only people who are contemptuousof science — who are at liberty to reject credible views and “what might be referred to collectively as the institution of human knowledge” -1 do not know. Interestingly, his descriptionfits Einstein as well: “I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but deliciousin the years of maturity” (“Self Portrait’, Out of My Late Years, London 1950, p. 5).Does Will recommend alliance with ”the institutions of human knowledge?“ Hedoes not say. It is not a matter upon which ”the institution of human knowledge hasa confirmed belief” in the west that institution tolerates dissent and rebellion and therejection of the most confirmed belief. See my T h e Confusion Between Physics andMetaphysics in the Standard Histories of Science’, in Proceedings of the Tenth InternationalCongress for the History of Science, Ithaca, 1962, Paris, 1964, reprinted here. Google Scholar
  23. The case of William James is rather complicated. On the one hand James was proneto assertions which are quite exasperating in their obvious unacceptability. On theother hand, James’s desiderata were interesting though highly problematic. This mayexplain how come Russell wrote, in reply to the criticism that he had “caricaturedpragmatism by saying that, according to it, truth is what pays”; merely “but this is averbal quotation from William James” (Russell, ‘Reply to Critics’, in The Philosophyof Bertrand Russell (ed. by P. A. Schilpp), Evanston 1944, p. 731). James’s desideratawere the defense of pluralism as well as of extreme empiricism, while being a reformist.See R. B. Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, Harper Torchbook 1964,chapters 24, 27, 30, 32, and especially the rather moving Conclusion. Google Scholar
  24. See Ellis’ comment on Novum Organum, II, Aph. 36 (Experimentum Crucis), Works,new ed., p. 297, note 2: “Nothing shows better than an instance of this kind, theimpossibility of reducing philosophical reasoning to a uniform method of exclusion.Bacon seems to recognize as the only true form of induction .. that … which proceedsby exclusion…. The argument depends on a wholly non-logical element, the convictionof the unity and harmony of nature.”For Bacon’s pyramid of nature and science, see notes 7 and 17 above. The mostexplicit expressions of these sentiments concerning parallelism between mind andnature are to be found in Bacon’s frankly mythological writings, such as his Wisdomof The Ancients (myths of Pan, Echo, and Proserpine), Thoughts on the Nature of Things,De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book II, Ch. XIII, as well as his preface to his GreatInstauration, Preface and Conclusion of Novum Organum, Parasceve, etc. Those whowish to take Bacon’s mythology lightly should consult Spedding’s introductions to bothThe Wisdom of the Ancients and The New Atlantis, as well as C. W. Lemmi’s ClassicalDeities in Bacon, Baltimore 1931. See also De Augmentis Book 7, Ch. Ill, where theparallel is more boldly stated as the topics are “the culture of the mind and “moralknowledge” (Works, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 28). Moral knowledge, however, is declaredin the opening of Valerius Terminus, The Advancement, and De Augmentist, to be thehighest end of all learning. These are the most cabbalistic passages of Bacon (esp.Valerius, Ch. I), which adumbrate the intellectual love of God most clearly.There is no doubt that one way or another all inductivist philosophers felt that Godmust have put some constraint on Nature so as to render Her comprehensible byinductive means (see quote from Bacon in note 12). It was J. M. Keynes who, in hisTreatise on Probability, Cambridge 1921, Chapter 23, claimed that both Bacon andMill were rather vague about it, and he, wishing to be clear and explicit, postulated hisfamous principle of limited variety. The principle is clearly enough stated by Ellis,and quoted in the beginning of this note.The most subtle attitude towards this principle and similar ones is Kant’s, need onesay? On one hand, he says, any such principle is concerning reason and nature and socould only be judged from above both nature and reason — namely not by us. He even goes further and rejects violently any such principle even as the merest hypothesis.Transcendental hypotheses, as he calls these, “such as the appeal to a divine Author”(A773B801), are not explanatory, and lead the mind to unhealthy self-satisfaction(A772B800). “Order and purposiveness in nature must themselves be explained fromnatural grounds and according to natural laws; and the wildest hypotheses, if onlythey are physical, are here more tolerable than a hyperphysical [transcendental] hypothesis,such as an appeal to a divine Author, assumed simply in order that we mayhave an explanation.—On the other hand, Kant does not like Hume’s ‘censorship’, and claims that transcendentalhypotheses may be stated; that he always likes to read new books defendingthem. He adds that transcendental hypotheses are useful to combat contrary transcendentalhypotheses — the result of the combat should be a draw. That even after thedraw there is use — one may take such a hypothesis as an ideal, or as a regulative ideaor principle, which should guide one’s research (rather than elicit false satisfaction).What is unclear to me is whether the ideal is inter-subjective or private. It can benothing else; if it were inter-subjective it would be apriori demonstrable, and if privatethey do not belong to the metaphysics of morals, namely, they are not rational guidingprinciples (of research). In a sense Kant says they are private (A782B810), in a sensehe stresses the universality of the ideals or regulative ideas or principles of pure reason.I cannot follow his subtlety there. I can only say, surely he wants research, the intellectuallove of God, to be a supreme universal principle, but he may perhaps claim thatresearch is not necessarily bound to ideals. This is not satisfactory, but I leave it at that.Much has been said in comment on Carl Becker’s Heavenly City of the EighteenthCentury Philosophers and its claim that there is so much in common between themedieval and the 18th-century philosophers. Yet one might sum up the intellectuallyrelevant similarities. First, the main difference between the Medieval thinkers and theirheirs lay in the formers’ sense of utter impotence. The medieval philosophers sharedwith the Renaissance philosophers the dream of the recapture of antiquity, but beforeBrunelleschi’s success in constructing a dome in an ancient manner, followed by hisdisciples’ success in sculpting, painting, and building, like the ancients, the generalsense was that of impotence. Similarly, the idea of the hierarchy of knowledge andthe knowability of the world, potent in the post-Baconian era, existed before. Indeed,the main message of Bacon, as he himself stresses, is a message of hope and of cajolingpeople to do research.The second important difference is that the medieval writers are much more confusedthan the modern writers. This point is hard to divine from secondary sources, suchas Crombie’s in particular, because authors usually quote only what they think is clearor what they wish to clarify, or some such. Confusion in the Middle Ages much dependson slavery to diverse ancient authorities; but, as Galileo showed, the elimination oferror is an arduous task, and of confusion even more so.So much for the differences; as to the similarities, they lay in the confusions betweenPlato and Aristotle, between induction and deduction, between learning (methodology)and knowledge (epistemology), all as means for supporting the optimistic thesis of theknowability of the universe, to be found both in the Middle Ages and later. Yet, onthe whole, in the 18th century this led to an ode to nature and to man’s mastery ofnature, whereas earlier it often sounded like a wail over a paradise lost.(On the unity of science in the Middle Ages see M. DeWulf, Philosophy and Civilizationin the Middle Ages, Princeton 1922, end of Ch. 4, vi and 5, i, ii; DeWulf is aCatholic apologist worse than Crombie, but he is still rather informative.) And so, again, Crombie may score a point in viewing Grosseteste as a predecessorafter a fashion to Bacon and to Galileo. But in a way I do not think he would like.In his second chapter he admits (p. 32 note) that the 12th-century philosophers receivedthese ideas from Aristotle via Boethius; yet he calls them Platonists and complains oftheir mistrust of the senses — forgetting Kepler’s and Galileo’s mistrust of the senses;forgetting that Grosseteste himself does too (p. 73)!And even Francis Bacon who is among the Moderns almost the only Quixoticbeliever in the senses, even he constantly and systematically refuses to side with Platoor Aristotle about the hierarchy of knowledge, speaking of ‘axioms and definitions’ inone breath, more systematically then Grosseteste and Roger Bacon, and even claimingexplicitly that Plato is the only one who tried the inductive method, but only aftercorrupting science by mixing it with theology (Novum Organum, I, Aph. 105). (Thewidespread Ellis translation says, ‘Plato, who does indeed employ … induction … forthe purpose of discussing definitions and ideas.’ The expression ‘of discussing’ is arendering of ‘executiendas’; in Khintchin’s translation, Oxford 1855, it is rendered‘of formation’; why not ‘of executing’? Ellis also translates ‘dialectics’ as ‘logic’.See my dissertation, University of London, 1956, unpublished.)All this, of course, raises again the question of the difference between apriorism andinductivism, both in the Middle Ages and later. Now in the Middle Ages the hierarchyof causal theories was identified with Jacob’s ladder, namely with divine illumination.During the late Renaissance, as the outcome of some measure of growth of bothrationalism and optimism of sorts, two attitudes developed towards divine illumination.One was the neo-Platonist or light-mystic, i.e. Cabbalistic attitude run so optimistic asto expect illumination more or less here and now. The other, more academic, attitudesexcluded divine illumination altogether and replaced it with the authority of the senses.And so, whereas in Grosseteste knowledge by divine illumination has no recourse toempirical basis but defective knowledge is empirical, in the late Renaissance academiesboth kinds of knowledge tend to merge and raise the serious problems which are stillwith us. And to think that it all starts with Aristotle’s two systems — of certain and ofprobable knowledge! Google Scholar
  25. For the connection between Whewell and Duhem, see my ’Duhem Versus Galileo’,Brit. J. Phil. Sci. 8 (1957), as well as my Towards An Historiography of Science, op. cit.9Section 10.For Duhem’s influence on Meyerson see Meyerson’s preface to his Identity andReality and references there.See also my ‘Sensationalism’, Mind, 1966, reprinted here, concerning the difficulty involvedin the view that there are uninterpreted data. Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1975

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  • Joseph Agassi

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