Archive for December 2006

Lecture 16

26 December, 2006

Francis Bacon pointed out the necessity of divesting ourselves of the power of traditional thinking so we can see the facts.

A scientist doesn’t collect facts so easily. It is impossible to be traditionless.

facts objective – there to be observed, the net illustration indicates that there is a measure of human subjectivity.

Word from God.
Nature of Law – not merely a general fact.
Place of Philosophy – in Comte’s positivism philosophy is just another special science.

The other special sciences come up with their results; the task of philosophy is to take those results and try to find some kind of ordering in the larger picture. He placed emphasis on logic as an ordering procedure.

The positivists thus see all the other special sciences can be engaged in without philosophy – they don’t involve taking a philosophical position. It is a very prevalent view in North America.

Become clear that in everyone of the special sciences there are philosophical positions assumed or presupposed. Despite this has become more and more clear positivism is still the dominant position in North America.

A very good book by a Polish philosopher who was a Marxist and fled Poland

Lesa Chomlakowski I? of Reason Doubleday Anchor 1968

Now come to the third round of lectures.

Round 1 – some general picture of 2000 year old philosophising.
Treatment of accommodation/ synthesis.
Round 2 – two modern movements Empiricism (John Locke) and Comte’s positivism.
Round 3 – more systematic thinking to get Christian thinking. Look at another movement. The general structure of Thomas Aquinas

In Comtion positivism philosophy reduced to a special science. philosophy is not like other sciences. We will look at an other but opposite error – philosophy is made too large.

Many philosophers are first generation apostates. Philosophy becomes a substitute for religion.

man are religious beings – religion has more than a cultic element – before we do something we are something – what we are before God determines our directions.

Man’s ground of origin is not in himself – he is not an independent being.

[end of tape 13 ½ A – nothing on second side]

Our human condition is that we are creatures before God, servants of God, aware before him of our situation.

Journey through modern thought

In rationalistic humanism the individual person and the rational soul/ mind was taken to be something in its self – a mental substance, ‘windowless monads’ of Leibniz.

The individual on the couch the psychiatrist tries to penetrate into a person’s mind. More recently, man’s inbuilt dependence upon others has been emphasised, hence, group therapy.

No man exists in isolation (I – thou relationship). This recent change from individual to group has come about by a growing recognition of the way in which man exists in the world.

In the nineteenth century Schliermacher (1798-1834), one of the great theologians of the nineteenth century, his influence has been enormous. R. Richard Niehbuhr is a Scliermacher expert.

Schliermacher was well aware that the mode of our existing involved:

‘a complex of mutually implicated moments of reaction toward another and of being determined by another’ and we have relative freedom and relative dependence imply each other, but he also freely distinguished, though he did not separate, from this complex of (world or societal) relations, what he called einshlechinengpenigeist

a feeling of absolute dependence

‘a felt relation of dependence that accompanies or pervades the total felt consciousness working from the immediate self-consciousness into the self in the totality of its connection to and within the world.’

Being in relation and then in this relation of absolute dependence appears as the fundamental phenomenon of our self-consciousness.


Lecture 15

17 December, 2006

I want to offer some criticisms of Positivism.

1. When Comte rejects metaphysical explanations – having recourse to noumena, eg mind, soul, Nature etc. – he has only the phenomena or observable facts left to explain. Comte supposes a scientist can pick up facts like a person picks up sea shells at the sea shore.

STOP when you read the notes, ask self, are facts picked up like shells on a sea shore?

Comte is giving expression to modern scientific method that goes back to Bacon: give up tradition in order to be free to determine what the facts are. It is harder than one suspects! Bacon still talks of qualities – an Aristotlean tradition; ninety per cent of Bacon is Aristotle carried over, in other worlds tradition of which he is unconscious.

Not so easy to select the facts, tradition makes us see certain things, or not see certain things. Tradition is with us.

Bacon advocates as the first prerequisite the overthrow of preconceptions.

Can one overthrow this tradition? Chomsky, argues for the innateness of language.

The word ‘fact’ has turend out to be dangerous – we don’t just gather ‘facts’. The determination of facts is not as objective as gathering sea sells. Our subjectivity I already involved.

For example, Eddington’s tale of a net in the sea. The fishing net is the theory, if the interstices are large then the fish (facts) caught will be of a certain size. The net is the theory by which we look for facts.

Einstein at Princeton: our theories are the nest – everything depends on the kind of net/ theory what you will find as facts.

[break in the tape]

The positive stage differs from the earlier stage – it rules out certain questions that the previous stage ask ruling out the fruitless. No longer ask ‘why?’ things behave, they ask ‘how’ phenomena arise and what course they take.

It does not permit deductive thinking to be taken too far.

Its sole aim is to discover invariable (ie no negative instances) universal laws governing the phenomena in time.

The positive mind presupposes a deterministic determination of phenomena. It is convinced that these laws, or rather regularities in observed phenomena, exncopasses the totality of the world.

Eddington’s illustration of the net: facts depend on theory as a fisherman depends on the net.

A second illustration. What we experience as a world of fact depends not only on subjective theory presuppositions but also on the light divine/ special revelation shseds on the facts. Do we understand the world if we don’t understand it as a creation? On what ground can you base confidence in induction? What happens in the past, does it always have to happen? The ground of our assurance applies in inductive procedure has to do with God who is creator has revealed himself as a faithful covenant keeping God. His word abides – that’s the only basis for our confidence in inductive procedures.

Not just that facts are created facts, but let me be more specific.

1 Sam 24. Saul was pursuing David and his men, closing in on him. Message comes to Saul, the Philistines are invading the land. Later Saul set out to look for David and his men. He went into a cave, where David and his men were hiding, to relieve himself. David crept up and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. As a result David was conscience stricken: ‘ this is the anointed of the Lord’.

Fact: Saul was vulnerable and could easily be taken and murdered. ‘Surely this is the Lord’s sign’ – a factual situation. Yet David knew there was a word from God – Saul was the Lord’s anointed, a word abut murder. A word from God, in which the fact was to be interpreted.

When do you now how to read facts? Are they so readily available – to be taken and possessed?

‘Scientific facts’ are always an abstraction from something that presents itself to you.

The biotic, physical, never presents itself to you, it is always to be abstracted from some person, some event.

There is always something that precedes science – science requires abstraction from what is given in our experience. It is not immediately available as sea shells on the seashore.

In Comte’s positivism law and fact are closely connected. Law is relations between facts.

Consult own inner self: do we mean something different when we think of laws?

We say, laws hold or obtain(?). We don’t say that of facts – facts don’t measure up to what you mean when we say law.

There may be laws that relate facts to each other – but they are not more generalised facts.

God sent his word and all things are subjected to his word of law.

Facts are more elusive than Comte would have us believe.

Law – confronted by creation order. We sense in our being that it is different in kind.

The relationship of philosophy and the special sciences
It is clear for Comte that only special sciences survive in this third stage. Maths, physics, electronics, even theology, special areas of scientific investigation.

Just how are we to think of this matter?

In registration time in this college [Calvin College] you have tables that you go past all are arranged alphabetically each table a department. If Basket weaving 151 is full you have to take Philosophy 151, if that is full have to take Sociology 151. It is treating philosophy and the special science as if they are transferable.

Is philosophy transferable? Is it on the same plain? on the same level?

For the positivists science is the fact sciences. They reduced philosophy to a special science – detailed epistemological issues.

If philosophy is another special science all the other sciences can do their job without philosophy. Don’t have to know philosophical foundations to do physics etc. All the special sciences collect their kind of facts. if these positivists are going to recognise philosophy at all it has to be on the same level, physics has agreed results, philosophy takes down these results and gives them a logical order. This led to the development of logic as a special science.

In the first place this isn’t true. There is growing awareness that recognising that no special science can grow without examining the philosophical foundations of its subject.

Freud a committed positivist
Jung had different philosophical commitment and so developed in a different way.

Every special science develops as it does depending on its philosophical presuppositions.

In 1963/4 in the Netherlands, the Minsister of Education, was successful in passing a law that reorganised the Dutch Universities. At the centre was an interfaculty philosophy department. Two groups of people professors of philosophy and professors of other departments work together to develop a philosophical view.