Lecture 29

Session 29

Last time I suggested that there is more than one kind of human knowing.

The problem is that knowledge has been reduced to scientific thinking – to know is scientific method. Knowing is richer, fuller and deeper than the modern mind has grasped when reduced thinking or knowing to the scientific.

Is to know the same as to think?

To bring clarity we need to (ie obliged) to distinguish two fundamentally distinct kinds of knowing/ knowledge.

We become aware of a structural difference between the two which manifests itself. It’s not just a model. human knowing comprises scientific knowing and non-scientific knowing which precedes the scientific kin, it is our everyday experience. Herman Dooyeweerd describes it as ‘naïve’ knowledge/ experience. Naïve comes from a Latin word translated into French.

Confusion can arise – a confusion of our intent with these words and another use.

The Humanist tradition which began at the Renaissance initially asserted man’s autonomous freedom: the modern religion of human personality. Man is free – free from what? All that comes from outside of himself, eg, church, State, the word of God (if conceived of as a divine command). Man has to produce the law out of himself.

From out of its depth called for the motive to dominate Nature led to the opposed religion of autonomous science – there is no more room for free personality.

Natural forces that threaten to out do us – thunder, lightening, floods etc, humanism had to turn to mathematical physics to show man can dominate these forces and thus prove his autonomy. This shift man dissolves into mechanism and physical determinism.

The French Revolution is an natural outcome of all this.

The late Renaissance figure of Francis Bacon affords us an excellent example of how the free personality pole leads inexorably to autonomous objective science. Bacon in true Renaissance style sees man as ‘cock of the walk’ and the sovereign dominion of man the regnum homonus is his goal.

[Aside: Classical humanism is a going back to the Greeks; the Renaissance goes by everything in us. A great novel by the Polish Catholic who became a positivist Dmitriĭ Sergeevich Merezhkovskiĭ The Romance of Leonardo Da Vinci. Two men Georgio Morola (classical humanism) and Da Vinci (Renaissance) show the contrasts of these two movements.]

As Professor Metz has shown in ‘Bacon’s part in the intellectual movement of his time’ Seventeenth century studies. Presented to Sir Herbert Grierson. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1938:

Bacon ‘prescribes for knowledge a sublime purpose, the creative advancement of civilisation. But this can only be attained if man achieves mastery over an inanimate nature. In this task his best and most powerful helper is scientific investigation and this interpretatio naturi and the regnum hominis are blended into one inseparable unity.’

As the seventeenth century advanced towards the age of Newton the idea gained ground that the only knowledge worth knowing was scientific procedures alone.

John Herman Randall The Making of the Modern Mind: A Survey of the Intellectual Background of the Present Age. Houghton Mifflin Company,1940

John Herman Randall The Career of Philosophy New York, Columbia University Press, 1962-65.

Crane Brinton The Shaping of the Modern Mind: The Concluding Half of Ideas and Men1953, New American Library

Crane Brinton Ideas and Men: The Story of Western Thought By Prentice Hall, 1963

Randall ‘It was not [classical] humanism, the Reformation that was destined to make’ the modern mind ‘ it was science. Science was to build the modern world’.

In the sixteenth/ seventeenth century it was the view of a few elite aristocratic minds, eg the British Academy; by the eighteenth century the more bourgeoisie revolutionaries had accepted it and by the twentieth century the proletariats, the dispossessed held to it.

This one view the method of mathematical science.

According to Randall, science ‘entered the world in the sixteenth century’.

Modern history up to World War I was dominated by a compromise of scientific enterprise and medieval Christianity. WWI symbolised the emancipation of man! It broke the compromise.

We live in an age of permanent revolution: 1815 French, 1830, 1848, 1917 Russia.

There was periodic crying out on the part of individuals for freedom, eg, Rousseau, Fichte, Kirkegaard. They wanted to restore the original goal of autonomous man. Illustrating the dialectical swing from one to the other pole of modern humanism.

Man is in creation – he can’t be understood apart from free relation to God, others and nature. In that total environment that being, out of that the central religious core comes. Man exists only in those relations.

Humanism focusing on autonomous self has to go to science to show it can control things – the objective science pole but man then becomes no no more than deterministic atoms, so he crys out for freedom.

Dialectical swing – they aren’t on the centre of creational life. There is no such thing as individual man isolated from other things. He exists only in relation to fellow men and nature. We are not a separate entity. The humanist movement is ever at rest.

The belief in science as the only way to truth became the dominant characteristic of life. It would be easy to multiply illustrations. We will look at two.

First example: George Bundy
Harvard Today Fall 1961 contains a lecture by George Bundy (Dean of the faculty of arts and science at Harvard) to the freshmen. He says, University departments ‘in science must teach not science as one subject but science as a way of life’. His specific humanism becomes clear: ‘What makes a scientists, is that this is man’s way to meaning’. Most Christians would hear that and not flinch!

Science can never produce meaning – creation is meaning, it is God’s word – we don’t arrive at meaning from scientific analysis.

Only human life in the world lived by the light of God’s revelation, and understanding the creation in the light of that revelation, can provide meaning.

Science by its very nature, which a careful analysis of its genesis and dependency will disclose, can only describe fruitful processes and relations between and among such.

Second example: R H F Mansky

In March 1964 Chemistry in Canada – I’m using common everyday examples, we get them everywhere – Dr R H F Mansky ‘Society and the scientist’.

‘Scientists qua scientists must assume a place in society and apply the objective, ie scientific, method to matters other then his own narrow discipline. If he does not do this he fails as a man.’

Thus Mansky feels that in general all will and can be dealt with by the scientific method. Function in society as a linear extension of his function as a scientist. Mansky quotes T H Huxley:

Huxley ‘has assured that the virtues which maintain in science and by extrapolation to all human activity are patience, independence of thought, objectivity of viewpoint and that these can be come the foundation of a new social ethic.

The use of the word extrapolation suggest that there is a continuity of science and non-scientific experience which would deny the sort of discontinuity we are asserting to exist between the knower and the known. Only when that which is ‘scientific’ extends to all the rest of our experience – something made possible by the continuity between them – will our life be as it should be.

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