Lecture 30

Session 30

Readings: Dooyeweerd Roots of Western Culture ch 5; read it straight through – follow his argument, don’t get bogged down in the German thinkers he cites.

Edward ? ‘Towards a critique of the subject’ Philosophia Reformata 44 (1979): 86-105
This is an very important article.

In the previous lecture we looked at Mansky quoting Huxley.

Do you think that patience, independence of thought and objectivity of viewpoint characterise science? Does that make science science?
He is dead wrong! Even though he is T H Huxley!

Read from a book by a member of my department [Runner doesn’t mention Wolterstorff by name] :

‘The fisherman who suggests that fish will not bite after a heavy rain seems to me to be propounding a theory. In other words a scientific activity is not to be differentiated from other activities on the ground it deals with theories of a specific . Theories first devise and accepted in the pursuit of science of ten enter into subsequently in the non-scientific pursuits, conversely theories from ordinary life have been taken over by science. Neither is to be differentiated. In the pursuit of science people devise theories, in the pursuit of non-scientific activities people do so as well. In the pursuit of science people weigh theories, in the pursuit of non-scientific activities, they do so as well. Science and ordinary life can be viewed as on a continuum with respect to theories and with respect to actions performed on those theories.’ [Reason with the Bounds of Religion (Erdmans, 1984 [2nd edn] pp. 64-5]

These are ideas characteristic of the modern mind!

The use of the word extrapolation suggests that there is a continuity of scientific and non-scientific which would deny the difference we are asserting between them.

There is a kind of knowledge that isn’t scientific: pre-scientific or everyday experience. (You should have read my chapter on this by now – the problem is much worse than the 20 years ago when the lectures were first delivered.)

The idea advanced is that only when that which is characteristic of ‘scientific’ is extended to the rest of experience will our life be as it should be.

I have given two examples from the magazines I was reading at the time – this shows how pervasive this standpoint is, this is the modern mind. The examples could be extended indefinitely.

Augustus Comte reflected the modern spirit and influenced when he set forth his law of three stages – it culminates in the scientific or positivist stage. We are now at the third and final stage – it presupposes the evolution of the human mind. If we don’t think in this scientific way we belong ‘to an earlier stage of evolution and therefore primitive’ – so must be discounted!

To the positivists anything other than scientific is an instance of arrested development. This view has dominated the western world since the 1880s.

They use the term ‘non-scientific’ or ‘pre-scientific’ but they do not mean what I mean by it. The relation between the knower and the knowable will always be different.

At any one stage only on kind of knowledge is regarded as valid.

American thinkers

At the time Comtean positivism was articulated in Europe ‘a brilliant group of philosophical liberals’ according to Philip Wiener of MIT (Evolution in the Founders of Pragmatism, University of Pennsylvania Press 1971 reprint of 1949) was meeting around Harvard in the 1860s and 1870s. One of them Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr got to become knowledgeable about it. He changed the fundamental conception of how e viewed law. pragmatism is now dominant in law. It was the beginning of utilitarianism and empiricism. Holmes attempted to destroy natural law.

In a letter he wrote much later (1919) to Morris R Cohen [The Homes-Cohen Correspondence] he staes that ‘his sceptical attitude towards theological explanations had been encouraged by the influence of the scientific way of looking at the world.’ ‘It was in the air’ he says.

Here we see the scientific way of knowing in America establishing itself as the proper way of knowing anything.

Holmes Jr wrote: ‘My father was bought up scientifically, I was not, when he studied medicine in Paris, yet there was with him as with the rest of his generation, a certain softness of attitude to the interstitial miracle – a phenomena without phenomenal antecedents.’

How do you get miracle? There is a chain of events of causal determinism – there must be a break, that is a miracle – broken up by divine intervention.

‘The difference was in the air’, the clash between father and son may be regarded as symbolic of the impact of New England transcendentalism of the positivism encouraged by the new theories of physics and biology.

Book by catholic woman (Adrienne De Puys?) Philosophy, Education and Public

Herbert Spencer was in agreement with the position that the scientific mode of knowing was the only reliable one in his rejection of revelation and reason he was in agreement with Augustus Comte

Although Dewey was generally agreed with the notion that experience and science are the only ways that yield valid knowledge, he felt that certain adaptations are needed to construct a unitary educational theory. In How we think he wrote:

“Some might feel that the scientific attitude is irrelevant in teaching children” but he insisted that “native and unspoiled attitude of childhood, marked by ardent curiosity, fertile imagination, and love of experimental inquiry is very near to the scientific mind.

John Dewey (1859-1952)
Dewey’s work and thought have had far reaching influence on twentieth century life generally and in particular on educational thought. (He went to and had influence in Russia, China, Turkey, South America as well as North America.) His theory of education was in accordance with the modern mind.

Education is always a most sensitive spot, because it is in the educational system a community discloses its conscious and deliberate preserving of its character, its deepest sense of identity in its awareness of its standards.
Dewey was an outspoken humanist. Intelligence and science were close to being synonymous: ‘our best authenticated knowledge’.

The structure of God’s creation has to be taken apart and reassembled according to man’s autonomy.

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