Archive for May 2007

Lecture 33

17 May, 2007

The subjective world of mind over against the objective world of matter – when it comes to it, how can the subjective being have knowledge of the objectuve being?The correspondence theory of truth – we know of mind things are parallel to the structure of the universe.

Many scientists have abandoned a fixed order of the universe! It has been replaced by the idea of a model.

Ontology and epistemology is very different in the Calvinist theory of thought. Last time we looked at the Locke and Cartesian background. Sketching the problem as it has developed in the modern world – there have been some dissenters, Jaspers, Lévy-Bruhl and Ortega y Gasset etc. but there was a lack of insight into what makes the scientific scientific.

Some call that other knowledge ‘saga’ or ‘myth’ – a groping after something they can’t properly access, because they lack a clear insight into what makes the scientific scientific.

Take any scientific textbook – somewhere there will be a chapter on the scientific method. Scientists talk as if every one knows what science is – but no one does. The criteria are deficient.

There is a necessity to define precisely what is meant by scientific knowledge. For pre-scientific, ‘myth’ is not adequate.

The Cartesian search for certainty, for absolute certainty in the light of reason brought a crisis not only in religious circles which built upon his foundation (for example, Nicolas Malebranche) but also of those followers of his interested in natural science and this is why even today though some are appreciating the limits of the validity of scientific results and to understand there is knowledge outside the limits of the scientific, we are still beset with confusion on all the important points: what is the distinguishing mark science? what is the nature of that other knowledge?

We will come to this but do one other thing first

How is one to distinguish between science and non-scientific? We have got to come to grips with this fundamental matter.

We begin by re-examining; take a new and close look at real-life situations – the structure of God’s creation is revelatory.

Let me describe/ analyse a number of incidents – some taken from my book The Relation of the Bible to Learning

1. Luke the surgeon
(a) Luke is a busy young surgeon. He wakes up early tp perform an operation. His ‘victim’ is his long-time friend Mark. A couple of weeks ago Mark expressed a number of complaints. Luke talked to him of a number of things – the noise and disorder from adolescence, a second mortgage. All pressures and tensions that might have a bearing on his complaint.

Now Mark was in for surgery. Luke does his work. There were differences in relations on the two successive occasions.

The first the two men talked about the awareness of the connectedness of life relations – as a whole person. In the operating room there was a different realtion. Both were present, yet mark the patient, is not present in one sense, he is not conscious. Luke is ot in wholeness of person relating to Mark as a whole person. Mark under the covers, so is a large part of Luke. He is a steady analytical ‘Cyclops’ – one cycloptic eye of analysis is peering into the organs of Mark. They were not confronting each other as a whole person. Luke was reduced to an analytical aspect, Mark reduced to a biotic functioning.

It is this difference we have in mind when experiencing pre-scientific and scientific. The biotic is a functional aspect of this person the analytic is a functional aspect of this person the relation between two kinds of function.

(b) As Luke is on the way to his surgery where he is to perform an operation he is about to enter the front door of the hospital he finds himself suddenly face to face with the man who had been his favourite professor in the medical school, a man who, though now retired, likes to linger about the hospital. For one second their eyes meet, they shake hands and exchange a few words and pass.

A few hours later we discover our young surgeon in a nearby dining room waiting for a couple of his colleagues to arrive. He is sitting at the table lost in thought. He is, in fact, thinking of his brief early morning encounter with old ‘Doc’ Warren. The old man, so our young surgeon is thinking to himself, still cuts quite a figure. In spite of his years he still walks sturdily, appears firm, has eyes like flint; he remains still a ‘warm’ personality, with eyes that literally draw you to him. Our surgeon smiles faintly to himself as he recalls his renewed experience of the incisiveness of the old man’s eyes, something which in the old days had provoked frequent student comment. And again this morning, our surgeon muses, he had had repeated his sense of something unusually harmonious and pleasing about the professor’s presence; and then, of course, also his gregariousness.

You will have noticed that in the dining room it takes our surgeon a long time to ‘recount’ what he experienced in but a moment of time early in the morning at the front door of the hospital. Further, at the table the surgeon is able to distinguish a number of ‘sides’ or ‘aspects’ to his ‘experience’ of old ‘Doc’ Warren. At the moment of their meeting he was not strictly aware of any such diversity of aspects; he had simply experienced the ‘Doc.’ Yet if he had not experienced them in the morning he would not have been able to recall them as experienced at noon. But there they were. The eyes like flint (organic). The warm personality and drawing eyes (psychical). The piercing or incisive look (logical). The gregariousness (social). The pleasing harmony (aesthetic). In the morning these aspects had been experienced only implicitly; at noon, explicitly. These several aspects become the fields of investigation of the special sciences. The science of the organic, for example, disentangles (abstracts) from its interwovenness in the whole concrete experience that which is peculiarly organic, that which is subject to organic laws. Psychology does the same thing (or should) with ‘the psychical’; logic or analytics, with ‘the analytical’; aesthetics, with ‘the aesthetic.’

In daily life, however, we experience persons like ‘Doc’ Warren, things, events and institutions concretely, i.e. in the wholeness of their meaning.

The pre-scientific is integral knowledge in the sense that it is the knowledge we can and do obtain of persons as persons, of things as things, of events as events, of acts as acts, of relations as relations, of institutions as institutions, in the intact or concrete wholeness of several aspects or sides of the experience.

Scientific knowledge is an explicit drawing away of such aspects as we find to constitute these person, things etc.

towards the end of the school year a young man find the right place to take his beloved on a picnic. The tree on the hill, under which the young man chooses to picnic with his beloved, is for that youth ‘good’ not only in the biotic sense, but also psychically, socially, aesthetically, etc. But our youth is not aware of all these distinctions. (As soon as he is he abandons, for a moment, the everyday attitude.) Rather, he grasps the ‘sense’ of the situation integrally. This kind of experience is presupposed in the later scientistic abstraction; it is thus not only non-scientific but also pre-scientific. This common or everyday experience we call naïve experience (from Latin, nativum, meaning ‘original’).


Lecture 32

6 May, 2007

In Greece theoria, in modern times Wissenschaft, scientific knowledge – any subject studied by the scientific method.

In both traditions there is a tendency to regard what is handled by strict logical procedure can be regarded as valid knowledge.

It is obligatory upon us to distinguish two kinds of knowledge:

1. Scientific. Not as the moderns see it – as the only form of knowledge, not dependent on anything else.
2. Pre-scientific. Knowing begins here. God created a revelational world. God’s creation the stones, plants, animals, humans, relations between them comes to man as revelational power – power of revelation God has put in them. It deals with something science doesn’t deal with.

What constitutes the criterion of scientific? In all books there is confusion, there is nothing satisfactory.

Science always deals with abstractions from these things concrete things, persons and relationship, which God presents to us.

It is natural for us to know these things – the general structure of these things, children know the difference between plants and animals. It has not been lais on them by our culture!

Science never deals with concrete man or animal – has to deal with some abstracted aspect of man. What about psychology? It doesn’t deal with concrete men, it deals with some abstraction. What about the State in politics. The State is not just a matter of the jural, economics deals with the state too. There is no science that deals with the State or with marriage or any concrete relationship of thing. This has not been recognised within the history of western philosophy.

What is the difference between these kinds of knowledge? Before we get to this question want to look at some places where there has been a softening in attitude towards science being the only valid form of knowledge.

1. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (1857-1939)
The change is marked in the life of Lévy-Bruhl, a brilliant and daring French philosopher and anthropologist. He died at the outset of the WWII.

We have already remarked on the inclination of the scientistic circles to run together logical, rational and analytic with scientific.

Lévy-Bruhl had had that education also in France and proceeded from positivist or scientistic assumptions. Scientific knowledge is the single standard for all human thinking and knowing (the positivists (identified them)

Lévy-Bruhl engaged in a study of primitive peoples in North Africa (cultural anthropology) and came to the conclusion that the primitives ‘mind’ was devoid of the power of abstraction and unable to construct even the most elementary laws of nature. This ‘mind’ he concluded was thus to be characterised as ‘pre-logical’ and ‘mystical’.

This viewpoint was held seriously by anthropologists of repute. However, in 938 Lévy-Bruhl abandoned his distinction between the pre-logical and the logical mind precisely because “he found so much evidence of quite logical thinking in the ordinary affairs of life even to the most priitive tribes of today” (W F Albright From the Stone Age to Christianity ). Lévy-Bruhl began to see that logical doesn’t always mean logical in the scientific sense.

Reading: Peter Winch The Idea of the Social Science

Knowing is much more than thinking.
An express acknowledge ment of the limitation of scientific knowledge by its very nature is afforded us by an essay by the late Karl Japsers:

2. Karl Jaspers ‘Myth and religion’ in Myth and Christianity Noonday Press (June 1958)
The lecture was originally given to Swiss theologians at Basel.

A crucial feature of modern science is that it does not provide total world view because it recognises that this is impossible. In fact, it was science that liberated us from total views of the world and for the first time in history. All previous efforts have already clung to general conceptions of this kind because it takes seriously the principles of cogent, universal and systematic knowledge science is always aware of its limitations understands the particularity of its insights and knows that it nowhere explores Being, but only objects in tis world. It studies these methodologically aware of its boundaries and of its inability to give guidance in life.

The insights are available to and are accepted by all men every where who can grasp them. No earlier rationalistic system, no philosophy is ever as successful in this insight as modern science with its methods. But where questions of faith are concerned the impact of modern science is no more disintegrating that that of the universal rationalism of earlier times. Only a basic misunderstanding of modern science, as is very common even among specialised researchers, leads to such a conclusion.

Down to the present this science has been accessible to the masses only in the terms of fianl results, refering to the totality of things, and form that absolutises and distorts science giving rise to the scientifi overview these reflect scientific superstition rather than real knowledge of the insights inot the meaning, contnet and boundary of science.

One more illustration:
3. José Ortega y Gasset
The growing acknowledgment of the limits of scientific knowledge written y the foremost Spansih philosopher who went to Germany to study under Willem Dilthey (an intellectual historian) [couldn’t?] so returned and studied his works. He spent considerable time in Latin America.

Scientific truth is characterised by its exactness and certainty of prediction, these admirable qualities are at the cost of remaining at the plane of secondary problems leaving intact the ultimate and decisive questions …
… science is but a small part of the human mind and organism where its stops man does not stop

Lecture 31

1 May, 2007

Session 31

Assigned Readings
You have already read Roots chapter 5 on the ‘Great synthesis’ this was reminder of what we looked at September last (1983/4?).

The principle of subsidiarity – Aquinas took it over from Aristotle and developed it. It is different from sphere sovereignty. two different ways of regarding human relationships.

Now need to read Roots chapter 6 on ‘Classical humanism’. It mirrors what we are doing in class now.

A book by McKendree Langley [1945-2005] The Practice of Political Spirituality . He had a Presbyterian background, studied at Jackson Mississippi before moving to Dordt and then doing a dissertation on Kuyper. I wrote a foreword to his book.

John Dewey was an outspoken humanist – he not only put autonomous man at the cnetreof his universe he had a firm hold of the cosmic process by using his autonomous intelligence as an instrument of control so as to determine a course of events.It is to be decided, according to Dewey, according to science for intelligence and science are, for Dewey, close to being synonymous. Dewey wanted to make pragmatism like science, so he called it instrumentalism.

The human has been reduced to a scientist.
All human knowing has been reduced to the kind of knowing a scientist has.

All thinking/ intelligence/ knowing (are they the same thing?) comes from science.

Science is for Dewey our best authentic form of knowledge. He reminds us a bit of George Bundy’s lecture to the freshmen at Harvard.

Dewey, Philosophy of Education:

It [the school] must accept whole-heartedly the scientific way, not merely of technology but of life. in order to achieve the promise of modern democratic ideas.

Democracy: all people have their say, no matter how stupid!

The modern world thought began with the new physics (a rejection of the geo-centric) out of it the new philosophy arose, which is identified as Cartesian rationalism.

They attempted a new synthesis of thought, this in terms of the the kind of reality that the scientific results of the new physics disclose. they assumed the new physics revealed the truth about the world.

Read Bertrand Russell The problems of Philosophy the first 6 chapters to see how famous people say things of fools

The reality this physics was supposed to be disclosing was called matter. Thus there arose a view that the ‘world of matter’ which the physicists studied and measured was the real world over against it was the ordinary world of experience, the world of persons, events, institutions that they would come into contact with and which became regarded as the world of mere appearance.

This world of appearance was pre-scientific. There is another dimension of this science-oriented mind which should be mentioned her. This way of thinking was in seed form in the Renaissance.

(Between the Renaissance and the eighteenth century Enlightenment was the development of mathematical physics.)

The historians of the age of the Enlightenment who thought of their own generation as the first to apply the scientific test to everything were inclined to consider all previous historical work as ‘pre-scientific’ history and for that reason not worthy of the scientific historian. generally, they looked upon the past as history of human vanities or errors.

Reads from R G Collingwood Idea of History

Notice the implicit identification of rational and knowledge with the scientific way of knowing.

The sixteenth century has been traditionally divided into empiricism and rationalism, but Locke’s empiricism is a form of rationalism.

Scientific humanists elevated science above all other kinds and had come to identify rational and valid with scientific. In such a frame of reference as that non-scietific and pre-scientific could only refer to something sub-scientific, that is, not quite up to snub, short of the mark.

Pre-scientific and non-scientific really means unscientific and ultimately having little worth, if not outright deception and false.

The world God presents to us in the creation of everyday life is thrown away, is rejected in order scientifically to construct from scratch to reconstruct, to make a world of his own.

In different circles pre-scientific may be called poetical, mythical, saga, legend, but in all cases it renders no valid knowledge of the so-called external world.

Valid and authentic knowledge does not arise except through scientific knowledge before that it is only qua knowledge, amorphous (unformed) material awaiting scientific forming.

This general view of modernity has functioned as a great leveller – the way of sceince – as such then it is the very opposite of what we mean.

We do not elevate scientific to be the sole authenticator of all experience. Rather we acknowledge two coordinate and different ways of knowing. The pre-scientific has always preceded the scientific and has a validity of its own., one that cannot be derived from the validity of the subsequently obtained scientific. We are therefore making bold to assert something that goes against this massive humanist tradition, and we are doing it not because some previous scholar, however great a reputation, has said it – an argument from authority – but because our continuing experience plainly attends to it and think about it. The light of divine revelation presses upon us that there are two ways of knowing and that there is some kind of relation between them.

A second and earlier form of scientific knowledge. Each represents different and distinct way man tunes into the world.

Reads from a colleague’s book:

“All chairs in my office originate from Kenton, Ohio ….

Frar from any line of continuity each form [of knowing] represents a particular and distinct way in which man tunes into the world, while it is true scientific knowledge arises as a development of our non-scientific knowledge. A person can change over from non-scientific atunement to scientific atunement very quickly, the shift back and forth can be very rapid indeed.

The structure of each- how I relate to it scientific and non-scientific – remain distinct the structure of one does not ever flow into the structure of the other kind and in the case of the linear continuity flow of functional change.

Don’t confuse scientistic with scientific. Scientistic is derived from scientism – a pagan exaggeration of the place of science; scientific derives from science.

In recent years there has been a decrease from the view of science as the sole sovereignty of the scientific method – a growing appreciation that it has a limited validity. there is something else beyond the sphere of science.

One strand of the student rebellion in the sixties and seventies is still with us – a hostility towards science – a backing away as it appears so abstracted from human life and its concerns. Students so aghast at the uses scientific knowledge has been put, eg, atomic and hydrogen bombs, chemical and bacteriological warfare. It is difficult to connect with interpersonal events and connections of life that they see around them. Starry-eyed science as the royal road to the abundant life is no longer a viable option for many of them. Some turn away completely to communes and love,

The real relation between science and everyday life has never been made clear, it is obscured by the levelling scientism of the modern mind.

They are becoming aware of the larger context of the scientific enterprise – but they don’t carry it through sufficiently. They are discovering the limitations of science within the whole fabric of human existence.

Unfortunately, they lack the larger frame of reference to get the insight into the real nature of the scientific enterprise.

Next time we shall look at some illustrations.