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