Presentation on theme: "上課使用 Classroom Only 社會科學概論 社會科學概論 高永光老師. THE SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE In section A we considered the scientific attitude as exemplified in the works and."— Presentation transcript:
THE SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE In section A we considered the scientific attitude as exemplified in the works and thought of three outstanding figures of the Renaissance. Now I want to discuss the main characteristics and implications of that attitude in a more general way and make some reference to its impact on the social sciences. The discussion will be organized under five headings:
(1) the source of scientific knowledge; (2) the demarcation of science; (3) Platonic idealism and Aristotelian essentialism; (4) the Homeric view of events; and (5) the idea of progress.
1.The source of scientific knowledge The discussion of Galileo's Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina above noted the extent to which he defended himself against the charge of heresy by contending that the only source of knowledge about natural phenomena is the direct examination of the phenomena themselves.
This ran counter to the view, widely held at the time, that established religious authority has a great deal to say about what is true and what is false, in respect of natural phenomena as well as in matters of theology, morals, and politics. This view of science was of the greatest importance in the modern history of Western civilization.
It helped to establish the principle of intellectual freedom, which was extended to areas of human thought and experience well beyond the domain of natural phenomena - to politics, economics, ethics and even to religion. Once the power of authority had been broken in the field of science, it became possible to release its grip in other areas of human life and thought.
So far as the social sciences are concerned, it is doubtful whether they could have come into existence in their modern form without the achievements of the natural sciences that preceded them.
2.The demarcation of science The scientists of the Renaissance did not contend that the scientific method was applicable to all areas of thought and experience. On the contrary, their view was that the method was limited to the investigation of natural phenomena. This notion that scientific matters are demarcated from others is still held by modern science.
I want now to illustrate the non- demarcational view by discussing briefly the Thomistic concept of ‘ natural law’, and then try to clarify what is meant by ‘ science’ by examining the principles upon which it is demarcated from other areas of study.
Christian theology experienced diverse lines of development through the writings of many different theologians, especially during the first few centuries of the Christian era. A systematic statement of Christian theology was not achieved until the thirteenth century by the work of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) His writings, especially the Summa Theologica, have exerted enormous influence on theology, and philosophy more generally, down to the present day.
In 1879 Pope Leo XIII declared his work to embody the authoritative doctrine of the Catholic Church. It was through Aquinas that the ideas of Aristotle became an important component of Catholic philosophy.
3. Platonic idealism and Aristotelian essentialism The most important of the thinkers of ancient Greece were Plato (c. 427-c.347 B.C.) and his pupil, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). Their ideas have continued to exercise profound influence upon Western thought down to the present day.
There are significant respects, however, in which the modern scientific attitude is contrary to the Platonic and Aristotelian outlooks and, to an important extent, the rise of modern science represents a breaking away from these ancient thinkers. Plato advanced the view that sense experience is, to a considerable degree, misleading or even illusory.
The true world is abstract, consisting of the universal ‘ideas’ of things rather than concrete specific items. Knowledge consists of understanding the ‘pure form’ of things, which is perfect, not the worldly examples, which are not. Obviously, such a view does not encourage one to search for knowledge of nature by empirical methods, since these serve only to provide sense data, which are regarded as inherently unreliable.
The proper route to knowledge is by using the powers of rational thought in a purely abstract way, such as in mathematics, dissociated from the world of sense experience, to grasp the pure form or idea.
4.The Homeric view Homer was a Greek poet (or group of poets) who lived in the eighth century B.C., four centuries before Plato and Aristotle. The great epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey are still read and form part of the culture of Western civilization. The feature of Homer that I want to note here is the view projected in these poems of the determinants of human and social events: whatever happens is due to the will of the gods.
In the field of natural phenomena the counterpart of this is the belief in witchcraft, occult powers, and the like. It is obvious that no science could be constructed if the Homeric view of the world were correct. We could not discover any laws of nature because there would be none that could not be broken or altered by the desires, or whims, of the gods.
The best we could do would be to psychoanalyse the gods in order to understand how they behaved; which is in fact what the Homeric poems concern themselves with when the narrative seeks to provide some explanation of events. The natural sciences have extracted themselves altogether from the Homeric view.
The modern physicist, or chemist or biologist, regards phenomena as explicable in terms of laws of nature, which are not subject to alteration by either human or ‘supernatural’ powers. The laws of nature furnish the explanation of why a cannonball will fall if dropped from a height, and why a bird will not. The flight of the bird is not contrary to the laws of nature, but in accordance with them.
5. The idea of progress The idea of progress is so prominent in the culture of modern Western civilization that it is difficult to believe intellectual historians when they tell us that its appearance in Western thought can be dated back no further than the seventeenth century. But the burden of historical evidence seems, broadly speaking, to support the view that the modern era differs from the earlier ones in this very important aspect.
The social sciences developed concurrently with the growth of the idea of progress in Western culture. Undoubtedly they were both a cause and a consequence of that idea. Given the orientation of social science to the pragmatic analysis of social problems, it is unlikely that it could flourish in a static society or one in which people believe that knowledge has no influence upon events.
In these respects the way for the development of the social sciences was prepared by the earlier successes of the natural sciences in demonstrating the possibility of secure progress in knowledge.