"Science of Man": Needs a Paradigm


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“Science of Man”: Needs a Paradigm

The main philosophical problems of modern society are intimately associated with Tom and Jane’s enchantment with Science. Normal science is, for too many, an enchanted idol that is perceived as the savior of humanity. No matter what dastardly things humans may do, Science will save us.

Science—normal science—as Thomas Kuhn labels it in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” moves forward in a “successive transition from one paradigm to another”. A paradigm defines the theory, rules and standards of practice. “In the absence of a paradigm or some candidate for paradigm, all of the facts that could possible pertain to the development of a given science are likely to seem equally relevant.”

The Newtonian scientific paradigm was a mathematical, quantified, pattern capable of reducing reality to an atomic level. It’s ideal, if there was one, was man as a machine or more likely a cog in a machine. In such a science we lose the individual man and woman. Rousseau was offering something entirely different. It was holistic and non-reducible. It was a gestalt that included man as neutral manipulator of scientific experiments but also as a subject with values who was a totally thinking, feeling, free agent.

“Rousseau showed that morality had to be instrumented, by man according to an ideal formulated by him; the science of man could only have meaning as an active ideal-type of science.” Newtonian paradigms left no room for such and ideal. It had no room for a holistic woman or man. The solution proposed by Rousseau was to make humanity first and science second; science was to be the servant of wo/man rather than wo/man as the servant of science.

The paradigm of Newtonianism turned out to be a tougher nut than the Enlightenment could crack. Such individuals as Darwin and Spencer appeared on the scene and quickly humanity was sequestered again into the background by Science. Dewey’s long life time proved insufficient to the challenge and the reason why: “pragmatism contained no moral criteria by means of which a man-based value science could be instrumented.”

Marx recognized the problem inherent in scientism and shifted ground from Rousseau’s ideal-type to the possible-type. Marx said that we should do what is possible and possible in our time. Marx advocated the victory of the laboring class.

“What are the main problems of modern society; how can man’s situation in the world be improved?” Marx determined that the Newtonian paradigm was morally unedifying; the social problem was the alienation of man. But with Marx the ideal vision of the Enlightenment was swallowed up in the Revolution. The ideal of a full and free liberation of the human potential was destroyed in the Revolution.

And therein lay the rub. What is a paradigm of normal science as Kuhn so succinctly wrote about and which, as a concept, was unrecognized in Kuhntonion form a century ago, but was nevertheless, even then, the heart of normal science.

Kuhn says that practitioners of normal science have: a paradigm that makes a science normal when most if not all members agree upon a theory as being true. When this agreement breaks down then a new paradigm is agreed upon. The paradigm defines a map for action. The thing that separates a paradigm from some kind of, green light and red light group agreement about crossing the street is that there is more careful control, calculation, instrumentation, and a greater willingness to place before the world a conjecture to be evaluated as to its truth. A paradigm defines the theory, rules, and standards of practice.

It seems that almost all domains of knowledge wish to emulate Science. Science for most people is technology and if questioned we would probably find that science means physics. We have placed Science on a very high pedestal because technology has been so successful. Every domain of knowledge wishes to be as good as Science.

I suspect that the way to judge how well a domain of knowledge is like science is to discover if it does or does not have a paradigm. Like Kuhn notes in his book that without a paradigm any knowledge is as good as any other. Paradigm converts chaos into system.

Many of the ideas and quotes in this OP are derived from Ernest Becker’s book “Beyond Alienation”. Me and Ernest agree that the “main philosophical problem for modern society” is that we need a paradigm for the “science of wo/man”. Have you a paradigm for this new science? Me and Ernest do but we disagree on some aspects.
Whereas this is a fine essay, it is basically a rehash of your prior essay.

You have added little in the way of new discussion.

And do not we inherit the science of man from the Enlightenment? We're still basically Rousseauites.
I enjoyed reading your post; I add these comments in the spirit of intellectual adventure and to place ‘Kuhn’s paradigm’ in the context of recent commentaries:

The pursuit of ‘truth’ (as contrasted with rationality) is a relatively recent phenomenon. Following Foucault (1980) the pursuit of science as a pursuit of truth emerged from the dialectic between evolutionism and socialism. Whilst the synchronic analysis of the pursuit of science as the pursuit of truth explores the way truth functions to perpetuate the structure of the ideology that investigates it, diachronic analysis suggests that the pursuit of truth is a social practice and that through reflexive analysis, a form of dialectical truth emerges – a truth that is inclusive of human experience.

As opposed to post-Enlightenment theories based on the principle of a universal scientific rationality, Kuhn and others investigated science as an emergent social phenomenon with ‘truth’ related to the history and philosophy of its paradigm, e.g. the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge posited that history and philosophy are relativistic cultural variables affecting the construction of scientific knowledge.

Recent theories challenge both universalist and relativist approaches:
Actor-network theory (Bruno Latour) denies the pre-emptive role of social structure in the establishment of scientific truth;
Donna Harraway who questions the rationality of scientific truth;
Pluralism in interpretation of truth e.g. like multiple interpretations of religious texts;
Deconstruction post-modernists (Derrida, Foucault) who claimed that language ordered the chaos of the relativistic world.

Dunbar (1996:103) notes that “science and religion use radically different methods for making their claims about the world. One is a matter of belief, in which revealed truth holds centre stage as the final arbiter of all disputes, whereas to the other, individual scepticism and rigorous testing of hypotheses based on logical deduction and reference to empirical evidence are all important.” However Dunbar (1996:103) notes that at another level science and religion are “virtually identical” as both serve a common purpose of explaining the phenomenal world we inhabit and aiding and informing passage through life. Dunbar (1996:104-5) concludes that science and religion, requiring fourth-order intentionality (uniquely possessed by humans) as prerequisite, are therefore artefacts of human evolution.

This leads to Winch’s position that, both science and supernatural belief are based on unverifiable axioms; faith in meteorology, a science whose principles are not widely understood is in actuality, blind trust: “all knowledge is culturally constructed and…it can therefore only be deemed right or wrong within its own cultural context” (Eriksen 2001:231).

Foucault (1980:54) reflects on the way in which scientific discoveries appear discontinuous – “sudden take-offs…hastenings of evolution…transformations which fail to correspond to the calm, continuist image that is normally accredited.” Foucault (1980:54-5) suggests that this apparent discontinuity is a sign of something else: “a modification in the rules of formation of statements which are accepted as scientifically true.” Paraphrasing Foucault (1980:54): It is not a change in content (refuting old errors or recovery of old truths) or theoretical form (paradigm shift) but rather that which governs statements and the way that statements govern each other in relation to verification or falsification by scientific procedures.
Whereas this is a fine essay, it is basically a rehash of your prior essay.

You have added little in the way of new discussion.

And do not we inherit the science of man from the Enlightenment? We're still basically Rousseauites.

I think you fail to read my posts.

It appears to me that some people accept only reason as a means for accessing truth. Religious people find that revelation and reason are both sources of truth. How they settle which to accept in a conflict is beyond me.
I suppose it depends on exposure and susceptibility to indoctrination and rationality respectively...which is greater - the believer or the rationalist - will depend on ones genes and culture.