Science and Freedom

Science and Freedom

Science and Freedom

Science and Freedom

Excerpt

The purpose of this essay is to discuss the use of the scientific method in understanding human behavior and the application of scientific knowledge to the management of human affairs. Such a discussion is not science, either pure or applied; it is a mixture of hypothesis with philosophy and argument. It is not addressed primarily to those who are building the new social sciences. If it helps them directly, so much the better, but my more immediate purpose is to help create the kind of moral and intellectual atmosphere in which they can do their work.

The thesis is that science can be used as one of the tools by which to establish the conditions in which human powers may realize human values. In order to come closer to the fact, I choose a value, freedom, postulating that freedom is a good and describing the conditions in which freedom can be made real.

What science can do, both science as description and science as knowledge in action, is indicated. In an historical sense, such an essay, whatever its merits, is a contribution to the development of a scientific humanism. There is now, in the superficial layers of the public mind, a momentary revulsion against science. That will pass. A cool appraisal of our resources, if it can be made free of institutional envy and party rage, will show that the most promising line of development now in social philosophy would have to be this use of exact methods to establish the conditions in which our powers can attain our values, a truly scientific and truly humane scientific humanism.

The words are not so fresh as they were a few years ago, but "scientific" and "humane" are still the best adjectives to describe our purpose. To struggle to better in every possible way the lives of all human beings is humanism. In so far as may be possible, this attitude will compel us in all our thinking to take persons . . .

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