The Origins of Science: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Western Thought

The Origins of Science: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Western Thought

The Origins of Science: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Western Thought

The Origins of Science: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Western Thought

Excerpt

My aim in this book is to explain science from its historical and psychological origins.

To explain the concepts of science has always been the task of philosophy. In the first part of the book, I argue that traditional philosophy cannot fulfil this task, because it has not kept up with science. Philosophy and science, however, originated together with the Greeks, whose attitude of rationality, indeed, made science possible. Instead of classical epistemology, therefore, the depth psychology of today has to be used in order to understand the problems of knowledge. We do not acquire knowledge by a conscious, intellectual process of perception alone; unconscious processes are in fact more important. The search for knowledge is the natural expression of a human drive; and the development of science is then part of Man's evolution. Thus the growth of scientific ideas is explained scientifically, by means of the theory of psycho-analysis.

The second part consists of two main chapters, on the Atom and on Causality. Reality is the concern of the scientist and it is exemplified by the idea of object, or of matter. The development of this idea from its beginnings in Ionia to the Atomists is described. This historical development is shown to be parallel to the emotional or mental evolution which human beings undergo in infancy and adolescence. The unconscious mechanisms that underlie our thought processes -- of abstraction, generalization, etc. -- are thus made manifest. Then the idea of cause is traced from its origin in the Greek aitia, or guilt, to modern determinism and statistics.

The third part of the book is concerned with the idea of truth. The argument is drawn from the history of mathematics and from logic. Four main ideas, apart from number, are discussed, i.e. symbol, system, rule, and truth. The Pythagorean concept of number is the beginning of mathematical symbolism and offers us an insight into the thought processes underlying it through the well-known phantasies that were expressed by the Greeks. Formal reasoning in the western sense developed from . . .

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