Inquiry into Inquiries: Essays in Social Theory

By Arthur F. Bentley; Sidney Ratner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
The Factual Space and Time of Behavior

I

I wish to make a report on the space-time of behavioral fact. In alternative phrasing, one may understand this to mean behavioral space-time, the spatial and temporal forms of behaviors, or its factual extensions and durations. The phrasing itself makes little difference in our present stage of ignorance in this field of research, providing one does not let his chosen words glitter so brightly as to blind him to the issues involved. I shall limit myself to a summary in the simplest form I can command.

Our consideration will be confined to "facts" in the sense of "scientific facts," where these latter are taken to be the content of the best technical observation and report of our time. By explicit postulation, behavioral facts will be included among scientific facts in this sense. This means that other manners of attributing factuality, actuality, or reality to behavioral facts are here irrelevant.

Ethnologists report much variety of space apprehension in different parts of the world. For Western Europe and America, from early Greece to the generation preceding our own, we find a three-dimensional space serving alike for practical life and for science. This space secured a successfully dogmatic statement from Euclid, was provided with improved technical tools by Descartes, and in Newton's hands became a formal space which, along with its companion, formal time, established itself as the "absolute" background of all physical inquiry.

The scientific authority of the Newtonian formalization held unchallenged until the present generation. Even psychologists, as candidates for reputable scientific status, found no alternative to fitting all their inquiry into the frame it offered. Nevertheless in their direct study of their own peculiar behavioral facts, psychologists could never technically hold them within the Newtonian form. Experimentation could achieve a little measurement with a yardstick and a little registration of time with a clock, but never more than enough to skirt the fringe of the be-

____________________
From Journal of Philosophy, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 18 ( August 28, 1941), pp. 477-85.

-214-

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