The Philosophical Foundation of His Ideological Legitimation3


G. Domination as Ideology



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G. Domination as Ideology


The genderist imagery of science, in which the male scientist "probes the skirts of nature, probing her depths, unlocking her secrets, and subjecting her to man's dominion" has a bizarre history (Easlea 1980, 1981, 1982; Merchant 1980; Samson 1982, and printed herein). Macho" science provides vital support for the oppressive uses to which science is applied.

This list of ideological components of science is not exhaustive. One could cite the search for simplicity and patterns which obediently appear a la Virginia Woolf (One searches for patterns and patterns obediently appear."), the tendency to "geometrize" theory (to formulate it deductively, from basic assumptions, which, however, were originally inductively, empirically obtained), reductionism, and (macroscopic) determinism, among others.



V. Philosophical Foundations of the Ideology of Science


Much of the ideology of science just reviewed is supported by the neo-positivist logical-empirical philosophy associated with the Anglo-Saxon School of Thought (Radnitzsky 1973). It derives from the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle which, in its original excesses, restricted "meaningfulness" to empirically verifiable science or pure logic (for which, at least in the Edinburgh School [Barnes 1974], the hope of empirical verification still persists). Hence, epistemology, being more than aridly logical and less than empirically verifiable, except in an indirect pragmatic sense, was excluded from consideration. Popper's greatest contribution was in overcoming the resistance to the epistemology of science as a legitimate ("meaningful") area of scholarly endeavor (Popper 1952).

Due to the efforts of Philip Frank (1957) and others, the criterion for the validity of mathematics was voided of its empirical content and reduced to pure logical consistency. Bacon's "Queen of the Sciences" was no longer a science, or as some philosophers like Bunge (1973) prefer to say, it was recognized as a "formal" instead of a "factual" science--terminology which has the unfortunate consequence of blurring the distinction between logical and empirical criteria for validity. Science seeks and strongly prefers logical consistency, but does not rigorously insist on it, as the Bohr model [to paraphrase Feyerabend, the best lousy theory then available"] of the atom attests. Empiricism is the sine qua non of science as logical consistency is the sine qua non of mathematics. Thus, logic, the descendant of "Reason" from the Enlightenment, became an equal partner in the narrow Logical-Empirical (LE) criterion for validity.

Certainly there was, and will continue to be, serious concern about the perversions of personal prejudice, parochialism and cultural biases as they distort our perceptions and proclamations about the nature of the world about us. But the justification for an inherently dehumanizing ideology of science was provided by the Vienna Circle in its zeal to develop a value-free epistemology and with its desire to help overcome political obscurantism and economic floundering in Central Europe. Its claims of formal ethical neutrality applied strictly to theory validation, not practitioner motivation (Nagel 1936), but an ideology of science was launched that conveniently ignored this distinction.

Hence, it was not merely the increasing specialization of modern science, but the neutral, value-free, objective methodological ethic of the logical-empirical philosophy of science which divided political "science" from economics and both from politics, ethics and morality. Philosophic terminology--"physical or natural laws," "observational facts," "scientific knowledge"--represented absorption of elements of the ideology of science, which dialectically depends upon its philosophic foundation.



VI. Conclusion: Remedy--A Critical Theory of Science



"In order to understand not only science itself, but also the place of science in our civilization, we need a coherent science of concepts and laws within which the natural sciences, as well as philosophy and the humanities have their place." (Phillip Frank 1957)

(Of course, as Marx proclaimed, it is not only understanding, but progressive change which is required.)


"...it has come about that a generation so amazingly proficient in the practice of science can be so amazingly impotent in the understanding of it...the state of unselfconscious automation in which science finds itself today is due to the lack throughout its history of a critical school working within the scientific movement itself..."

--Herbert Dingle

(Quoted in Frank 1957:XIV)
What Whitehead (Frank 1957) said about the university may be applied with greater validity to science:

The idea of science is not so much knowledge as power. Its business is to convert the knowledge of a boy into the power of a man." (Frank 1957: XIX)


A theory must subsume the area it hopes to explain. We must strive for understanding "adequate to the fullness of the phenomena" (Palmer 1969:100). Even the most specialized field has a history, a raison d'être, an epistemology, a methodology, a socio-political-economic context, a politics, a sociology, a philosophy and, likely, an identifiable ideology. Exploration and criticism of those philosophical foundations that lead to, or justify an ideology which promotes and defends normative deviance in science can be considered an attempt to contribute to the development of such a critical theory of science.

Criticism of the "perverse rationality" of the scientistic view of science has taken many forms. Weber (1968) distinguished between "formal" and "substantial" rationality. Mannheim (1954) used the terms "functional" and "substantial." Habermas (1973) and Schroyer (1971) cite "instrumental rationality" or "technical rationality." Related ideas are the "one-dimensionality" of Marcuse (1964) and the "compulsion of technique" of Ellul (1964), as is the Pythagorean notion of pure science as a demonstration of class and superiority, justifying knowledge without responsibility (Bernal 1954). The common thread in these criticisms and theories is the argument that it is not rational to merely promote efficient accomplishment of perhaps irrational ends.

However, the analytical techniques of positivism have merit as a paragon of logical structure despite the tendencies toward reductionism, monism, physicalism, mechanization and the emulation of Euclid and metamathematics Nonetheless, they must be balanced by a critical theory of science (Wellmer 1971), of its institutions (Horkheimer 1968), its role in society, its impact upon intellectual climate, and its interaction with political institutions. Clearly, we need a normative theory of the politics of science, for which Don Price appealed (Price 1965), despite its current lack of academic respectability.

We need to integrate knowledge and values in order to obtain a vitally necessary sense of direction. Understanding is enhanced by context. Not merely specialized fractions, but the whole deserves consideration. An anthropology of knowledge", including scientific understanding should be developed--not to deny objectivity, but to gain context. Empiricism must serve criticism. Epistemology itself must be subject to criticism. Reason must be joined and enhanced by concern. The "fallacy of objectivity" (Husserl 1965) in data, interpretation, and especially epistemology must be countered. The "quarantine model of science", free of politics and values, must be challenged. Science must be recognized as something more than logic plus semantics. We need a humanistic reaction against the excesses of analysis. Skepticism has long characterized science. Not merely skepticism, but critical thinking is required. Neither humanity, nor any of its works, including the purest of sciences, can be entirely captured within the limits of the terminology of mathematics and science, as useful as these terms may be within their spheres of applicability and relevance.

The development of a critical theory of science, the recognition of normative deviance of U.S. science, and a corresponding increase in social consciousness by practitioners will hopefully lead to organized, institutional resistance, or at least to reluctance to participate in the malevolent misuses of science. This would help, in turn, to marshal progressive humanistic forces in the scientific profession in a movement to restructure our social institutions in a more rational and benevolent form.

The development of a humanely rational science can contribute to the emergence of an enlightened external society. Scientific workers have a duty to be aware of the broad social context of their work and of its social consequences. They have a duty to create truly responsible professional scientific institutions and to participate in efforts to improve society as a whole. Dignity and respect for one's intellect and for one's conscience and humanity demand no less.



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