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Chapter Two: Wittgenstein and the Autonomy of Humanistic Understanding
1. Not Merely Destructive
? Wittgenstein was critical in two Kantian senses: o Kant explored the limits of pure reason; Wittgenstein investigated the limits of language
? Kant delimited reason in order to make room for faith; Wittgenstein (in the Tractatus) delimited language in order to make room for ineffable metaphysics, ethics and religion
? these were seen as forms of life beyond rational justification o Similar to Kant, Wittgenstein was a remorseless critic of the philosophical illusions that come about when the bounds of reason are transgressed
? behaviourism and dualism in psychology, intuitionism and Platonism in maths, foundationalism in epistemology and in philosophy of language
? yet this is not all negative: firstly, philosophy can achieve nothing based on illusion, and secondly, Wittgenstein gave detailed illustrations of the logical grammar of many problematic philosophical concepts. This is positive.
? THIRDLY, Wittgenstein was positive in the sense that he defended the autonomy of humanistic understanding (psychology, linguistics, history, social sciences etc) from scientism (methodological naturalism)
? Scientism is the illicit extension of scientific methodology and forms of explanation to humanistic understanding o the doctrine of the Unity of Science is a reductive form of scientism, vigorously propounded by the logical positivists
? e.g. behaviourism - the mental does not exist
? LOGICAL behaviourism - statements about the mental are reducible to statements about behaviour/dispositions to behave o methodological scientism is not reductive
? it recognises that social and psychological phenomena are not reducible to the physical, but retains causation - the mechanism of explanation in these cases is the same as that in the natural sciences
? Wittgenstein was not directly concerned with this problem, but was concerned with the nature of linguistic representation - hence with meaning and intentionality
2. Humanism, Science and the Study of Man
? The Renaissance marked a rebirth of humano-centrism, as had been practiced by the ancient civilizations o This humano-centrism went hand-in-hand with the emergent individualism of the rising bourgeoisie o the two preached rational reality, that the power of human reason can render the world intelligible, that the pursuit of knowledge accords with the dignity of man etc. o This humano-centrism led to the advocacy of the study of mankind. This is the genesis of modern humanism.
? At this time the theoretical sciences lagged behind, and shortly after the Renaissance spirit was over, the scientific revolution took off o Kepler, Galileo, Newton o teleology was mostly abandoned in favour of laws, though the laws posited were still seen as exhibiting design, and thus until Hume teleological residue remained o Bacon and Descartes were the philosophical spokesmen of the scientific revolution
? Bacon preached inductivism and experimentalism, Descartes preached rational abstraction from the data of experience
? Neither of these schools saw themselves as challenging the truths of Christianity, but as complementing them o arguably Judeo-Christian monotheism is the perfect seedbed for theoretical science: it recognises the reality of the natural world, whilst affirming the existence of a
supernatural world with the power to design the mechanisms of nature. This is opposed to Confucianism, or Hinduism In fact both inevitable challenged Christianity: o humanism was overwhelmingly secular; individualism challenged the Catholic doctrine (hence the rise of Protestantism) o science inevitably challenged the pre-scientific truths of religion; the first-generation philosophes adopted Deism rather than Christianity; and the third generation of enlightenment thinkers tended towards atheism and utilitarianism. Darwin gave a scientific, naturalism answer to the question of man's place in nature From the Enlightenment to 20th Century, science and humanism were allied against authoritarianism in doctrine, despotism in government, irrationality and inhumanity in sociopolitical arrangements o By the 20th Century religion had lost all authority on matters of fact, and its domain because values and norms. Science saw itself as providing value neutral offerings to socety As the 20th Century went on, rifts opened between science and humanism o the erosion of humanistic values and decline of high culture o transformation of the conceptions of the value of education and its harnessing to the needs of post-industrial society o devaluation of humanities in education o perceived danger of the power of knowledge unrestrained by understanding of humanity o AND at the theoretical and intellectual level of the dividing line between scientific methodology and humanism - is methodological naturalism valid or encroachment?
3. Scientism and the Doctrine of the Unity of Science
? Descartes fostered the vision of the Unity of Science o the Cartesian mechanism covered metaphysics, physics, medicine, mechanics and morals, but ended at the the mental, which he defined in terms of consciousness and thought. BUT:
? his successors didn't envisage such a limitation to the mechanism
? he had no theory of the social sciences and dismissed history
? he still envisaged the relation between volition and action as causal and hence explanation of human behaviour as nomological
? Hume had a vision of laws of the operation of the mind - he wanted to be a Newton of the mental sciences
? The concept of voluntary human action as causal was dominant from Descartes and Hobbes to the 20th Century o neurophysiology gave impetus to this notion - the true explanation could be found at the neural level o this led to the rise of behaviourism, both radical (eliminative) and more moderate (methodological)
? Behaviourism was superseded by cognitivism, which was intended to reinstate the psyche in psychology o ironically this coincided with the rise of the computer sciences and emergence of Chomsky's computerizable theory of syntax, the rules of which the mind/brain could cognize, even if the person couldn't o psychological theory was not so much humanized as computerized
? Comte posited that the social sciences would be the last of the sciences to reach maturity; its existence presupposed the antecedent sciences of mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology o social science was to study the laws of the functioning of social wholes
? followed by Marx, Mill and social Darwinism o these theories were internally incoherent: Comte insisted on invariable laws of social change and inevitable paths yet relied upon a scientific-industrial elite to guide history down those paths; Marx similar but with class struggle. Social Darwinism
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