Society, human affairs, cognition

The following excerpts and extracts were used as background non-economic literature for my works  on social-economic transformation in the ’80-ies and ’90-ies of the 20th century and articles published in the 21th century.  They reflect  an economist major’s  need to take into account the findings of neighbouring disciplines and the general social-cultural experience. I have quoted the original English texts, EB articles or  texts translated into English  then within my reach. Human dimensions are not confined to a role of being paraphernalia to economics, but considered the main object of study for  any investigation of social phenomena. Elaborations based partly on the above sources are included in the article “Capital, equilibrium, welfare” on this homepage (

In 1989  and on those papers were presented to some institutes of the Academy of Sciences  and its then President who disseminated and acknowledged them (as a side effect, by a number of grants and fellowships). The above dimensions  were the explicit topic of my quasi-anthropological study on “Human race-nature…” available in Hungarian on the homepage. These fragments simultanously with those selected from sources printed in Hungarian were saved to my paper-based files from the mid ’80-ies. In 1998 I could access them in digital form via  Britannica Online. They were collected purposefully, according to my own study needs and did not mean to give a full description of theories of any thinker, school or discipline quoted in the text.  Old classics of societal theory, metaphysics, etc. are not cited here. The fragments are not broken down to special disciplines, but presented in a loose chronological order. They do not exhaust even my own  preference list as to selecting sources. Those are  as well expressed in  other articles of this homepage.

Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli‘s The Prince was written between 1511–12 and published in 1532, after Machiavelli’s death. That work, as well as The Discourses, a rigorous analysis of the classical period, did much to influence modern political thought in the West. A minority (including Jean-Jacques Rousseau) interpreted The Prince as a satire meant to be given to the Medici after their recapture of Florence and their subsequent expulsion of Machiavelli from Florence.[17] Though the work was written for the di Medici family in order to perhaps influence them to free him from exile, Machiavelli supported the Republic of Florence rather than the oligarchy of the di Medici family. At any rate, Machiavelli presents a pragmatic and somewhat consequentialist view of politics, whereby good and evil are mere means used to bring about an end—i.e., the secure and powerful state. Thomas Hobbes, well known for his theory of the social contract, goes on to expand this view at the start of the 17th century during the English Renaissance. Although neither Machiavelli nor Hobbes believed in the divine right of kings, they both believed in the inherent selfishness of the individual. It was necessarily this belief that led them to adopt a strong central power as the only means of preventing the disintegration of the social order. (Wikipedia)

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)


“Hobbes’s masterpiece was the Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil (1651). In the first two parts, “Of Man” and “Of Commonwealth,” he reworked the ground already covered in the earlier treatises; in the last two, “Of a Christian Commonwealth” and “Of the Kingdom of Darkness,” he embarked upon a discussion of Scripture and made a vigorous attack on the attempts of papists and Presbyterians to challenge the right of the sovereign. Hobbes’s reputation as a thinker rests mainly on his contributions to the philosophy of man, in which he propounded an influential egoistic psychology. In moral theory he is generally regarded as a pioneer of the Utilitarian school. He justified obedience to moral rules on a purely secular basis, as the means to “peaceable, social, and comfortable living.” Yet he also said that the laws of nature were God’s commands.

In his political theory Hobbes first analyzed the conditions necessary for peace and security and then, in his version of the social contract, provided a recipe for constructing an ideal state in which these conditions could be satisfied. His fundamental concept was natural right rather than natural law. It is essentially a right to self-preservation. No man is obliged to act in accordance with the law of nature if he thinks such conduct inimical to his own security. Yet peace cannot be achieved unless the law of nature is generally observed. Hobbes’s solution was to give everyone a guarantee of the good behaviour of his fellows by creating a power sufficient to keep them in awe. This power will be created if each individual promises every other individual that he will carry out whatever commands some selected person (or an assembly) shall consider necessary for the peace and defense of all. A sovereign so established may survive even if all the subjects desire to depose it. The sovereign’s right will be as absolute as its power; it is responsible only to God. It cannot be unjust to its subjects, since these have authorized its actions. Nor is it bound by any covenant with the people.”

John Locke (1632-1704)

 John Locke  exemplified the new age of political theory with his work Two Treatises of Government. In it Locke proposes a state of nature theory that directly complements his conception of how political development occurs and how it can be founded through contractual obligation. Locke stood to refute Sir Robert Filmer‘s paternally founded political theory in favor of a natural system based on nature in a particular given system. The theory of the divine right of kings became a passing fancy, exposed to the type of ridicule with which John Locke treated it. Unlike Machiavelli and Hobbes but like Aquinas, Locke would accept Aristotle’s dictum that man seeks to be happy in a state of social harmony as a social animal. Unlike Aquinas’s preponderant view on the salvation of the soul from original sin, Locke believes man’s mind comes into this world as tabula rasa. For Locke, knowledge is neither innate, revealed nor based on authority but subject to uncertainty tempered by reason, tolerance and moderation. According to Locke, an absolute ruler as proposed by Hobbes is unnecessary, for natural law is based on reason and seeking peace and survival for man. (Wikipedia)

Voltaire (1694-1778)

From the Philosophical Dictionary


THE ins and outs of all governments have been closely examined recently. Tell me then, you who have travelled, in what state, under what sort of government you would choose to be born. I imagine that a great land-owning lord in France would not be vexed to be born in Germany; he would be soverign instead of subject. A peer of France would be very glad to have the privileges of the English peerage; he would be legislator. The lawyer and the financier would be better off in France than elsewhere.
But what country would a wise, free man, a man with a moderate fortune, and without prejudices, choose?
A member of the government of Pondicherry, a learned man enough, returned to Europe by land with a Brahmin better educated than the ordinary Brahmin. “What do you think of the government of the Great Mogul? ” asked the councillor.
“I think it abominable,” answered the Brahmin. ” How can you expect a state to be happily governed by the Tartars? Our rajahs, our omrahs, our nabobs, are very content, but the citizens are hardly so; and millions of citizens are something.”
Reasoning, the councillor and the Brahmin traversed the whole of Upper Asia. ” I make the observation,” said the Brahmin, “that there is not one republic in all this vast part of the world.”
“Formerly there was the republic of Tyre,” said the councillor, ” but it did not last long ; there was still another one in the direction of Arabia Petrea, in a little corner called Palestine, if one can honour with the name of republic a horde of thieves and usurers sometimes governed by judges, sometimes by a species of kings, sometimes by grand-pontiffs, become slave seven or eight times, and finally driven out of the country which it had usurped.”
” I imagine,” said the Brahmin, ” that one ought to find very few republics on the earth. Men are rarely worthy of governing themselves. This happiness should belong only to little peoples who hide themselves in islands, or among the mountains, like rabbits who shun carnivorous beasts; but in the long run they are discovered and devoured.”
When the two travellers reached Asia Minor, the councillor said to the Brahmin : ” Would you believe that a republic was formed in a corner of Italy, which lasted more than five hundred years, and which owned Asia Minor, Asia, Africa, Greece, Gaul, Spain and the whole of Italy? ”
” She soon became a monarchy, then? ” said the Brahmin.
” You have guessed right,” said the other. ” But this monarchy fell, and every day we compose beautiful dissertations in order to find the cause of its decadence and downfall.”
” You take a deal of trouble,” said the Indian. ” This empire fell because it existed. Everything has to fall. I hope as much will happen to the Grand Mogul’s empire.”
” By the way,” said the European, ” do you consider that there should be more honour in a despotic state, and more virtue in a republic? ”
The Indian, having had explained to him what we mean by honour, answered that honour was more necessary in a republic, and that one had more need of virtue in a monarchical state. “For,” said he, ” a man who claims to be elected by the people, will not be if he is dishonoured; whereas at the court he could easily obtain a place, in accordance with a great prince’s maxim, that in order to succeed a courtier should have neither honour nor character. As regards virtue, one must be prodigiously virtuous to dare to say the truth. The virtuous man is much more at his ease in a republic; he has no one to flatter.”
” Do you think,” said the man from Europe, ” that laws and religions are made for climates, just as one has to have furs in Moscow, and gauzy stuffs in Delhi? ”
” Without a doubt,” answered the Brahmin. ” All the laws which concern material things are calculated for the meridian one lives in. A German needs only one wife, and a Persian three or four.
” The rites of religion are of the same nature. How, if I were Christian, should I say mass in my province where there is neither bread nor wine? As regards dogmas, that is another matter; the climate has nothing to do with them. Did not your religion begin in Asia, whence it was driven out? does it not exist near the Baltic Sea, where it was unknown? ”
” In what state under what domination, would you like best to live?” asked the councillor.
“Anywhere but where I do live,” answered his companion. ” And I have met many Siamese, Tonkinese, Persians and Turks who said as much.”
” But, once again,” persisted the European, ” what state would you choose? ”
The Brahmin answered: ” The state where only the laws are obeyed.”
” That is an old answer,” said the councillor.
” It is none the worse for that,” said the Brahmin.
” Where is that country? ” asked the councillor.
” We must look for it,” answered the Brahmin.


WHAT is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly–that is the first law of nature.
It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. That admits of no difficulty. But the government! but the magistrates! but the princes! how do they treat those who have another worship than theirs? If they are powerful strangers, it is certain that a prince will make an alliance with them. Franois I., very Christian, will unite with Mussulmans against Charles V., very Catholic. Francois I. will give money to the Lutherans of Germany to support them in their revolt against the emperor; but, in accordance with custom, he will start by having Lutherans burned at home. For political reasons he pays them in Saxony; for political reasons he burns them in Paris. But what will happen? Persecutions make proselytes? Soon France will be full of new Protestants. At first they will let themselves be hanged, later they in their turn will hang. There will be civil wars, then will come the St. Bartholomew; and this corner of the world will be worse than all that the ancients and moderns have ever told of hell.
Madmen, who have never been able to give worship to the God who made you! Miscreants, whom the example of the Noachides, the learned Chinese, the Parsees and all the sages, has never been able to lead! Monsters, who need superstitions as crows’ gizzards need carrion! you have been told it already, and there is nothing else to tell you-if you have two religions in your countries, they will cut each other’s throat ; if you have thirty religions, they will dwell in peace. Look at the great Turk, he governs Guebres, Banians, Creek Christians, Nestorians, Romans. The first who tried to stir up tumult would be impaled; and everyone is tranquil.
Of all religions, the Christian is without doubt the one which should inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men.


” PILATE therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.
” Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth? And when he had said this he went out, etc.” (St. John xviii. 37).

We shall not dare, to be sure, seek what the author of all truth would have been able to reply to Pilate.
Would he have said : ” Truth is an abstract word which most men use indifferently in their books and judgments, for error and falsehood? ” This definition would have been marvellously appropriate to all makers of systems. Similarly is the word ” wisdom ” taken often for folly, and ” wit” for nonsense.
Humanly speaking, let us define truth, while waiting for a better definition, as–” a statement of the facts as they are.”

If Pilate had had a well-balanced mind, I should have asked only two years to teach him metaphysical truth; and as metaphysical truth is necessarily allied to moral truth, I flatter myself that in less than nine years he would have become a real scholar and a perfectly honest man.
I should then have said to Pilate:–Historical truths are merely probabilities. If you had fought at the battle of Philippi, that is for you a truth which you know by’ intuition, by perception. But for us who dwell near the Syrian desert, it is merely a very probable thing, which we know by hearsay. How much hearsay is necessary to form a conviction equal to that of a man who, having seen the thing, can flatter himself that he has a sort of certainty?
He who has heard the thing told by twelve thousand eye-witnesses, has only twelve thousand probabilities, equal to one strong probability, which is not equal to certainty.
If you have the thing from only one of these witnesses, you know nothing; you should be sceptical. If the witness is dead, you should be still more sceptical, for you cannot enlighten yourself. If from several witnesses who are dead, you are in the same plight. If from those to whom the witnesses have spoken, your scepticism should increase still more.
From generation to generation scepticism increases, and probability diminishes; and soon probability is reduced to zero.

WHY does one hardly ever do the tenth part of the good one might do?

Why is the great number of hard-working, innocent men who till the land every day of the year that you may eat all its fruits, scorned, vilified, oppressed, robbed; and why is it that the useless and often very wicked man who lives only hy their work, and who is rich only through their poverty, is on the contrary respected, courted, considered?

Why does a little whitish, evil-smelling secretion form a being which has hard bones, desires and thoughts? and why do these beings always persecute each other?
Why does so much evil exist, seeing that everytling is formed by a God whom all theists are agreed in naming ” good? ”
Why, since we complain ceaselessly of our ills, do we spend all our time in increasing them?

Why do we exist? why is there anything?

George Berkeley (1685-1753)

Locke is part of a philosophical tradition called empiricism, that is, the view that the sole or at least the major source of human knowledge is sensory experience. Berkeley  was the next great adherent of empiricism. In his major work, Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710), he divides ideas into three types: Ideas that come from sense correspond to Locke’s simple ideas of sensation. Ideas that come from “attending to the passions and operations of the mind” correspond to Locke’s ideas of reflection. Ideas that come from compounding, dividing, or otherwise representing ideas, correspond to Locke’s compound ideas. An apple, for example, is a compound of the simple ideas of colour, taste, smell, and figure associated with it. In addition to ideas, what exists are spirits or souls or minds. By “spirit,” Berkeley means “one simple, undivided, active being.” Spirit exercises itself in two ways: in understanding and in willing. Understanding is spirit perceiving ideas, and will is spirit producing ideas. It is evident, says Berkeley, that no idea, including those of sensation, can exist outside of a mind. This is evident, not merely in virtue of the meaning of “idea” but what it means to exist. For a table to exist is for someone to see or feel it. To be an odour is to be smelled. To be a sound is to be heard. In short, for nonthinking beings, esse is percipi (to be is to be perceived).

The question whether a tree falling in a virgin forest makes a sound is inspired by Berkeley’s philosophy, though he never asked it in those terms. He did, however, consider the thrust of the objection and gave various answers to it. He sometimes says that a table in a room unperceived is a table that would be perceived if someone were there. This conditional response, however, is not sufficient. Granted that the table would exist if it were perceived, does it exist when it is not perceived? Berkeley’s other answer is that, when no human is perceiving a table or other such object, God is; and it is his thinking that keeps the otherwise unperceived object in existence. However strange his doctrine may initially sound, Berkeley claimed that he was merely describing the commonsense view of reality. To say that colours, sounds, trees, dogs, and tables are ideas is not to say that they do not really exist. It is merely to say what they are. To say that animals and pieces of furniture are ideas is not to say that they are diaphanous, gossamer, and evanescent. Opacity, density, and permanence are also ideas that partially constitute these objects. Berkeley has a syllogistic argument for his main point: physical things, such as trees, dogs, and houses, are things perceived by sense, and things perceived by sense are ideas; therefore, physical things are ideas. If one objects that the first premise is false, Berkeley in reply would challenge the objector to point out one example of something that is not sensed. The only way to identify such an example is through some sensation, either by sight, touch, taste, or hearing. In this way, any proffered counterexample becomes an example of Berkeley’s point. If one objects that the second premise of the syllogism is false on the grounds that people sense things, not ideas, Berkeley would reply that there are no sensations without ideas and that it makes no sense to speak of some additional thing which ideas are supposed to represent or resemble.

Unlike Locke, Berkeley does not believe that there is anything “behind” ideas in a world external to the mind. There could not be. If the alleged external objects, of which ideas are supposed to be representations, exist, then they are themselves either ideas or not. If they are ideas, then Berkeley’s point that everything perceived is an idea is vindicated. If they are not ideas, then they are unperceived; in particular, they would be invisible colours, intangible textured things, odourless smells, and silent sounds. If someone objects that he can imagine trees or books in a closet unperceived, Berkeley would reply that this proves nothing except that there are imagined trees and books. People who think that there are unperceived objects are deceived because they do not take into account their own thinking of the allegedly unperceived object. A consequence of this argument is that Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities is spurious. Extension, figure, motion, rest, and solidity are as much ideas as green, loud, and bitter are; there is nothing special about the former kinds of ideas. Furthermore, matter, as philosophers conceive it, does not exist and indeed is contradictory. For matter is supposedly unsensed extension, figure, and motion, but since extension, figure, and motion are ideas, they must be sensed.

Berkeley’s doctrine that things unperceived by human beings continue to exist in the thought of God was also not novel. It was part of the traditional belief of Christian philosophers from Augustine onward through Aquinas and at least to Descartes that God not only creates all things but keeps them in existence by thinking of them. In this view if he were ever to stop thinking of a creature, it would immediately be annihilated. On another matter, the doctrine of abstraction, Berkeley made a clean break with the past. Berkeley rejected it completely, because he thought it led to belief in unperceived, nonspiritual substances. Abstractionism, according to Berkeley, illicitly warrants the separation of existence from being perceived. For him every idea is particular and of a particular object. There cannot be an idea of motion in general but only of a certain body moving slowly or quickly. To reject abstract ideas is not to reject general ideas. An idea is general in virtue of “being made to represent or stand for all the other particular ideas of the same sort.” That is, each general idea is a particular idea that stands for many things.

Epistemology: The history of epistemology: MODERN PHILOSOPHY: George Berkeley.” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 13 May 1998].

David Hume

Basic science of man in Hume.

Hume’s philosophical intention was to reap,
humanistically, the harvest sowed by Newtonian physics,
to apply the method of natural science to human nature,
and to create a basic science of man. The paradoxical
result of this admirable purpose, however, was to
create a skeptical crisis more devastating than that of
the early French Renaissance and to reduce human
certainty once more to the state that it was in before
Descartes had reached the dogmatic halting point in his
procedure of methodical doubt. 

Hume followed Locke and Berkeley in approaching the
problem of knowledge from a psychological perspective.
He too found the origin of knowledge in sense
impressions. But whereas Locke had found a certain
trustworthy order in the compounding power of the mind,
and Berkeley had found mentality itself expressive of a
certain spiritual power, Hume’s relentless analysis
discovered as much contingency in mind as in the
external world. All uniformity in perceptual
experience, he held, comes from “an associating quality
of the mind.” The “association of ideas” is a fact, but
the relations of resemblance, contiguity, and cause and
effect that it produces have no intrinsic validity
because they are the product of an inexplicable “mental
habit.” Thus the causal principle upon which all
knowledge rests indicates no necessary connections
between things but is simply the accident of their
constant conjunction in men’s minds. Moreover, the mind
itself, far from being an independent power, is simply
“a bundle of perceptions” without unity or cohesive
quality. Hume’s denial of a necessary order of nature
on the one hand and of a substantial or unified self on
the other precipitated a philosophical crisis from
which Enlightenment philosophy was not to be definitely
rescued until the work of Kant.

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To cite this page:
“The History of Western Philosophy: Modern philosophy:
THE ENLIGHTENMENT: Classical British Empiricism and its
basic tasks.: Basic science of man in Hume.” Britannica

[Accessed 01 March 1998].

Dilthey, Wilhelm

( 1833- 1911)

German philosopher who made important contributions to a methodology of the humanities and other human sciences. He objected to the pervasive influence of the natural sciences and developed a philosophy of life that perceived man in his historical contingency and changeability. Dilthey established a comprehensive treatment of history from the cultural viewpoint that has been of great consequence, particularly to the study of literature.

He searched for the philosophical foundation of what he first and rather vaguely summarized as the “sciences of man, of society, and the state,” which he later called Geisteswissenschaften (“human sciences”)–a term that eventually gained general recognition to collectively denote the fields of history, philosophy, religion, psychology, art, literature, law, politics, and economics. In 1883, as a result of these studies, the first volume of his Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften (“Introduction to Human Sciences”) appeared. Opposed to the trend in the historical and social sciences to approximate the methodological ideal of the natural sciences, Dilthey tried to establish the humanities as interpretative sciences in their own right. In the course of this work he broke new philosophical ground by his study of the relations between personal experience, its realization in creative expression, and the reflective understanding of this experience; the interdependence of self-knowledge and knowledge of other persons; and, finally, the logical development from these to the understanding of social groups and historical processes.

The subject matter of the historical and social sciences is the human mind, not as it is enjoyed in immediate experience nor as it is analyzed in psychological theory, but as it manifests or “objectifies” itself in languages and literatures, actions, and institutions. Dilthey emphasized that the essence of human beings cannot be grasped by introspection but only from a knowledge of all of history; this understanding, however, can never be final because history itself never is: “The prototype ‘man’ disintegrates during the process of history.” For this reason, his philosophical works were closely connected to his historical studies.

“Dilthey, Wilhelm” Britannica Online.<> [Accessed 11 May 1998].


Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)
“Philosophical Writings of Peirce” Sel. and ed. J. Buchler , Dover Publications NY 1940

Founder of pragmatism (pragmaticism)
“a conception, that is, the rational purport of a word or other expression, lies exclusively in its conceivable bearing upon the conduct of life… and there is absolutely nothing more in it.” 252 “Consider what effects that might conceivably have practical bearing you conceive the object of your conception to have. Then your conception of those effects is the WHOLE of your conception of the object.” (ibid.)
This approch is near to or neighbour with positivism albeit maintainaing some important distinctive methodological views.  Those are 1. the retention of pure philosophy, 2. the acceptance of main body of our institutional beliefs, 3. insistence on truth of the scholastic realism. “The rational meaning of every proposition lies in the future.” 261 That explains their temporal dimension and practical significance. Some general things are real. 264
Pragmatism is neither a doctrine of metaphysics 271, nor an attempt to determine any truth of thing. “It is merely a method of ascertaining the meanings of hard words and of abstract concepts.” 271
Peirce is founder of Semiotics that might be dealt with on some other occasion.
William James (1842-1910)

The Will To Believe
Copyright 1996, James Fieser. This e-text is based on the 1897 edition of The Will to Believe published by Longmans, Green & Co.
In the recently published Life by Leslie Stephen of his brother, Fitz-James, there is an account of a school to which the latter went when he was a boy. The teacher, a certain Mr. Guest, used to converse with his pupils in this wise: “Gurney, what is the difference between justification and sanctification? Stephen, prove the omnipotence of God!” etc. In the midst of our Harvard freethinking and indifference we are prone to imagine that here at your good old orthodox College conversation continues to be somewhat upon this order; and to show you that we at Harvard have not lost all interest in these vital subjects, I have brought with me to-night something like a sermon on justification by faith to read to you, — I mean an essay in justification of faith, a defense of our right to adopt a believing attitude in religious matters, in spite of the fact that our merely logical intellect may not have been coerced. The Will to Believe,’ accordingly, is the title of my paper.

I have long defended to my own students the lawfulness of voluntarily adopted faith; but as soon as they have got well imbued with the logical spirit, they have as a rule refused to admit my contention I to be lawful philosophically, even though in point of fact they were personally all the time chock-full of some faith or other themselves. I am all the while, however, so profoundly convinced that my own position is correct, that your invitation has seemed to me a good occasion to make my statements more clear. Perhaps your minds will be more open than those with which I have hitherto had to deal, I will be as little technical as I can, though I must begin by setting up some technical distinctions that will help us in the end.

1. Hypotheses and Options.
Let us give the name of hypothesis to anything that may be proposed to our belief; and just as the electricians speak of live and dead wires, let us speak of any hypothesis as either live or dead. A live hypothesis is one which appeals as a real possibility to him to whom it is proposed. If I asked you to believe in the Mahdi, the notion makes no electric connection with your nature, — it refuses to scintillate with any credibility at all. As an hypothesis it is completely dead. To an Arab, however (even if he be not one of the Mahdi’s followers), the hypothesis is among the mind’s possibilities: it is alive. This shows that deadness and liveness in an hypothesis are not intrinsic properties, but relations to the individual thinker. They are measured by his willingness to act. The maximum of liveness in an hypothesis , means willingness to act irrevocably. Practically, that means belief; but there is some believing tendency wherever there is willingness to act at all.
Next, let us call the decision between two hypotheses an option. Options may be of several kinds. They may be — 1. living or dead; 2. forced or avoidable; 3, momentous or trivial; and for our purposes we may call an option a genuine option when it is of the forced, living, and momentous kind.
1. A living option is one in which both hypotheses are live ones. If I say to you: “Be a theosophist or be a Mohammedan,” it is probably a dead option, because for you neither hypothesis is likely to be alive. But if I say: ” Be an agnostic or be a Christian,” it is otherwise: trained as you are, each hypothesis makes some appeal, however small, to your belief.
2. Next, if I say to you: “Choose between going out with your umbrella or without it,” I do not offer you a genuine option, for it is not forced. You can easily avoid it by not going out at all. Similarly, if I say, “Either love me or hate me,” “Either call my theory true or call it false,” your option is avoidable. You may remain indifferent to me, neither loving nor hating, and you may decline to offer any judgment as to my theory. But if I say, “Either accept this truth or go without it,” I put on you a forced option, for there is no standing place outside of the alternative. Every dilemma based on a complete logical disjunction, with no possibility of not choosing, is an option of this forced kind.
3. Finally, if I were Dr. Nansen and proposed to you to join my North Pole expedition, your option would be momentous; for this would probably be your only similar opportunity, and your choice now would either exclude you from the North Pole sort of immortality altogether or put at least the chance of it into your hands. He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he tried and failed. Per contra, the option is trivial when the opportunity is not unique, when the stake is insignificant, or when the decision is reversible if it later prove unwise. Such trivial options abound in the scientific life. A chemist finds an hypothesis live enough to spend a year in its verification: he believes in it to that extent. But if his experiments prove inconclusive either way, he is quit for his loss of time, no vital harm being done.
It will facilitate our discussion if we keep all these distinctions well in mind.
2. Pascal’s Wager.
The next matter to consider is the actual psychology of human opinion. When we look at certain facts, it seems as if our passional and volitional nature lay at the root of all our convictions. When we look at others, it seems as if they could do nothing when the intellect had once said its say. Let us take the latter facts up first .
Does it not seem preposterous on the very face of it to talk of our opinions being modifiable at will? Can our will either help or hinder our ‘intellect in its perceptions of truth? Can we, by just willing it, believe that Abraham Lincoln’s existence is a myth, and that the portraits of him in McClure’s Magazine are all of some one else? Can we, by any effort of our will, or by any strength of wish that it were true, believe ourselves well and about when we are roaring with rheumatism in bed, or feel certain that the sum of the two one-dollar bills in our pocket must be a hundred dollars? We can say any of these things, but we are absolutely impotent to believe them; and of just such things is the whole fabric of the truths that we do believe in made up, — matters of fact, immediate or remote, as Hume said, and relations between ideas, which are either there or not there for us if we see them so, and which if not there cannot be put there by any action of our own.
In Pascal’s Thoughts there is a celebrated passage known in literature as Pascal’s wager. In it he tries to force us into Christianity by reasoning as if our concern with truth resembled our concern with the stakes in a game of chance. Translated freely his words are these: You must either believe or not believe that God is — which will you do? Your human reason cannot say. A game is going on between you and the nature of ‘things which at the day of judgment will bring out either heads or tails. Weigh what your gains and your losses would be if you should stake all you have on heads, or God’s existence: if you win in such case, you gain eternal beatitude; if you lose, you lose nothing at all. If there were an infinity of chances, and only one for God in this wager, still you ought to stake your all. on God; for though you surely risk a finite loss by this procedure, any finite loss is reasonable, even a certain one is reasonable, if there is but the possibility of infinite gain. Go, then, and take holy water, and have masses said; belief will come and stupefy your scruples, — Cela vous fera croire et vous abetira. Why should you not? At bottom, what have you to lose?
You probably feel that when religious faith expresses itself thus, in the language of the gamingtable, it is put to its last trumps. Surely Pascal’s own personal belief in masses and holy water had far other springs; and this celebrated page of his is but an argument for others, a last desperate snatch at a weapon against the hardness of the unbelieving heart. We feel that a faith in masses and holy water adopted willfully after such a mechanical calculation — would lack the inner soul of faith’s reality; and if we were ourselves in the place of the Deity, we should probably take particular pleasure in cutting off believers of this pattern from their infinite reward.
Anatole France (1844-1924)

From “The Red Lily”
At table, before the fiascani enveloped with corn straw, they talked of the fifteenth century, which they loved. Prince Albertinelli praised the artists of that epoch for their universality, for the fervent love they gave to their art, and for the genius that devoured them. He talked with emphasis, in a caressing voice.
Dechartre admired them. But he admired them in another way.
“To praise in a becoming manner,” he said, “those men, who worked so heartily, the praise should be modest and just. They should be placed in their workshops, in the shops where they worked as artisans. It is there that one may admire their simplicity and their genius. They were ignorant and rude. They had read little and seen little. The hills that surround Florence were the boundary of their horizon. They knew only their city, the Holy Scriptures, and some fragments of antique sculptures, studied and caressed lovingly.”
“You are right,” said Professor Arrighi. “They had no other care than to use the best processes. Their minds bent only on preparing varnish and mixing colors. The one who first thought of pasting a canvas on a panel, in order that the painting should not be broken when the wood was split, passed for a marvellous man. Every master had his secret formulae.”
“Happy time,” said Dechartre, “when nobody troubled himself about that originality for which we are so avidly seeking to-day. The apprentice tried to work like the master. He had no other ambition than to resemble him, and it was without trying to be that he was different from the others. They worked not for glory, but to live.”
“They were right,” said Choulette. “Nothing is better than to work for a living.”
“The desire to attain fame,” continued Dechartre, “did not trouble them. As they did not know the past, they did not conceive the future; and their dream did not go beyond their lives. They exercised a powerful will in working well. Being simple, they made few mistakes, and saw the truth which our intelligence conceals from us.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Up to the present time errors have been the power most fruitful in consolations : we now expect the same effects from accepted truths, and we have been waiting rather too long for them. What if these truths could not give us this consolation we are looking for ? Would that be an argument against them ? What have these truths in common with the sick condition of suffering and degenerate men that they should be useful to them? It is, of course, no proof against the truth of a plant when it is clearly established that it does not contribute in any way to the recovery of sick people. Formerly, however, people were so convinced that man was the ultimate end of nature that they believed that knowledge could reveal nothing that was not beneficial and useful to nay, there could not, should not be, any other things in existence.
Perhaps all this leads to the conclusion that truth as an entity and a coherent whole exists only for those natures who, like Aristotle, are at once powerful and harmless, joyous and peaceful : just as none but these would be in a position to seek such truths ; for the others seek remedies for themselves however proud they may be of their intellect and its freedom, they do not seek truth. Hence it comes about that these others take no real joy in science, but reproach it for its coldness, dryness, and inhumanity. This is the judgment of sick people about the games of the healthy. Even the Greek gods were unable to administer consolation ; and when at length the entire Greek world fell ill, this was a reason for the destruction of such gods.
THE EMBELLISHMENT OF SCIENCE. In the same way that the feeling that ” nature is ugly, wild, tedious we must embellish it (embellir la nature) “brought about rococo horticulture, so does the view that ” science is ugly, difficult, dry, dreary and weary, we must embellish it,” invariably gives rise to something called philosophy. This philosophy sets out to do what all art and poetry endeavour to do, viz., giving amusement above all else ; but it wishes to do this, in conformity with its hereditary pride, in a higher and more sublime fashion before an audience of superior intellects.
It is no small ambition to create for these intellects a kind of horticulture, the principal charm of which like that of the usual gardening is to bring about an optical illusion (by means of temples, perspective, grottos, winding walks, and waterfalls, to speak in similes), exhibiting science in a condensed form and in all kinds of strange and unexpected illuminations, infusing into it as much indecision, irrationality, and dreaminess as will enable us to walk about in it ” as in savage nature,” but without trouble and boredom.
Those who are possessed of this ambition even dream of making religion superfluous religion, which among men of former times served as the highest kind of entertainment. All this is now running its course, and will one day attain its highest tide. Even now hostile voices are being raised against philosophy, exclaiming : ” Return to science, to nature, and the naturalness of science ! ” and thus an age may begin which may discover the most powerful beauty precisely in the ” savage and ugly ” domains of science, just as it is only since the time of Rousseau that we have discovered the sense for the beauty of high mountains and deserts.
Why do we fear and dread a possible return to barbarism ? Is it because it would make people less happy than they are now ? Certainly not ! the barbarians of all ages possessed more happiness than we do : let us not deceive ourselves on this point ! but our impulse towards knowledge is too widely developed to allow us to value happiness without knowledge, or the happiness of a strong and fixed delusion : it is painful to us even to imagine such a state of things !
Our restless pursuit of discoveries and divinations has become for us as attractive and indispensable as hapless love to the lover, which on no account would he exchange for indifference, nay, perhaps we, too, are hapless lovers ! Knowledge within us has developed into a passion, which does not shrink from any sacrifice, and at bottom fears nothing but its own extinction. We sincerely believe that all humanity, weighed down as it is by the burden of this passion, are bound to feel more exalted and comforted than formerly, when they had not yet overcome the longing for the coarser satisfaction which accompanies barbarism. It may be that mankind may perish eventually from this passion for knowledge ! but even that does not daunt us.
Did Christianity ever shrink from a similar thought ? Are not love and death brother and sister ? Yes, we detest barbarism, we all prefer that humanity should perish rather than that knowledge should enter into a stage of retrogression. And, finally, if mankind does not perish through some passion it will perish through some weakness : which would we prefer ? This is the main question. Do we wish its end to be in fire and light, or in the sands ?

Max Weber (1864-1920)

On patrimonialism

A good English summary of the notion and its contemporary applicability is given in:


According to Max Weber (Weber, 1968), there are three types of domination:
1) Legal-rational domination: based on western bureaucratic impersonal rule
2) Charismatic domination: by virtue of prestige of a person due to his high extraordinary qualities
3) Traditional domination: based on the belief in the sacred character of immemorial traditions

He further distinguishes three different but strongly related forms of traditional rule:
1) Patriarchal rule
2) Patrimonial rule
3) Feudal rule

Patrimonialism develops out of the most basic form of traditional authority called patriarchalism. Patriarchalism is based on a strictly personal loyalty, and not on the adherence to abstract and impersonal rule as in the case of legal-rational domination.
In patriarchalism, the head of the household dominates over the other members of the household. The authority and domination of the head of the household is based on the filial respect of members of the family and other dependents for the patriarchal chief (head). The head exercises authority, so that in securing compliance the patriarch does not need administrative or military machine, being solely dependent on the authority traditions gives him augmented by his control over key resources such as land, grazing rights, cattle and women.

Patrimonialism first appears along with the political differentiation when patriarchalism must extend its authority to meet the need of the expanding political community and when the patriarch (head) exercises his authority beyond his own domestic group, over people who are no longer relatives or servants, which is ultimately the state.

With this expanded sphere of administrative activities, authority can no longer be exercised directly and must be mediated by administrative officers, personal retainers like servants, relatives or slaves. What determines the relation of the administrative staff to the chief is not the impersonal obligations of office, but rather the personal loyalty to the chief .

Patrimonialism signifies a particular type of administration, one that differs very markedly from the legal-rational bureaucracy. Legal-rational bureaucracy is based on hierarchy of graded authority (rational ordering of relations of superiors and juniors), fixed jurisdictional areas with clear-cut procedures and regulations, salaried officers who are recruited and promoted according to objective qualifications and experience, strict separation between incumbent and office, between the private and the public spheres.
In contrast, under patrimonialism, office holders are the personal dependents of the ruler, appointed at his whim on the basis of criteria that are subjective and non-standardised. In patrimonial administration, office holding is at the pleasure of the ruler and any patrimonial bureaucrat may be moved or dismissed by the ruler when it is expedient. Throughout the patrimonial administration there are no clear-cut procedures for taking decisions and decision-making tends to have an ad hoc character . Consequently, the defining characteristic of patrimonialism is the absence of a distinction between the public and private domain, the private servant and public officer, the public purse and the private purse-main…

…The application of patrimonialism that is a mode of traditional administration to modern political system is at the origin of the use of the notion of neo-patrimonialism instead of the one of patrimonialism. Within the African state, two mixed dual forms coexist and are articulated together in the same system. …

The concept of patrimonialism is very useful in understanding African states practices because it provides the common denominator for all the different concepts currently applied to African politics…{Ceteris paribus this denominator may apply to some East-European counties as well.)

In present western states, the legal-rationality that characterises their bureaucracies have been developed from an overlapping of feudal and patrimonial kingdoms which transformed through the centuries into approximation of the legal-rational and bureaucratic model. In contrast, in Africa, an approximation of a legal-rational state was exported to Africa through colonialism…

(Nowadays) the formal structure of the state is bureaucratic, a written law exists, the civil servants are recruited through examination, but there is no real state law and the functioning of the state is largely patrimonialised. Many developing countries continue to be characterised by the appearance of a weberian “legal-rational” administration. But beneath the trappings of formal bureaucracy, procedural rules, and law, their regimes are based on networks of personal loyalty, patron-client ties and the concentration of powers on a single ruler or a narrow oligarchy at the apex of clientelistic pyramid. Public and private resources are melded, as assets come under discretionary control of political elites, and public offices serve as conduit for private accumulations. Consequently, this leads to the personalisation of power: private means personal and the lack of differentiation between what is political and what is economic…

African political economy reflects the central hallmarks of neo-patrimonial rule. Post-independent African states have been characterised by numerous writers as a prebendal order.
The following salient aspects portray this system (Prebendalism):
1) Public resources are widely appropriated for personal or parochial gains
2) Ethnically delineated patron-client networks pattern such allocations.
3) The distributive areas are largely decentralised and clientelistic relations are diffused and pervasive.

“Prebend” is an office of state, which an individual procures either by examination or as a reward for loyal service to a lord or ruler. The definition of prebend by Weber was to illustrate the extensive corruption in Nigeria.

The neo-patrimonial nature of administration means that political exigency, personal consideration, the manipulation of benefits and liabilities have constantly dominated the implementation of government policies. This has resulted in a small circle of civilian cronies largely circumventing the formal economy through unprecedented corruption…
The combination of personal calculations and clientelistic pressures within the system, which has led to a more personalistic and predatory control of the state, makes a mockery of public policies.


Logical positivism

or Logical Empiricism, the earliest branch of modern Analytic philosophy, was jointly inspired by Hume and by the new logic of Russell and Whitehead, authors of the Principia Mathematica (3 vol., 1910-13). The school, formally instituted at the University of Vienna in a seminar of Moritz Schlick in 1923, continued there as the Vienna Circle until 1938. Its great period began in 1926 when Rudolf Carnap, who became a leading semanticist and philosopher of science, arrived at the University. Its manifesto of 1929, Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung: Der Wiener Kreis (“Scientific Conception of the World: The Vienna Circle”), and its journal Erkenntnis (“Knowledge”), founded a year later, marked its self-consciousness as a philosophical movement. Logical Positivism’s basic contribution has been a profound alteration in the conception of the role that philosophy itself must play. Philosophy, it claimed, must henceforth be scientific. It should seek less a content than a function: it should produce not complicated pictures of the world but clear thinking. This was best stated by Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922), first published as Logische-philosophische Abhandlung (1921): The object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. The result of philosophy is not a number of “philosophical propositions,” but to make propositions clear.

Despite this emphasis upon philosophy as a pure activity, Logical Positivism did propound, at the same time, a series of revolutionary theses: 1. All meaningful discourse consists either of (a) the formal sentences of logic and mathematics or (b) the factual propositions of the special sciences; 2. Any assertion that claims to be factual has meaning only if it is possible to say how it might be verified; 3. Metaphysical assertions, coming under neither of the two classes of (1), are meaningless; 4. All statements about moral, aesthetic, or religious values are scientifically unverifiable and meaningless.

Logical Positivism’s radical denial of the meaningfulness of metaphysics and of assertions of value at first produced something of a philosophical scandal. But meanwhile Bertrand Russell and his student Wittgenstein (who had emigrated from Austria) were propounding similar doctrines in England; and, after the Nazis overran Austria and Carnap, Hans Reichenbach (a Berlin Positivist), and many others from the Vienna Circle moved to America, this philosophy proved remarkably influential in the Anglo-American world. The Logical Positivists were mainly interested in three basic themes: logic, language, and perception. Whereas Russell began with logic, turned to problems of perception, and ended with semantics, Carnap, having begun with perception in Der logische Aufbau der Welt (1928; The Logical Structure of the World), turned to problems of semantics in Logische Syntax der Sprache (1934; The Logical Syntax of Language) and ended with logic in Meaning and Necessity (1947). But of these three themes it was that of language that proved most enduring. This emphasis Logical Positivism shared with its successor, Linguistic Analysis.



In spirit and style Analytic philosophy has strong ties with the Empiricist tradition, which stresses the data received through the senses and which, except for brief periods, has characterized British philosophy for some centuries, distinguishing it from the more Rationalistic trends of continental European philosophy. It is not surprising, therefore, that Analytic philosophy should find its home mainly in the Anglo-Saxon countries. In fact, the beginning of modern Analytic philosophy is generally dated from the time when two of its major figures, Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore, both Cambridge philosophers, rebelled against an anti-Empiricist Idealism that had temporarily captured the English philosophical scene. The most famous British Empiricists–John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume, and John Stuart Mill–had many interests, doctrines, and methods in common with contemporary Analytic philosophers.

Most Empiricists, though admitting that the senses fail to yield the certainty requisite for knowledge, hold nonetheless that it is only through observation and experimentation that justified beliefs about the world can be gained; i.e., a priori reasoning from self-evident premises cannot reveal how the world is. This view has resulted in a sharp dichotomy among the sciences: between the physical sciences, which ultimately must verify their theories by observation, and the deductive or a priori sciences–e.g., mathematics and logic–the method of which is the deduction of theorems from given axioms. Thus, the deductive sciences cannot give justified beliefs, much less knowledge, of the world. This consequence was one of the cornerstones of two important movements within Analytic philosophy, logical atomism and Logical Positivism.

In the Positivist’s view, for example, the theorems of mathematics are merely the result of working out the consequences of the conventions that have been adopted for the use of its symbols. The question then arises whether philosophy itself is to be assimilated to empirical or to a priori sciences. Early Empiricists assimilated philosophy to the Empirical sciences. They were less self-reflective about its methods than contemporary Analytic philosophers are. Being preoccupied with epistemology (theory of knowledge) and the philosophy of mind, and holding that fundamental facts can be learned about these subjects from individual introspection, they took their work to be a kind of introspective psychology. Analytic philosophers in the 20th century, on the other hand, have been less inclined to appeal ultimately to direct introspection. Moreover, the development of rigorous methods in formal logic seemed to promise help in solving philosophical problems–and logic is as a priori as a science can be. It seemed, then, that philosophy must be classed with mathematics and logic.

The question remained, however, what philosophy’s function and methodology are. For a great many Analytic philosophers who do philosophy in the minute and meticulous manner of G.E. Moore and, in particular, for those who have made Oxford the centre of Analytic philosophy, its business is the analysis of concepts. For them, philosophy is an a priori discipline because the philosopher in some sense already possesses the concept in which he is interested and needs no observations in order to analyze it. Philosophy can be seen either as conceptual or as linguistic analysis. In the analysis of the concept of seeing, for example, the philosopher is not expressing purely linguistic concerns–with, say, the English verb “to see”–though an investigation of what can be said using that verb may be relevant to his conclusions. For a concept is independent of any particular languages; a concept is something that all languages, insofar as they are capable of expressing the concept, have in common. Thus, philosophers who stress that it is concepts that they analyze attempt to rebut the charge that their problems and solutions are merely verbal. In contrast, other Analytic philosophers have been concerned with how expressions are used in a particular, nontechnical, everyday language. Thus, the term ordinary language philosophy has been applied by critics as a term of opprobrium to such philosophers.

An influential study, The Concept of Mind (1949), by Gilbert Ryle, a prominent Oxford Analyst, is an example of a work that some critics took to depend in large part on a trivial appeal to how English speakers talk; but many of Ryle’s arguments could equally well have been given by Analytic philosophers who would look upon the term ordinary language with horror.

The problem of perception illustrates how Analytic philosophers who do conceptual analysis think of the goal of philosophy as both different from and complementary to science. Physiologists, psychologists, and physicists–through experiments, observations, and testable theories–have also contributed to man’s understanding of perception. There is in the sciences, however, a strong tendency to advance beyond earlier positions, which seems to be absent from philosophy. In philosophy, for example, the account of perception given by such 20th-century Analytic philosophers as G.E. Moore and the Positivist A.J. Ayer has a close connection with that of Locke in the 17th century. The difference between philosophy and science is that, whereas the scientist investigates an actual occurrence, such as seeing, the philosopher investigates a concept that he already possesses quite independently of what he might discover through the occurrence. Whereas the scientist begins by supposing that he can recognize examples of seeing and is already exercising the concept, the philosopher wants to know what is involved in seeing in the sense of what conditions one can use to classify cases as examples of seeing. He may want to know, for example, whether certain conditions are necessary or sufficient. In testing the philosophical theory that, for an observer to see an object, the object must cause a visual experience in him (the causal theory of perception), one does not set up a scientific experiment. It would be of no use to set up situations in which various physical objects are not causing any visual experiences in order to see whether they still can be seen. For if the theory is correct, no such experimental situation will be an instance of seeing; and if it is wrong, merely describing a hypothetical situation would suffice. The question is one about how situations are classified, and for that purpose hypothetical situations are as good as real ones. For some philosophers in the Analytic tradition, especially those influenced by Wittgenstein, the analysis of concepts has therapeutic value beyond the intrinsic enjoyment of doing it.


Gottlob Frege (1848-1925)

Main work:

Begriffsschrift, eine der arithmetischen nachgebildete Formelsprache des reinen Denkens, Halle a. S., 1879;
Concept Notation, the Formal Language of the Pure Thought like that of Arithmetics)
As the founder of the empiricist anthropology Frege argued that if language is to be a vehicle for the expression of objective, scientific knowledge of the world, then the meaning (cognitive content) of a linguistic expression must be the same for all users of the language to which it belongs and must be determined independently of the psychological states of any individual. A word may call up a variety of ideas in the mind of an individual user, but these are not part of its meaning. Such associations may be important to the poet but are irrelevant to the scientist. The function of language in the expression of scientific knowledge is to represent an independently existing world. The meanings of linguistic expressions must thus derive from their relation to the world, not from their relation to the minds of language users. Similarly, logic–embodying the principles of reasoning and the standards of rationality–must be concerned not with laws of human thought, but with laws of truth. The principles of correct reasoning must be justified by reference to the function of language in representing the world correctly or incorrectly rather than by reference to human psychology.

It is for his work on formal logic, which stemmed from these ideas, that Frege is renowned, because it opened the way for the mechanical reproduction of reasoning processes, which was crucial to the development of information processing by computers and for devices capable of artificial intelligence. Frege argued that the principles of deductive reasoning are purely formal principles, which means that their correct application does not depend on an ability to understand the sentences involved, so long as they have been put into the correct logical form. To give an account of the meaning of a sentence requires that it be analyzed so as to reveal its logical form. The logical analysis of everyday and scientific language thus becomes a primary focus of philosophical activity, hence the name “analytic philosophy” for the tradition, predominating in Great Britain, North America, and Australasia that can be regarded as post-Fregean philosophy. In this tradition the focus is on the analysis of rational, human thought, where it is presumed that the only correct way to do this is to analyze the logical structure of language.

Thus language has replaced God as the locus of rationality and of principles of reason; and the language-world relation has taken over many of the roles previously played by the God-world relation. The individual participates in a rationality that is independent of him to the extent that he is a language user. The position assumes that standards of rationality are absolute, since they are seen as necessarily governing the meaning structures of all languages.

The linguist Noam Chomsky proposed a thesis that was regarded as being complimentary to this philosophical position, namely that of a universal grammar–a formal structure that underlies all languages, no matter how diverse their grammatical forms seem on the surface. Moreover, he suggested that all humans have the same innate capacity to learn language, which explains why it is that they all structure their languages, and hence their thought, in the same way.

A further assumption (christened the “principle of charity” by the American philosopher Donald Davidson) is that all humans are rational and that the majority of human behaviour is to be explained as rational, given the beliefs and desires of the person concerned. This, together with the view that language is the locus of rationality and the embodiment of thought, leads to the view that the primary objective of the sciences of man is to interpret the language of a community under study so as to attribute beliefs and desires to its members on the basis of what they say, and so give some explanation of their behaviour. The interpretation is deemed incorrect if the attributed beliefs and desires result in too much behaviour being portrayed as irrational. There will then be a mutual adjustment between language interpretation and the explanation of behaviour in which there can be no final separation of the two and no such thing as a uniquely correct interpretation. There is thus no hope of finding laws linking psychological states of belief or desire to physiological states, even though, by maintaining that each mental event is just a physical event under a different description, a dualism of mind and body is denied. What remains is an irreducible dualism between physiological and psychosocial studies of man. The situation is frequently explained by utilizing a computer analogy (for the computer is, in this view, man creating a machine in his own image). The relation between the structures of thought and the body is likened to the relation between computer software and hardware; the same hardware may be used to run different software, and the same software may be run on different hardware.

The two descriptions of computer functioning are thus relatively independent.  In this account the consciousness of the individual plays little explicit role, but a model of man is nevertheless implicit in the whole approach. It is still basically the model employed by Hume, with experience consisting of sensory stimuli. Experience of other people is thus limited to observation of their physical and behavioral characteristics. It is on the basis of such observations that we have to make conjectures about their mental states. What has changed is the method of making such attributions. It is not sufficient to argue by analogy from introspection; any attribute of rational or mental faculties must go via an analytic interpretation of the language spoken. But with the assumption that all languages must share a common logical structure in virtue of their function in representing the world, there is also an inbuilt presumption of a uniformity in the rational structure of all human thought.

“Philosophical Anthropology: THE 20TH CENTURY: EMERGENCE OF PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY: Frege and empiricist anthropology.” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 15 May 1998].

Frege initiated an important transition from the logic of judgment to the predicate logic. Founder of Semiotics (together with Peirce). Pointed to the 3 dimensions of the sign (body, signified, signification.)

Simmel (1858-1918)

The Philosophy of Money. Georg Simmel, translated by T. Bottomore and D. Frisby.
Routledge & Kegan Paul London, Henley and Boston, 1978.

The pre-conditions for cognition cannot be tested in the latter, they call for a more fundamental science ( e.g.: theory of proof). The goal of this science is to think without pre-conditions. Existing fragmentary positive knowledge… we “seek to be augmented by definitive concepts into a world picture…” 53 (page) Philosophy of money extends on either side of economic science. Namely:
I. Pre-conditions: mental states, social relations, logical structure of reality and values. Conceptual, psychical, ethical conditions, that determine its essence and the meaning of its existence.
II. Historical phenomenon of money, its idea and structure. Effects upon individuals, linking their fates with culture in general. This can be dealt with in a philosophical manner: as a general estimation, connection between abstract concepts.
Part one derives money from conditions and connections of life. The second part explains the essence and organization of the latter from money viewpoint. “Not a single line of these investigations is meant to be a statement about economics. 54 Valuation, purchase, exchange, etc.are viewed from an other standpoint. They are not simply economic facts 54-55 , but can be represented in the most exact manner justifying regarding them as such. “But just as the appearance of a founder of a religion is by no means simply a religious phenomenon or just as a poem is not simply a fact of literary history so the fact that two people exchange their products is by no means simply an economic fact. Such a fact – that is, one whose content would be exhausted in the image that economics present it -does not exist.” 55 It can be treated as a psychological, ethical, aesthetic fact. Even as an economic fact, it is pre-conditioned in non-economic concepts and facts and bears consequences for non-economic values and relationships.
Our aim is to find in each life’s details the totality of its meaning. “The attempt is made to construct a new storey beneath historical materialism such that the explanatory value of the incorporation of economic life into the causes of intellectual culture is preserved…”56 while economic forms are recognised as the result of more profound valuations and currents of psychological or even metaphysical pre-conditions. For these the general economic base has to be sought and so on indefinitely.Alternation and entanglement of opposing principles.Unity of things becomes practical for us if understood on the base of idealism-realism, rational-volitional, absolute-relativistic interpretation.

I . Analytical Part
Value, desire and need
Value does not originate from enjoyment but from the separation between the subject and the content of enjoyment. as an object. 66 The circle of objects that can satisfy needs is diminished as the subject becomes more refined 70 In exchanging objects, individual psychology is presupposed but unseen. Value-form is the result of balancing objects against each other. Economy intermediates between desires and satisfaction. Economy is a particular form of communication and behaviour 80 Its special characteristic is e x ch a n ge of values. It deals with the equality of values. As geometry deals with relations of size of the objects independently of their substances. 80 “As soon as one realizes the extent to which human action in every sphere of mental activity operates with abstractions, it is not..strange..that the economy… is constituted by a real abstraction from the comprehensive reality of valuations.” 80 The unified whole has to be broken down to independent series or motives to enable us to deal with it.

Sciences investigate homogeneous phenomena distinct from the problems of other sciences, whereas reality ignores boundaries and…”every section of the world presents an aggregate of tasks for all the sciences.” 81 “Our practice excludes unilateral series from the outer and inner complexiy of things and so constructs the great systems of cultural interests.” (ibid.) The same with sentiments, (religious, social,etc.) They always abstract from total reality of the objects of our feelings. One formula in which the relations of man to the world may be expressed: we abstract single elements from the absolute unity …of objects.. in which each supports the other, and forms these elements into relative entities and wholes.
“The economic system is indeed based on an abstraction, on the mutuality of exchange, the balance between sacrifice and gain; and in the real process of its development it is inseparably merged with its basis and results, desire and need.” 81

Exchange as a form of life.
What appears as one-sided activity is actually based upon reciprocity. Reaction of the mass led by leaders gives a good example of this. Exchange increases the sum of value each party gains. Interaction is a more comprehensive term, but in human relations it is predominantly exchange. 84
Transformation of matter, energy leads to transfer from reality to values “This formal shift within the given material is accomplished by exchange between people as well as by the exchange with nature which we call production. Both belong to the same concept of value; in both cases the empty place of what we gave away is filled by an object of higher value…” 84 With desire for leisure, labour is sacrifice.

Economy is a special case of the general form of exchange – a surrender of something in order to gain something ( 87). Sacrifice refers to the inner,systematic meaning of the concept of value and exchange. Utility seems to exist prior to any economic system. Its real meaning is desire. But without price impossible to divide value and enjoyment.


The epistemology of relativistic world view:
An absolute is not required as a conceptional counterpart of relativity. 104  Every conception is true only in relation to another one (ibid.) Everyn judicial system contains in itself forces that make for its …abolition OUR KNOWLEDGE RESTS UPON FIRST PRINCIPLES WHICH CANNOT BE PROVED AT ANY GIVEN TIME. 105 Without them there is no relative proofs either – but they are not demonstrated logically. Prelegal conditions, right is established by force, etc, but not established legally. Circular reasoning, suffice for long. Reciprocity of proofs stems from the interrelationship of the world’s phenomena. Cognition is a free floating process reciprocally proved.

“Truth is then a relative concept like weight” 106 Our image of the world floats in the air, since the world itself does so. The totality of our knowledge would then be as little true as would be the totality of matter be heavy’ 106
Truths authenticate each other. Other form of relativity exists between theory and practical interests of our life.Representations do not mirror outside world in a mechanical way. But they guide our practical deeds, incite us to useful behaviour. 107
Monism leads to dualism, pluralism and vice versa, they create a desire for unity. Philosophical and individual thinking moves also between them. Individualization and socialization as like as present and past can be understood together.- Idealism and materialism are seen as heuristic principles:
Mental existence consists of 1/content and 2/mental process that carries it. Their structure is different. The latter (mental process) is a continuous flux, without breaks, where one state passes into the other organically. ” The process of thinking…. continues according to its own inner meaning, although the death of the individual brings it to an end.” 115 The former (contents) are distinguished from one another as steps of a ladder. They form background to each other. In a circle of proofs knowledge is an infinite regress to their hidden reciprocity. Relativity is the essential feature of truth, not a diminution of it.The mode in which representations become truth:.”Truth is valid not in spite of its relativity, but precisely on account of it.” 116

Dogmatism may rest upon a rock, but what supports the rock? (ibid.) Assertion of certainty of knowledge presupposes certainty of knowledge. Conversely if all knowledge is fallacious than so is scepticism itself. (ibid.) Truth may derive from experience, but who proves the validity of the latter. Relativism, heuristics acknowledge their own relativism.  Projection of relations into objects is a human achievement. 129 Elimination of use value in favour of exchange value 130 is unable to reach its consummation, only money has attained this final stage.|-
The development of purely symbolic character of money.148

Levels of culture differ by the extent they use symbols that save energy at high levels. The idea that life is based on intellect goes hand in hand with the money economy 152 Some chiefs in Oceania ‘cannot steal’ because everything belongs to them. Money is not merely a symbol of goods.
Reality and pure concepts:
Effectiveness of elements depends upon the concurrence of opposing elements. One may steadily decline and be supplanted But then the sense and effectiveness of the other will also be paralysed.

INDIVIDUALISM -SOCIALISM: Success of socialistic trends depends upon that they are introduced into individual economic systems. Progress from their relative increase does not justify their complete implementation. Significance of individualistic measures depends on social institutions continuing to exist, their complete disappeareance would lead “to unanticipated results differing widely from those that individualism had previously brought about.” 166 A number of most important processes follow this pattern:total elimination of the contrary element would deprive the first of its specific character. 167 Same with intrinsic value and symbolic nature of money. Some of the former should be retained.

Counterforces are not unalloyed forces. Unalloyed concepts are not bad, exaggereations help understanding. But they are too much, too high, too pure and need restraining contrasts. 167

Development of money from substance to function
It is the stability and reliability of social interaction (along with local conditions) that prepares the dissolution of money as a substance. Hope and fear, desire and anxiety and thoughts have to take the form of a universally understood language, activities, posessions must take money form. Where Man the toolmaker produces money-tool, means grow into ends.
II. Synthetic Part
Possession as activity 303
There is mutual dependence of having and being. Property is the sum total of rights over the object for it :presupposes action on the part of the proprietor. Possession exerts an influence upon owner. The interaction of the object and subject emerges out of a certain relationship of both.The intensity of the subject and the possession interact, there is a chain from being to having. 307

Marx’s question (conscience being determined by being) is answered in the first sphere “since men’s being in Marx’s sense includes having.”307 Posession-peculiar determines being, this is more relaxed in direction of indeterminate objects and seems to disintegrate altogether in relation to
money. (ibid.)

Individual freedom
(Allusion to the intellectual flowering of FLORENCE financial capitalism, GENOA, VENICE: commerce, middle ages 315).
MONEY TAX: LEST DEPENDENT ON THE GOOD WILL OF THE OBLIGATED PERSON. 398  THE SHREWD DESPOT CHOSES FORMS GRANTING HIS SUBJECTS ‘THE GREATEST POSSIBLE FREEDOM in their purely individual relationships.” 398 Political despotism may exist together with individual libertarianism. 398

Human beings work in a unified stream of intelligence, will, material aspects. If only labour produces,”only labour  p o w e r possesses value.” 410 [Note:Simmel does not share this view.]
The unpaid contribution of mental effort:
Mental effort contributes to the cost value as does manual labour on the same grounds even though the mental experience is much less than in original products. “The difference between the two is the gratuitous achievement of the mind. And it is this ideal factor that so completely distingvishes mental from economic possession in two respects: on the one hand, it can be so much more basic;on the other, it can be so much less accepted than the latter.” 412 Thought, expressed cannot be captured again and cannot be stolen, it remains bound up with the personality as a constantly reproducible content. in a manner that has no analogy in the economic sphere.It has a supraeconomic importance.

Scientific socialism rejects egalitarianism. Historical materialism is derived from practical social need to decclare eonomy the source and common denominator of all other spheres. What is concern here is ” the systematic construction of the path that is the reverse of that of the creative movement of the thought “413 A reduction of all labour value to the value of manual labour is crude, plebeian. 422

There are two elements of value, labour and utility. One shouldn’t say all labour is value.There is a fundamental connection between labour theory of value and socialism. The latter strives to a society in which “the utility value of objects, in relation to the labour time applied to them forms a constant” 426 In the 3.volume of Capital use value is acknowledged as a precondition of all value (including labour). Importance depends on the unified societal need: ‘labour is equivalent. Value, only if that amount of labour is produced that covers the part of each need that is circumscribed by it. No labour would be less useful than any other.”no distinction in use value at all” 427. This presupposes a completely rationalized and providential economic order in which each labour resulted from the absolute knowledge of needs and the labour requirements for each products. Socialist strive for such an order leads to a completely utopian state of affairs- technically possible only, “if as a whole , only the immediately essential, unquestionably basic life necessities
are produced. 427  The relation between need and labour is constant  only there where everything  is of equal importance.

The Style of Life

The preponderance of intellectual over emotional functions is brought about by the money economy. Money economy produces intellectual energy – emotions and sentiments are products of other periods and sphres of interest. Money is – means. Means are neutral, the purpose is created by will. The mere awareness of the world’s content does not bring about any purposefulness “Rather, the contents of the world are completely neutral, but at one point or another they unpredictably become coloured by the will” 430. Intellect leads us solely through the actual connections between things.It is a mediator through which volition adjusts itself to independent being (ibid.).
Our means are subjective representations of the objective world order. Means being indifferent, emotions are tied up to the ends.The more such termini we have, the stronger will be the emotional function in relation to the intellectual. In primitive societies there is a shortness of teleological series. Obtaining food, in higher cultures is replaced ” by an almost continuous multi-linked series of purpose” (ibid.). The recent division is created by money- central interest for unrelated series. Money is everywhere conceived as a purpose, – ends in themselves are degraded to mere means. A web of objective and personal aspects of life emerges like strict causality, objects of intelligence.- They exclude the interference of emotions. The conceivable elements of action become calculable rational relationships, emotions attach themselves to the turning points of life, to the final purposes.

Lack of character:
Character is a commitment to an individual mode of existence, excluding any other: intellect in no way is affected by such factors. “For the intellect is the indifferent mirror of reality…” 432. Absolutely lacking in character, it exists apart from the selective one-sidedness that determines character. Money too lacks of character. Its shrewdness is “severing prudence from any determination by objective or ideal norms and making it absolutely subservient to relevant personal interests.” 433. The dual roles of both intellect and money: with regard to content they are suprapersonal. 434
The acrimony of theoretical-logical discussions does not affect the conciliation inherent in intellect. As soon as the conflict is shifted from emotions or volitions to theory – it can, in priciple, be resolved. “the conflict of interests in money economy does not affect the principle of neutrality that raises the controversy above personal involvement and that ultimately provides a basis for mutual understanding” 434  Life is no longer determined by the distinctness of character. That means:

The very essence of intelligence itself consists of those functions of our mind through which reality appears to us as objective.435  Money is an objectivity, independent of qualities, of subjective economic elements. Laws of nature, objectivity of nature are in general, “the counterpart of the subjectivity of man.” 436 “The objectivity of human interaction – which,however, is only a formation of material originally offered by subjective energies, but one that ultimately takes on its own independent existence and norms – finds its highest expression in purely monetary  economic interests.” (ibid.)
“Money places the actions and relations of men quite outside of men as human subjects, just as intellectual life – in so far as it is purely intellectual- moves from personal subjectivity into the sphere of objectivity which it only reflects” (ibid.) He who has the money, he who has the intelligence is the superior. “this factor of superiority, common to both money and intellectuality” 437 The dual role of intellect and money: with regard to function both are individualistic and egoistic. 437

Contraversions and discussion of the above paragraph:
Some counter-argument may cite the close relation between intelligence and individuality.

Money is also the breeding ground for economic individualism and egoism. But content and function (use) are different.”In the first sense, the intellect possesses a levelling, one might almost say communistic, character…”437
1. It is universally communicable, everybody can understand it. Will, emotions: are devoid of proofs to spread their conviction 2 . Intellect is not exclusive. Theoretical notions are „like a torch whose light does not become dimmer by igniting innumerable others from it.” Inasmuch as their potential boundless dissemination has no influence whatsoever upon their importance, they elude private ownership more than any contents of life.” 438    3. Finally, they present them in a way that “excludes all individual contingencies from the assimilation of their content” so that “everyone can refer back to them at any time and use their objective structure to continually reproduce the same inner process.” (ibid.) Only in intellectual matters we possess an adequate means, independent of personal disposition – language.
BUT as soon as real historical forces begin to channel these abstract possibilities their significance changes. FIRST of all-their general validity. One can resist a superior will, but not a superior logic but by a stubborn I don’t want to. Furthermore daily struggle is decided by a certain measure of intelligence, “even though the great decisions among men originate from supra-intelligent energies”438  The mere intellectual organization of human relations brings individual differences to their full development and utilization. Curtailing differences “might be attained subsequently…(by) social duty…feeeling of love and pity…” This is why the rationalistic interpretation of the world – which, as impartial as money, has also come close to the socialist image of life -has become the advocate of modern egoism and the ruthless assertion of individuality” 438 Only self-interested action is considered logical. But: the egoistic will as much as an altruistic one cannot be squeezed out of rationality. The latter provides means for both of them..

Social individualism too appears as the intellect’s corollary. Any collectivism seems to contain mysticism in so far as it may not be reduced to members interests. Herder and the Romantics, opposing rationalism recognised supraindividual emotional potentials and supra-individual collectivities as unities and historical realities.

FINALLY the inner accessibility and reflectiveness of theory- offsets its practical results. Factors independent of personal capacities decide the utilization of knowledge. Proof: preponderance of the most unintelligent educated person over the cleverest proletarian. 439 “…freedoms accorded by liberal doctrines…disregard the fact that only those already privileged in some way or another have the possibility of acquring them” 439 “…education…can ultimately be acquired only through individual activity…it gives rise to the most intangible and thus the most unassailable aristocracy, to a distinction between high and low…”439-440 which cannot be abolished by decree, revolution (as can be done so with socio-economical differences) nor by the good will of those concerned. Jesus could say to the rich, give away your goods, but not: give away your education. Underprivileged therefore tend to despise education and feel deprived and helpless.
Attempts to achieve practical equality scorn intellectual education. (Buddha, cynics, certain currents in Christianity, Robespierre: nous n’avons pas besoin de savants. Jesus fought against scholars.)
The location of knowledge in speech and writing (a manifest of its communal nature) makes possible its accumulation and concentration. Intellectually gifted persons have chances to stand away from the masses. Gulf deepens.
Intellect has common features with money. Money is generally available, objective, nonetheless it facilitates growth of individuality, subjectivity.”its qualitative communistic character leads to each quantitative difference becoming a qualitativ one” 440 Purely formal cultural energy can be applied to any content so as to bring about its purer representation. Specific analogies of money with intellect: both support egoism and differentiation.

Distinctive feature of money compared with other forms of property: it does not point to any specific use. It is adaptable to any use. “Money is therefore similar to the forms of logic wich lend themselves equally to any particular content, regardless of that content’s development or combination.” 441 Proof: formal correctness of objectively nonsensical and detrimental contents. – Furthermore, money is analoguous to the schemes of LAW: some injustice can be acknowledged as formally rightous. Money, unlike other forms of ownership is in no way restricted in use by ethics.

Money’s relationship to the rationalism of law and logic:
All the above three extract from life one general factor with independent norms imposing upon the totality of existence.They lay down forms and directions for content to which they are indifferent 442. Equality serves to express inequality, becomes a weapon of egoism.
Legal equality is like some potential communism removing status-related demarcation of types of property. Landed property had obligations toward the lower orders. Solidarity within class limited ambitions of others. Now anybody can acquire property, there is no obligation toward lower classes.

Finally, accumulation of intelligence is analoguous to accumulation of money capital. Money (yields) multiplies without the effort of the owner. Intellect’s cognitive content is offered increasingly in a condensed and concentrated form. As with money, the separation of the
results of the intelligence from its process results in concentrated abstractions so that “if one stands high enough, they may be picked like fruits that have ripened without any efforts on our part.”

University in a logical-substantive sense and university in a socal practice fall asunder. In other spheres these two senses often coincide: in art, religion, Kantian ethics. Here, in the spheres of money, law, intellect: their tension is the base of contradiction-feeling in modernity.

The calculating character of modern times:
Determination of public life through majority votes makes value of indidividual reduced to an entity of purely quantitative significacnce. 444 Calculation reflects intellectualism. The apparently non-partisan formalism: the ‘rational’ of the concept “is basically a disposition to cover over a specified biased content.” This feature of our times closely relates to money. Daily math operations are reducing quality to quantity. Money- intensifies sublimation of the economy in general.445   Superstructure of money determines the inner image of reality. Pocket watches brought a similar effect on daily life. Goethe,Carlyle, Nietzsche were always opposing the economic interpretation of human affairs.

The concept of culture

The increase in material culture and the lag in individual culture. Language, morals, religion, law represent some increased value beyond the performance of  natural constitution, development.of human nature beyond its natural state. 447 Tools, transport, products of science, etc are extremely refined “Yet individual.
culture, at least in the higher strata, has not progressed at all at the same extent:indeed, it has even frequently declined.”448 As far as workers are concerned they do not understand the complexities of their machines. As users of daily life objects “we cannot conceive how much intellectual effort is expended in their production” 449
Communication is also filled with symbolic terms. 18th. century pedagogy formed the man, in the 19th. century they educated him to acquire a body of knowledge, behavioral patterns. To the contrary, epistemology of Plato posits our knowledge as a part of the complex of knowledge existing in ideal forms.

The objectification of the mind: Objectified mind consists of  words,organizations,traditions, etc. Their hereditary transmision is biologically doubtful neverthelss it is a historical fact . To be not only a descendant but also an
heir denotes the superiority of men over animals 453 Lifestyle depends on the relationship of the objectified culture and the culture of the subjects 453. In small circles they are close. But size is not a full explanation.

The division of labour as the cause of the divergence of subjective and objective culture:
The inner wholeness of the self evolves out of interaction with the uniformity and completion of our life task 454 Their unity in an object of art ” The work of art requires only one single person, but it requires him totally, right down to his innermost core.” 455
Wthin the division of labour the achievement is incommensurable with the performer. The person can no longer express himself in his work. It no longer touches the routes of his whole life-system.
Consumption- broadening depends upon objective culture. Consumable material cannot be differentiated to taste, production is extremely differentiated. “The pattern of consumption is thus a bridge between the objectivity of culture and the division of labour.”455
Finally”the separation of the worker from the means of production is also a kind of  division of labour…”(ibid.) With this separation of objective and subjective conditions of work – there is an extremely high polarity between labour and its materials. Work is separated from the worker: labour power  has become a commodity. Product is autonomous, with own laws and alien to the producing subject. Worker buys his own product.
In science: facts and methods are simply accepted from outside. That means also a separation of the worker from his means of production. 456 Objective material of the producer is separated from the subjective process of work. When there was less differentiation less was the contrast between the subjective achievements and the world of objectively given facts.The result, no matter how
much the fruit of subjective effort becomes objective the more it contains the work of others. 457 In philosophy they are least detached, because the division of labour is limited.
Production is influenced by “the growing objectivity of the economic cosmos and its impersonal independence in relation to the individual consumer with whom it was originally closely identified.” 457 Subjectivity is transposed into cool reserve and anonymous objectivity.
Now not only lower strata work for te upper ones, but vice versa. That is proved by commissioning of the highest cultural services by the lowest consumers. And by that the roughest hands collaborate in the production of the most sophisticated products. With this inversion: higher strata do labour for the lower ones as a result of objectification of culture in consequence of the relation between division of labour and objectification of culture.
Specialization of the object means its alienation from the human being unable to assimilate and subject it to his or her rhytm. Machinery is like state administration. Its totality works independently of the labourer who is no more a personality but a person carrying out tasks. Shoe factory worker is no more a craft shoemaker. Modern man is surrounded by impersonal objects and conditioned into accepting an antiindividual social order. 460 Thought, work effort and skill embodied in commodities are its moving forces.

“All historical understanding requires a flexibility of the mind” 462 History is history of basic interests, emotions and striving. Historical materialism is a psychological hypothesis. 462 Historicizing – is an internal aspect of adaptability and wide-ranging mobility. Every style is a language in itself. One of the latter is mother tongue. Knowledge of others ones is the knowledge of the language itself in general. “Only where a variety of given styles exists will one detach itself from its content so that its independence…gives …the freedom to chose between the one and the other.”463
The occasional greater weight of subjective culture:
Some social institutions develop at a more sluggish pace than individuals. “This is the case, for instance, where the relations of production, after having existed for a definite period, are outstripped by the forces of production which they themselves have developed, so that these forces are no longer permitted an adequate expression and utilization.” 464
Marriage too is  a rigid form. Its objective spirit lags behind its spiritual development. Jurisprudency ”acquires a rigidity toward the changing conditions and needs of life”. 464 – Religion too, it consists of a body of dogmas. A like rigidity can be observed in corporate entities. Independence of objectified cultural forms is the result of elementary historical dynamics confronting human subjects. Progress in history is connected with the above. If every interpretation may be proved and
disproved with equal plausibility “the fault may often lie with the fact that they do not centre around the same object. 464 Progress and stagnation may exist side by side in one and the same sphere. The state – synthesis of different elements standing both below and above the person.” The same is true of all institutions of the objective mind that are based on the combination of differentiated individualistic efforts.” 466 They surpass the individual  intellect, and we conceive of them as of an innimate and soulless mechanism or mechanical nature of our cultural products. In this view important deeds are carried out not by individuals but by the masses. Personality, however,  cannot be dissolved into objectivities. General question: “is the inner life of the individual close or estranged from the objective cultural evolution of his age.”467 Is his core of personality independent of the objective elements? Is the soul, master in its own house?

The relation of money to the agents of these opposing tendencies:
individuals. The cultural content of the production cosmos can be realized only through money. 469 Firstly, it transmits all impulses through the system, secondly, it serves as a bloodstream for the latter. Money as a link between man and thing gives us freedom from direct concern with things allowing us to have an island of subjectivity. Who wins – depends on man. „Here again the money economy reveals its formal affinity to a socialist society. For what is expected of socialism – release from the individual struggle for survival, secure access to life’s necessities and access to the higher economic values – would probably exercise the same differentiating effect, so that a certain sector of society might rise to unprecedented heights of spirituality far removed from earthly concerns, while another sector might plunge into a correspondingly unprecedented practical materialism.” 470  Money may be compared to language also used in different directions. Their peculiarity is the lack of peculiarity.

Alterations in the distance between the self and objects
Modern tendencies towards the increase and diminution of this distance.
Neo Kantians allow objects to be distilled by mind before they may become cognitions.
The part played by money in this dual process:
“…the enthusiasm for the progress in lighting makes us sometimes forget that the essential thing is not the lighting itself but what becomes fully visible.” 482 Not the telephone but what one has to say. Old metaphysics mistakenly transfers attributes of elements in relation to each other to the whole. It is childish to state we conquer nature ( by submitting to its laws, etc) “Yet nature is merely indifferent and its subjugation does not affect its own regularities.” 482 Natural laws do not ACT – they are energies. It is a naivety to believe that they direct reality as real forces, as a sovereign controls his empire. God’s direct control of earthly life is an anthropomorphic misinterpretation.It does show that “the mythological mode of thought is also at home within the natural scientific world view.” 483 Plato’s dream to make science reign over life is put on practice. Yet this makes many things indispensable which could be dispensed as far as the essence of life is concerned.” It has been asserted with reference to the sphere of production that the machine, which was supposed toto relieve man from his slave labour in relation to nature, has forced him to become a slave to it.” 483
“It is quite erroneous to believe that the significance and intellectual potential of modern life has been transferred from the form of the individual to that of the masses. Rather, it has been transferred to the form of the objects:…machines, products…supraindividual organizations of contemporary culture. Correspondently, the ‘revolt of the slaves’ that threatens to dethrone the authocracy and the normative independence of strong individuals is not the revolt of the masses, but the revolt of objects.” 483

We are slaves of the production process. Products, technology have acquired mastery over the self
reliance as spiritual centre of life through habits, distractions and superficial needs.
Man has thereby become estranged from himself. An insuperable barrier of media, technical inventions, abilities, and enjoyments has been erected between him and his most distinctive and essential being.” 484 Men’s mind is focused on end and means, it is his lasting fate to oscillate between contradictory demands of ends and means. Spirituality and contemplation stunned by technical age suffer tension and vague longing. They feel that meaning of life can be grasped with some courage, strengh and inner security. But helpless urgency, secret restlessness drives modern man from socialism to Nietzsche, from Bocklin to impressionism, from Hegel to Schopenhauer and back again. As an expression of innermost condition, lack of definite in soul impels us to search momentary satisfaction, external activities in the tumult of the metropolis, mania for travelling, wild pursuit of competition, disloyalty.

Money performs dual role. First, as a series of means of culture covering and displacing final ends. (That is a most important illustration of the senselessness and consequences of the teleological dislocation. ) Second: the means of means furnish the general technique of modern life. IT STANDS ABOVE THEM AS AN INTEGRATING FORCE THAT SUPPORTS AND PERMEATES EVERY SINGLE ELEMENT. 485

The rhythm or symmetry of the contents of life:
Rhytm-symmetry in time and in space required by Order also determine the style of life.. ‘both despotism and socialism possess particularly strong inclinations toward symmetries called consructions of society.” 489 Symmetry is the first indication of rationality ” If object and men are brought under the yoke of the system – that is, if they are arranged symmetrically – then they  can best be dealt with rationally.” 489 For this reason socialist utopias were building in circles or squares in contrast to Rabelais Thelemites where no clocks were allowed. Everything happens according to need and occasion. Stabil organization has overcome the resistence of irrational individuality. Symmetry is the first and simplest structure through which reason stylizes the material of life. Nature and mind are not as symmetrical as both would like it to be with the other. Systematic method imposes violence upon reality.
Analoguous developments in money:
Two principles of life, rhythmic-symmetrical and individual-spontaneous not always reconcile. Symmetrical logical roundness which relates the meaning of every single event to a central point is rejected – in order to permit “every element to develop independently according to its own circumstances and allow the whole to appear as an irregular and unbalanced phenomenon.” 493-494 That means formation of life from case to case, according to inner demands of every moment,
readiness for experiencing and acting, respect for the autonomous life of things. Life is not controlled by ideas whose application always leads to systematization, it is formed out of individual elements regardless of the symmetry as a whole. Thus emerges a conflict between a socialistic whole and its members. Money transposes the supraindividualistic rhythm into individuals. Supports also systemization as a precursor of the type of social form that socialism strives to establish.

Analogous role of the religion: It emerged to recconcile moral and practice, ideal and real, wants and satisfaction. If it is accomplished, religion steps down to the battle arena, identifies with one side of the dualism. It is a part or element of life and on the other hand a totality above the relativity of life.

The same with state: it stands above parties as a higher authority and supports some of them. The same with metaphysics, dealing with totality and essence, absolute and spiritual substance. But this absolute is recognized as a relative, inferior spiritual wickedness and indolence.
Money also stands above all and lends its service to specifical wants. “even the most radical differences and antagonisms in the human world always leave room for similarities and community of interests.” 497 Opposing parties equally use money forces, means of expression, possibilites of communication
Money is a SYMBOL OF THE UNCONCEIVABLE UNITY OF BEING, (ibid.) out of which flows the world. It has been expressed that the what gains its thatness.
1. The substance of the world is constant, its formation is a perpetuum mobile.
2. In every inorganic only the relationship of smallest particles persist, they are in flux.
Constancy and flux as categories for comprehending the world have timeless significance. But reality cannot be constructed on this basis. Law is indifferent towards individual instances of realisation. Laws produce effects out of causes and allow effects to operate as causes. Money is the historical symbol of the relative character of existence.
Only because reality is in motion is there sense in asserting eternally valid lawfulness. Without law stream of existence disintegrates into chaos. Money transcends its significance as a single economic value in order to represent abstract economic value. Money embodies the relativity of economic goods. The more it dominates, the more relativistic character of existence finds its expression in conscious life. Absolutist view also represents a definite stage of development corellating with practical, economical and emotional conditions. More accurately it is confirmed by opposing images of social and subjective life.

Edmund Husserl (1859-1939)

Husserl, a German mathematician turned philosopher, was the true father of Phenomenology. He was an extremely complicated and technical thinker.
His chief contributions were the phenomenological method, developed early, and the concept of the life-world, appearing only in his later writings. Husserl proposed the phenomenological reduction as a technique for conducting phenomenological analyses–that is, for making possible “a descriptive account of the essential structures of the directly given.” The emphasis here is upon the immediacy of experience, the attempt to isolate it and set it off from all assumptions of existence or causal influence and to lay bare its actual intrinsic structure; for it is this structure that constitutes its essence.

Phenomenology restricts the philosopher’s attention to the pure data of consciousness uncontaminated by metaphysical theories or scientific assumptions. Husserl’s concept of the life-world expressed this same idea of immediacy. It is the individual’s personal world as directly experienced, with the ego at the centre and with all of its vital and emotional colourings.
Its two most notable adherents were Max Scheler, a scholar of life-philosophy, who wrote “Formalism in Ethics and the Material Value-Ethics” and the ontological Existentialist Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), whose famous Sein und Zeit (Being and Time) appeared in 1927. Later, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, a French student of philosophical psychology, in his Phénoménologie de la perception (1945; The Phenomenology of Perception), took over Husserl’s conception of the life-world and used the notions of the lived body and its facticity to build up a hierarchical order of man’s lived experience. (From: “The History of Western Philosophy: Modern philosophy: The 20th century: Continental philosophy.: Phenomenology of Husserl and others.” Britannica Online.)


Reaction against Idealism.

During the last decades of the 19th century, English philosophy was dominated by an absolute Idealism that stemmed from the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. For English philosophy this represented a break in an almost solid tradition of Empiricism. The seeds of modern Analytic philosophy were sown when two of the most important figures in its history, Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore, broke with Idealism at the turn of the 20th century. Absolute Idealism was avowedly metaphysical in the sense that its adherents thought of themselves as describing, in a way not open to scientists, certain very fundamental truths about the world. Indeed, what pass for truths in the sciences, were, in their view, not really truths at all; for the scientist must, perforce, treat the world as composed of distinct objects and can only describe and state the relationships supposedly holding among them. But the Idealists held that to talk about reality as if it were a multiplicity of objects is to falsify it; in the end only the whole, the absolute, has reality.

In their conclusions and, most importantly, in their methodology, the Idealists were decidedly not on the side of commonsense intuition. Thus, a Cambridge philosopher, J.M.E. McTaggart, argued that the concept of time is inconsistent and cannot therefore be exemplified in reality. British Empiricism, on the other hand, had always thought of common sense as an ally and science as the model of the way in which to find out about the world. Even when their views might seem out of step with common sense, the Empiricists were generally concerned to reconcile the two. One can hardly claim that Analytic philosophers have universally thought of themselves as on the side of common sense and much less that metaphysical conclusions (on the ultimate nature of reality) are absent from their writings. But there is in the history of the Analytic movement a strong antimetaphysical strain, and its exponents have generally assumed that the methods of science and of everyday life are the authentic ways of finding out the truth.

(“Western Philosophical Schools and Doctrines: MODERN SCHOOLS: Analytic and Linguistic philosophy: EARLY HISTORY OF ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY” Britannica Online. <> [Accessed 09 May 1998].)

Analytic philosophy, the prevailing philosophy in the Anglo-American world in the 20th century, has its origins in symbolic logic on the one hand and in British empiricism on the other. Some of its important contributions have been nonepistemological in character, but in the area of epistemology its contributions have also been of the first order. Its main characteristics have been the avoidance of system building and a commitment to detailed, piecemeal analyses of specific issues. Within this tradition there have been two main approaches: a formal style, deriving from logic; and an approach emphasizing ordinary language. Among those who can be identified with the first method are Bertrand Russell, Gottlob Frege, Rudolf Carnap, Alfred Tarski, and W.V.O. Quine; and among those with the second are G.E. Moore, Gilbert Ryle, J.L. Austin, Norman Malcolm, P.F. Strawson, and Zeno Vendler. Wittgenstein can be situated in both groups, his early work belonging to the former tradition and his posthumous works, Philosophical Investigations (1953) and On Certainty (1969), to the latter. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of analytic philosophy is its emphasis upon the role that language plays in the creation and resolution of philosophical problems.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
The Problems of Philosophy
(First published in the Home University Library, 1912
Oxford University Press)
(Part of Chapter IV.)

…Taking the word ‘idea’ in Berkeley’s sense, there are two quite distinct things to be considered whenever an idea is before the mind. There is on the one hand the thing of which we are aware — say the colour of my table — and on the other hand the actual awareness itself, the mental act of apprehending the thing. The mental act is undoubtedly mental, but is there any reason to suppose that the thing apprehended is in any sense mental? Our previous arguments concerning the colour did not prove it to be mental; they only proved that its existence depends upon the relation of our sense organs to the physical object — in our case, the table. That is to say, they proved that a certain colour will exist, in a certain light, if a normal eye is placed at a certain point relatively to the table. They did not prove that the colour is in the mind of the percipient.

Berkeley’s view, that obviously the colour must be in the mind, seems to depend for its plausibility upon confusing the thing apprehended with the act of apprehension. Either of these might be called an ‘idea’; probably either would have been called an idea by Berkeley. The act is undoubtedly in the mind; hence, when we are thinking of the act, we readily assent to the view that ideas must be in the mind. Then, forgetting that this was only true when ideas were taken as acts of apprehension, we transfer the proposition that ‘ideas are in the mind’ to ideas in the other sense, i.e. to the things apprehended by our acts of apprehension. Thus, by an unconscious equivocation, we arrive at the conclusion that whatever we can apprehend must be in our minds. This seems to be the true analysis of Berkeley’s argument, and the ultimate fallacy upon which it rests.

This question of the distinction between act and object in our apprehending of things is vitally important, since our whole power of acquiring knowledge is bound up with it. The faculty of being acquainted with things other than itself is the main characteristic of a mind. Acquaintance with objects essentially consists in a relation between the mind and something other than the mind; it is this that constitutes the mind’s power of knowing things. If we say that the things known must be in the mind, we are either unduly limiting the mind’s power of knowing, or we are uttering a mere tautology. We are uttering a mere tautology if we mean by ‘in the mind’ the same as by ‘before the mind’, i.e. if we mean merely being apprehended by the mind. But if we mean this, we shall have to admit that what, in this sense, is in the mind, may nevertheless be not mental. Thus when we realize the nature of knowledge, Berkeley’s argument is seen to be wrong in substance as well as in form, and his grounds for supposing that ‘ideas’ — i.e. the objects apprehended — must be mental, are found to have no validity whatever. Hence his grounds in favour of idealism may be dismissed. It remains to see whether there are any other grounds.

It is often said, as though it were a self-evident truism, that we cannot know that anything exists which we do not know. It is inferred that whatever can in any way be relevant to our experience must be at least capable of being known by us; whence it follows that if matter were essentially something with which we could not become acquainted, matter would be something which we could not know to exist, and which could have for us no importance whatever. It is generally also implied, for reasons which remain obscure, that what can have no importance for us cannot be real, and that therefore matter, if it is not composed of minds or of mental ideas, is impossible and a mere chimaera.

To go into this argument fully at our present stage would be impossible, since it raises points requiring a considerable preliminary discussion; but certain reasons for rejecting the argument may be noticed at once. To begin at the end: there is no reason why what cannot have any practical importance for us should not be real. It is true that, if theoretical importance is included, everything real is of some importance to us, since, as persons desirous of knowing the truth about the universe, we have some interest in everything that the universe contains. But if this sort of interest is included, it is not the case that matter has no importance for us, provided it exists even if we cannot know that it exists. We can, obviously, suspect that it may exist, and wonder whether it does; hence it is connected with our desire for knowledge, and has the importance of either satisfying or thwarting this desire.

Again, it is by no means a truism, and is in fact false, that we cannot know that anything exists which we do not know. The word ‘know’ is here used in two different senses. (1) In its first use it is applicable to the sort of knowledge which is opposed to error, the sense in which what we know is true, the sense which applies to our beliefs and convictions, i.e. to what are called judgements. In this sense of the word we know that something is the case. This sort of knowledge may be described as knowledge of truths. (2) In the second use of the word ‘know’ above, the word applies to our knowledge of things, which we may call acquaintance. This is the sense in which we know sense-data. (The distinction involved is roughly that between savoir and connaître in French, or between wissen and kennen in German.)

Thus the statement which seemed like a truism becomes, when re-stated, the following: ‘We can never truly judge that something with which we are not acquainted exists.’ This is by no means a truism, but on the contrary a palpable falsehood. I have not the honour to be acquainted with the Emperor of China, but I truly judge that he exists. It may be said, of course, that I judge this because of other people’s acquaintance with him. This, however, would be an irrelevant retort, since, if the principle were true, I could not know that any one else is acquainted with him. But further: there is no reason why I should not know of the existence of something with which nobody is acquainted. This point is important, and demands elucidation.

If I am acquainted with a thing which exists, my acquaintance gives me the knowledge that it exists. But it is not true that, conversely, whenever I can know that a thing of a certain sort exists, I or some one else must be acquainted with the thing. What happens, in cases where I have true judgement without acquaintance, is that the thing is known to me by description, and that, in virtue of some general principle, the existence of a thing answering to this description can be inferred from the existence of something with which I am acquainted. In order to understand this point fully, it will be well first to deal with the difference between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description, and then to consider what knowledge of general principles, if any, has the same kind of certainty as our knowledge of the existence of our own experiences. These subjects will be dealt with in the following chapters.

The Problems of Philosophy

First published in the Home University Library, 1912
First issued as an Oxford University Press paperback, 1959
This reprint, 1971-2



IN the preceding chapter we saw that there are two sorts of knowledge: knowledge of things, and knowledge of truths. In this chapter we shall be concerned exclusively with knowledge of things, of which in turn we shall have to distinguish two kinds. Knowledge of things, when it is of the kind we call knowledge by acquaintance, is essentially simpler than any knowledge of truths, and logically independent of knowledge of truths, though it would be rash to assume that human beings ever, in fact, have acquaintance with things without at the same time knowing some truth about them. Knowledge of things by description, on the contrary, always involves, as we shall find in the course of the present chapter, some knowledge of truths as its source and ground. But first of all we must make dear what we mean by ‘acquaintance’ and what we mean by ‘description’.

We shall say that we have acquaintance with anything of which we are directly aware, without the intermediary of any process of inference or any knowledge of truths. Thus in the presence of my table I am acquainted with the sense-data that make up the appearance of my table — its colour, shape, hardness, smoothness, etc.; all these are things of which I am immediately conscious when I am seeing and touching my table. The particular shade of colour that I am seeing may have many things said about it — I may say that it is brown, that it is rather dark, and so on. But such statements, though they make me know truths about the colour, do not make me know the colour itself any better than I did before: so far a concerns knowledge of the colour itself, as opposed to knowledge of truths about it, I know the colour perfectly and completely when I see it, and no further knowledge of it itself is even theoretically possible. Thus the sense-data which make up the appearance of my table are things with which I have acquaintance, things immediately known to me just as they are.

My knowledge of the table as a physical object, on the contrary, is not direct knowledge. Such as it is, it is obtained through acquaintance with the sense-data that make up the appearance of the table. We have seen that it is possible, without absurdity, to doubt whet there is a table at all, whereas it is not possible to doubt the sense-data. My knowledge of the table is of the kind which we shall call ‘knowledge by description’. The table is ‘the physical object which causes such-and-such sense-data’. This describes the table by means of the sense-data. In order to know anything at all about the table, we must know truths connecting it with things with which we have acquaintance: we must know that ‘such-and-such sense-data are caused by a physical object’. There is no state of mind in which we are directly aware of the table; all our knowledge of the table is really knowledge of truths, and the actual thing which is the table is not, strictly speaking, known to us at all. We know a description and we know that there is just one object to which this description applies, though the object itself is not directly known to us. In such a case, we say that our knowledge of the object is knowledge by description.

All our knowledge, both knowledge of things and knowledge of truths, rests upon acquaintance as its foundation. It is therefore important to consider what kinds of things there are with which we have acquaintance.

Sense-data, as we have already seen, are among the things with which we are acquainted; in fact, they supply the most obvious and striking example of knowledge by acquaintance. But if they were the sole example, our knowledge would be very much more restricted than it is. We should only know what is now present to our senses: we could not know anything about the past — not even that there was a past — nor could we know any truths about our sense-data, for all knowledge of truths, as we shall show, demands acquaintance with things which are of an essentially different character from sense-data, the things which are sometimes called ‘abstract ideas’, but which we shall call ‘universals’. We have therefore to consider acquaintance with other things besides sense-data if we are to obtain any tolerably adequate analysis of our knowledge.

The first extension beyond sense-data to be considered is acquaintance by memory. It is obvious that we often remember what we have seen or heard or had otherwise present to our senses, and that in such cases we are still immediately aware of what we remember, in spite of the fact that it appears as past and not as present. This immediate knowledge by memory is the source of all our knowledge concerning the past: without it, there could be no knowledge of the past by inference we should never know that there was anything past to be inferred.

The next extension to be considered is acquaintance by introspection. We are not only aware of things, but we are often aware of being aware of them. When I see the sun, I am often aware of my seeing the sun; thus ‘my seeing the sun’ is an object with which I have acquaintance. When I desire food, I may be aware of my desire for food; thus ‘my desiring food’ is an object with which I am acquainted. Similarly we may be aware of our feeling pleasure or pain, and generally of the events which happen in our minds. This kind of acquaintance, which may be called self-consciousness, is the source of all our knowledge of mental things. It is obvious that it is only what goes on in our own minds that can be thus known immediately. What goes on in the minds of others is known to us through our perception of their bodies, that is, the sense-data in us which are associated with their bodies. But for our acquaintance with the contents of our own minds, we should be unable to imagine the minds of others, and therefore we could never arrive at the knowledge that they have minds. It seems natural to suppose that self-consciousness is one of the things that distinguish men from animals: animals, we may suppose, though they have acquaintance with sense-data, never become aware of this acquaintance. I do not mean that they doubt whether they exist, but that they have never become conscious of the fact that they have sensations and feelings, nor therefore of the fact that they, the subjects of their sensations and feelings, exist.

We have spoken of acquaintance with the contents of our minds as self-consciousness, but it is not, of course, consciousness of our self: it is consciousness of particular thoughts and feelings. The question whether we are also acquainted with our bare selves, as opposed to particular thoughts and feelings, is a very difficult one, upon which it would be rash to speak positively. When we try to look into ourselves we always seem to come upon some particular thought or feeling, and not upon the ‘I’ which has the thought or feeling. Nevertheless there are some reasons for thinking that we are acquainted with the ‘I’, though the acquaintance is hard to disentangle from other things. To make clear what sort of reason there is, let us consider for a moment what our acquaintance with particular thoughts really involves.

When I am acquainted with ‘my seeing the sun’, it seems plain that I am acquainted with two different things in relation to each other. On the one hand there is the sense-datum which represents the sun to me, on the other hand there is that which sees this sense-datum. All acquaintance, such as my acquaintance with the sense-datum which represents the sun, seems obviously a relation between the person acquainted and the object with which the person is acquainted. When a case of acquaintance is one with which I can be acquainted (as I am acquainted with my acquaintance with the sense-datum representing the sun), it is plain that the person acquainted is myself. Thus, when I am acquainted with my seeing the sun, the whole fact with which I am acquainted is ‘Self-acquainted-with-sense-datum’.

Further, we know the truth ‘I am acquainted with this sense-datum’. It is hard to see how we could know this truth, or even understand what is meant by it, unless we were acquainted with something which we call ‘I’. It does not seem necessary to suppose that we are acquainted with a more or less permanent person, the same to-day as yesterday, but it does seem as though we must be acquainted with that thing, whatever its nature, which sees the sun and has acquaintance with sense-data. Thus, in some sense it would seem we must be acquainted with our Selves as opposed to our particular experiences. But the question is difficult, and complicated arguments can be adduced on either side. Hence, although acquaintance with ourselves seems probably to occur, it is not wise to assert that it undoubtedly does occur.

We may therefore sum up as follows what has been said concerning acquaintance with things that exist. We have acquaintance in sensation with the data of the outer senses, and in introspection with the data of what may be called the inner sense — thoughts, feelings, desires, etc.; we have acquaintance in memory with things which have been data either of the outer senses or of the inner sense. Further, it is probable, though not certain, that we have acquaintance with Self, as that which is aware of things or has desires towards things.

In addition to our acquaintance with particular existing things, we also have acquaintance with what we shall call universals, that is to say, general ideas such as whiteness, diversity, brotherhood, and so on. Every complete sentence must contain at least one word which stands for a universal, since all verbs have a meaning which is universal. We shall return to universals later on, in Chapter IX; for the present, it is only necessary to guard against the supposition that whatever we can be acquainted with must be something particular and existent. Awareness of universals is called conceiving, and a universal of which we are aware is called a concept.

It will be seen that among the objects with which we are acquainted are not included physical objects (as opposed to sense-data), nor other people’s minds. These things are known to us by what I call ‘knowledge by description’, which we must now consider.

By a ‘description’ I mean any phrase of the form ‘a so-and-so’ or ‘the so-and-so’. A phrase of the form ‘a so-and-so’ I shall call an ‘ambiguous’ description; a phrase of the form ‘the so-and-so’ (in the singular) I shall call a ‘definite’ description. Thus ‘a man’ is an ambiguous description, and ‘the man with the iron mask’ is a definite description. There are various problems connected with ambiguous descriptions, but I pass them by, since they do not directly concern the matter we are discussing, which is the nature of our knowledge concerning objects in cases where we know that there is an object answering to a definite description, though we are not acquainted with any such object. This is a matter which is concerned exclusively with definite descriptions. I shall therefore, in the sequel, speak simply of ‘descriptions’ when I mean ‘definite descriptions’. Thus a description will mean any phrase of the form ‘the so-and-so’ in the singular.

We say that an object is ‘known by description’ when we know that it is ‘the so-and-so’, i.e. when we know that there is one object, and no more, having a certain property; and it will generally be implied that we do not have knowledge of the same object by acquaintance. We know that the man with the iron mask existed, and many propositions are known about him; but we do not know who he was. We know that the candidate who gets the most votes will be elected, and in this case we are very likely also acquainted (in the only sense in which one can be acquainted with some one else) with the man who is, in fact, the candidate who will get most votes; but we do not know which of the candidates he is, i.e. we do do not know any proposition of the form ‘A is the candidate who will get most votes’ where A is one of the candidates by name. We shall say that we have ‘merely descriptive knowledge’ of the so-and-so when, although we know that the so-and-so exists, and although we may possibly be acquainted with the object which is, in fact, the so-and-so, yet we do not know any proposition ‘a is the so-and-so’, where a is something with which we are acquainted.

When we say ‘the so-and-so exists’, we mean that there is just one object which is the so-and-so. The proposition ‘a is the so-and-so’ means that a has the property so-and-so, and nothing else has. ‘Mr. A. is the Unionist candidate for this constituency’ means ‘Mr. A. is a Unionist candidate for this constituency, and no one else is’. ‘The Unionist candidate for this constituency exists’ means ‘some one is a Unionist candidate for this constituency, and no one else is’. Thus, when we are acquainted with an object which is the so-and-so, we know that the so-and-so exists; but we may know that the so-and-so exists when we are not acquainted with any object which we know to be the so-and-so, and even when we are not acquainted with any object which, in fact, is the so-and-so.

Common words, even proper names, are usually really descriptions. That is to say, the thought in the mind of a person using a proper name correctly can generally only be expressed explicitly if we replace the proper name by a description. Moreover, the description required to express the thought will vary for different people, or for the same person at different times. The only thing constant (so long as the name is rightly used) is the object to which the name applies. But so long as this remains constant, the particular description involved usually makes no difference to the truth or falsehood of the proposition in which the name appears.

Let us take some illustrations. Suppose some statement made about Bismarck. Assuming that there is such a thing as direct acquaintance with oneself, Bismarck himself might have used his name directly to designate the particular person with whom he was acquainted. In this case, if he made a judgement about himself, he himself might be a constituent of the judgement. Here the proper name has the direct use which it always wishes to have, as simply standing for a certain object, and not for a description of the object. But if a person who knew Bismarck made a judgement about him, the case is different. What this person was acquainted with were certain sense-data which he connected (rightly, we will suppose) with Bismarck’s body. His body, as a physical object, and still more his mind, were only known as the body and the mind connected with these sense-data. That is, they were known by description. It is, of course, very much a matter of chance which characteristics of a man’s appearance will come into a friend’s mind when he thinks of him; thus the description actually in the friend’s mind is accidental. The essential point is that he knows that the various descriptions all apply to the same entity, in spite of not being acquainted with the entity in question.

When we, who did not know Bismarck, make judgement about him, the description in our minds will probably be some more or less vague mass of historical knowledge — far more, in most cases, than is required to identify him. But, for the sake of illustration, let us assume that we think of him as ‘the first Chancellor of the German Empire’. Here all the words are abstract except ‘German’. The word ‘German’ will, again, have different meanings for different people. To some it will recall travels in Germany, to some the look of Germany on the map, and so on. But if we are to obtain a description which we know to be applicable, we shall be compelled, at some point, to bring in a reference to a particular with which we are acquainted. Such reference is involved in any mention of past, present, and future (as opposed to definite dates), or of here and there, or of what others have told us. Thus it would seem that, in some way or other, a description known to be applicable to a particular must involve some reference to a particular with which we are acquainted, if our knowledge about the thing described is not to be merely what follows logically from the description. or example, ‘the most long-lived of men’ is a description involving only universals, which must apply to some man, but we can make no judgements concerning this man which involve knowledge about him beyond what the description gives. If, however, we say, ‘The first Chancellor of the German Empire was an astute diplomatist’, we can only be assured of the truth of our judgement in virtue of something with which we are acquainted — usually a testimony heard or read. Apart from the information we convey to others, apart from the fact about the actual Bismarck, which gives importance to our judgement, the thought we really have contains the one or more particulars involved, and otherwise consists wholly of concepts.

All names of places — London, England, Europe, the Earth, the Solar System — similarly involve, when used, descriptions which start from some one or more particulars with which we are acquainted. I suspect that even the Universe, as considered by metaphysics, involves such a connexion with particulars. In logic on the contrary, where we are concerned not merely with what does exist, but with whatever might or could exist or be, no reference to actual particulars is involved.

It would seem that, when we make a statement about something only known by description, we often intend to make our statement, not in the form involving the description, but about the actual thing described. That is to say, when we say anything about Bismarck, we should like, if we could, to make the judgement which Bismarck alone can make, namely, the judgement of which he himself is a constituent. In this we are necessarily defeated, since the actual Bismarck is unknown to us. But we know that there is an object B, called Bismarck, and that B was an astute diplomatist. We can thus describe the proposition we should like to affirm, namely, ‘B was an astute diplomat’, where B is the object which was Bismarck. If we are describing Bismarck as ‘the first Chancellor of the German Empire’, the proposition we should like to affirm may be described as ‘the proposition asserting, concerning the actual object which was the first Chancellor of the German Empire, that this object an astute diplomatist’. What enables us to communicate in spite of the varying descriptions we employ is that we know there is a true proposition concerning the actual Bismarck, and that however we may vary be description (so long as the description is correct) the proposition described is still the same. This proposition, which is described and is known to be true, is what interests us; but we are not acquainted with the proposition itself, and do not know it, though we know it is true.

It will be seen that there are various stages in the removal from acquaintance with particulars: there is Bismarck to people who knew him; Bismarck to those who only know of him through history; the man with the iron mask; the longest-lived of men. These are progressively further removed from acquaintance with particulars; the first comes as near to acquaintance as is possible in regard to another person; in the second, we shall still be said to know ‘who Bismarck was’; in the third, we do not know who was the man with the iron mask, though we can know many propositions about him which are not logically deducible from the fact that he wore an iron mask; in the fourth, finally, we know nothing beyond what is logically deducible from the definition of the man. There is a similar hierarchy in the region of universals. Many universals like many particulars, are only known to us by description. But here, as in the case of particulars, knowledge concerning what is known by description is ultimately reducible to knowledge concerning what is known by acquaintance.

The fundamental principle in the analysis of propositions containing descriptions is this: Every proposition which we can understand must be composed wholly of constituents with which we are acquainted.

We shall not at this stage attempt to answer all the objections which may be urged against this fundamental principle. For the present, we shall merely point out that, in some way or other, it must be possible to meet these objections, for it is scarcely conceivable that we can make a judgement or entertain a supposition without knowing what it is that we are judging or supposing about. We must attach some meaning to the words we use, if we are to speak significantly and not utter mere noise; and the meaning we attach to our words must be something with which we are acquainted. Thus when, for example, we make a statement about Julius Caesar, it is plain that Julius Caesar himself is not before our minds, since we are not acquainted with him. We have in mind some description of Julius Caesar: ‘the man who was assassinated on the Ides of March’, ‘the founder of the Roman Empire’, or, merely ‘the man whose name was Julius Caesar‘. (In this last description, Julius Caesar is a noise or shape with which we are acquainted.) Thus our statement does not mean quite what it seems to mean, but means something involving, instead of Julius Caesar, some description of him which is composed wholly of particulars and universals with which we are acquainted.

The chief importance of knowledge by description is that it enables us to pass beyond the limits of our experience. In spite of the fact that we can only know truths which are wholly composed of terms which we have experienced in acquaintance, we can yet have knowledge by description of things which we have never experienced. In view of the very narrow range of our immediate experience, this result is vital, and until it is understood, much of our knowledge must remain mysterious and therefore doubtful.
OUR knowledge of truths, unlike our knowledge of things, has an opposite, namely error. So far as things are concerned, we may know them or not know them, but there is no positive state of mind which can be described as erroneous knowledge of things, so long, at any rate, as we confine ourselves to knowledge by acquaintance. Whatever we are acquainted with must be something; we may draw wrong inferences from our acquaintance, but the acquaintance itself cannot be deceptive. Thus there is no dualism as regards acquaintance. But as regards knowledge of truths, there is a dualism. We may believe what is false as well as what is true. We know that on very many subjects different people hold different and incompatible opinions: hence some beliefs must be erroneous. Since erroneous beliefs are often held just as strongly as true beliefs, it becomes a difficult question how they are to be distinguished from true beliefs. How are we to know, in a given case, that our belief is not erroneous? This is a question of the very greatest difficulty, to which no completely satisfactory answer is possible. There is, however, a preliminary question which is rather less difficult, and that is: What do we mean by truth and falsehood? It is this preliminary question which is to be considered in this chapter.

In this chapter we are not asking how we can know whether a belief is true or false: we are asking what is meant by the question whether a belief is true or false. It is to be hoped that a clear answer to this question may help us to obtain an answer to the question what beliefs are true, but for the present we ask only ‘What is truth?’ and ‘What is falsehood?’ not ‘What beliefs are true?’ and ‘What beliefs are false?’ It is very important to keep these different questions entirely separate, since any confusion between them is sure to produce an answer which is not really applicable to either.
There are three points to observe in the attempt to discover the nature of truth, three requisites which any theory must fulfil.
(1) Our theory of truth must be such as to admit of its opposite, falsehood. A good many philosophers have failed adequately to satisfy this condition: they have constructed theories according to which all our thinking ought to have been true, and have then had the greatest difficulty in finding a place for falsehood. In this respect our theory of belief must differ from our theory of acquaintance, since in the case of acquaintance it was not necessary to take account of any opposite.
(2) It seems fairly evident that if there were no beliefs there could be no falsehood, and no truth either, in the sense in which truth is correlative to falsehood. If we imagine a world of mere matter, there would be no room for falsehood in such a world, and although it would contain what may be called ‘facts’, it would not contain any truths, in the sense in which truths are thins of the same kind as falsehoods. In fact, truth and falsehood are properties of beliefs and statements: hence a world of mere matter, since it would contain no beliefs or statements, would also contain no truth or falsehood.
(3) But, as against what we have just said, it is to be observed that the truth or falsehood of a belief always depends upon something which lies outside the belief itself. If I believe that Charles I died on the scaffold, I believe truly, not because of any intrinsic quality of my belief, which could be discovered by merely examining the belief, but because of an historical event which happened two and a half centuries ago. If I believe that Charles I died in his bed, I believe falsely: no degree of vividness in my belief, or of care in arriving at it, prevents it from being false, again because of what happened long ago, and not because of any intrinsic property of my belief. Hence, although truth and falsehood are properties of beliefs, they are properties dependent upon the relations of the beliefs to other things, not upon any internal quality of the beliefs.
The third of the above requisites leads us to adopt the view — which has on the whole been commonest among philosophers — that truth consists in some form of correspondence between belief and fact. It is, however, by no means an easy matter to discover a form of correspondence to which there are no irrefutable objections. By this partly — and partly by the feeling that, if truth consists in a correspondence of thought with something outside thought, thought can never know when truth has been attained — many philosophers have been led to try to find some definition of truth which shall not consist in relation to something wholly outside belief. The most important attempt at a definition of this sort is the theory that truth consists in coherence. It is said that the mark of falsehood is failure to cohere in the body of our beliefs, and that it is the essence of a truth to form part of the completely rounded system which is The Truth.
There is, however, a great difficulty in this view, or rather two great difficulties. The first is that there is no reason to suppose that only one coherent body of beliefs is possible. It may be that, with sufficient imagination, a novelist might invent a past for the world that would perfectly fit on to what we know, and yet be quite different from the real past. In more scientific matters, it is certain that there are often two or more hypotheses which account for all the known facts on some subject, and although, in such cases, men of science endeavour to find facts which will rule out all the hypotheses except one, there is no reason why they should always succeed.

In philosophy, again, it seems not uncommon for two rival hypotheses to be both able to account for all the facts. Thus, for example, it is possible that life is one long dream, and that the outer world has only that degree of reality that the objects of dreams have; but although such a view does not seem inconsistent with known facts, there is no reason to prefer it to the common-sense view, according to which other people and things do really exist. Thus coherence as the definition of truth fails because there is no proof that there can be only one coherent system.
The other objection to this definition of truth is that it assumes the meaning of ‘coherence’ known, whereas, in fact, ‘coherence’ presupposes the truth of the laws of logic. Two propositions are coherent when both may be true, and are incoherent when one at least must be false. Now in order to know whether two propositions can both be true, we must know such truths as the law of contradiction. For example, the two propositions, ‘this tree is a beech’ and ‘this tree is not a beech’, are not coherent, because of the law of contradiction. But if the law of contradiction itself were subjected to the test of coherence, we should find that, if we choose to suppose it false, nothing will any longer be incoherent with anything else. Thus the laws of logic supply the skeleton or framework within which the test of coherence applies, and they themselves cannot be established by this test.

For the above two reasons, coherence cannot be accepted as giving the meaning of truth, though it is often a most important test of truth after a certain amount of truth has become known.
Hence we are driven back to correspondence with fact as constituting the nature of truth. It remains to define precisely what we mean by ‘fact’, and what is the nature of the correspondence which must subsist between belief and fact, in order that belief may be true.
In accordance with our three requisites, we have to seek a theory of truth which (1) allows truth to have an opposite, namely falsehood, (2) makes truth a property of beliefs, but (3) makes it a property wholly dependent upon the relation of the beliefs to outside things.
The necessity of allowing for falsehood makes it impossible to regard belief as a relation of the mind to a single object, which could be said to be what is believed. If belief were so regarded, we should find that, like acquaintance, it would not admit of the opposition of truth and falsehood, but would have to be always true. …
We spoke of the relation called ‘judging’ or ‘believing’ as knitting together into one complex whole the subject and the objects. In this respect, judging is exactly like every other relation. Whenever a relation holds between two or more terms, it unites the terms into a complex whole. If Othello loves Desdemona, there is such a complex whole as ‘Othello’s love for Desdemona’. The terms united by the relation may be themselves complex, or may be simple, but the whole which results from their being united must be complex. Wherever there is a relation which relates certain terms, there is a complex object formed of the union of those terms; and conversely, wherever there is a complex object, there is a relation which relates its constituents. When an act of believing occurs, there is a complex, in which ‘believing’ is the uniting relation, and subject and objects are arranged in a certain order by the ‘sense’ of the relation of believing. Among the objects, as we saw in considering ‘Othello believes that Desdemona loves Cassio’, one must be a relation — in this instance, the relation ‘loving’. But this relation, as it occurs in the act of believing, is not the relation which creates the unity of the complex whole consisting of the subject and the objects. The relation ‘loving’, as it occurs in the act of believing, is one of the objects — it is a brick in the structure, not the cement. The cement is the relation ‘believing’. When the belief is true, there is another complex unity, in which the relation which was one of the objects of the belief relates the other objects. Thus, e.g., if Othello believes truly that Desdemona loves Cassio, then there is a complex unity, ‘Desdemona’s love for Cassio’, which is composed exclusively of the objects of the belief, in the same order as they had in the belief, with the relation which was one of the objects occurring now as the cement that binds together the other objects of the belief. On the other hand, when a belief is false, there is no such complex unity composed only of the objects of the belief. If Othello believes falsely that Desdemona loves Cassio, then there is no such complex unity as ‘Desdemona’s love for Cassio’.
Thus a belief is true when it corresponds to a certain associated complex, and false when it does not. Assuming, for the sake of definiteness, that the objects of the belief are two terms and a relation, the terms being put in a certain order by the ‘sense’ of the believing, then if the two terms in that order are united by the relation into a complex, the belief is true; if not, it is false. This constitutes the definition of truth and falsehood that we were in search of. Judging or believing is a certain complex unity of which a mind is a constituent; if the remaining constituents, taken in the order which they have in the belief, form a complex unity, then the belief is true; if not, it is false.

Thus although truth and falsehood are properties of beliefs, yet they are in a sense extrinsic properties, for the condition of the truth of a belief is something not involving beliefs, or (in general) any mind at all, but only the objects of the belief. A mind, which believes, believes truly when there is a corresponding complex not involving the mind, but only its objects. This correspondence ensures truth, and its absence entails falsehood. Hence we account simultaneously for the two facts that beliefs (a) depend on minds for their existence, (b) do not depend on minds for their truth.
We may restate our theory as follows: If we take such a belief as ‘Othello believes that Desdemona loves Cassio’, we will call Desdemona and Cassio the object-terms, and loving the object-relation. If there is a complex unity ‘Desdemona’s love for Cassio’, consisting of the object-terms related by the object-relation in the same order as they have in the belief, then this complex unity is called the fact corresponding to the belief. Thus a belief is true when there is a corresponding fact, and is false when there is no corresponding fact.

It will be seen that minds do not create truth or falsehood. They create beliefs, but when once the beliefs are created, the mind cannot make them true or false, except in the special case where they concern future things which are within the power of the person believing, such as catching trains. What makes a belief true is a fact, and this fact does not (except in exceptional cases) in any way involve the mind of the person who has the belief.

Karl Jaspers (1883-1969)

On My Philosophy (1941)

(Excerpts on science)

It shook my faith in the representatives of science, though not in science itself, to discover that famous scientists propounded many things in their textbooks which they passed off as the results of scientific investigation although they were by no means proven. I perceived the endless babble, the supposed “knowledge”. In school already I was astonished, rightly or wrongly, when the teachers’ answers to objections remained unsatisfactory… I observed the pathos of historians when they conclude a series of explications with the words “Now things necessarily had to happen in this way”, while actually this statement was merely suggestive ex post facto, but not at all convincing in itself: alternatives seemed equally possible, and there was always the element of chance… As a physician and psychiatrist I saw the precarious foundation of so many statements and actionsand realised with horror how, in our expert opinions, we based ourselves on positions which were far from certain, because we had always to come to a conclusion even when we did not know, in order that science might provide a cover, however unproved, for decisions the state found necessary.

Man is reduced to a condition of perplexity by confusing the knowledge that he can prove with the convictions by which he lives.

If science, with its limitation to cogent and universally valid knowledge, can do so little, failing as it does in the essentials, in the eternal problems: why then science at all?

Firstly, there is an irrepressible urge to know the knowable, to view the facts as they are, to learn about the events that happen to us: for example, mental illnesses how they manifest themselves in association with those that harbour them, or how mental illness might be connected with mental creativity. The force of the original quest for knowledge disappears in the grand anticipatory gestures of seeming total knowledge and increases in mastering what is concretely knowable.

Secondly, science has had tremendously far-reaching effects. The state of our whole world, especially for the last one hundred years, is conditioned by science and its technical consequences: the inner attitude of all humanity is determined by the way and content of its knowledge. I can grasp the fate of the world only if I can grasp science. There is a fundamental question: why, although there is rationalism and intellectualisation wherever there are humans, has science emerged only in the Occident, taking former worlds off their hinges in its consequences and forcing humanity to obey it or perish? Only through science and face-to-face with science can 1 acquire an intensified consciousness of the historical situation, can I truly live in the spiritual situation of my time.

Thirdly, I have to turn to science in order to learn what it is, in all science, that impels and guides, without itself being cogent knowledge. The ideas that master infinity, the selection of what is essential, the comprehension of knowledge in the totality of the sciences; all this is not scientific insight, but reaches clear consciousness only through the pursuit of the sciences. Only by way of the sciences can I free myself from the bondage of a limited, dogmatic view of the world in order to arrive at the totality of the world and its reality.

The experience of the indispensability and compelling power of science caused me to regard throughout my life the following demands as valid for all philosophising: there must be freedom for all sciences, so that there may be freedom from scientific superstition, i.e. from false absolutes and pseudoknowledge. By freely espousing the sciences I become receptive to that which is beyond science but which can only become clear by way of it. Although I should pursue one science thoroughly, I should nevertheless turn to all the others as well, not in order to amass encyclopedic knowledge, but rather in order to become familiar with the fundamental possibilities, principles of knowledge, and the multiplicity of methods. The ultimate objective is to work out a methodology, which arises from the ground of a universal consciousness of Being and points up and illuminates Being.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) presented a logical atomism. That was Russell’s choice of the word for naming the position, that through analysis–particularly with the aid of the ideal structure provided by symbolic logic–the fundamental truths about how any language functions can be revealed and that this disclosure, in turn, would show the fundamental structure of that which the language is used to describe

On the linguistic level, the atoms in question are atomic propositions, the simplest statements that it is possible to make about the world; and on the level of what language talks about, the atoms are the simplest atomic facts, those expressible by atomic propositions. More complex propositions, called molecular propositions, can then be built up out of atomic propositions via logical connectives–such as “either . . . or . . . ,” “both . . . and . . . ,” and “not . . .”–the truth-value of the molecular proposition being in each case a function of the truth values of its component atomic propositions.  Language, then, must break down, upon analysis, into ultimate elements that cannot be analyzed into any other component propositions; and, insofar as language mirrors reality, the world must then be composed of facts that are utterly simple. Atomic propositions are composed, however, of strings of names understood, as Russell had explained it, in the strict logical sense; and atomic facts are composed of simple objects, the things that could be thus named.

The breakdown of language and the world into atomic elements had been one of the prominent features in the classical Empiricists, John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume. There was also a view of the connection between language and the world fully evident in the Tractatus–which has been important and influential, viz., the picture theory, which holds that the structure of language mirrors that of the world. Another theme is that the deductive sciences–mathematics and logic–are based solely on the way that language operates and cannot reveal any truths about the world, not even about a world of entities called numbers. Finally, logical atomism, in Wittgenstein’s thought as opposed to Russell’s, was at one and the same time metaphysical–in the sense of conveying via pure reasoning something about how the world is–and antimetaphysical. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is unique in the history of Empiricism in its acceptance of the fact that it is itself a metaphysic and that part of its metaphysics is that metaphysics is impossible: the Tractatus says of itself that what it says cannot be coherently said. Only empirical science can tell a man anything about the world as it is. Yet the Tractatus apparently tells him, for example, about the relationship between language and the facts of the world. For Wittgenstein, the solution of this seeming paradox lies in his distinction between what can be said and what can only be shown. There are certain things that can somehow be seen to be so–in particular, the ways in which language is connected with the world. The Tractatus could not straightforwardly tell its readers about these matters–metaphysics cannot be a body of facts expressible in any language–but the attempt to say these things, done in the right way, can show them what it cannot coherently express.(Western Philosophical Schools and Doctrines: MODERN SCHOOLS: Analytic and Linguistic philosophy: EARLY HISTORY OF ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY: Logical atomism: Russell and the early Wittgenstein.” Britannica Online.

“Philosophical Investigations”

In 1929 the direction of Wittgenstein’s thought shifted radically away from his Tractatus logico-philosophicus and his views became in many ways diametrically opposed to those of logical atomism.

1. Language and following rules
In logical atomism language was conceived as having a certain necessary and fairly simple underlying structure that it was the job of philosophy to expose. Wittgenstein began to tear away at this assumption. Language, he now thought, is like an instrument that can be used for an indefinite number of purposes.
Hence, any effort to codify how it must operate by giving some small set of rules would be like supposing that there is some rigid necessity that a screwdriver (for instance) can be used only to drive screws and forgetting that screwdrivers are also, quite successfully, used to open jars and to jimmy windows. Language is a human institution that is not bound by an outside set of rules–only by what men consider to be correct and incorrect. And that, in turn, is not really a matter for a priori theories to consider. The notion of a rule and what it means to follow a rule was especially prominent in his writings.
In mathematics and logic, emphasis was being placed on the rules for manipulating the symbolism. Natural languages, however, are significantly different in that one does not first learn the rules and then use the language; indeed, prior to learning the language, one would not know what to do with rules. Mathematics and logic are, in this sense, bad models for language. The “rules” that one might plausibly discern in the language that one speaks are not, as rules, already there, in a ghostly way, guiding what one says. Following a rule, however, was a concept thatWittgenstein saw as wrongly analyzed in many classical views about language. Thus, he cast irrevocable doubt on the prevalent theory–typified best, perhaps, in John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

2. Relation between mental and physical events.

His treatment of the relationship between mental events and physical events also represents an important departure. Empiricists generally have started from the important assumption that what a person is immediately acquainted with is his own sensations, ideas, and volitions, and that these are mental and not physical; and, most importantly, that the things he knows immediately are essentially private and inaccessible to others. For both Moore and Russell there then arose the problem of how, in view of the privacy stressed by the sense-datum theory, the world of physical objects could be known.
Wittgenstein argued that the notion of an utterly private experience would imply: (1) that what goes on in the mental life of a person could be talked about only in a language that that person alone whose mental life it was could understand; (2) that such a private language would be no language at all (this has been the main source of controversy); and (3) that the widely held doctrine that there are absolutely private mental events cannot be intelligibly stated, because to do so would be to suppose that one can publically say something about what the doctrine itself says cannot be mentioned in a language accessible to more than one person. The fact that Wittgenstein’s argument against private language depends essentially on the question, “What is it to follow a rule?” illustrates a common characteristic of his writings, viz., that themes developed in one area of philosophy continually emerge in apparently quite divorced areas.
Analytic philosophy has also been attracted to a behaviouristic view of mental phenomena that holds that such apparently private events as the feeling of fear are not only not really private but also that they can be identified with publicly observable patterns of behaviour. The disposition toward empirical science has often warred against the other inclination of Empiricism to regard the starting point of all knowledge of the world, for each person, as being essentially private sense experience. Wittgenstein has had tremendous influence, however, in suggesting that these two extremes are not the only alternatives. That have not been developed in any detail by Wittgenstein.
The problem has been to characterize the relation between behaviour and mental states so that the two are neither identical nor evidence one for the other, while still acknowledging that a knowledge of the person’s characteristic behaviour is essential to understanding the notion of a certain mental state.(“Western Philosophical Schools and Doctrines: Modern schools: Analytic and Linguistic philosophy: Later history of the movement” Britannica Online. ).

Linguistic Analysis.
Sometimes called “ordinary language” Analysis or even “Oxford philosophy” from its later stronghold, this movement was, in fact, largely the product of two philosophers of the first half of the 20th century who were associated with the University of Cambridge, G.E. Moore (1873-1958) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). Moore made the examination of the assertions of other men philosophically popular–i.e., the practice of directing the philosopher’s critical energies to the mistakes of his contemporaries. The major subjects of his interest were ethics and the theory of knowledge; his thought was always Realistic and commonsensical, and he introduced into philosophy an unbelievably precise and closely applied analytical method. It was Moore’s passion for clarity and his infinite pains “to get everything exactly right” that served as moral inspiration to a succeeding generation of younger men who had attended his Cambridge lectures over a span of 30 years.
Wittgenstein had begun as a kind of adjunct to the Vienna Circle. There was a time when his philosophical position was much like that of Russell and Carnap; but as he later became more skeptical of the foundations of mathematics and logic, his interest turned from logic and artificial language systems toward a critical examination of ordinary natural language. This change was principally registered in his Philosophical Investigations, posthumously published in 1953, which has become the true bible of Linguistic Analysis. For it is here that Wittgenstein showed how a man’s entire world is constituted by his linguistic experience and suggested that “all philosophy is critique of language.” Wittgenstein thought that to ask “Why do we use this particular word or expression?” was the crucial philosophical question since a focusing of philosophy not upon the world but upon the mechanisms of linguistic use would solve most of the perplexities that have plagued philosophizing. Thus Linguistic philosophy was to perform a therapeutic function.
Wittgenstein’s example found many followers in the United States and, particularly, in England. There philosophers Gilbert Ryle, J.L. Austin, and P.F. Strawson have examined “category mistakes,” “systematically misleading expressions,” “mental-conduct concepts” (such as “other minds”), and all of the major “perception words” such as “looking,” “seeing,” “sensing,” “feeling,” and the like. The effect of this concentration not upon things or ideas but upon words has, for members of this school, turned the customary works on ethics, aesthetics, or the philosophy of religion into treatises entitled “The Language of Ethics” or “The Language of Aesthetics” or “The Language of Religion.” And these efforts are all, in Wittgenstein’s terms, “a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.”



Ayer gained international notice in 1936 with his first book, Language, Truth and Logic (rev. ed., 1946). He drew on the ideas of the Vienna Circle and built on the British empirical tradition of David Hume, John Stuart Mill, and G.E. Moore. Statements that cannot be verified by experience were “nonsense,” in his view–without philosophical significance. He put forward linguistic analysis as the method for clarifying empirical truth.

Analytic philosophy today

It is not possible to forecast in any detail the future trends of Analytic philosophy in Anglo-American and Scandinavian countries. It seems relatively certain, however, that the two conceptions of the subject that stem from Moore and Russell will both continue.Analytic philosophers, mainly influenced by Oxford philosophy, and those for whom symbolic logic is a touchstone analyze many of the same problems and benefit from each other’s work. Analysis in the more rigorous sense that Russell’s theory of definite descriptions represents is more frequently an aim, despite the doubts of Wittgenstein and many of the Oxford philosophers. The general idea that the only ultimate explanations of the world are the scientific ones and the usual corollary that philosophy is in the service of science–which was a central idea for Russell, for the Logical Positivists, and (in recent times) for Quine–has apparently lost nothing of its vigour.

The opposing tendencies, noted above, among Empiricists in general, and present also in Analytic philosophy, toward behaviourism or Materialism, on the one hand, and toward an Idealism of a phenomenalistic sort (such as that of the Irish bishop George Berkeley), on the other, are not present in the same form–mainly because of the sustained criticisms of Wittgenstein, of his followers, and of the Oxford philosophers. The battleground has shifted to a more subtle level. A substantial number of Analytic philosophers who are styled Materialists or physicalists have proposed a novel technique for reducing mental events and states to physical states. They avoid the well-exposed difficulties of older attempts in which it was held that, when one apparently talks about a separate realm of the mind–speaking of such things as thoughts, emotions, and sensations–the proper analysis of its meaning would be in terms of physical properties and events (usually observable behaviour). The novel idea, on the contrary, is that there is, in fact, an identity between so-called mental events and certain physical events, particularly those occurring in the brain, an identity that it is eventually the task of science to specify–in a way modelled after that in which science discovered that lightning is identical with an electrical discharge.The opposition against this new brand of scientific Materialism does not set up against it a view of the mind as a separate realm coexisting with the physical nor as an essentially private collection of nonphysical events and objects. Rather, the issue has been joined on the question whether the language (or perhaps the concepts) of the psychological and the physical are such as to allow for a scientifically discovered identity between items of the one and items of the other. That there still remains a division among Analytic philosophers concerning the problem of the mental and the physical (though in much altered form) shows both the continuity of the movement and the changes that have occurred. (K.S.D.)

( “Western Philosophical Schools and Doctrines: MODERN SCHOOLS: Analytic and Linguistic philosophy: LATER HISTORY OF THE MOVEMENT: Analytic philosophy today.” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 09 May 1998].)


Heidegger (1889-1976)

Martin Heidegger, one of Germany’s foremost philosophers at the middle of the 20th century, was inspired to philosophy through Brentano’s work Von der mannigfachen Bedeutung des Seienden nach Aristoteles (1862; “On the Multifarious Meaning of Being According to Aristotle”). While he was still studying theology, from 1910 to 1911, Heidegger encountered Husserl’s Logische Untersuchungen. From then on he pursued the course of Phenomenology with the greatest interest, and from 1916 he belonged to the narrow circle of students and followers of the movement. The typical character of the Phenomenological intuition was at that time the focus of Husserl’s seminar exercises. To be sure, there appeared very early a difference between Husserl and Heidegger. Discussing and absorbing the works of the important philosophers in the history of metaphysics was, for Heidegger, an indispensable task, whereas Husserl repeatedly stressed the significance of a radically new beginning and–with few exceptions (among them Descartes, Locke, Hume, and Kant)–wished to bracket the history of philosophy.
Heidegger’s basic work, Sein und Zeit (1927; Being and Time, 1962), which was dedicated to Husserl, strongly acknowledged that its author was indebted to Phenomenology. In it, Phenomenology was understood as a methodological concept–a concept that was conceived by Heidegger in an original way and resulted from his questioning back to the meanings of the Greek concepts of phainomenon and logos. Phainomenon is “that which shows itself from itself,” but together with the concept of logos, it means “to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself.” This conception of Phenomenology, which relied more on Aristotle than on Husserl, constituted a change that was later to lead to an estrangement between Husserl and Heidegger. For in Sein und Zeit there is no longer a phenomenological reduction, a transcendental ego, or an intuition of essences in Husserl’s sense. Heidegger’s new beginning was, at the same time, a resumption of the basic question of philosophy: that concerning the meaning (Sinn) of Being. His manner of questioning can be defined as hermeneutical in that it proceeds from the interpretation of man’s situation. What he thematized is, thus, the explanation of what is already understood.
At the heart of Sein und Zeit lies Heidegger’s analysis of the one (the man) who asks the question–who is capable of asking the question–concerning Being, who precisely through this capability occupies a privileged position in regard to all other beings, viz., that of Dasein (literally, “being there”). By conceiving of Dasein as being-in-the-world, Heidegger made the ancient problem concerning the relationship between subject and object superfluous. The basic structures of Dasein are primordial moodness (Befindlichkeit), understanding (Verstehen), and logos (Rede). These structures are, in turn, founded in the temporalization of Dasein, from which future, having-been (past), and present originate. The two basic possibilities of man’s existing (from the Latin ex and sistere, “standing out from”) are those in which Dasein either comes to its self (called authenticity) or loses itself (called inauthenticity); Dasein is inauthentic, for example, when it lets the possibilities of the choice for its own “ek-sisting” be given to it by others instead of deciding for itself. Heidegger’s concept of care (Sorge, cura) has nothing to do with distress (Bekümmernis) but includes the unity of the articulated moments of man’s being-in-the-world. (see also Index: authentic existence)
The hermeneutic character of Heidegger’s thought manifested itself also in his interpretation of poetry, in which he discovered a congenial spirit in Friedrich Hölderlin, one of Germany’s greater poets, of whose poetry he inaugurated a completely new interpretation; but it manifested itself equally well in his interpretation of metaphysics, which Heidegger tried to envision as an occurrence determined by the forgottenness of Being, an occurrence in the centre of which man finds himself and of which the clearest manifestation is to be found in “technicity,” the attempt of modern man to dominate the earth by controlling beings that are considered as objects.
The concept of transcendental consciousness, which was central for Husserl, is not found in Heidegger–which clearly shows how Heidegger, in Sein und Zeit, had already dissociated himself from Husserl’s Phenomenology.

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To cite this page:
“Western Philosophical Schools and Doctrines: MODERN SCHOOLS: Phenomenology: LATER DEVELOPMENTS: Heidegger’s hermeneutic Phenomenology.” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 14 May 1998].












Being and Time (part)
From: Martin Heidegger: The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (translated by Alber  Hofstadter ) Revised edition, 1982. Indiana Univ. Press |
[The central theme of the third division of Being and Time is excerpted below. This difficult text needs some preliminary explanation. Dedicated mainly to the theory of knowledge and science it refers to Temporality. Authors’ innovative term is Dasein, in a nutshell: finding oneself or itself here, in this concrete world and overstepping it. „In theory of knowledge transcendence lies outside the subject. The overstepping is Dasein. That is truly transcendent. Transcendens  {N.B: s !}  is what oversteps and not that toward which I step over. Dasein is not the immanent!” The latter is Being distinguished from „beings” in this concrete world by the author.]

“To exist is essentially, even if not only, to understand.”276 (page) …”understanding is not at all primarily a cognition but…a basic determination of existence itself.” (ibid.) To understand means to project oneself upon a possibility, to keep oneself in a possibility. 277 Understanding is not a mode of cognition (ibid.) In it existence, as the Dasein ‘s happening in its history, temporalizes itself. 278
The factical Dasein can understand itself primarily via intraworldly beings which it encounters. 279 That is inauthentic understanding. Preconceptual understanding, without a logos, is pre-ontological.281 Objects of science are unveiled before the objectification and for it. (ibid.)

Understanding is projection, but how is projection grounded in temporality? “Present, as ecstatic-horizontal phenomenon implies enpresenting of” 287 Resoluteness is held in the specifical future. (ibid.) The present held in it is instant. =the Augenblick, the twinkling of an eye. Only in this Dasein is open for the thought. The now comes from the instant. Kirkegaard maintained a reverse view.
The Dasein is usually irresolute. 288 Dasein understands itself from its most important can-be. That does not mean that it lacks a future. That means only the following: temporality itself is changeable. Irresolute existence, inauthentic understandig come from everyday life. 289
The Dasein comes toward itself out of the things, 289 and understands itself from the things ” from the ability to be, that is determined by the success and failure, the feasibility and unfeasibility, of its commerce with things.” 289 “The Dasein thus comes toward itself… “It expects its own can-be as the can-be of a being which relies on what things give or what they refuse.” (ibid.) This inauthentic
self-understanding by way of things…coming toward itself, of the future=expecting [Gewa”rtigen] Only because it is expectant of its can-be as coming from the things – can it anticipate, await something from them. Waiting for, anticipating is grounded in expecting, a „looking forward to”. (ibid.) Forgetting not only forgets the forgotten but forgets the forgetting itself. 290

The above is giving one possibility of ontical understanding only in comportment toward things in neighbourhood. This is understanding of beings at hand, intraworldly beings. Equipment…functionality: “in order to”. Equipmental contexture presupposing instrumental
usage: understanding of functionality. 294 Grounded in „for the sake of which”. “Only so long as Dasein is, is existent, is world given.” 296 World is not extant but exists in the above sense.” Self and world are not two beings…but…the basic determination of the Dasein itself…” 297
How the latter is founded in temporality? The Dasein is the transcendence. In theory of knowledge transcendence lies outside the subject. The overstepping is Dasein. That is truly transcendent. Transcendens (N.B: …s !) is what oversteps and not that toward which I step over. Dasein is not the immanent.
Interconnection between  is not totally hidden from Dasein but is familiar to it in an interpretation misunderstood and misleading. I.e. in prephilosophical and nonphilosophical Dasein… 303
In ordinary use temporality means being in the time.
Original familiarity with beings lies in’ dealing with them’ appropriately. 304 ‘Now’ is a phenomenon of intratemporality. Praesens is a condition of possibility of understanding handiness. Enpresenting projects upon…praesens. 306 The latter is a basic determination of the horizontal scheme of ecstasis. 306 Understanding of beings projects upon being, understanding of being projects upon time, project of the latter is being made upon horizon of ecstatic unity of temporality. 308 There must be no more steps here: they would have to deal with finiteness of time.
…within the ontological sphere the possible is higher than everything actual. (ibid.) Time is the condition of nullity, from it the modification of presence into absence can be explained. In Hegel the being and nothing are identical
Philosophy from antiquity is directed to ratio, soul, mind, spirit, consciousness, subjectivity. Parmenides said that being and thinking were the same, Herakleitos  maintained that being is the logos. 318

Temporality constitutes the basic constitution of the being we call Dasein. 318 There is a distinction between being and beings. Existence means to be in the performance of this distinction. 319 Only by this a soul goes beyond an animal’s soul.
The objectification of beings (positive science) and of being (philosophy) 320: Dasein theory explains the difference of philosophy a/ from the world-view, b/ from positive science. Science is a kind of cognition, cognition has the basic character of unveiling. 320  Unveiledness + truth= a determination of the Dasein (a warranty or responsibility), a free and freely seized possibility of its existence. Science is “… a specific type of cognition for the sake of unveiledness …” 320 That is its freely taken up and worked out task.”Science is cognizing for the sake of unveiledness as such.” (ibid.) That what is to be unveiled should become manifest solely in view of its own self . (ibid.) It is the sole court of appeal of its determinability. “As a specific type of cognition thus described, science constitutes itself essentially on the basis of what is in each instance already in some way given. What is already unveiled pre-scientifically can become an object of scientific investigation. A scientific investigation constitutes itself in the objectification of what has somehow already been unveiled beforehand.” 320
The above presupposes Dasein with its temporality content. Positive science represents pre-ontological awareness. Galileo took over the ontological concepts: motion, space, matter, time but not merely took over them.

Being as such is the second essential possibility of objectification. It is the matter of philosophy as science. Temporality, transcendence, world, being in the world are covered over.
” Nevertheless, they are not completely hidden, for the Dasein knows about something like ego and other…The concealment of transcendence is not a total unawareness but, what is much more fateful, a misunderstandig ,, a faulty interpretation.” 322 These…put more stubborn obstacles to cognition than total ignorance… They are not defects of thought or acumen. They are rooted in
Dasein’s own historic existence. They must be made, so that Dasein may reach the path to the true phenomena by correcting them. “a fundamental untruth dwells with what is actually seen and genuinely interpreted” …’all ontological interpretations are more like a groping about than an inquiry clear in its method” 322

Objectification of being, projection upon understandability must move counter to everyday comportment toward beings. Toward thought, comprehension, soul, mind, spirit, subject without a a necesssary preparatory ontological disposition of these areas. 323 We project upon Temporality that makes possible objectification, ontology as science. Temporality in this science is transcendental not in Kantian sense. Time is the primal horizon of it. Transcendental horizon for the question about being. Ontology – at bottom – is Temporal science.

Temporality and a priori of being. The phenomenological method of ontology: A priori is a time determination not in the common concept of time. On ground of common concept that must be denied. The point is temporality of understanding of being. It is going through presuppositions, precedents, precursory understanding of being for comportment toward beings. Final stage: temporality itself as the basic constitution of Dasein. “Time is earlier than any possible earlier of whatever sort, because it is the basic condition for an earlier as such.” 325
It is the source of all possibilities. The latter are earlier – a priori – to other beings. From this does not follow, that time is ontically the first “being” (even it is improper to call it being) nor that time is forever and eternal.
Dasein has forgotten that it understood being. When it is an object then it is coming back to what was already understood, see Plato Phaedrus. Above a connection of apriority with Temporality is characterized as a basic feature…It can be recognized not only by intuition. There is a need for conceptual labor of a specific sort. But at the beginning we have its vision.
In Dasein there are twofold possibilities: objectification of beings as positive science and being as Temporality science. Either every ontical is dissolved into the ontological (Hegel) or ontological is denied and explained ontically without understanding ontological presuppositions which every ontical explanation harbors within itself. Up to now: there was a lack of a radically founded understanding of the problem.

There is no such thing as one phenomenology.. ..”the growing
originality of the disclosure will cause the very method that was used to become necessarily obsolete. The only thing that is truly new in scence and in philosophy is the genuine questioning and struggle with things which is at the service of this questioning.” 328 There are dangers (to be struggled with): formation of world-views, magic and ” the positive sciences that have forgotten their own limits.” 328 In Kant’s time the dangers consisted of phillosophy of feeling, magic, mythical views. Kant was the first and last scientific philosopher in the grand style since Plato and Aristotelés.. 328

Translators appendix: Dasein – on the “beings” side, existence- on the being side: mode of being (of beings). Human being is a mediator between beings and being – it alone understands the ontological difference.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
(Sartre and other Existencialists)
The fundamental characteristic of Existentialist ontology is the primacy that that study of the nature of existence gives to the concept of possibility. This priority dominated the philosophy of Kierkegaard and also was amply utilized by Husserl, who had explicitly affirmed the ontological priority of possibility over reality. Possibility, however, is not understood by the Existentialists in the purely logical sense as absence of contradiction nor in the sense of traditional metaphysics as potentiality destined to become actuality but, rather, in the sense of ontic or objective possibility, which is the very structure of human existence; it is thus the specific modality of man’s being.

Another way of expressing this thesis is the affirmation of Heidegger and Sartre that “existence precedes essence,” which signifies that man does not have a nature that determines his modes of being and acting but that, rather, these modes are simply possibilities from which he may choose and on the basis of which he can project himself. In this sense, Heidegger has said that “Dasein is always its own possibility,” and Sartre has written: “It is true that the possible is–so to speak–an option on being, and if it is true that the possible can come into the world only through a being which is its own possibility, this implies for human reality the necessity of being its being in the form of an option on its being.”

As possibility, human existence is the anticipation, the expectation, the projection of the future. The future is its fundamental temporal dimension, to which the present and the past are subordinate and secondary; existence is always stretched out toward the future. As possibility, existence is also transcendence, being beyond, because all of its constitutive possibilities organize it beyond itself toward the other beings of the world and toward the world in its totality. To transcend thus means to move toward something that is not one’s own existence; i.e., toward things and toward other men, with which man is related in every situation in which he finds himself.

Jean Piaget (1896-1980)

Piaget saw the child as constantly creating and recreating his own model reality, achieving mental growth by integrating simpler concepts into higher level concepts at each stage. He argued for a “genetic epistemology,” a timetable established by nature for the development of the child’s ability to think, and he traced four stages in that development.

He described the child during the first two years of life as being in a sensorimotor stage, chiefly concerned with mastering his own innate physical reflexes and extending them into pleasurable or interesting actions. During the same period, the child first becomes aware of himself as a separate physical entity and then realizes that the objects around him also have a separate and permanent existence.

In the second, or preoperational, stage, roughly from age two to age six or seven, the child learns to manipulate his environment symbolically through inner representations, or thoughts, about the external world. During this stage, he learns to represent objects by words and to manipulate the words mentally, just as he earlier manipulated the physical objects themselves.

In the third, or concrete operational, stage, from age 7 to age 11 or 12, occurs the beginning of logic in the child’s thought processes and the beginning of the classification of objects by their similarities and differences. During this period, the child also begins to grasp concepts of time and number.

The fourth stage, the period of formal operations, begins at age 12 and extends into adulthood. It is characterized by an orderliness of thinking and a mastery of logical thought, allowing a more flexible kind of mental experimentation. The child learns in this final stage to manipulate abstract ideas, make hypotheses, and see the implications of his own thinking and that of others. “Piaget, Jean” Britannica Online. <; [Accessed 15 May 1998].
Talcott Parsons (1902-1976)

(More: “Szociológia” article of the recent homepage)

The Social System

Empirical Differentiation and Variation
(The reader of Parsons’ book is told of some preliminary remarks to the…) „systematic analysis of each type individually or a careful and systematic comparison of them with each other. Above all it has not even begun to approach the dificult analysis of mixed and transitional cases, of which there are undoubtedly many. It has been presented here for a very specific purpose, to give a sense of concrete relevance to the claim that the categories of social structure developed in this chapter and the preceding ones do provide a starting point for systematic comparative analysis and eventually the construction of a typology of social structures.

This illustrative discussion has, we think, gone far enough to substantiate that claim. The types, not only in terms of direct spelling out of the implications of the basic value-orientations, but in terms of the adaptive structures which go with them, certainly make sense empirically. Even on such a superficial level as the present one they stimulate many insights and seem to make otherwise basic features of certain societies understandable. When the same basic conceptual framework is applied systematically and in detail, with careful checking of empirical evidence, and when it is combined with a much more sophisticated analysis of rnotivational process, there is every reason to believe that a highly useful set of tools of comparative empirical analysis will prove to be available.

Now we must leave the analysis of social structure as such and proceed to further development of the theory of motivational processes in the social system, the processes both of its maintenance and of its change. In analyzing these problems the relation between the social system and its roles on the one hand, and personality on the other, will always have to be in the forefront of our attention.”
(In some further parts of the text comparative typology is given from the angle of particularity-universality and achievement orientation-value orientation.)
Adorno (1903-1969)
Negative Dialectics. Theodor W.Adorno.
l973, Orig. : 1966 Frankfurt am Main (Negative Dialektik)

Part I. deals with ontology.

Translated  by E.B. Ashton. Continuum, New York. Page  numbers refer to this version.
In Heidegder Being is ceded to receptive vision, philosophy converges with a flatly irrationalist view of life. “A sign if irrationality would not by itself be the same as philosophical irrationalism. Irrationality is the scar which the irremovable nonidentity of subject and object leaves on cognition – whose mere form of predicative judgment postulates identity…Like the concept, however, irrationality itself remains a function of the r a t i o (kurz) and an object of self-criticism…The philosophemes of irrationalism too depend on concepts, and thus on a rational element incompatible with them. One of the motives of dialectics is to cope with… the difference of subject and object – the difference that shows how inadequate the r a t i o is to thought.” 85 (page) This separation is inherent in each thought. It is inherent in thinking. A rational critique of reason, not its banishment is needed. The posturing as metaphysically homeless and nothingness-bound is ideology, attempt to justify the order….”anticipatory consent to an oppression whose potential triumph is inherent in Western society, and which has long triumphed in the East, where the thought of having gained freedom is twisted into unfreedom. Heidegger promotes slave thinking.” 89 Hierarchical leanings of ontology point to authoritarian intentions.
Anti-relativism goes back to Husserl’s logical absolutism. Now this blends with the aversion to reified thought. Relativism is out of mode: from a need for substantial and solidity philosophy turns into a need to avoid spirit. Reification is dictated by the society. New metaphysics condemns it, it appeals to an origin we cannot lose. There remains Being, the essence before all things. Being is dynamic in itself, it is against subversive intellect and material alienation. Heidegger’s theory: is anti-thing and anti-functional in one. 90
By a secularization of theological contents their apologists strive to rescue them by subjectiviy. See Reformation and Kant. Subjectivity since has been drawn into demythologization. “Heidegger’s approach is true insofar as he accepts that and denies traditional metaphysics;” 98 – untrue as he postulates that the contents are in our mind. His distinction of Being free from its concept: thinking without a concept is not thinking at all. 98 That is an interdiction he hurls against the thinking subject.” It is not sense that inhabits the innnermost core of Heidegger’s philosophy. Expounded as a knowledge of salvation, it is what Sheler called a “knowledge of dominion.” (ibid.)
Heidegger’s philosophy stands between two extremities: traditional epistemology and metaphysics. This comes from a philosophical urge to express the inexpressible. Philosophy will not dispense with truth but will illuminate the narrowness of scientific truth. 109 It is neither science nor cogitative poetry. Heidegger’s philosophy is judging neither facts nor concepts. 110 Their  transitoriness is attached to the process. Mythical concept of fate.”…the pure identity is the worst” 122 (negativity is the truth)
Schopenhauer is startled about that affections in the face of death (even our own one) are so feeble. This is in conformity with the indifference of each individual life to history. By relativism Reason explodes conditions it helped to establish. It is a naivete to suppose that the concept can transcend the
concept and reach the nonconceptual. Both Bergson and Husserl try to utter the unutterable (in contrary to Wittgenstein). In fact all concepts refer to nonconceptionbal. In Nietzsche systems emerge from the fickleness of politically impotent scholars to conceptually administer authority over things in being.
Irrespective of being a succesful method of mathematical and natural science, thought-system building had a compensatory purpose, especially in the 17. century. Ratio smashed feudal order. Followig theoretical expansion of autonomy into a system, practical systems brought about their own coercive mechanisms.
In early history each was condemned to annihilation at the hands of the next. Their paranoid zeal to tolerate nothing else is expressed through pedanteries. Moliere was the first to show pedantery as a main feature of ontology of the bourgois spirit.

Negative Dialectics
Translation by Dennis Redmond © 2001

The following page numbers refer to this version.

Part II. Negative Dialectics: Concept and Categories

Selected chapters:

Peephole Metaphysics 142-144
Wherever an absolute first is taught, there is always talk of something inferior, something  absolutely heterogenous to it, as its logical correlate; prima philosophia [Latin: originary philosophy] and dualism go together. In order to escape this, fundamental ontology must  try to keep its first at a distance from determination. What was first for Kant, the
synthetic unity of the apperception, suffered the same fate. To him every determination of  the object is an investment of subjectivity in non-qualitative multiplicity, irregardless of  the fact that the determining acts, which count for him as spontaneous achievements of   transcendental logic, also model themselves [sich anbilden] on a moment which they
themselves are not; irregardless of the fact that what is to be synthesized does so only by  requiring and permitting this last out of itself. The active determination is not something  purely subjective, and that is why the triumph of the sovereign subject, which dictates  laws to nature, is hollow. Because however in truth subject and object do not firmly
oppose one another, as in the Kantian outline, but penetrate each other reciprocally, the  degradation of the thing to something chaotically abstract by Kant also affects the power  which is supposed to form it. The bane which the subject exerts becomes just as much  one over the subject; both pursue the Hegelian fury of disappearance. In the categorical
achievement it expended and impoverished itself; in order to be able to determine, to  articulate what opposes it, so that it would become the Kantian object, it must dilute itself  to the mere generality for the sake of the objective validity of that determination,  amputate it from itself no less than from the object of cognition, so that this would be
reduced to its concept according to program. The objectivating subject shrinks down into  a point of abstract reason, finally into the logical non-contradictoriness, which for its part  has no meaning independent of the determinate object. The absolute first necessarily  remains as indeterminate as its opposite; no investigation of what is concretely precedent  reveals the unity of what is abstractly antithetical. Rather the rigid dichotomical structure
crumbles by virtue of the determinations of each pole as the moment of its own opposite.  The dualism is already given in the philosophical thought and as inescapable, as the  process by which it becomes false in thought. Mediation is merely the most general, itself  inadequate expression for this. – If however the claim o  the subject that it is the first,
which surreptitiously inspired ontology, is cashiered, then what is secondary according to  the schema of traditional philosophy is no longer secondary, in a double sense  subordinate. Its denigration was the flip side of the triviality that everything existent  would be colored by the observer, its group or species. In truth the cognition of the  moment of subjective mediation into what is objective implies the critique of the notion  of a glance into the pure in-itself, which, forgotten, lurks behind that triviality. Western  metaphysics was, except for heretics, peephole metaphysics. The subject – itself only a  limited moment – was locked for all eternity in itself, as punishment for its deification. It
gazes into the darkened heavens, in which the star of the idea or that of being would  arise, as through the embrasures of a tower. It is precisely the wall around the subject  however which throws the shadow of what is thingly [Dinghaften] over everything which  it conjures, which subjective philosophy powerlessly combats again. Whatever of  experience may be carried along in the word being, is expressible only in configurations  of existents, not by the allergy against such; otherwise the content of philosophy becomes  the impoverished result of a process of subtraction, no different from the erstwhile  Cartesian certainty of the subject, the thinking substance. One cannot see out. What  would be beyond, appears only in the materials and categories within. That is where the  truth and untruth of the Kantian philosophy would step out of each other. It is true, in that  it destroys the illusion of the immediate knowledge of the absolute; untrue, in that it  describes this absolute with a model, that would correspond to an immediate
consciousness, were it merely the intellectus archetypus [Latin: archetypal intellect]. The  demonstration of this untruth is the truth of post-Kantian idealism; this latter however is  in turn untrue in its equation of subjectively mediated truth to the subject, as if its pure  concept were being itself.

Non-contradictoriness not Hypostasizable 144-146
These sorts of considerations seem to give rise to a paradox. Subjectivity, thinking itself, would not be explained by itself but rather by the factical, especially by society; but the  objectivity of cognition in turn could not be without thinking, subjectivity. Such a  paradox originates from the Cartesian norm that the explanation ought to ground what
comes later, or at least logically later, in what comes earlier. The norm is no longer  binding [verbindlich]. According to its measure the dialectical matter-at-hand  [Sachverhalt] would be the simple logical contradiction. But the matter-at-hand is not to  be explained according to a hierarchical ordering schemata, called up from outside.  Otherwise the explanatory attempt presupposes the explanation, which it first needs to  find; presupposing non-contradictoriness, the subjective thought-principle, as inherent to  what is thought, to the object. In certain respects dialectical logic is more positivistic than  the positivism which condemns it: it respects the object which is to be thought as thought,
even there, where it does not follow the rules of thought. Its analysis is tangential to the  rules of thought. Thought need not remain content with its own juridicality  [Gesetzlichkeit]; it has the capacity to think against itself, without sacrificing itself; were  a definition of dialectics possible, this might be one worth suggesting. The armature of
thinking need not remain ingrown to it; it reaches far enough to see through the totality of  its logical claim as delusion. What is seemingly unbearable about this, that subjectivity  would presuppose the factical, but objectivity the subject, is unbearable only to such  delusion, to the hypostasis of the relationship of cause and effect, of the subjective
principle which the experience of the object does not mesh with. The dialectic, as a  philosophical mode of procedure, is the attempt to unravel the knot of that which is  paradoxical with the oldest medium of the Enlightenment, the ruse [List: cunning]. It is  no accident that the paradox was the bowdlerized form of dialectics since Kierkegaard.
Dialectical reason follows the impulse to transcend the natural context and its delusion,  which perpetuates itself in the subjective compulsion of logical rules, without imposing  its rule on it: without sacrifice and revenge. Even its own essence is something which has  come to be and as transient as antagonistic society. To be sure antagonism is no more
limited to society than suffering. So little as dialectics is to be extended to nature as a  universal explanatory principle, so little nevertheless are two kinds of truth to be  maintained next to each other, the dialectical one inside society and one indifferent  towards it. The separation of social and extra-social being, oriented to the  compartmentalization of the sciences, deceptively veils the fact that blind natural-rootedness perpetuates itself in heteronomous history.2 Nothing leads out of the  dialectical context of immanence than it itself. Dialectics meditates critically on itself,
reflects on its own movement; otherwise Kant’s legal claim against Hegel would never  expire. Such a dialectics is negative. Its idea names the difference from Hegel. Identity  and positivity coincided in the latter; the inclusion of everything non-identical and  objective in the subjectivity, which is expanded and exalted to the absolute Spirit, is
supposed to achieve the reconciliation. On the other hand the power of the whole which is effective in every particular determination is not only its negation but also the negative,  the untrue. The philosophy of the absolute, total subject is particular. The reversibility  of the identity-thesis, which is inherent in this, counteracts its intellectual principle. If the  existent is to be totally deduced from the Spirit, then the latter would be doomed to  become similar to the mere existent, which it meant to contradict: otherwise the Spirit  and the existent would not harmonize. Precisely the insatiable identity-principle  perpetuates the antagonism by means of the suppression of what is contradictory. What
tolerates nothing that would not be like itself, thwarts the reconciliation for which it  mistakes itself. The act of violence of making something the same reproduces the  contradiction which it stamps out.

Relationship to Left Hegelianism 146-147
First Karl Korsch and later the functionaries of Diamat have objected that the turn to non-identity would be, due to its immanent-critical and theoretical character, an insignificant  nuance of neo-Hegelianism or of the historically obsolete Hegelian Left; as if the Marxist  critique of philosophy had dispensed with this, while at the same time the East cannot do  without a statutory Marxist philosophy. The demand for the unity of theory and praxis  has irresistibly debased the former to a mere underling, eliminating from it what it was  supposed to have achieved in that unity. The practical visa-stamp demanded from all  theory became the stamp of the censor. In the famed unity of theory-praxis, the former  was vanquished and the latter became non-conceptual, a piece of the politics which it was  supposed to lead beyond; delivered over to power. The liquidation of theory by  dogmatization and the ban on thinking contributed to bad praxis; that theory should win  back its independence is the interest of praxis itself. The relationship of both moments to  each other is not settled for once and for all, but changes historically. Today, since the  hegemonic bustle cripples and denigrates theory, theory testifies in all its powerlessness  against the former by its mere existence. That is why it is legitimate and hated; without it,  the praxis which constantly wishes to change things could not itself be changed. Whoever  scolds theory as anachronistic, obeys the topos of dismissing as outmoded what was  thwarted and remains painful. Therein precisely the course of the world is reconfirmed,  which it is the very idea of theory not to obey, and the theoretical target is missed, even  when it is successfully abolished, whether positivistically or by power-decree. The rage at  the recollection of a theory which carries its own weight is by the way not far removed  from the short-windedness of intellectual customs on the western side. The fear of  epigonality and of the academic odor that clings to every reprise of motives codified in  the philosophy of history has long led the various schools to advertise themselves as  something which has never yet existed. Precisely that strengthens the fatal continuity of  what already exists. So dubious however a procedure is, which insists all the more loudly  on Ur-experiences the quicker its categories are delivered from the social mechanism, so  little too are thoughts to be equated with what they originate from; this habit is equally a  piece of origin-philosophy. Whoever struggles against forgetting, only indeed against the
historical one, not, as Heidegger, against that of being and thereby the extra-historical  one; against the universally expected sacrifice of a previously achieved freedom of  consciousness, advocates no intellectual-historical restoration. That history has stepped  past positions, is honored as a judgement over their truth-content only by those to whom
history is called the world-court. Often what has been cast aside, but theoretically not  absorbed, reveals its truth-content only later. It becomes the sore of the dominating  health; this leads back to it over and over again in changed situations. What remained  theoretically inadequate in Hegel and Marx became part of historical praxis; that is why it
is to be theoretically reflected upon anew, instead of the thought bowing irrationally to  the primacy of praxis; this was itself an eminently theoretical concept.

“Logic of Disassembly” [Zerfalls] 148-149
The farewell to Hegel becomes palpable in a contradiction concerning the whole, which  is not programmatically settled as a particular one. The critic of the Kantian separation of  form and content, Hegel wanted a philosophy without a detachable form, without a  method implemented independently from the thing, and yet proceeded methodically. In  fact the dialectic is neither solely a method nor something real in the naďve understanding  of the term. Not a method: for the unreconciled thing, which lacks precisely that identity  which the thought surrogates, is contradictory and blocks every attempt at unanimous  interpretation. This thing, not the organizational drive of thought, is the impetus to  dialectics. Not something simply real: for contradictoriness is a reflection-category, the  thinking confrontation of concept and thing. Dialectics as a procedure means, to think for  the sake of what was once experienced in the thing as a contradiction and against it in  contradictions. A contradiction in reality, it is a contradiction against these.

Such a  dialectics is however no longer compatible with Hegel. Its movement does not tend  towards identity in the difference of every object from its concept; rather it suspects  something identical in it. Its logic is one of disassembly [Zerfalls]: of the prepared and  concretized form of concepts, which the cognizing subject immediately faces at first.  Their identity with the subject is untruth. Through it the subjective pre-formation of the  phenomenon slides in front of what is non-identical, before the individuum ineffabile  [Latin: ineffable individual]. The summation of identical determinations would  correspond to the fondest wish of traditional philosophy, to the a priori structure and to its  archaistic late form, ontology. However this structure is, before every sort of specific content, in the simplest sense negative as something abstractly maintained, Spirit become  compulsion. The power of that negativity rules to this day in reality. What would be  different, has not yet begun. This affects all specific determinations. Each one which  appears non-contradictory proves to be as contradictory as the ontological models of  being and existence. Nothing positive is to be obtained from philosophy which would be  identical with its construction. In the process of demythologization positivity must be  negated all the way into the instrumental reason, which demythologization supplies. The  idea of reconciliation rejects its positive positing in the concept. Nevertheless the critique  of idealism does not discard what the construction of the concept towards the insight once  garnered, and what the guidance of the concepts once won in terms of energy from the  method. Only that which is inscribed in the idealistic magic circle goes beyond its figure,  by calling it by name in the completion of its own deductive process, demonstrating what  is separated from it, what is untrue in it, in the developed summation of the totality. Pure identity is what is set up [Gesetzte: posited] by the subject, and to this extent is brought  from outside. To immanently criticize it means therefore, paradoxically enough, to  criticize it from outside as well. The subject must render compensation to the non-identical, for what it perpetrated on it. Precisely this sets it free from the appearance  [Schein] of its absolute being-for-itself. This latter for its part is the product of the  identifying thought, which, the more it devalues a thing to the mere example of its kind or  species, the more it imagines that it has it as such, without subjective addition.

On categorical imperative

The famed variant of the categorical imperative …: „Act so, that you always use the humanity in your person, as much as in every other person, at the same time as an end, never merely as means”. Then „humanity”, the human potential in human beings, may have been meant only as a regulative idea; humanity, the principle of human existence, by no means the sum of all human beings, is not yet realized. Nevertheless the addition of the factical content in the word is not to be shaken off: every individual is to be respected as the representative of the socialized species humanity, no mere function of the exchange-process. The decisive distinction urged by Kant between means and ends is social, that between subjects as commodities of labor-power, out of which value is economically produced, and the human beings who even as such commodities remain subjects, for whose sake the entire operation, which forgets them and only incidentally satisfies them, is set into motion. Without this perspective the variant of the imperative would lose itself in a void.

The „never merely” however is, as Horkheimer put it, one of those usages of a sublime sobriety, in which Kant, in order to not spoil the chance of the realization of utopia, accepts empiricism even in its most degraded form, that of exploitation, as the condition of what is better, insofar as he then develops it in the philosophy of history, under the concept of antagonism. This reads: „The means, by which nature serves to bring the development of all its predispositions into existence, is the antagonism of the same in society, insofar as this latter in the end becomes nonetheless the cause of a lawful social order of the same. What I understand here under antagonism is the unsociable sociability of human beings, i.e. the tendency of the same to enter into society, which however is tied to a thorough-going resistance, which constantly threatens to separate this society. This predisposition evidently lies in human nature. Human beings have an inclination to be socialized: because they feel themselves to be more of a human being in such a condition, i.e. the development of their natural predispositions. They have however also a great tendency to particularize (isolate) themselves: because they find in themselves simultaneously the unsociable characteristic, the wish to arrange everything merely according to their mind, and hence expect resistance everywhere, just as they know themselves, that they for their part are inclined to resistance against others. Now this resistance is that which awakens all powers of humanity, bringing it thereby to overcome its tendency towards laziness and, driven by the desire for honor, for lordship or for property, to establish a position amongst their fellows, which they most likely cannot stand, but cannot do without, either.”

The „principle of humanity as an end in itself” is, despite all meditative ethics to the contrary, nothing merely innervated, but a promissory note on the realization of a concept of human beings, which has its place only as the social, albeit innervated, principle in every individual. Kant must have noticed the double meaning of the word humanity, as the idea of being human and of the epitome of all humanity. With dialectical profundity he introduced it into theory, even if only playfully.

Max Horkheimer (1895-1973)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Dialectic of Enlightenment (German: Dialektik der Aufklärung) is a work of philosophy and social criticism written by Frankfurt School philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno and first published in 1944. A revised version appeared in 1947.
One of the core texts of Critical Theory, Dialectic of Enlightenment explores the socio-psychological status quo that had been responsible for what the Frankfurt School considered the failure of the Age of Enlightenment. Together with The Authoritarian Personality (1950; also co-authored by Adorno) and Frankfurt School member Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (1964), it has had a major effect on 20th -century philosophy, sociology, culture, and politics, inspiring especially the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s.
…The authors saw National Socialism, Stalinism, state capitalism, and mass culture as entirely new forms of social domination that could not be adequately explained within the terms of traditional Critical Theory.
State intervention in the economy had effectively abolished the tension in capitalism between the “relations of production” and the “material productive forces of society,” a tension which, according to traditional Critical Theory, constituted the primary contradiction within capitalism.
Yet, contrary to Marx’s famous prediction in the Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, this shift did not lead to “an era of social revolution,” but rather to fascism and totalitarianism. As such, traditional Critical Theory was left, in Jürgen Habermas’ words, without “anything in reserve to which it might appeal; and … there is no longer any dynamism upon which critique could base its hope.” [An article on Habermas’ critique see below.]
The problems posed by the rise of fascism with the demise of the liberal state and the market (together with the failure of a social revolution to materialize in its wake), constitute the theoretical and historical perspective that frames the overall argument of the book …
The authors coined the term culture industry, arguing that in a capitalist society mass culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods — films, radio programmes, magazines, etc. These homogenized cultural products are used to manipulate mass society into docility and passivity. The introduction of the radio, a mass medium, no longer permits its listener any mechanism of reply, as was the case with the telephone. Instead, listeners are not subjects anymore but passive receptacles exposed “in authoritarian fashion to the same programs put out by different stations.”
The Dialectic of Enlightenment Revisited: Habermas’ Critique of the Frankfurt School
Peter U. Hohendahl New German Critique No. 35, Special Issue on Jurgen Habermas (Spring – Summer, 1985), pp. 3-26 Published by: Duke University Press

K.H. Tjaden, a representative of the younger generation of the Frankfurt tradition critizised, inter alia, Habermas in: Soziales System und Sozialer Wandel…Enke Verlag, Stuttgart, 1969

Karl Popper (1902-1994)

(A digest of some books)

The Logic of Scientific Discovery
Routledge, 14th Printing, 1977. First English Ed., Hutchinson, 1959. First published as Logik Der Forschung in Vienna: Springer, 1934.

Psychologism, naturalism, inductionism, and logical positivism are swept away in one systematic attack, and replaced by a set of methodological rules called Falsificationism. Falsificationism is the idea that science advances by unjustified, exaggerated guesses followed by unstinting criticism. Only hypotheses capable of clashing with observation reports are allowed to count as scientific. “Gold is soluble in hydrochloric acid” is scientific (though false); “Some homeopathic medicine does work” is, taken on its own, unscientific (though possibly true). The first is scientific because we can eliminate it if it is false; the second is unscientific because even if it were false we could not get rid of it by confronting it with an observation report that contradicted it. Unfalsifiable theories are like the computer programs with no uninstall option that just clog up the computers’ precious storage space. Falsifiable theories, on the other hand, enhance our control over error while expanding the richness of what we can say about the world.
Any “positive support” for theories is unobtainable and superfluous; all we can do is eliminate error – and even this is hypothetical, though often successful.The common idea that Popper neglected to consider whether Falsificationism itself is falsifiable is already scotched here. You can falsify a description, but not a rule of method as such (though obviously a rule can be criticized in other ways).

The Poverty of Historicism
Routledge, 1986. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957. Originally published in Economica, 1944/5.

A major attack on wholesale (or revolutionary, utopian) social engineering (National Socialist, Marxist or otherwise), and a proposal for “piecemeal social engineering”. Mindful of our fallibility, ignorance and the ubiquitous unintended results of our plans, Popper prescribes piecemeal reform because we can better monitor and eliminate our mistakes in the small; he proscribes revolutionary reform because we can neither easily monitor the society-wide ramifications nor reverse our leaps. Popper’s adventurism in science and conservatism in politics (in the abstract sense) issue from the same aim: to enhance our control over our fallible forays into the unknown. Popper contrasts historical prophecy and scientific prediction, arguing that the prediction of social events is severely limited by the impact on society of unforeseeable new knowledge.

The Open Society and It’s Enemies
Routledge, 1995 (Golden Jubilee Edition, Single volume version). Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1945.

In the Open Society… Popper illustrates the points he made in The Poverty of Historicism. But it is much more than illustration. The work has controversial criticisms of the works of Plato, Hegel, and Marx, especially their historicist and totalitarian doctrines. Historicism is a loosely connected set of ideas about change. Roughly, historicism asserts that the world consists of processes not things, and is always in flux, but even so, there are laws of historical development that describe the stages we must pass through. It was Heraclitus who said “you cannot step into the same river twice, for new waters are constantly flowing in”. Popper traces historicism from Hesiod, through his influence on Heraclitus’s theory of change, and how the theories of Plato, Aristotle and Parmenides can all be seen as attempts to solve the problem of change that Heraclitus discovered. .. Popper shows how deeply metaphysical ideas work themselves out in social and political ideologies – philosophical presuppositions that, whether recognized or not, form the framework of many modern conflicts and debates.
Popper switched the problem from Plato’s question “Who should rule?” to “How do we arrange our institutions to prevent rulers (whether individuals or majorities) doing too much damage?”.
Even though Popper labeled Marx as one of the enemies, Popper is graciously eulogistic of Marx’s method. For example, Popper is most approving of Marx’s focus on the systematic unintended results of intended action, upholding the autonomy of sociology – it is individuals who act, but their interaction cannot be reduced to psychological laws.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

Origins of Totalitarianism

II: The Temporary Alliance Between the Mob and the Elite
WHAT IS MORE disturbing to our peace of mind than the unconditional loyalty of members of totalitarian movements, and the popular support of totalitarian regimes, is the unquestionable attraction these movements exert on the elite, and not only on the mob elements in society. It would be rash indeed to discount, because of artistic vagaries or scholarly naivete, the terrifying roster of distinguished men whom totalitarianism can count among its sympathizers, fellow-travelers, and inscribed party members. This attraction for the elite is as important a clue to the understanding of totalitarian movements (though hardly of totalitarian regimes) as their more obvious connection with the mob. It indicates the specific atmosphere, the general climate in which the rise of totalitarianism takes place.

It should be remembered that the leaders of totalitarian movements and their sympathizers are, so to speak, older than the masses which they organize so that chronologically speaking the masses do not have to wait helplessly for the rise of their own leaders in the midst of a decaying class society, of which they are the most outstanding product.
Those who voluntarily left society before the wreckage of classes had come about, along with the mob, which was an earlier by-product of the rule of the bourgeoisie, stand ready to welcome them. The present totalitarian rulers and the leaders of totalitarian movements still bear the characteristic traits of the mob, whose psychology and political philosophy are fairly well known; what will happen once the authentic mass man takes over, we do not know yet, although it may be a fair guess that he will have more in common with the meticulous, calculated correctness of Himmler than with the hysterical fanaticism of Hitler, will more resemble the stubborn dullness of Molotov than the sensual vindictive cruelty of Stalin.
In this respect, the situation after the second World War in Europe does not differ essentially from that after the first; just as in the twenties the ideologies of Fascism, Bolshevism, and Nazism were formulated and the movements led by the so-called front generation, by those who had been brought up and still remembered distinctly the times before the war, so the present general political and intellectual climate of postwar totalitarianism is being determined by a generation which knew intimately the time and life which preceded the present. This is specifically true for France, where the breakdown of the class system came after the second instead of after the first War. Like the mob men and the adventurers of the imperialist era, the leaders of totalitarian movements have in common with their intellectual sympathizers the fact that both had been outside the class and national system of respectable European society even before this system broke down.

Like the mob men and the adventurers of the imperialist era, the leaders of totalitarian movements have in common with their intellectual sympathizers the fact that both had been outside the class and national system of respectable European society even before this system broke down. This breakdown, when the smugness of spurious respectability gave way to anarchic despair, seemed the first great opportunity for the elite as well as the mob. This is obvious for the new mass leaders whose careers reproduce the features of earlier mob leaders: failure in professional and social life, perversion and disaster in private life. The fact that their lives prior to their political careers had been failures, naively held against them by the more respectable leaders of the old parties, was the strongest factor in their mass appeal. It seemed to prove that individually they embodied the mass destiny of the time and that their desire to sacrifice everything for the movement, their assurance of devotion to those who had been struck by catastrophe, their determination never to be tempted back into the security of normal life, and their contempt for respectability were quite sincere and not just inspired by passing ambitions.

The postwar elite, on the other hand, was only slightly younger than the generation which had let itself be used and abused by imperiaUsm for the sake of glorious careers outside of respectability, as gamblers and spies and adventurers, as knights in shining armor and dragon-killers. They shared with Lawrence of Arabia the yearning for “losing their selves” and the violent disgust with all existing standards, with every power that be. If they still remembered the “golden age of security,” they also remembered how they had hated it and how real their enthusiasm had been at the outbreak of the first World War. Not only Hitler and not only the failures thanked God on their knees when mobilization swept Europe in 1914. They did not even have to reproach themselves with having been an easy prey for chauvinist propaganda or lying explanations about the purely defensive character of war. And long before one of Nazism’s sympathizers announced, “When I hear the word culture, I draw my revolver,” poets had proclaimed their disgust with “rubbish culture” and called poetically on “ye Barbarians, Scythians, Negroes, Indians, to trample it down.”

Simply to brand as outbursts of nihilism this violent dissatisfaction with the prewar age and subsequent attempts at restoring it (from Nietzsche and Sorel to Pareto, from Rimbaud and T. E. Lawrence to Brecht, and Malraux, from Bakunin and Nechayev to Alexander Blok) is to overlook how justified disgust can be in a society wholly permeated with the ideological outlook and moral standards of the bourgeoisie. Yet it is also true that the “front generation,” in marked contrast to their own chosen spiritual fathers, were completely absorbed by their desire to see the ruin of this whole world of fake security, fake culture, and fake life. This desire was so great that it outweighed in impact and articulateness all earlier attempts at a “transformation of values,” such as Nietzsche had attempted, or a reorganization of political life as indicated in Sorel’s writings, or a revival of human authenticity in Bakunin, or a passionate love of life in the purity of exotic adventures in Rimbaud. Destruction without mitigation, chaos and ruin as such assumed the dignity of supreme values. The genuineness of these feelings can be seen in the fact that very few of this generation were cured of their war enthusiasm by actual experience of its horrors. The survivors of the trenches did not become pacifists. They cherished an experience which, they thought, might serve to separate them from feeling of complete alienation from normal life.


Sir Alfred Jules Ayer  1910 –  1989)

Ayer is best known for popularising the verification principle, in particular through his presentation of it in Language, Truth, and Logic (1936). The principle was at the time at the heart of the debates of the so-called Vienna Circle which Ayer visited as a young guest. Others, including the leading light of the circle, Moritz Schlick, were already offering their own papers on the issue.[30] Ayer’s own formulation was that a sentence can only be meaningful if it has verifiable empirical import, otherwise it is either “analytical” if tautologous, or “metaphysical” (i.e. meaningless, or “literally senseless”). He started to work on the book at the age of 23[31] and it was published when he was 26. Ayer’s philosophical ideas were deeply influenced by those of the Vienna Circle and David Hume. His clear, vibrant and polemical exposition of them makes Language, Truth and Logic essential reading on the tenets of logical empiricism– the book is regarded as a classic of 20th century analytic philosophy, and is widely read in philosophy courses around the world. In it, Ayer also proposed that the distinction between a conscious man and an unconscious machine resolves itself into a distinction between ‘different types of perceptible behaviour’,[32] an argument which anticipates the Turing test published in 1950 to test a machine’s capability to demonstrate intelligence.

Ayer wrote two books on the philosopher Bertrand Russell, Russell and Moore: The Analytic Heritage (1971) and Russell (1972). He also wrote an introductory book on the philosophy of David Hume and a short biography of Voltaire.

Ayer was strong critic of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. As a logical positivist Ayer was in conflict with Heidegger’s proposed vast, overarching theories regarding existence. These he felt were completely unverifiable through empirical demonstration and logical analysis. This sort of philosophy was an unfortunate strain in modern thought. He considered Heidegger to be the worst example of such philosophy, which Ayer believed to be entirely useless.(Wikipedia)


Gadamer (1900-2002)

Truth and Method (Wahrheit und Methode) is the major philosophical work by Hans-Georg Gadamer, first published in 1960. (The following text is a copy from Wikipedia. My own excerpts will be presented later. )

The book draws heavily on the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, and Romantic hermeneutics. It rejects as unachievable the goal of objectivity, and instead suggests that meaning is created through intersubjective communication.The book is regarded as Gadamer’s magnum opus, and has influenced many philosophers and sociologists, notably Jürgen Habermas.Gadamer’s philosophical project, as explained in Truth and Method, was to elaborate on the concept of “philosophical hermeneutics”, which Heidegger initiated but never dealt with at length.
Gadamer’s goal was to uncover the nature of human understanding. In the book Gadamer argued that “truth” and “method” were at odds with one another. He was critical of two approaches to the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften). On the one hand, he was critical of modern approaches to humanities that modelled themselves on the natural sciences (and thus on rigorous scientific methods). On the other hand, he took issue with the traditional German approach to the humanities, represented for instance by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey, which believed that correctly interpreting a text meant recovering the original intention of the author who wrote it.In contrast to both of these positions, Gadamer argued that people have a ‘historically effected consciousness’ (wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewußtsein) and that they are embedded in the particular history and culture that shaped them. Thus interpreting a text involves a fusion of horizons where the scholar finds the ways that the text’s history articulates with their own background.
Truth and Method is not meant to be a programmatic statement about a new ‘hermeneutic’ method of interpreting texts. Gadamer intended Truth and Method to be a description of what we always do when we interpret things (even if we do not know it): “My real concern was and is philosophic: not what we do or what we ought to do, but what happens to us over and above our wanting and doing”. Truth and Method was published twice in English, and the revised edition is now considered authoritative. The German-language edition of Gadamer’s Collected Works includes a volume in which Gadamer elaborates his argument and discusses the critical response to the book. Finally, Gadamer’s essay on Celan (entitled “Who Am I and Who Are You?”) has been considered by many—including Heidegger and Gadamer himself—as a “second volume” or continuation of the argument in Truth and Method.


Willard Van Orman Quine: Word and Object 1964 MIT Press Cambridge, USA

Scientific method is…”a matter of being guided by sensory stimuli, a taste for
simplicity in some sense and a taste for old things.” 23 (page numbers). Within its boundaries it is the last arbiter of truth.

In Peirce: truth is the ideal theory approached as a limit when canons of scientific methodology are used unceasingly on continuing experience.(Peirce: Coll. Papers Camb 1932 Vol. 5, para 4.) A lot of troubles arise with this definition. One: the imputation of uniqueness of t h e ideal result. There are alternative theories!
And any sentence is meaningless intertheoretically. 24 The truth attributions
are being made from the point of view of the surrounding body of theory.
This is no relativistic theory! We retain our beliefs of the moment within our total evolving doctrine.

“Language is a social art.” Constructions of a theory: predication, quantification, truth functions. 232 The longer the preservation, the dimmer the circumstances of utterance. Some utterances of a sentence can be true, others false, we need know circumstances. What is true now, tends to be true then – the more it is scientific. Observation sentences are true only utterance by utterance. 227 (Peirce, Coll Papers Camb 1932,34.)
Mental events are understood through their associations with the socially observable behavior of physical objects 264

In Carnap: philosophical questions are questions of language. Peirce dealt with true theoretical questions generally. 271
But distinction should be made about talk of objects and that of words… The SEMANTIC ASCENT is the shift from talk of miles to talk of mile. Or a talk of certain terms and that about terms. Semantic ascent carries the discussion to a point where 2 parties better agree on objects “The strategy is one of ascending to a common part of two fundamentally disparate conceptual schemes, the better to discuss the disparate foundations.” 272
In maths first disinterpretation was in use: feigned to understand ” only the
logical vocabulary and not the distinctive terms of the axiom system
concerned.” 273 Frege fully formalized logic, making available a more refined method: semantic ascent. WHETHER A GIVEN FORMULA FOLLOWS LOGICALLY FROM THE GIVEN AXIOMS 273 without using the terms of the theory.

In Philosophy most truths of elementary logic contain extralogical terms. („If all Greeks are men”, etc.) In Physics that is not so. It is generalizing beyond examples. Observation is felt to have no such bearing on logic, philosophy than is physics. Logics do not pick up empirical substance. Philosophy in remoter than physics way is bound to save eventual connections with non-verbal stimulation. No experience can solve ontological questions, but such issues are connected with surface irritated by them through a maze of intervening theory. 276

Herbert Simon (1916-2001)

Bounded rationality is the idea that in decision making, rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision. It was proposed by Herbert Simon as an alternative basis for the mathematical modeling of decision making, as used in economics and related disciplines; it complements rationality as optimization, which views decision making as a fully rational process of finding an optimal choice given the information available. Another way to look at bounded rationality is that, because decision-makers lack the ability and resources to arrive at the optimal solution, they instead apply their rationality only after having greatly simplified the choices available. Thus the decision-maker is a satisficer, one seeking a satisfactory solution rather than the optimal one. Simon used the analogy of a pair of scissors, where one blade is the “cognitive limitations” of actual humans and the other the “structures of the environment”; minds with limited cognitive resources can thus be successful by exploiting pre-existing structure and regularity in the environment.

Some models of human behavior in the social sciences assume that humans can be reasonably approximated or described as “rational” entities (see for example rational choice theory). Many economics models assume that people are on average rational, and can in large enough quantities be approximated to act according to their preferences. The concept of bounded rationality revises this assumption to account for the fact that perfectly rational decisions are often not feasible in practice due to the finite computational resources available for making them. (Wikipedia)

The theory in a nutshell:
Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
“Author Function”

In dealing with the “author” as a function of discourse, we must consider the characteristics of a discourse that support this use and determine its differences from other discourses. If we limit our remarks only to those books or texts with authors, we can isolate four different features.
First, they are objects of appropriation; the form of property they have become is of a particular type whose legal codification was accomplished some years ago. It is important to notice, as well, that its status as property is historically secondary to the penal code controlling its appropriation. Speeches and books were assigned real authors, other than mythical or important religious figures, only when the author became subject to punishment and to the extent that his discourse was considered transgressive. In our culture and undoubtably in others as well discourse was not originally a thing, a product, or a possession, but an action situated in a bipolar field of sacred and profane, lawful and unlawful, religious and blasphemous. It was a gesture charged with risks before it became a possession caught in a circuit of property values. But it was at the moment when a system of ownership and strict copyright rules were established (toward the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century) that the transgressive properties always intrinsic to the act of writing became the forceful imperative of literature. It is as if the author, at the moment he was accepted into the social order of property which governs our culture, was compensating for his new status by reviving the older bipolar field of discourse in a systematic practice of transgression and by restoring the danger of writing which, on another side, had been conferred the benefits of property.

Secondly, the “author-function” is not universal or constant in all discourse. Even within our civilization, the same types of texts have not always required authors; there was a time when those texts which we now call “literary” (stories, folk tales, epics and tragedies) were accepted, circulated and valorized without any questions about the identity of their author. Their anonymity was ignored because their real or supposed age was a sufficient guarantee of their authenticity. Text, however, that we now call “scientific” (dealing with cosmology and the heavens, medicine or illness, the natural sciences or geography) were only considered truthful during the Middle Ages if the name of the author was indicated. Statements on the order of “Hippocrates said…” or “Pliny tells us that…” were not merely formulas for an argument based on authority; they marked a proven discourse. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a totally new conception was developed when scientific texts were accepted on their own merits and positioned within an anonymous and coherent conceptual system of established truths and methods of verification. Authentication no longer required reference to the individual who had produced them; the role of the author disappeared as an index of truthfulness and, where it remained as an inventor’s name, it was merely to denote a specific theorem or proposition, a strange effect, a property, a body, a group of elements, or a pathological syndrome.

At the same time, however, “literary” discourse was acceptable only if it carried an author’s name; every text of poetry or fiction was obliged to state its author and the date, place, and circumstance of its writing. The meaning and value attributed to the text depended upon this information. If by accident or design a text was presented anonymously, every effort was made to locate its author. Literary anonymity was of interest only as a puzzle to be solved as, in our day, literary works are totally dominated by the sovereignty of the author. (Undoubtedly, these remarks are far too categorical. Criticism has been concerned for some time now with aspects of a text not fully dependent upon the notion of an individual creator; studies of genre or the analysis of recurring textual motifs and their variations from a norm ther than author. Furthermore, where in mathematics the author has become little more than a handy reference for a particular theorem or group of propositions, the reference to an author in biology or medicine, or to the date of his research has a substantially different bearing. This latter reference, more than simply indicating the source of information, attests to the “reliability” of the evidence, since it entails an appreciation of the techniques and experimental materials available at a given time and in a particular laboratory).

The third point concerning this “author-function” is that it is not formed spontaneously through the simple attribution of a discourse to an individual. It results from a complex operation whose purpose is to construct the rational entity we call an author. Undoubtedly, this construction is assigned a “realistic” dimension as we speak of an individual’s “profundity” or “creative” power, his intentions or the original inspiration manifested in writing. Nevertheless, these aspect of an individual, which we designate as an author (or which comprise an individual as an author), are projections, in terms always more or less psychological, of our way of handling texts: in the comparisons we make, the traits we extract as pertinent, the continuities we assign, or the exclusions we practice. In addition, all these operations vary according to the period and the form of discourse concerned. A “philosopher” and a “poet” are not constructed in the same manner; and the author of an eighteenth-century novel was formed differently from the modern novelist.
(From Foucault, Michel. “What is an Author?” Trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon. In Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Ed. Donald F. Bouchard. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1977. pp. 124-127. )

Jean-Francois Lyotard (1924-1998)

Lyotard speaks of a ‘crisis of narratives’ and a turn to fragmented, ‘multiple language games,’ and to ‘institutions in patches.’ The term “postmodernism,” involves a general attitude of incredulity toward what Lyotard calls ‘metanarratives’ that can be appealed to in resolving the complexity and moral ambiguity of communication. in the modern world.

The key feature of this moment is the loosening of the hold over fragmented scholarly communities of either specific totalizing visions or a general paradigmatic style of organizing research. The authority of ‘grand theory’ styles seems suspended in favor of a close consideration of such issues as contextuality, the meaning of social life to those who enact it, and the explanation of exceptions and indeterminants rather than regularities. If postmodernism can be said to have any foundational texts, they surely include those by thinkers from Heidegger to Derrida who have questioned and in their own ways overturned or at least radically reinterpreted the earlier intuitions of rationalist philosophers. (Times of the Sign, Lectures by Paul J. Hopper, October 16-21, 1989.)

Jürgen Habermas (1929)

The following paragraphs are taken from a recent Wikipedia article (part).

Jürgen Habermas considers his major contribution to be the development of the concept and theory of communicative reason or communicative rationality, which distinguishes itself from the rationalist tradition, by locating rationality in structures of interpersonal linguistic communication rather than in the structure of the cosmos. This social theory advances the goals of human emancipation, while maintaining an inclusive universalist moral framework. This framework rests on the argument called universal pragmatics – that all speech acts have an inherent telos (the Greek word for “purpose”) – the goal of mutual understanding, and that human beings possess the communicative competence to bring about such understanding.

Habermas’s works resonate within the traditions of Kant and the Enlightenment and of democratic socialism through his emphasis on the potential for transforming the world and arriving at a more humane, just, and egalitarian society through the realization of the human potential for reason, in part through discourse ethics. While Habermas has stated that the Enlightenment is an “unfinished project,” he argues it should be corrected and complemented, not discarded. In this he distances himself from the Frankfurt School, criticizing it, as well as much of postmodernist thought, for excessive pessimism, radicalism, and exaggerations.
Within sociology, Habermas’s major contribution was the development of a comprehensive theory of societal evolution and modernization focusing on the difference between communicative rationality and rationalization on one hand and strategic / instrumental rationality and rationalization on the other. This includes a critique from a communicative standpoint of the differentiation-based theory of social systems developed by Niklas Luhmann, a student of Talcott Parsons.

Habermas perceives the rationalization, humanization and democratization of society in terms of the institutionalization of the potential for rationality that is inherent in the communicative competence that is unique to the human species. Habermas contends that communicative competence has developed through the course of evolution, but in contemporary society it is often suppressed or weakened by the way in which major domains of social life, such as the market, the state, and organizations, have been given over to or taken over by strategic/instrumental rationality, so that the logic of the system supplants that of the lifeworld.
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)

Deconstuction theory

The deconstruction of philosophy involves the questioning of the many hierarchical oppositions–such as cause and effect, presence and absence, speech (“phonocentrism”) and writing–in order to expose the bias (the privileged terms) of those tacit assumptions on which Western metaphysics rest. Deconstruction takes apart the logic of language in which authors make their claims, a process that reveals how all texts undermine themselves because every text includes unconscious “traces” of other positions exactly opposite to that which it sets out to uphold. Deconstruction undermines “logocentrism” (literally, a focus on the word, the original and originating word in relation to which other concepts such as truth, identity, and certainty can be validated; but understood more generally as a belief in reason and rationality, the belief that meaning inheres in the world independently of any human attempt to represent it in words). It follows from this view that the “meaning” of a text bears only accidental relationship to the author’s conscious intentions. One of the effects of deconstructive criticism has been a loosening of language from concepts and referents. Source: „deconstruction” Britannica Online.<; )

Summary of Conference Remarks, 1991
We should not forget that all of the different categories of political philosophy, classical or modern, have been built around the concept of the unity of the one, around the units called polis, city, state, and so forth. And to the extent that what is happening at this fin de siecle (and especially in cities like Los Angeles) is a passage to what has been called the post-city age, a transition that is also a transition toward great mutations in the relations among states, nations, civil societies, and so forth, architectural theory and praxis cannot look for their prescriptions in what is still called the political – the thinking of the polis or the city – or in a democracy which would still be measured by these concepts of the political. These concepts as well as the opposition between public and private are in the process of being deconstructed.

This does not mean that one must simply abandon the political terrain and democracy. Rather, one must negotiate between democracy in its given model, the familiar, demographic model founded on the one as a calculable subject, and the democracy to come. This negotioation, which is a double bind, must divide the one who is architect, and there is as a rule no program for handling such division. And the traces of this division, and even the division of its self, constitute the signature, the paradoxical event of a signature which is never one, never one with itself.
If I recall that I am here a stranger, remember that it is not to underline a signature but to recall two themes. I have just touched on the first. The other one let us call language, tongue, discourse, theory, philosophy, everything that apparently requires words. On a few occasions I have been lucky enough to have worked with architects in relationships which were both aleatory and necessary. In all these collaborations I have apparently been on the side of non-architecture, and consequently was provoked to analyze better the relation between architectural construction and, let’s say, language, tongue, discourse, or non-architectural events.

It is a very complicated story, of course, but, as a very brief summary of my thoughts of these experiences, I would say that the displacement that is occurring today and that I believe will be confirmed more and more in coming years, consists in over- determining, against all the hierarchies and even against the concept of art, not to speak of such concepts as spirit and expression, the co-implications between the non-architectural arts – music, literature, history, and philosophy, for example – and the architectural arts. As a result, new writings of memory and utopia will intervene in architectural works, the signature of which will be more and more singular, or, more precisely, more and more singularly collective.
(The above remarks were presented in an improvised translation. from „ANYONE”, ed. Cynthia Davidson, 1991, p. 39-45

Richard McKay Rorty (1931-2007)


The old Heidegger retreated from sentences and discourse to single words words which had to be abandoned as soon as they ceased to be hints and became signs as soon as they entered into relations with other wocds and thus became tools for accomplishing purposes. The younger­unpragmatical, mystical Wittgenstein had wanted sentences to be pictures rather than merely tools. By contrast, the pragmatical young Heidegger, the philosopher of inescapable relationality had been content to let them be tools. But the older, more pragmatical Wittgenstein became content to think of them as tools, about the same time that the older Heidegger decided his early pragmatism had been a remature surrender to reason glorified for centuries, which is the most stiffnecked adversary of thought.

On my reading of them, then, these two great philosophers passed each other in midcareer, going in opposite directions. Wittgenstein, in the Tractatus started from a point which, to a pragmatist like myself, seems much less enlight­ened than that of Being and Time. But, as Wittgenstein advanced in the direction of pragmatism, he met Heidegger coming the other way retreating from prag­matism into the same escapist mood in which the Tractatus had been written, attempting to regain in “thought” the sort of sublimity which the young Wittgen­stein had found in logic. The direction in which Wittgenstein was going led him to radical doubts about the very notion of philosophy as a provider of knowledge, and to a detranscendentalized, naturalized conception of philosophy as a form of therapy, as a technic rather than as the achievement of theory. Heidegger had himself begun with just such doubts. But he was unable to sustain them, and so in the end he was driven to inventing “Thought” as a substitute for what he called metaphysics.” This led him to speak of language as a quasi-divinity in which we live and move and have our being, and of all previous Thought as a limited whole, a tale that had now been fully told.

So far I have been presenting a brief outline of a story which I shall tell in more detail. I shall begin my longer version with Wittgenstein’s attempt to find a new way of doing philosophy.

Any attempt to preserve a method and a topic for armchair philosophy, one which will permit it to look down upon natural science and history, is likely to invoke the Kantian notion of “conditions of possibility.” Whereas physics and history find conditions for the existence of actualities by discovering temporally prior actualities, philosophy can achieve autonomy only if it escapes from time by escaping from actuality to possibility. The Kantian strategy for achieving this escape was to replace an atemporal Deity with an atemporal subject of experience. Kant’s “possible experience” the domain whose bounds philosophy was to set­ Heidegger, “Nietzsche’s Word: ‘God is Dead,’ ” in question.

Those who postulate type A objects are always faced with the following self- referential problem: if we claim that no entity is available which remains unrelated by a form of relationship which cannot hold between unaided type B entities, then we have problems about the availability of the type A entities we postulate to lend the necessary aid. For if we are allowed to say that type A entities are their own rationale cognoscendi, or their own conditions of linguistic accessibility, that they make themselves available without being related to one another or to anything else, then we are faced with the question of why type B entities cannot themselves have this obviously desirable feature.

This dilemma is familiar from theology: if God can be causa sui, why should not the world be? Why not just identify God and nature, as Spinoza did? All type A entities, all unexplained explainers  are in the same situation as a transcendent Deity. If we are entitled to believe in them without relating them to something which conditions their existence or knowability or describability, then we have falsified our initial claim that availability requires being related by something other than the relata themselves. We have opened up the question of why we ever thought that there was a problem about availability in the first place. We have thereby questioned the need for philosophy, insofar as philosophy is thought of as the study of conditions of availability.

I shall define “naturalism” as the view that anything might have been otherwise, that there can be no conditionless conditions. Naturalists believe that all explana­tion is causal explanation of the actual, and that there is no such thing as a noncausal condition of possibility. If we think of philosophy as a quest for apodicticity, for truths whose truth requires no explanation, then we make phi­losophy inherently antinaturalistic and we must agree with Kant and Husserl that Locke and Wundt operate at a subphilosophical level. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus can be read as a heroic attempt to save philosophy from naturalism by claiming that type A objects must be ineffable, that they can be shown but not said, that they can never become available in the way that type B objects are.

There is an analogy between Wittgenstein’s discussion of the mysterious “objects” of the Tractatus and the via remotionis in theology. Of these objects, which form what he called “the substance of the World,” Wittgenstein wrote as follows: „If the world had no substance, then whether a proposition had sense would depend on whether another proposition was true. In that case we could not sketch out any picture of the world (true or false) no intrinsically simple objects, no pictures, and no language. For if analysis could not end with such objects, then whether a sentence had sense would depend on whether another proposition was true.”
Historicism is a special case of naturalism, so defined.

Noam Chomsky (1928)

Noam Chomsky took up a program for the study of a formal grammar. His formal linguistics has shown itself to be surprisingly robust, having passed virtually unscathed through the postmodernist revolution and the ‘deconstruction’ of the texts of phenomenology. Bourdieu credits Chomsky with affirming the dependence of the structure of linguistic expressions relative to their use and functions. And Henry Staten, in his comparative study of the thought of Wittgenstein and Derrida, believes Chomsky’s discourse is scientific rather than philosophic. (Times of the Sign, Lectures by Paul J. Hopper, October 16-21, 1989.)

Chomsky proved that an a priori Generative grammar structure is innate to humans. That explains why children are able to learn their mother tongue within the first year of their life. I will not discuss Chomsky’s rich and instructive, if contraversional, political activities.
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007)
(Reversion of History)
Somewhere in the course of the eighties of the twentieth century, history took a turn in another direction. Once it passed its apogee in time, once it reached the peak of the curve in its evolution, its solstice of history, a sliding back of events set in, an unfolding of inverted meaning. As in the case of cosmic space, historical space-time would also have a curvature. By way of the same chaotic effect in time as in space, things go faster and faster as they approach their culmination, just like the flow of water speeds up mysteriously as it approaches the waterfall. In the Euclidean space of history, the fastest route from one point to another is a straight line, the one of Progress and Democracy. This however only pertains to the linear space of the Enlightenment. In our non-Euclidean space of the end of the century, a malevolent curvature invincibly reroutes all trajectories. The phenomenon is doubtlessly linked to the sphericity of time (visible on the horizon of the end of the century just like the earth is visible on the horizon at the end of the day) or to the subtle distortion of the field of gravity. Segalen says that on an Earth become a sphere, every movement distancing us from a point also brings us closer to that same point. This is true with respect to time as well. Every noticeable movement of history brings us imperceptibly closer to its antipode, indeed to its point of departure. This is the end of linearity. Viewed from this perspective, the future no longer exists. And if there is no future, neither is there an end anymore. And yet this is not what is meant by the end of history. What we have to deal with is a paradoxical process of reversion, a reversal of effect with respect to modernity which, having reached its speculative limit and extrapolated all its virtual developments, disintegrates into its rudimentary components through a catastrophic process of recurrence and turbulence.

If we could circumvent this moratory of the end of the century, this retarded culmination of things which, strangely enough, resembles a labour of mourning, a misdirected or misfired (rate) labour of mourning that wants to review, re-write, restore and facelift everything in order to produce, seemingly in a paranoiac fervour (elan), a perfect book-keeping of the end of the century, a universally balanced budget, democracy everywhere, complete eradication of all conflicts and, if possible, the dismissal of all our memories of all “negative” events – if we could forego or desist this venture in bleaching, in international varnishing for which all nations of today are vying to conspire, if we could spare ourselves this democratic extreme-ity (extreme- onction) from where the New World Order speaks, we would at least be left with events that have preceded us with their glory, their character, their meaning, their uniqueness. Consequently, we are so much in a hurry to mask the worst of our deposit into our account (everyone is secretly afraid of the appalling balance we are about to carry over and offer to the Year 2000) that there remains nothing of our own history at the end of the millennium, nothing of its illumination, of its factual violence. If there is any distinct trait to the event, that which in fact comprises the event and hence has value in history, is its irreversibility, i.e., that there is something in it that always exceeds meaning and interpretation – which is exactly the opposite of what we see today: all that has happened in this century in terms of progress, of liberation, of revolution, of violence is currently under a well-meaning review process.

The question is this: is the movement of modernity reversible, and is this reversibility itself, in turn, irreversible? How far can this retrospective activity, this dream of the end of the millennium go? Isn’t there a “wall of history”, analogous to that of sound and speed, from which its abjuring (palinodique) movement cannot steer clear?
(Originally published in French as part of Jean Baudrillard, L’Illusion de la fin: ou La greve des evenements, Galilee: Paris, 1992. Translated by Charles Dudas, York University, Canada.)
(The radical prediction)
The radical prediction is always that of a non-reality of the facts, of an illusion of the factual. It merely starts with the foreboding of this illusion, but never fuses with the objective state of things. Any fusion of this type would be similar to mistaking a messenger for his message, which still today consists in killing the messenger who always brings the bad news (for example, the news that all our values are null, that the real is uncertain, that certain events do not “take place”9). Any fusion of the thought (of writing, of language) with the real – a so-called “faithfulness of the real” with a thought that has made the real emerge in all of its configurations – is hallucinatory. It is moreover the result of a total misinterpretation of language, of the fact that language is an illusion in its very movement, that it carries this continuation of emptiness or nothingness at the very core of what it says, and that it is in all its materiality a deconstruction of what it signifies. Just as the photograph (the image) connotes an erasure, the death of what it represents, that which gives the photograph its intensity, what gives intensity to writing, be it the writing of a fiction or the writing of a theoretical fiction, is emptiness, an underlying nothingness, an illusion of meaning, an ironic dimension of language, which is corollary to an ironic dimension of the facts themselves, which are never what they are – in all meanings: they are never more than what they are, and they are always only what they are – a perfect amphiboly. The irony of the facts, in their miserable reality, is precisely that they are only what they are. At least, that is what they are supposed to mean: “the real is the real.” But, by this very fact (so to speak), they are necessarily beyond [truth] because factual existence is impossible: nothing is totally evidentiary without becoming an enigma. Reality, in general, is too evident to be true.

It is this ironic transfiguration through language which constitutes the event of language. And it is on a restitution of this fundamental illusion of the world and language that thought must work, without however taking language in its literality, where the messenger is mistaken for the message, and thus already sacrificed.
The two modes of thought present radically opposed projects: one hopes to reveal the objective reality of this world but wants to be a distinct thought; the other seeks to restore an illusion, of which it is an integral part. One seeks a total gravitation, a concentric effect of meaning. The other seeks to be anti-gravitational and to reach an “ex-centering” of reality, a global attraction of the void toward the periphery (Jarry).
(From a translation of Jean Baudrillard’s La Pensee Radicale, published in the fall of 1994 in French by Sens & Tonka, eds., Collection Morsure, Paris, 1994. Francois Debrix)


Discovery and rationality

In analyzing the natural sciences for philosophical purposes as historically developing enterprises, the question “What is it that makes the sciences rational?” is raised in a new form: do the intellectual procedures that scientists actually employ to investigate and explain natural phenomena have definite and objective intellectual merits that make their adoption rationally prudent, wise, and obligatory? In answering this question, philosophical opinion has tended to polarize in recent years toward two extreme positions: on the one hand, a formalist or positivist extreme, on the other, a romantic or irrationalist one. Given their mathematical inspiration and preoccupations, both the Viennese Empiricists and their successors in Britain and the United States have interpreted the rationality of scientific procedures as depending solely on the formal validity, or logicality, of scientific arguments. In their view, questions of rationality can be raised about the scientist’s work only at the final stage in his inquiries–i.e., when he sets out, as the final outcome of his work, the explicit explanatory arguments in support of his novel theories or interpretations–only then, they declare, will there be anything about science that is capable of being criticized in logical or philosophical terms. It is therefore a commonplace of recent Empiricist analysis in the philosophy of science that one must distinguish at the very outset between discovery and justification.

The term discovery refers to all the stages in a scientific inquiry preceding the formulation of the new explanatory arguments that are its final outcome. The term justification refers, by contrast, to the demonstration that the formal validity or explanatory power of those arguments justifies the scientist in accepting their conclusions as scientifically validated or established. In this view, the rational concerns of the philosopher of science are restricted solely to this final phase of justification. All questions about the earlier stages–i.e., about discovery–are matters of mere psychology, not of serious philosophy. As one widely accepted epigram expresses it, “There is no logic of discovery”; and this distinction–given the equation of rationality within logicality–seemingly invalidates all questions about the rationality of the preliminary steps by which a scientist arrives at a discovery.At the opposite extreme, there are those, such as Michael Polanyi, a Hungarian-born scientist and philosopher, and Arthur Koestler, a novelist and journalist, who emphasize the parts played by intuition, guesswork, and chance in scientific investigation, citing these as evidence that theoretical achievement calls into play an intellectual creativity superior to mere rationality. According to this anti-Positivist argument, the modern scientist is a sleepwalker whose creative insight guides him to intellectual destinations that he could never clearly see or state beforehand: any excessive preoccupation with the rationality of scientific procedures, by contrast, springs from a pedestrian desire to clip the wings of imagination and to confine the scientist to stereotyped procedures, thus destroying the creative fertility of science. Rather than subjecting scientific intuition to the barren intellectual accountancy of the Positivists, the conclusion runs, one should embrace a romantic anti-rationalism. In each of these extreme cases, however, the initial equation of rationality with logicality demands closer examination. Certainly, the activity of investigation and discovery can be examined with advantage from a psychological point of view as it has been, in fact, by a French mathematician, Jacques Hadamard, as well as from a philosophical point of view. Yet the possibility of such psychological inquiries does not obviously prove, entirely by itself, that procedures of intellectual investigation in science and mathematics are essentially nonrational. Chance, for instance, may help to bring relevant material to a scientist’s attention. But chance–as has often been remarked–favours the prepared mind, and it is fair to ask how far the scientist acted rationally, after all, in picking out the items he did as being relevant to his particular problems. Similarly, in the case of creative intuition and the rest: once again, the man with the best trained mind can afford to give the freest rein to his intellectual imagination because he will be best qualified to appraise the rational context of his current problems and to recognize significant clues, promising new lines of analysis, or possible answers to his questions, as they come to mind. Neither denigrating the early phases of scientific inquiry as of merely psychological interest nor overpraising them as exercises of creative imagination disposes therefore of the philosophical problem that is here involved, viz., that of showing what makes certain procedures of investigation more rational than others.

To find a middle way between formalism and irrationalism, it is necessary to look more closely at the nature of the problems of scientific inquiry. If the improvement of scientific concepts and theories depends on the development of more powerful explanatory procedures, the philosophical analysis of discovery then requires that one show what is essentially involved in devising such procedures, testing them out, and determining the range of their application. This problem must be dealt with, furthermore, not by a formal analysis of the resulting arguments alone but first and foremost by establishing what tasks any novel explanatory procedure in science can be required to perform, what demands its performance can properly be asked to satisfy, and so what intellectual goals a scientist is expected to be aiming at in all the phases of his investigations. Posed in these alternative terms, the problem of scientific rationality becomes a problem of showing how conceptual changes in science result in the introduction of novel ideas, which are–in a phrase coined by Mach as early as 1910–“better adapted, both to the facts and to one another.” It is rational for older scientific theories to be displaced by newer ones that are functionally superior; and the task for philosophers of science is to demonstrate explicitly in what such functional adaptedness consists. At the present time, many younger philosophers of science are actively analyzing the nature of the problems of science in these terms.

Significantly, most of these men have had their own primary training within the natural sciences proper rather than in formal logic or pure mathematics, for the task requires a much more detailed analysis of the processes of intellectual innovation than has been customary hitherto. In place of the simple dichotomy between discovery and justification, for instance, it calls for a subdivision of the innovation process into a more complex sequence of distinct stages; and at each stage both rational and causal considerations are relevant. Thus, at the initial stage in any inquiry, a scientist must decide which among all of the philosophically conceivable variants from the current repertory of explanatory methods are to be taken seriously at all; which, that is, are genuine possibilities. This preliminary sorting of initially plausible from implausible innovations must be dealt with–and dealt with in the most rational manner possible–long before any question of justification arises. This initial sorting procedure is one about which scientists themselves also speak cogently and eloquently. Far from deciding what novel suggestions are genuinely possible or plausible on a purely psychological basis or by the exercise of some mysterious, nonrational intuition, scientists will commonly explain their reasons for accepting one set of conceptual variants rather than another as deserving serious consideration.

At the same time, such microanalyses of scientific innovation must certainly leave room for causal as well as rational questions. During certain periods in the historical development of science, for instance, scientists have notoriously disregarded novel possibilities that later turned out to hold a key to the solution of crucial theoretical difficulties. Looking back at such periods, it is possible to reconstruct with care the rational considerations that might have been advanced at the time to explain this neglect; but even so, one is occasionally forced to conclude that the men involved were prejudiced against those possibilities by factors external to their sciences; e.g., by influences originating in the wider social, cultural, or political framework of their time. Thus, Newton was particularly afraid that his theory of material particles might be accused of supporting Epicureanism, whereas Darwin concealed his private speculations about the cerebral basis of mental activities because of public objections to Materialism. In analyzing the microstructure of scientific problem solving, it is necessary, accordingly, to resist any temptation to generalize prematurely.

Scientific investigators working in different fields, or at different times, apparently face theoretical difficulties of quite different kinds. One must therefore begin by studying the specific needs and tasks of each particular science, at one or another stage in its evolution, separately–seeking to recognize, in each individual case, the particular intellectual demands to be met by any new concept or theory if it is to be successful. Eventually, the accumulated results of specific microanalyses may bring the investigator to a point at which he can again afford to generalize about all of the assorted theoretical problems confronting, say, physics and about the broader intellectual demands to be met by successful theoretical changes in a variety of scientific situations. At the present stage, however, though philosophers of science still cannot afford to beg these questions, they are compelled to conduct their analyses in a more piecemeal way–building up their picture of scientific innovation and discovery by considering a wide range of sample cases and working their way only gradually toward a more comprehensive account of the problematics of the scientific enterprise.

Philosophies of the Branches of Knowledge: Philosophy of science: MOVEMENTS OF SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 13 May 1998].



Validation and justification.

If this situation is true of the earlier stages in discovery, it is no less true in the case of justification itself. Here again, from 1920 on, the debate in the philosophy of science focussed predominantly on two sharply opposed positions, both of which appear in retrospect to be excessively narrow. On the one hand, Empiricist philosophers argued for a view that made prediction the crucial test of scientific validity; on the other hand, philosophers of a more Rationalist temperament saw coherence and scope as the crucial requirements. For Empiricists, the fundamental presupposition is that the facts justifying changes in scientific ideas are both intellectually prior to the theories that are, in due course, developed to explain them and also capable of being recognized independently and in advance of all theory construction. Given this presupposition, they regard prediction and validation as the crucial and distinctive steps in scientific procedure, arguing that, to establish the validity of any general scientific proposition, it is necessary to show that the theoretical generalization of which the validity is in question entails particular factual statements that are borne out by independent empirical observations. This validation process then involves two essential steps: (1) the formal step of inferring novel predictions from the theory and (2) the empirical step of comparing those predictions with the facts and so confirming the theory or proving it false.

On closer inspection, both steps in the received Empiricist procedure face serious difficulties, and these have lent strength–by reaction–to the alternative, constructivist position. As to step (1), there appears to be no objection to the idea of deducing particular factual predictions directly from theoretical hypotheses, so long as one accepts the Empiricist interpretation of laws of nature as universal empirical assertions on the same logical level as “All polar bears are white.” Once that interpretation is questioned, however, it is less clear that direct deductive inferences from theory to fact are always practicable. On the contrary, if theoretical laws and purely empirical reports are, in the nature of the case, framed in terms of distinct and diverse sets of concepts, no general procedure can be available for passing deductively from one to the other. For the theory will then be a reinterpretation of the facts, not a mere generalization from them. Similarly, with step (2), an empirical confrontation of theories and facts gives rise to a more complex range of choices than those implied by the Empiricist account. When faced with discrepancies between prediction and observation, scientists certainly have to modify their theoretical explanations; but this modification can normally be made in any of several alternative ways. For instance, the theoretical relevance of a particular observation may be questioned; or some alternative theoretical interpretation may be put forward; or further refinements may be made within the structure of the theory concerned–and all of this can be done before any question arises of a direct and necessary conflict between the discordant observation and the general theoretical doctrine under investigation.

The rival, constructivist position derives its attractions from such objections as these. This position follows lines of thought already sketched by the French theoretical physicist Pierre Duhem at the turn of the century. On this account, the essential test of a science is that it should provide coherent, consistent, and wide-ranging theoretical organizations. Empirical facts will then be recognized as scientifically relevant only to the extent that they exemplify these interpretations and make them more discriminating. Thus, no single factual observation can ever serve as a logically crucial experiment and confirm or refute any one specific doctrine conclusively, taken apart from a whole complex of theory and interpretation. What is at risk in any experiment or observation, therefore, is the whole body of the theory, together with the current conventions governing its empirical application; and the more comprehensive a theory is, the more are scientists free to vary the details of their specific applications of it, rather than to accept any single counter-example as a challenge to its general validity. (see also Index: experimentation) f these two philosophical approaches are reconsidered today against a broader and more historical background, however, they no longer appear to be either as exhaustive or as contradictory as they did in the 1920s and 1930s. By choosing suitable illustrations, of course, one can make each position highly attractive and plausible since, in one situation or another, the rational considerations that carry genuine weight in the actual justification of novel scientific theories include both predictive success and conceptual coherence. But the “Book of Nature,” as Galileo called it, is like Holy Scripture: it offers texts to suit all occasions and purposes. And, on second thought, it can be argued that both Empiricist and constructivist philosophers oversimplify the justification process in science and the criteria by which scientists judge the validity of novel concepts and theories.

Far from there being any single or simple test of validity, the question whether predictive success or coherence, simplicity, historical authenticity, or mechanical intelligibility is the key consideration–and in what sense of each ambiguous phrase–must be considered afresh from case to case, with an eye to the specific demands of each new scientific problem situation. Within the historically developing enterprise of science, intellectual problems arise of many different types, depending both upon the kinds of subject matter under investigation and upon the stage of development of the science concerned. In one science and at one stage, particular weight may attach to a single unexpectedly successful prediction: as when the wave theory of light led to the totally unexpected discovery that a perfectly circular obstacle placed in front of a point source of light produces a circular shadow having a bright spot at its centre. In another science or at another time, however, it may be neither practicable nor relevant to infer such specific predictions, and new theories and concepts may be validated by considerations of quite other kinds. Even within a single science such as physics, indeed, scientists are not faced at every stage by problems and judgments of a single, uniform type. Instead, the historical evolution of physics–down the centuries from Nicole Oresme, Galileo, and Newton to Maxwell, Rutherford, and Heisenberg–has generated an entire genealogy of varied problems; and the considerations bearing on the theoretical difficulties facing physicists at different stages have themselves changed, quite legitimately, along with the substantive concepts and theories of the science. So, within the more complex framework of a developing rational enterprise, the philosopher’s task is no longer to impose any single or simple criterion of intellectual choice upon scientific judgments of all kinds. Rather, his task is to recognize how the rational considerations and criteria of validity relevant to particular judgments vary with the theoretical problem situations that provide their historical contexts.

“Philosophies of the Branches of Knowledge: Philosophy of science: MOVEMENTS OF SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT: Validation and justification.” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 13 May 1998].


Unification, pluralism, and reductionism.As one notable illustration of the tug-of-war between logical and pragmatic issues in the philosophy of science, the “unity of science” movement may be cited. Under the vigorous leadership of Otto Neurath, a polymath sociologist and philosopher, this movement represented the high point in the ambitions of Viennese Positivism between World Wars I and II; for the general philosophical aims that motivated the search for a unified science are in striking contrast with the specific problem-solving considerations that lead working physicists to unify or integrate their theoretical concepts and explanatory procedures in actual scientific practice. Aside from the primary test of predictive success, the Positivists of the Vienna Circle also did allow–on their own terms–for the further theoretical virtues of coherence and comprehensiveness. Their logico-mathematical approach to the propositional structure of scientific theories, however, led them to interpret this demand for coherent and comprehensive theories in a formal sense. On their interpretation, a totally unified body of scientific ideas would be a comprehensive, quasi-Euclidean system of scientific theorems, based on a single set of general axioms, postulates, and primitive propositions and applicable to natural phenomena of all kinds. Given sufficiently all-embracing empirical generalizations as the starting points of such a unified science, it would then be possible, in their view, to deduce particular statements about all the phenomena covered by the varied special sciences unified within its axiomatic scope. Taking the symbolic logic of Russell and Whitehead as their formal core, philosophical advocates of the unity of science then set out to construct, on a single axiomatic pattern, a fully comprehensive account of nature capable of explaining (i.e., entailing) all natural phenomena whatsoever.

At first glance, this ambition seemed laudable and legitimate, but once again the Empiricist program subsequently encountered unforeseen entanglements. The reasons for this situation were not merely the discovery that the theoretical ideas employed within different branches of a science (e.g., of mathematical physics) are more resistant to conceptual integration than had originally been hoped (the task of constructing a self-consistent relativistic theory of quantum electrodynamics, for instance, is one that still defeats the physicists); but, what is worse, it has now become apparent that several well-founded and properly respected branches of scientific theory do not lend themselves to exposition in a formal mathematical manner at all. Any satisfactory theory of organic evolution, for instance, has an irreducibly historical dimension; and there is no possibility of putting historical zoology on the sort of predictive basis that Empiricists have demanded, still less of incorporating it into Neurath’s larger unified axiom system. Faced with this particular example, indeed, one distinguished Empiricist philosopher, Carl Hempel, has drawn a somewhat extreme conclusion, viz., that the theory of natural selection is not really an explanation of organic evolution at all–not even a bad one–but is merely an elaborate redescription of the historical episodes concerned. Yet this is simply a roundabout way of conceding that neither the historical problems nor the theoretical ambitions of evolutionary zoologists conform to the quasi-mathematical pattern that the Logical Empiricists have set out to impose on all of the natural sciences alike in the interests of a longer term axiomatic unification.

If, on the other hand, the demand for integration or unification is considered as a practical problem of methodology, it will then be found that the scientists are facing problems of a different and more pragmatic kind. The science of physiology poses an interesting example because, within this field, the problem of reductionism–i.e., of whether all phenomena whatsoever can be reduced to physico-chemical terms alone–has repeatedly drawn active debate. Since the time of Antoine Lavoisier, who first explained correctly the process of combustion–i.e., since the late 18th century and even before–there has been a methodological division of opinion, involving, on the one hand, those chemists and physiologists who dreamed of equating physiological functions with chemical reactions and planned their program for biochemistry around that ambition and, on the other hand, those clinical scientists and functionally minded physiologists who questioned the legitimacy of this so-called physicalist program and insisted that physiological phenomena displayed certain features or aspects inexplicable in physio-chemical terms alone. The scientific issues in debate in this case have never been concerned with formal matters of axiomatization and logical integration alone: once again, they have involved substantive questions of interpretation. Correspondingly, the provisional resolution of this dispute, accomplished by Claude Bernard in the mid-19th century, was not arrived at by constructing a single, unified axiom system of biochemistry-cum-physiology. Rather, Bernard distinguished the proper questions and concerns of the two sciences and demonstrated the substantive character–and limits–of their mutual relevance. Regarded as specific, localizable processes within the main organs of the body, he argued, all physiological phenomena do, indeed, come within the scope of the same general physico-chemical laws and concepts as govern similar processes in inorganic systems. Within the special micro-environments of the body, however, those same general types of phenomena serve certain unique physiological functions, having no inorganic counterparts; and, to this extent, special problems and questions arise within physiology that cannot be exhaustively translated into the language of inorganic physics and chemistry. Though biochemistry and physiology in no sense conflict, there accordingly remains an essential plurality in the explanatory aims of the two sciences; and this plurality gives rise, in turn, to a corresponding plurality of methods and concepts.

Yet even this example does not yield conclusions from which one can safely generalize. Though in certain respects the explanatory aims of physiology and biochemistry will, most probably, always be distinct and separate, in other cases matters have gone the other way. When, in 1873, the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, for instance, integrated the previously independent sciences of electricity, magnetism, and optics into the unified physics of electromagnetism, there was no comparable division of opinion and no such methodological peace treaty was needed. In this case it remained possible, after Maxwell’s work as before, to distinguish between straightforwardly electrical, magnetic, and optical phenomena on the empirical level; but on a more general, theoretical level such distinctions lost their earlier significance, and it ceased to be necessary to keep the problems, methods, and explanatory categories of the three earlier sciences separated.

To sum up: in the methodological drive toward the unification of the sciences, as in the earlier phases of discovery and validation, the intellectual temptation to generalize prematurely exposes the philosopher to certain real dangers. In practice, the case for unifying the theories and concepts of two or more sciences has to be considered afresh in every instance, and it can rarely be decided in advance whether or not such a unification will achieve anything useful for the sciences. Instead, one has to analyze the practical demands of the current problems in the different fields and see how far those requirements can be met by developing a unified explanatory treatment for all of the special sciences in question. The integration of theoretical concepts achieved in the process will not consist solely in the formal running together of different propositional systems: more typically, it will require the development of a whole new pattern of theoretical interpretation. And, though it may be possible, in certain cases, to expound the resulting theory in axiomatic form, it must be established, in each case separately, whether or not this can be done. In this sense, conceptual and methodological unification represents a genuine movement in the development of scientific thought; but the logical form of the unified science towards which the philosopher is working is not something that he can lay down definitively before the event.

„Philosophies of the Branches of Knowledge: Philosophy of science: MOVEMENTS OF SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT: Unification, pluralism, and reductionism.” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 13 May 1998].


Status of scientific propositions and concepts or entities.

The section of this article entitled Elements of scientific enterprise examined, first, the raw material (or elements) with which scientists have to work in developing their theories about the operations of the natural world and, second, the intellectual steps (or movements) by which they arrive at a scientific understanding of nature. By way of summary, it is appropriate to consider finally the main points of view about the intellectual status of the scientific concepts and doctrines embodying the understanding of nature that have emerged from the philosophical debate about science. Beginning with the epistemic status of theoretical propositions in science, it is well to consider the different claims that are made about the objectivity of their applications or their truth or both. Then, turning to the ontological status of the scientific concepts or entities, it is likewise necessary to consider the claims that are made about the objectivity of their reference or of their meaning or both. In either case, the purpose of a philosophical critique of science is to establish just how far the content and reference of scientific knowledge can be regarded as a true report about the actual structure and operations of nature and just how far they represent, on the contrary, intellectual constructs or artifacts in terms of which men have chanced, chosen, or found it desirable to organize their thoughts about the structure and operations of nature.

Starting with the epistemic status of scientific theories, three main views can be distinguished: At one extreme is a strict Realist position, which underscores the factual basis of all scientific knowledge and emphasizes the logical contingency that this basis implies for all substantive propositions in science. In this view, all but the most purely formal statements in science make assertions about how the world of nature is constituted and operates in fact–as contrasted with all of those alternative states of affairs that are clearly intelligible and so possible but which turn out not to be true of the actual world. Seen from this Realist standpoint, every proposition in science, from the most particular observational report to the most general theoretical principle, simply reports a more or less comprehensive empirical set of facts about nature and aspires to be an accurate, objective mirror of the more or less universal facts about which it speaks. At the opposite extreme, there is a strict conventionalist position, which underscores the constructive role of the scientist’s own theory articulation and emphasizes the logical necessity that is thereby built into the resulting conceptual structure. In this view, all but the most purely observational statements in science reflect the patterns by which the scientist shapes his conceptual picture of the world of nature–the patterns in terms of which all states of affairs clearly conceivable on the basis of current ideas have necessarily to be formulated. Seen from this conventionalist standpoint, theoretical thermodynamics, say, determines the character of all possible worlds consistent with the principles of energy conservation and entropy (or randomness) increase: a world to which thermodynamics is not applicable will then be not so much factually false as inconceivable in present terms. Finally, a wide range of intermediate views seeks to evade the central opposition between Realists and conventionalists. One representative view of this kind, first made popular by Mach toward the end of the 19th century, invoked Kant’s attack on things-in-themselves, viewing the attack as providing grounds for dismissing all debates about reality and objectivity as inescapably barren and empty. In its most developed form, this so-called operationalist position encourages the philosopher to regard theoretical propositions in science as meaningful only insofar as scientific practice includes specific operations–either manual measuring operations, or computational pencil-and-paper operations–in terms of which those propositions are given operational meaning. Nothing is then to be read into scientific knowledge beyond its operational meaning; in particular, scientists are not to be understood as claiming or disclaiming anything about the reality or conventionality of the states of affairs that they report. The idea of nature as a thing-in-itself is thus eliminated, as being an intellectual superstition and an obstacle to better scientific understanding, which survives from an earlier metaphysical era.

Three main views should here be distinguished. The central question is, now, whether the nouns and noun phrases used as technical terms in the theoretical propositions of science rely for meaning on any claim that they refer to objective, external entities; and current approaches to this question parallel existing views about the epistemological issues, viz., whether the propositions themselves rely for their truth on a claim to be mirroring or reporting objective, external facts. Here, too, the Realist interprets all of the chief technical terms of scientific theory as the names of objective entities existing in nature independently of all human theories and interpretations. In this view, entropy, say–a measure of the increase in randomness that every total system undergoes–is a genuine, objective magnitude that has, at all times, played a crucial part in the operations of nature even though physicists have only recently had the wit to discover it; and it just happens, correspondingly, to be the case–in those parts of the cosmos that can be observed–that the total entropy of an isolated system nowhere decreases. The instrumentalist, for his part, regards all theoretical notions such as entropy as intellectual fictions or artifacts created by the scientist’s own theory construction and quite distinct from the natural world of objects, systems, and phenomena that scientific theories have to explain. No doubt, scientific theory and the external reality of nature do come into contact on the everyday or empirical level of tables and chairs, rocks and flowers. Given the intellectual tasks of scientific theorizing, however, the resulting concepts are essentially abstract; and any grasping after real entities, as the objective external reference of the theoretical terms, reflects a plain misunderstanding of this theoretical enterprise. Meanwhile, the phenomenalist repeats, in the case of the technical terms of science, the same agnostic criticism as that offered by the operationalist in the case of its theoretical propositions. In this view, it is simply a meaningless waste of time for scientists to debate the existence of enduring theoretical entities, regarded as external, objective things-in-themselves; just as it is similarly wasteful for them to interpret scientific theories as making, or denying, similar claims about the existence of objective, external states of affairs. Instead, the terms and concepts of science are all to be understood as the product of so many logical, or semantic, operations or constructions, and questions about their real existence are to be swept aside as damaging metaphysical superstitions.

“Philosophies of the Branches of Knowledge: Philosophy of science: PHILOSOPHICAL STATUS OF SCIENTIFIC THEORY” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 13 May 1998].


Philosophical analysis and scientific practice

The arguments about these rival ontological and epistemological views cannot be safely left or judged without first looking more closely at the complex relationship between the general analytical interests of philosophers and the more specific intellectual concerns of working scientists themselves. For the degree to which each view about the reality of scientific entities and facts can carry conviction depends substantially on what branches of science are at issue. As the focus of philosophical attention has shifted historically from one scientific terrain to another, so, too, have the relative degrees of plausibility of these rival positions varied. Since the 1920s, for instance, there has been a marked revival of philosophical discussion among scientists working in several specialized fields–particularly, among physicists concerned with the structure and development of quantum mechanics. In epistemic terms, the statistical character of quantum-mechanical explanations has prompted some fundamental questions about the status and limitations of human knowledge. Clearly, the extent and accuracy of human knowledge about nature are limited by the modes of operation of scientific instruments. Is it not also possible, however, that the significance of this statistical character lies at a deeper level? Perhaps the relevant objective relationships and states of affairs in nature itself are governed intrinsically by a merely probabilistic causality and so are essentially indeterminate. Or is there a point to be reached on the microphysical level at which any such distinction between subjective human knowledge and the objective state of affairs has finally broken down? The ontal implications of quantum mechanics have been as puzzling as the epistemic. Is an electron, say, a discrete particle that just happens to elude man’s exact observation; is it an essentially blurred wave bundle having no precise dynamical characteristics; is it a concentration of probability, a mere theoretical symbol, or what? Or must one set all these ontological questions aside as lacking any significance for physics and as standing in the way of the physicist’s proper task, that of extending the direct explanatory power of quantum-mechanical explanation itself?

Elsewhere, the philosophical debate about science has taken on other specific forms. Just as in Aristotle’s natural philosophy the metaphysical controversy about Ideas and essences was reflected in Aristotle’s own methodological approach to biology and to the study of the natural relations and classification of organisms, so once again 20th-century reappraisals of traditional taxonomy–in the light of evolution theory, genetics, and population dynamics–have been an occasion for renewed philosophical debate. As a result, earlier disagreements about natural and artificial classifications have been reformulated and have generated a new dispute, about the possibility of basing taxonomy on a mathematical science of phenetics–in which the defining properties of different species, genera, etc. are all given quantitative numbers or measures–and so harnessing the technical resources of modern computers to its purposes. Similarly, in the psychology of perception and related fields, the extension of understanding in recent years at last has permitted the framing of authentically empirical questions about perception and cognition, which lend themselves to direct investigation instead of being restricted to general a priori speculations. The result has been a theoretical debate, the final outcome of which will have profound effects on both philosophical epistemology and natural science. In areas of this debate where even Mach was content to pose entirely general questions, in the philosophical tradition of David Hume, about the role of sense impressions as the raw material of all cognition and perception whatsoever, it is now clear that many preliminary differences and complexities must be unravelled before one can hope to recognize the truly operative questions in this field. Far from all modes of knowledge and perception conforming to a single common pattern, man’s sensory and practical dealings with the world call into play a variety of perceptual systems of which the operations justify no simple epistemological formula about impressions and ideas, sense-data and logical constructions, or intuitions and schemata. Thus, at the present time, the investigations of some physiologists, psychologists, and cyberneticists are bringing man’s sensory and cognitive activities within the scope of natural science while at the same time preserving a feeling for the more general philosophical problems and insights of such philosophers as Locke and Leibniz, Hume and Kant, Helmholtz and Mach.

At this point, the alliance between science and philosophy is simply carrying over into fields of science that are areas of methodological perplexity today the same interactions that were fruitful in earlier centuries within sciences having methods by now well understood. These interactions are unlikely to vindicate finally any one of the rival positions in the philosophy of science, whether ontological (Realist, instrumentalist, or phenomenalist) or epistemological (Realist, conventionalist, or operationalist). Probably such a vindication was, in any event, too much to expect. For in all the different special sciences–both natural and social–historical development eventually brings the investigator to a point at which he is ready to operate with a variety of technical terms or entities having very different logical characters and functions and at which his most general theoretical propositions or principles display corresponding differences in their logical status and implications. So long as philosophical discussion is confined within the limits of an artificial, ideal language or propositional system, it is possible, perhaps, to continue posing purely abstract, general dilemmas about, say, theoretical entities or confirmation theory. But the bearing of such formal dilemmas on the actual content of contemporary scientific thought is becoming increasingly unclear. In debating the ontal status of theoretical entities, for instance, the question must at some stage be faced whether that phrase is intended to cover such notions as gene or pi-meson, species or cold front, momentum or superego, social class or economic market. (Certainly, not all of these terms have identical characters and functions.) In debating the epistemic status of scientific theories, likewise, it must be made clear whether one has in mind, say, the mathematical schema of quantum-mechanical field theory, the populational analysis of natural selection, the microstructures and mechanisms of molecular biology, the developmental sequences of cognitive psychology, the labour theory of economic value, the general regularities of terrestrial meteorology, or what. (Once again, not all of these theories have identical kinds of status or implications.)

Philosophical doctrines and approaches that carry great conviction when applied to the theories and ideas of one science may–not surprisingly–lose all of their plausibility when extended to other fields. Thus, an Empiricist analysis may apply quite straightforwardly to meteorology, yet entirely misrepresent the structure and implications of electromagnetic theory; while, in return, a Neo-Kantian account of theoretical physics may lack any direct relevance, say, to ideas about animal behaviour. Today as in classical Athens, analytical clarification in the philosophy of science goes, in this respect, hand in hand with methodological refinements in the sciences themselves. In retrospect, the methodological insights of Aristotle the marine biologist and of Plato the theoretical astrophysicist can be seen to have been complementary, rather than incompatible. Similarly, today, the philosopher must look at rival positions in the philosophy of science not merely as contradictory answers to technical questions within philosophy itself but equally as complementary contributions to the methodological improvement of theoretical understanding over the whole varied range of different scientific fields.

“Philosophies of the Branches of Knowledge: Philosophy of science: PHILOSOPHICAL STATUS OF SCIENTIFIC THEORY: Philosophical analysis and scientific practice.” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 13 May 1998].



This survey has been concerned, almost exclusively, with philosophical problems and arguments about the sciences regarded as sources of theoretical knowledge. In pitting Realism against instrumentalism, mechanistic ideas against organicist ones, divine knowledge against human fallibility, or Platonic Ideas against Aristotelian essences, the philosopher is in each case concerned with the intellectual status, implications, and validity of certain general scientific concepts, methods, or entities. To confine oneself entirely to these intellectual aspects, however, would mean accepting a total abstraction of theory from practice and of scientific ideas from their behavioral expression. Thus, along with the present-day shift of emphasis from the physical to the human and social sciences, one finds that all such abstract approaches are coming once again under criticism, as over-intellectualizing the nature and implications of science. Some of these attacks come from the neo-Marxist direction and reflect a traditional Marxian insistence on the unity of theory and action. (It was not for nothing that Lenin picked on Ernst Mach as a special target for scorn.) Analogous criticisms, however, are also coming from men with very different intellectual loyalties–e.g., from the urban sociologist Lewis Mumford and from many contemporary Existentialists.

In conclusion, therefore, a concise discussion is here given of some of the views about the relations between science and the rest of culture; i.e., about the relevance of scientific knowledge to other spheres of experience and concern and, conversely, about the significance of broader, practical considerations for man’s understanding of scientific theory itself. The variety of these views has always been very great. Their exponents have ranged all the way from those who, like the energeticist Wilhelm Ostwald and the evolutionist Julian Huxley–both of whom rooted ethics in nature–present scientific ideas and procedures as rational panaceas for intellectual and practical problems of all kinds to those who, like Pierre Duhem and Carl von Weizsäcker, physicist and philosopher of nature, both of whom are theists, deliberately limit the claims of science so as to preserve a freedom of manoeuvre for ethics, for example, or theology. At each stage, most advocates of extreme claims for science have been ontological Realists; and, in strengthening their ontal and epistemic claims, they have also staked a claim to overriding intellectual priority on behalf of scientific knowledge, in contrast to other forms of experience. Similarly, those who would restrict the broader cultural claims of science have tended to be phenomenalists; and, in weakening their philosophical claims, they have also attempted to limit the authority of science to its own intellectual concerns as narrowly defined.

Whatever one’s general philosophical position with respect to the reality of scientific knowledge and entities may be, however, there are other more practical questions to be faced, questions about the specific implications of different scientific ideas and beliefs for parallel fields of human action and experience. On this point, one particular theme unites a wide range of radical critics of science, including both Lewis Mumford, U.S. social critic, and the Existentialists. Just as the Christian Dane Søren Kierkegaard, an early and seminal figure of Existentialism, condemned Kant’s universalized system of ethics for ignoring the individuality of actual ethical problems and decisions, so today there is a widespread reaction against any tendency to treat social or practical decisions as technical matters, which can be left to the judgment of scientific or technological experts. The general methods of technology may, indeed, represent practical applications of the theoretical understanding arrived at by science; but all individual decisions about putting those general techniques to use–e.g., in constructing an airport or power station–must be made not by appealing to any general formula or rule of thumb but by balancing a whole range of diverse considerations–economic and aesthetic, environmental and human, as well as merely technical.

According to another contemporary critique, the theoretical points of view adopted in natural science are general and abstract, but the practical demands of sociopolitical action and, a fortiori, of individual action, are concrete and particular; and, by itself, this contrast places an immediate restriction on the existential relevance of scientific ideas and engineering techniques. Such scholars as Thomas Huxley, a versatile scientist and defender of evolution, or Wilhelm Ostwald, a pioneer in electrochemistry, who viewed reality as essentially energy, might argue in general, abstract terms for interpreting ethical principles in evolutionary or thermodynamical terms if they pleased (so the critics continue); but such abstract speculative arguments have no bearing on the actual tasks of ethical decision and action. Here again, every ethical choice involves a unique constellation of considerations and demands; and this problem cannot be dealt with by appealing to any universal rule but must be appraised on an individual basis, as and when it arises.

Others take a more positive approach toward the contribution of science to an understanding of human values. Without necessarily claiming to transform ethics itself into a “science,” they at any rate argue that the personal attitudes needed for effective work in science–adventurous skepticism and critical open-mindedness–have a wider relevance also to human conduct and social affairs. Supposing only that social and political discussion were conducted in this same tentative and critical spirit (they claim), its typical and deplorable passion and confusion could be replaced by the more rational consideration of the means required in order to achieve explicitly stated ends. While specific scientific ideas and doctrines may not be enough to direct social and political action by themselves, the scientific attitude may, nonetheless, have a profound significance for social policy and individual ethics alike. This contrast, between existentially minded critics of the claim that science is all-embracing and socially minded believers in the scientific attitude, may be epitomized by referring to contemporary discussions about the social significance of science itself.

On the one hand, there has recently been a revival of explicitly anti-scientific views, which had been more or less dormant since the time of Blake, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and their successors in the Romantic movement. Supporters of this anti-science position point to the central role of military technology in the financial support of 20th-century scientific research and dismiss the average scientist’s plea that he is not responsible for the uses to which his ethically neutral discoveries are put, as pallid and insincere. On the contrary (they argue), there is a long-standing and unholy alliance linking the collective institutions of the scientific and technological professions to the economic, industrial, and political powers that be. Faced with the fruits of this historical union (they conclude), it is time that scientists acknowledged their social responsibilities; and, failing better institutional controls, the outcome of this moral self-scrutiny may well prove to be a moratorium on further scientific research. Perhaps man already knows too much for his own good and needs to digest the significance of his existing stock of knowledge much further before adding to it and so widening yet again the gulf between theoretical knowledge and practical wisdom.

On the other hand, there are those who recognize science as playing a crucial role in modern society, but who go on to draw the opposite conclusion. Rather than putting a stop to science (these men would argue), its scope should be broadened; that is, scholars should be studying and understanding better the manner in which science serves as an element in the larger social order–perhaps by developing more adequate analyses of the social structure or perhaps by a large-scale extension of the methods of operations research. Aside from anything else (they point out), a moratorium on science is as impracticable as a moratorium on sin. It could be enforced only if political unanimity prevailed to an unimaginable degree among scientists. In the absence of such enforcement, liberal-minded countries will merely put themselves at a needless disadvantage–both economic and military–as compared with totalitarian states. Instead of pursuing this will-o’-the-wisp, scholars should put more effort into the task of understanding both the social preconditions of effective scientific development and the economic and political priorities involved in the practical application of scientific research.

As compared with the controversies of earlier centuries, the debate between science and religion is curiously muted today. There seems little room nowadays for the theological passions that engulfed the discussion of Copernicus’ new planetary theory, James Hutton’s history of the Earth, or Darwin’s theory of natural selection; and one would hesitate to speak any longer, as so many of our forefathers did, of warfare between science and religion as unavoidable. It is true that a few partisan writers can still find it a perplexing problem to decide such issues as whether the existence of life on other worlds would require a re-enactment there of the Christian fall and redemption or can insist–conversely–that the results of astronautical exploration refute any religious belief that God is an Old Man up in the sky. For most people, however, such questions have so far lost their earlier bite that they appear, by now, quite naïve. What is the reason for this change? In earlier times, the term cosmology embraced not only the structure of the astronomical cosmos and the origins of the human species but also the religious significance of man’s place in nature. Contemporary theologians, by contast, see physics and biology as having much less bearing on man’s religious attitudes and preoccupations than their predecessors had supposed that they had. As a result, men’s earlier ambition to construct a single, comprehensive world view, embracing the essential truths of both science and religion, no longer plays the active part in intellectual life that it formerly did. The only branches of science still capable of provoking vigorous theological debate, even now, are the human, rather than the natural sciences. The implications of Freudian psychology for the doctrine of grace and the use of psychedelic drugs for inducing quasi-mystical experiences are topics for live discussion today, in a way that evolution, astrophysics, and historical geology no longer are.

This change of focus has been accompanied by a change in ideas about the intrinsic limits of science.

It was formerly assumed that the boundaries between science and other aspects of human experience could be defined by marking off certain types of subject matter as essentially closed to scientific investigation. To one generation, the heart of this forbidden territory was the mind; to another, it was life; to a third, the creation. In this view, something in the essential nature of mental or vital activities, or in the origins of the present order of nature, made it impossible to treat these as phenomena open to study and explanation by the rational methods and intellectual procedures available to science. In fact, this view always had defects, from both the scientific and the theological points of view. To scientists, it seemed to impose an arbitrary restriction on their sphere of operations and so acted as a standing challenge and irritation. For theologians, it had the disadvantage of placing the essential claims of religion, so to speak, on a sandbank, where they risked being submerged in time by the rising tide of scientific knowledge. So, by tacit consent, the essential limits of science are now defined in quite different terms. These limits are now identified by recognizing that the character of scientific procedures themselves places restrictions on the relevance of their results. A scholar may choose to study whatever objects, systems, or processes he may please, but only certain of the questions that he asks about them will be answerable in the general, theoretical terms characteristic of science. This change of approach may not have made the substantive problem–that of delimiting the frontiers of science exactly at all points–very much easier to deal with than it was before, but it has one genuine merit: it respects the crucial fact, to which attention has been drawn at several points in this present survey, that the distinctive features of science lie not in the types of object and event to which the scientist has access but in the intellectual procedures that his investigations employ and so in the kinds of problem that lend themselves to a scientific solution.


“Philosophies of the Branches of Knowledge: Philosophy of science: INTERRELATIONSHIPS OF SCIENCE AND CULTURE” Britannica Online.
[Accessed 13 May 1998].


A/ Columbia lectures transcribed by A.Viragh

An instructive excerpt about poetry

“I hold all poetry to be speech (logos) with meter. Those who hear poetry feel the shudders of fear, the tears of pity, the longings of grief. Through the words, the soul experiences its own reaction to success and misfortunes in the affairs and persons of others.”

• Why meter? It has power to affect the speaker. What part? Emotions –pity, fear (and grief). We become less fearful and more pitying when we engage with poetry; sympathia. Earliest language to formulate what good poetry does.

• Opinion (doxa)–> another aspect of soul altered in reading of poetry. Cognitive dimensions of poetry. Opinion easily persuaded: doxae affected by emotions.

• “The force(bia) of the charm… bewitches, persuades (peitho), and changes it by sorcery.” Gorgias’s legal defense: speech has magical properties.

„Beauty, tact and taste”

Cic.De Officiis.XXXV.

But the propriety to which I refer shows itself also in every deed, in every word, even in every movement and attitude of the body. And in outward, visible propriety there are three elements — beauty, tact, and taste; these conceptions are difficult to express in words, but it will be enough for my purpose if they are understood. In these three elements is included also our concern for the good opinion of those with whom and amongst whom we live.


XXVIII.For, as physical beauty with harmonious symmetry of the limbs engages the attention and delights the eye, for the very reason that all the parts combine in harmony and grace, so this propriety, which shines out in our conduct, engages the approbation of our fellow-men by the order, consistency, and self-control it imposes upon every word and deed. {99} We should, therefore, in our dealings with people show what I may almost call reverence toward all men — not only toward the men who are the best, but toward others as well.

B. Voltaire (1694-1778)

(Some more  excerpts from the Philosophical Dictionary)

IT needs twenty years to lead man from the plant state in which he is within his mother ‘s womb, and the pure animal state which is the lot of his early childhood, to the state when the maturity of the reason begins to appear. It has needed thirty centuries to learn a little about his structure. It would need eternity to learn something about his soul. It takes an instant to kill him.


There is much evil in this village: but whence have you the knowledge that this evil is not inevitable?
You are forced to admit an intelligence diffused over the universe; but (i) do you know, for instance, if this power reaches right to foreseeing the future ? You have asserted it a thousand times; but you have never been able either to prove it, or to understand it. You cannot know how any being whatever sees what is not. Well, the future is not; therefore no being can see it. You are reduced to saying that He foresees it; but foreseeing is conjecturing. This is the opinion of the Socinians.
Well, a God who, according to you, conjectures, can be mistaken. In your system He is really mistaken; for if He had foreseen tbat His enemy would poison all His works here below, He would not have produced them; He would not have prepared for Himself the shame of being continually vanquished.
(2) Do I not do Him much more honour by saying that He has made everything by the necessity of His nature, than you do Him by raising an enemy who disfigures, who soils, who destroys all His- works here below?
(3) It is not to have an unworthy idea of God to say that, having formed thousands of millions of worlds where death and evil do not dwell, it was necessary that evil and death should dwell in this world.
(4) It is not to disparage God to say that He could not form man without giving him self-esteem; that this selfesteem could not lead him without misguiding him almost always; that his passions are necessary, but that they are disastrous; that propagation cannot be executed without desire; that desire cannot animate man without quarrels; that these quarrels necessarily bring wars in their train, etc.
(5) When he sees part of the combinations of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, and this globe pierced everywhere like a sieve, from which escape in crowds so many exhalations, what philosopher will be bold enough, what scholastic foolish enough to see clearly that nature could stop the effects of volcanoes, the inelemencies of the atmosphere, the violence of the winds, the plagues, and all the destructive scourges?
(6) One must be very powerful, very strong, very industrious, to have formed lions which devour bulls, and to have produced men who invent arms to kill at one blow, not only bulls and lions, but even each other. One must be very powerful to have caused to be born spiders which spin webs to catch flies; but that is not to be omnipotent, infinitely powerful.
(7) If the great Being had been infinitely powerful, there is no reason why He should not have made sentient animals infinitely happy; He has not done so, therefore He was not able.
(8) All the sects of the philosophers have stranded on the reef of moral and physical ill. It only remains to avow that God having acted for the best has not been able to act better.
(9) This necessity settles all the difficulties and finishes all the disputes. We have not the impudence to say–” All is good.” We say–” All is the feast bad that is possible.”
(10) Why does a child often die in its mother’s womb? Why is another who has had the misfortune to be born, reserved for torments as long as his life, terminated by a frightful death?
Why has the source of life been poisoned all over the world since the discovery of America? why since the seventh century of our era does smallpox carry off the eighth part of the human race? why since all time have bladders been subject to being stone quarries? why the plague, war, famine, the inquisition? Turn in every direction, you will find no other solution than that everything has been necessary.
I speak here to philosophers only and not to theologians. We know well that faith is the thread in the labyrinth. We know that the fall of Adam and Eve, original sin, the immense power given to the devil, the predilection accorded by the great Being to the Jewish people, and the baptism substituted for the amputation of the prepuce, are the answers which explain everything. We have argued only against Zarathustra and not against the university of Conimbre or Coimbre, to which we submit in our articles.

Wretched human beings, whether you wear green robes, turbans, black robes or surplices, cloaks and neckbands, never seek to use authority where there is question only of reason, or consent to be scoffed at throughout the centuries as the most impertinent of all men, and to suffer public hatred as the most unjust.
A hundred times has one spoken to you of the insolent absurdity with which you condemned Galileo, and I speak to you for the hundred and first, and I hope you will keep the anniversary of it for ever; I desire that there be graved on the door of your Holy Office:
“Here seven cardinals, assisted by minor brethren, had the master of thought in Italy thrown into prison at the age of seventy; made him fast on bread and water because he instructed the human race, and because they were ignorant.”
There was pronounced a sentence in favour of Aristotle’s categories, and there was decreed learnedly and equitably the penalty of the galleys for whoever should be sufficiently daring as to have an opinion different from that of the Stagyrite, whose books were formerly burned by two councils.


SOMEONE asked Newton one day why he walked when he wanted to, and how his arm and his hand moved at his will. He answered manfully that he had no idea. ” But at least,” his interlocutor said to him, ” you who understand so well the gravitation of the planets will tell me why they turn in one direction rather than in another! ” And he again confessed that he had no idea.

Who will teach us by what mechanism this grain of wheat that we throw into the ground rises again to produce a pipe laden with an ear of corn, and how the same soil produces an apple at the top of this tree, and a chestnut on its neighbour? Many teachers have said-” What do I not know? ” Montaigne used to say ” What do I know? ”
Ruthlessly trenchant fellow, wordy pedagogue, meddlesome theorist, you seek the limits of your mind. They are at the end of your nose.


by Voltaire

How Candide Was Brought Up in a Magnificent Castle and How He Was
Driven Thence

In the country of Westphalia, in the castle of the most noble Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, lived a youth whom Nature had endowed with a most sweet disposition. His face was the true index of his mind. He had a solid judgment joined to the most unaffected simplicity; and hence, I presume, he had his name of Candide. The
old servants of the house suspected him to have been the son of the Baron’s sister, by a very good sort of a gentleman of the neighborhood, whom that young lady refused to marry, because he could produce no more than threescore and eleven quarterings in his arms; the rest of the genealogical tree belonging to the family having
been lost through the injuries of time.
The Baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia, for his castle had not only a gate, but even windows, and his great hall was hung with tapestry. He used to hunt with his mastiffs and spaniels instead of greyhounds; his groom served him for huntsman; and the
parson of the parish officiated as his grand almoner. He was called “My Lord” by all his people, and he never told a story but everyone laughed at it.

My Lady Baroness, who weighed three hundred and fifty pounds, consequently was a person of no small consideration; and then she did the honors of the house with a dignity that commanded universal respect. Her daughter was about seventeen years of age, fresh-colored,
comely, plump, and desirable. The Baron’s son seemed to be a youth in every respect worthy of the father he sprung from. Pangloss, the preceptor, was the oracle of the family, and little Candide listened to his instructions with all the simplicity natural to his age and Master Pangloss taught the metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology.

He could prove to admiration that there is no effect without a cause; and, that in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron’s castle was the most magnificent of all castles, and My Lady the best of all possible baronesses. “It is demonstrable,” said he, “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings, accordingly we wear
stockings. Stones were made to be hewn and to construct castles, therefore My Lord has a magnificent castle; for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Swine were intended to be eaten, therefore we eat pork all the year round: and they, who assert that everything is right, do not express themselves
correctly; they should say that everything is best.”

Candide listened attentively and believed implicitly, for he thought Miss Cunegund excessively handsome, though he never had the courage to tell her so. He concluded that next to the happiness of being Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, the next was that of being Miss Cunegund, the next that of seeing her every day, and the last that of hearing the doctrine of Master Pangloss, the greatest philosopher of the whole province, and consequently of the whole world.
  One day when Miss Cunegund went to take a walk in a little neighboring wood which was called a park, she saw, through the bushes, the sage Doctor Pangloss giving a lecture in experimental philosophy to her mother’s chambermaid, a little brown wench, very pretty, and
very tractable. As Miss Cunegund had a great disposition for the sciences, she observed with the utmost attention the experiments which were repeated before her eyes; she perfectly well understood the force of the doctor’s reasoning upon causes and effects. She retired greatly
flurried, quite pensive and filled with the desire of knowledge, imagining that she might be a sufficing reason for young Candide, and he for her. On her way back she happened to meet the young man; she blushed, he blushed also; she wished him a good morning in a flattering tone,
he returned the salute, without knowing what he said. The next day, as they were rising from dinner, Cunegund and Candide slipped behind the screen. The miss dropped her handkerchief, the young man picked it up. She innocently took hold of his hand, and he as innocently kissed hers with a warmth, a sensibility, a grace-all very particular;
their lips met; their eyes sparkled; their knees trembled; their hands strayed. The Baron chanced to come by; he beheld the cause and effect, and, without hesitation, saluted Candide with some notable kicks on the breech and drove him out of doors. The lovely Miss Cunegund
fainted away, and, as soon as she came to herself, the Baroness boxed her ears. Thus a general consternation was spread over this most magnificent and most agreeable of all possible castles.

After undergoing  many disasters…



Candide had, in truth, no great inclination to marry Miss
Cunegund; but the extreme impertinence of the Baron determined him to conclude the match; and Cunegund pressed him so warmly, that he could not recant. He consulted Pangloss, Martin, and the faithful Cacambo. Pangloss composed a fine memorial, by which he proved that the Baron had no right over his sister; and that she might, according to all the laws of the Empire, marry Candide with the left hand. Martin concluded to throw the Baron into the sea; Cacambo decided that he must be delivered to the Turkish captain and sent to the galleys; after which he should be conveyed by the first ship to
the Father General at Rome. This advice was found to be good; the old woman approved of it, and not a syllable was said to his sister; the business was executed for a little money; and they had the pleasure of tricking a Jesuit, and punishing the pride of a German baron. It was altogether natural to imagine, that after undergoing so many disasters, Candide, married to his mistress and living with the philosopher Pangloss, the philosopher Martin, the prudent Cacambo, and the old woman, having besides brought home so many diamonds from the country of the ancient Incas, would lead the most agreeable life in
the world. But he had been so robbed by the Jews, that he had nothing left but his little farm; his wife, every day growing more and more ugly, became headstrong and insupportable; the old woman was infirm, and more ill-natured yet than Cunegund. Cacambo, who worked in
the garden, and carried the produce of it to sell in Constantinople, was above his labor, and cursed his fate. Pangloss despaired of making a figure in any of the German universities. And as to Martin, he was firmly persuaded that a person is equally ill-situated everywhere.
He took things with patience.

Candide, Martin, and Pangloss disputed sometimes about metaphysics and morality. Boats were often seen passing under the windows of the farm laden with effendis, bashaws, and cadis, that were going into banishment to Lemnos, Mytilene and Erzerum. And other cadis,
bashaws, and effendis were seen coming back to succeed the place of the exiles, and were driven out in their turns. They saw several heads curiously stuck upon poles, and carried as presents to the Sublime Porte. Such sights gave occasion to frequent dissertations; and when no disputes were in progress, the irksomeness was so excessive that
the old woman ventured one day to tell them: “I would be glad to know which is worst, to be ravished a hundred
times by Negro pirates, to have one buttock cut off, to run the gauntlet among the Bulgarians, to be whipped and hanged at an auto-da-fe, to be dissected, to be chained to an oar in a galley; and, in short, to experience all the miseries through which every one of us hath passed, or to remain here doing nothing?”
“This,” said Candide, “is a grand question.”

This discourse gave birth to new reflections, and Martin
especially concluded that man was born to live in the convulsions of disquiet, or in the lethargy of idleness. Though Candide did not absolutely agree to this, yet he did not determine anything on that head. Pangloss avowed that he had undergone dreadful sufferings; but
having once maintained that everything went on as well as possible, he still maintained it, and at the same time believed nothing of it. There was one thing which more than ever confirmed Martin in his detestable principles, made Candide hesitate, and embarrassed Pangloss, which was the arrival of Pacquette and Brother Giroflee one day at their farm. This couple had been in the utmost distress;
they had very speedily made away with their three  thousand piastres; they had parted, been reconciled; quarreled again, been thrown into prison; had made their escape, and at last Brother Giroflee had turned Turk. Pacquette still continued to follow her trade; but she got
little or nothing by it.

“I foresaw very well,” said Martin to Candide “that your presents would soon be squandered, and only make them more miserable. You and Cacambo have spent millions of piastres, and yet you are not more happy than Brother Giroflee and Pacquette.” “Ah!” said Pangloss to Pacquette, “it is Heaven that has brought you here among us, my poor child! Do you know that you have cost me the tip of my nose, one eye, and one ear? What a handsome shape is here! and what is this world!”

This new adventure engaged them more deeply than ever in philosophical disputations. In the neighborhood lived a famous dervish who passed for the best philosopher in Turkey; they went to consult him: Pangloss, who was
their spokesman, addressed him thus: “Master, we come to entreat you to tell us why so strange an animal as man has been formed?” “Why do you trouble your head about it?” said the dervish; “is it any business of yours?”
“But, Reverend Father,” said Candide, “there is a horrible deal of evil on the earth.” “What signifies it,” said the dervish, “whether there is evil or good? When His Highness sends a ship to Egypt does he trouble his head
whether the rats in the vessel are at their ease or not?”
“What must then be done?” said Pangloss. “Be silent,” answered the dervish.“I flattered myself,” replied Pangloss, “to have reasoned a little with you on the causes and effects, on the best of possible worlds, the origin of evil, the nature of the soul, and a pre-established
harmony.” At these words the dervish shut the door in their faces.

During this conversation, news was spread abroad that two viziers of the bench and the mufti had just been strangled at Constantinople, and several of their friends impaled. This catastrophe made a great noise for some hours. Pangloss, Candide, and Martin, as they were
returning to the little farm, met with a good-looking old man, who was taking the air at his door, under an alcove formed of the boughs of orange trees. Pangloss, who was as inquisitive as he was disputative, asked him what was the name of the mufti who was lately strangled.

“I cannot tell,” answered the good old man; “I never knew the name of any mufti, or vizier breathing. I am entirely ignorant of the event you speak of; I presume that in general such as are concerned in public affairs sometimes come to a miserable end; and that they deserve it: but I never inquire what is doing at Constantinople; I am contented with sending thither the produce of my garden, which I cultivate with my own hands.” After saying these words, he invited the strangers to come into his house. His two daughters and two sons presented them with divers
sorts of sherbet of their own making; besides caymac, heightened with the peels of candied citrons, oranges, lemons, pineapples, pistachio nuts, and Mocha coffee unadulterated with the bad coffee of Batavia or the American islands. After which the two daughters of
this good Mussulman perfumed the beards of Candide, Pangloss, and Martin.

“You must certainly have a vast estate,” said Candide to the Turk. “I have no more than twenty acres of ground,” he replied, “the whole of which I cultivate myself with the help of my children; and our labor keeps off from us three great evils-idleness, vice, and want.” Candide, as he was returning home, made profound reflections on the Turk’s discourse. “This good old man,” said he to Pangloss and Martin, “appears to me to have chosen for himself a lot much preferable to that of the six Kings with whom we had the honor to sup.” “Human grandeur,” said Pangloss, “is very dangerous, if we believe the testimonies of almost all philosophers; for we find Eglon, King of Moab, was assassinated by Aod; Absalom was hanged by the hair of his head, and run through with three darts; King Nadab, son of Jeroboam, was slain by Baaza; King Ela by Zimri; Okosias by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings Jehooiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity: I need not tell you what was the fate of Croesus,
Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus, Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Caesar, Pompey, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI, Richard Ill, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, and the Emperor Henry IV.”

“Neither need you tell me,” said Candide, “that we must take care of our garden.” “You are in the right,” said Pangloss; “for when man was put into the garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it; and this proves that man was not born to be idle.” “Work then without disputing,” said Martin; “it is the only way to render life supportable.”
The little society, one and all, entered into this laudable design and set themselves to exert their different talents. The little piece of ground yielded them a plentiful crop. Cunegund indeed was very ugly, but she became an excellent hand at pastrywork: Pacquette embroidered; the old woman had the care of the linen. There was none, down to Brother Giroflee, but did some service; he was a very good carpenter, and became an honest man. Pangloss used now and then to say to Candide:

“There is a concatenation of all events in the best of possible worlds; for, in short, had you not been kicked out of a fine castle for the love of Miss Cunegund; had you not been put into the Inquisition; had you not traveled over America on foot; had you not run the Baron through the body; and had you not lost all your sheep, which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts.” “Excellently observed,” answered Candide; “but let us cultivate our garden.”


D. Vörösmarty, Mihály (1800-1855)

New English version by Attila Viragh: ‘A vén cigány’. Excerpts

(1.strophe: Húzd rá cigány, megittad az árát…)

Gypsy play, you’ve drunk the pay,
Don’t dangle your legs around in vain;
What good are cares on bread and water?
Fill up your clammy cup with wine.
Life in this world was always this way:
It chills you first, then burns with flame.
Gypsy play, for who can say
When your worn-out bow will break?
Beaker and mind full of pain and wine;
Gypsy, draw your violin!

(3.strophe: Tanulj dalt a zengõ zivatartól…)

Learn your song from the clattering rain
As it whines, wails, roars and weeps;
It tears down trees and breaks up ships
Suffocates, murders men and beasts.
There is a war in the wide world now,
God’s shrine shakes on its hallowed ground.
Gypsy play, for who can say
When your worn-out bow will break?
Beaker and mind full of pain and wine;
Gypsy, draw your violin!

(4. strophe: Kié volt ez az elfojtott sohajtás…)

Whose was this long-supressed groan,
What screams now, weeping, running wild,
Who’s pounding on the vaulted sky?
What is it wailing like a mill in hell?
A falling angel? A crazed soul?
A vanquished country or a daredevil?
Gypsy play, for who can say
When your worn-out bow will break?
Beaker and mind full of pain and wine;
Gypsy, draw your violin!

 E. Prufrock

Dan Gereb shared with us a part of this:

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965).  Prufrock and Other Observations.  1920.


1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

  S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
  A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
  Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
  Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
  Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
  Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats


Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….


Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,


The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,


And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;


There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;


Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go


Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—


(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare


Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,


I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
  So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—


The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?


  And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress


That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
  And should I then presume?
  And how should I begin?

.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets


And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!


Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?


But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,


And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,


To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—


If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
  That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,


After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:


Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  “That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.”

.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .


No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,


Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …


I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.


I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown


Till human voices wake us, and we drown.



15 thoughts on “Society, human affairs, cognition

  1. Post:”Old classics of societal theory… are not cited here” Gurvitch may belong to them, but I thought it appropriate to mention him.
    Georges Gurvitch (Russian: Гео́ргий Дави́дович Гу́рвич; November 11, 1894, Novorossiysk – December 12, 1965, Paris) was a Russian born French sociologist and jurist. One of the leading sociologists of his times, he was a specialist of the sociology of knowledge. In 1944 he founded the journal Cahiers internationaux de Sociologie.Gurvitch is an important figure in the development of sociology of law.
    Works include: Essai de Sociologie, (1939)
    Le concept des classes sociales de Marx à nos jours, (1954)


    1. Simmel is. Bölcseletileg alapozta meg a szociológiát, nem a történetfilozófiából vezette le. Viszont nem is a kiscsoportok, személyközi viszonyok, stb. empirikus kutatója volt, amivel a mai szociológusok többsége foglalkozik.


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