The Structure of Science?
The main philosophical problems of modern society are intimately associated with Tom and Jane’s enchantment with Science. Normal science is, for too many, an enchanted idol that is perceived as the savior of humanity. No matter what dastardly things humans may do, Science will save us.
Science—normal science—as Thomas Kuhn labels it in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” moves forward in a “successive transition from one paradigm to another”. A paradigm defines the theory, rules and standards of practice. “In the absence of a paradigm or some candidate for paradigm, all of the facts that could possible pertain to the development of a given science are likely to seem equally relevant.”
The Newtonian scientific paradigm was a mathematical, quantified, pattern capable of reducing reality to an atomic level. It’s ideal, if there was one, was man as a machine or more likely a cog in a machine. In such a science we lose the individual man and woman. Rousseau was offering something entirely different. It was holistic and non-reducible. It was a gestalt that included man as neutral manipulator of scientific experiments but also as a subject with values who was a totally thinking, feeling, free agent.
“Rousseau showed that morality had to be instrumented, by man according to an ideal formulated by him; the science of man could only have meaning as an active ideal-type of science.” Newtonian paradigms left no room for such and ideal. It had no room for a holistic woman or man. The solution proposed by Rousseau was to make humanity first and science second; science was to be the servant of wo/man rather than wo/man as the servant of science.
The paradigm of Newtonianism turned out to be a tougher nut than the Enlightenment could crack. Such individuals as Darwin and Spencer appeared on the scene and quickly humanity was sequestered again into the background by Science. Dewey’s long life time proved insufficient to the challenge and the reason why: “pragmatism contained no moral criteria by means of which a man-based value science could be instrumented.”
Marx recognized the problem inherent in scientism and shifted ground from Rousseau’s ideal-type to the possible-type. Marx said that we should do what is possible and possible in our time. Marx advocated the victory of the laboring class.
“What are the main problems of modern society; how can man’s situation in the world be improved?” Marx determined that the Newtonian paradigm was morally unedifying; the social problem was the alienation of man. But with Marx the ideal vision of the Enlightenment was swallowed up in the Revolution. The ideal of a full and free liberation of the human potential was destroyed in the Revolution.
And therein lay the rub. What is a paradigm of normal science as Kuhn so succinctly wrote about and which, as a concept, was unrecognized in Kuhntonion form a century ago, but was nevertheless, even then, the heart of normal science.
Kuhn says that practitioners of normal science have: a paradigm that makes a science normal when most if not all members agree upon a theory as being true. When this agreement breaks down then a new paradigm is agreed upon. The paradigm defines a map for action. The thing that separates a paradigm from some kind of, green light and red light group agreement about crossing the street is that there is more careful control, calculation, instrumentation, and a greater willingness to place before the world a conjecture to be evaluated as to its truth. A paradigm defines the theory, rules, and standards of practice.
It seems that almost all domains of knowledge wish to emulate Science. Science for most people is technology and if questioned we would probably find that science means physics. We have placed Science on a very high pedestal because technology has been so successful. Every domain of knowledge wishes to be as good as Science.
I suspect that the way to judge how well a domain of knowledge is like science is to discover if it does or does not have a paradigm. Like Kuhn notes in his book that without a paradigm any knowledge is as good as any other. Paradigm converts chaos into system.
Many of the ideas and quotes in this OP are derived from Ernest Becker’s book “Beyond Alienation”. Me and Ernest agree that the “main philosophical problem for modern society” is that we need a paradigm for the “science of wo/man”. Have you a paradigm for this new science? Me and Ernest do but we disagree on some aspects.