Blesok no. 31, March-April, 2003
Towards the Two Outcomes of Epistemological Revolution
And Another Outcome of Theirs
In 1962 Thomas S. Kuhn, a professor in philosophy and history of science at the Institute for Technology (Massachusetts), published the piece The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, causing unbelievable number of commentaries, discussions and reactions, either in professional or dilettante manner; even opening possibilities for new periodization in epistemological science. The author became the founder or initiator of “new philosophy of science” (Dudley Shepere), the “new image” (Ian Hacking), or the new methodological paradigm. No doubt, before all of them, other magnitudes such as Toulmin, Laudan, Feyerabend, Lakatos, and Alexander Koyré may be encountered in the wide range of rebels rebelling against the pertinence of science, sciento-latreia (science-adoration) and the science involvement (especially natural sciences) as ultimate and decisive arbiter in all of the “modern” life spheres. And also without doubt, their desires turn into narrow and profesionalized argumented elaborations. However, Kuhn is honored as “the duke” for his explicitly radical way in which he formulates the need for gestalt switch of the old methodological paradigm. The latter is in fact, marked as being in a state of growing crisis, meaning that its possibilities are exhausted: a state that generates the need for a new approach with inevitable necessity, especially if one keeps in mind the destructive and contaminating repercussions that the very stubborn existing of our exhausted paradigm has in and above a broader range (noticeably broader than the narrow framework of “the scientific community”).
He finds the old image ahistorical, one using the history of science only to provide exemplary logical points, thus generating anachronisms that are “functioning” as smaller or bigger approximations in the imagined rectilinear growth of knowledge as a whole. The tendency to see science as woven in historical subjects net with the inevitable cultural burden is the fundamental step forward. Kuhn, namely, notices expectation-changes in the work of our new historians of sciences: they in flagranti ask their questions in a new dimension. “Rather than seeking the permanent contributions of an older science to our present vantage, they attempt to display the historical integrity of that science in its own time.” (Thomas S. Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, pp.3)
Some of the important attitudes towards science, resulting from the historiografic examinations over particular science episodes from the past, which are at the same time relevant for this piece, are concentrated in terms such as paradigm, incommensurability, incumulativity. The first claims that knowledge without prejudice (in the most positive sense of the word “prejudice”) is a naïve rationalistic ideal, because we have something of a paradigm defining of whatcan pose a problem (model-problems) and of what can be acceptable as its resolving method (model-solutions). The second claims that successful bodies of knowledge with different paradigms are hard to compare, even to the extent that usually it is impossible to define a pre-Revolutionary problem with the category apparatus of the post-Revolutionary normal science (impossibility to express adequately what was the previous science about is as well possible). However, by the reason that older knowledge is always re-considered (and not completed) by means of new– established paradigm, impression of continued rectilinear knowledge advancing is made. This is actually a deceit, as the third claims, because the cumulativness makes sense if and only if there is an ever valid basis for any superstructure or neutral core for judging in our hands ; so the concept of “all possible worlds “ does not have any legitimate place in philosophy of science; and the contingency of the fact and of the meaning is the reasonable outcome of the historical approach towards incommensurable science paradigms (the conventionalist destruction of the fact or of the solid datum as a simulacrum in the traditional view of the one, true and neutral real world has enetered the integral image of the new-comers).
These notes, though roughly selected and in the same way sketched, too, are sufficient to conceive two conceptually founded consequences of great significance. The first is connected with relativism, which is identified as un-permissible problem by some philosophers of science (Dudley Shapere) who are trying to play the new game, while keeping some of the values of the old epistemological game. These points come out with absolute conclusiveness from the meaning, or paradigm, or inter-theory incommensurability every time until some paradigm-independent (or theory-independent) evaluation principle is incorporated. The second is connected with the relation science – non-science. Conclusion is made that “scientistic” prejudice, which tells us that sciences and “proper knowledge” are co-extensive (Larry Laudan), must be rejected. Science does not have any intrinsic property, which is justifying its preferring status; according to this, one is a fortiori destabilizing the human attitude towards this activity, an attitude that almost gained cult-features.
A propo old-consciousness residews (these probably have to be treated more seriously, namely as necessary properties of the dependent thinking of man, and not as something which is happening to us by accident and therefore can be, even must be suppressed by longtime training) one can notice the magic circle of our reasoning: yet we are in need of scientists as relevant instances to set ourselves free from the very sciento-latreia.
As the logical positivism did not succeed to rein itself in its framework of linguistic processing, but rather get a fashionable intellectual character and then a broadly established modus vivendi (Kolakovski), these official methodological attitudes also transmit a new mentality, new spirit of our timewhich, as something “global’ impregnates almost all worlds of human activity. Its symbol of faith says: “I believe in everything”/omni-credia/; but under the mask of seductive liberalism, actually a desirable (Rorty) attempt for undesirable intellectual suppression is hidden. I find that quite reasonable, because we are dealing with an attitude that is permeated with self-attributed positive axiology; the attitude, gathering its attraction as far as allowing everything, which is in fact quite deceitful. The last point is considered as quite an intelligent impression in the following sense: while allowing only and only its self-determining un-exclusionist positions, omnicredia-statement actually is slandering as exclusionist not-in-everything-believing positions, that are eo ipso rejected as unacceptable, because the very un-exclusionism decided exclusionism to rank negatively.
In such a way (namely, ideologically) this omnicredia is coping with explicitly exclusionist positions. While doing this, the troubled question remains: how does it get the right to propagate against teachings which believe in non-everything? It is in fact In its essence, omnicredia-statement is relativistic spiritualism, finding its abundant sources in the two post-Revolutionary epistemological outcomes. Relativism gained its scientific justification: it remains relativism in spite of one’s attempts over some extra-theory criteriology in pragmatism, because it is still unclear how exactly what is commonly useful for the narratives that are in dialogue will be fixed. Spiritualism, on the other hand, in all its nuances, found a widespread reception, after tearing down the scientific bastion: circumstance by which one has lost current safety alarm.
Some reacted instantly and generously with some kind of spiritual intoxication: these omnicredists are bearers of the mentality of magical renaissance ontology, demonology, superstition and any sort of occultism (Alexander Koyré). “Anything is possible” of the renaissance is equal to “anything goes” of our postmodern era. But, we can identify another type of omnicredists, the ones who are spiritual alexitimics; these fellows are forcing themselves to live our contemporary in-everything-believing-trend and actually are still running on the trails of the old brutal ratio-mania, and therefore anything that is transparently spiritual, they discredited as intellectual retardation with possibility to be explained by abstract biological reductions. The most indecent among them, tending to die as absolute critics in, and about anything, become critical cases of faultfinders, and more critical: cases of permanent intellectual self-deception and self-betrayal. Both typess are characterized with naïve faith that they allow anything to anyone; but, in fact, they are latent exclusionists, as far as relativism is simply impossible both logically, and in practice: in every vocabulary some axiologically impregnated epistemological credo is hidden, which makes the deferring of desirable from undesirable (or the truth from the false) possible.
It seems that only some trans-subjective instance is a sufficient guarantee for something to be acceptable or true, that kind of something that is not only mine; in the same way, only the story which is founded on that instance is having the right for exclusionism, both conceptually and methodologically; and finally, only that sort of teaching does not tolerate the logical difficulties, which omnicredist exclusionism is surrounded with, being hidden behind the mask of the idea – everything is permissible.
Note. The main motive for introducing a new word – neologism is the personal comprehension of inadequacy of the old term “relativism”, taking into account the newest spiritual circumstances, pervading the current time. Namely, relativism is valuably neutral (or at least that is what it pretends to be): such positioning, however, is the impossible cry of objectivists. Relativism is attitude, which can be operated in an “objectivistic” field. But, when the very foundation is destabilized, then clearly the corresponding games, enabled previously by the very existence of now already revised, or even further-non-existing foundation, must be somehow put under process of re-conceptualization.
“Omnicredia”, on the other hand, is a more encompassing, poli-dimensional concept. Explicitly containing the basic idea (in ethimological way) that at the end, we are dealing with some kind of “denominations” aggregate, and not with justifiable keeping appropriate distance from the various narratives as far as the discursive way of behaving. Besides, this term is more suitable to the ecumenist, or globalizing, or convergating trend, present in cultural ranges: the trend being a real call for tepidity in the matters of truth, real appeal for compromising the truth. Regarding the phenomenon of frequent attempts for pointing out the meaning of difference between modernism and postmodernism, this neologism maybe has some power to make contribution to existing crowd of such demarcations. I find the reason for this in the presence of the word ‘credo’ in ‘omnicredia’, by which is precisely expressed postmodern or already supramodern soul-spiritual and subjectivizing mentality, which successfully would be distinguished from the previous permanently emphasized discursive and objectivizing mentality of the modernism.
However, I find the new term the most adequate, because of the consisting existential determining (again, because of the word ‘credo’), the old one ‘relativism’ being contained and solely seen as theory consciousness. This last idea, it might be mentioned here, finds his roots in the new epistemological erasing of the sharp distinction between the so-called observation and theory terms, between so-called context of discovery and the one of justification, between the untroubled intellectual and vague emotional behavior, between so-called region of knowledge and region of believing, and so on.
Maybe nothing that is outlined above is enough for one to introduce a new term, maybe the already known “relativism” exhausts all the qualities which, I thought for a moment, are missing in its layered meanings, and which, I believed for another moment, are expressed with my new one “omnicredia”, nevertheless … ecce verbum.
1. Aleksandar Koare: Naucna revolucija, Nolit, Beograd, 1981
2. Dudley Shapere: “Meaning and Scientific Change” in Scientific Revolutions, ed. Ian Hacking, Oxford University Press Inc., New York, 1981
3. Ian Hacking: “Lakatos’s Philosophy of Science” in Scientific Revolutions, ed. Ian Hacking, Oxford University Press Inc., New York, 1981
4. Larry Laudan: “A Problem-solving Approach to Scientific Progress” in Scientific Revolutions, ed. Ian Hacking, Oxford University Press Inc., New York, 1981
5. Lešek Kolakovski: Filosofija pozitivizma, Prosveta, Beograd, /
6. Ričard Rorti: Konsekvence pragmatizma, Nolit, Beograd, 1992
7. T. S. Kun: Struktura naucnih revolucija, Nolit, Beograd, 1974
Translated by the author
Edited by: Elizabeta Bakovska