Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Positivism as Abstraction

Emile Durkheim (considered one of the founders of positivism), on the reductive objectification of positivism, wrote: "Is not to think scientifically to think objectively, that is to say, to strip our ideas of what is exclusively human in them, in order to make them as adequate as possible in the expression of things? Is it not, in short, to make the human understanding bow before things?"[1] . That is, remove from the knower any “subjectivist” intrusion. But the problem then is the removal of the immediate experience, real context, in which the “object” is embedded. This is not to know it or understand it. Take “understand” as the Anglo-Saxon translation of the Latin intellegere = legere ab intus - “to read from within.” Without the experience of the self immediately as real being, one cannot understand the meaning of the mediated sensible experience of the “thing.”

Joseph Ratzinger once observed: “Pure objectivity is an absurd abstraction. It is not the uninvolved who comes to knowledge; rather, interest itself is a requirement for the possibility of coming to know.”[2]

Consider the work of the once called “new physics” associated with Heisenberg, Planck, DeBroglie, etc. who transcended the observed macro-abstract world of Newtonian physics and entered the more real world of particle physics and found the laws therein to be quite other.

[1] Quoted in Henri de Lubac, "The Drama of Atheist Humanism", Ignatius Press: San Francisco, p. 146).

[2] J. Ratzinger, “Biblical Interpretation in Crisis” The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, HarperSanFrancisco (2007) 247.

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