NATURVIDEN - EN NATURFILOSOFISK UNDERSØGELSE OG KRITIK AF VIDENSBEGREBER I NATURVIDENSKAB
The dissertation was initially motivated by the contemporary problems many countries face with decreasing public interest in science, and a subsequent decrease in the number of
young people choosing science and technology studies. It even seems to be the case, that the more a nation is dependent on science and technology, the weaker the status of such
subjects in the public space.
This development is considered a threat to the future preservation of wealth in the aﬀ ected countries, all facing globalisation and increasing competition from the ‘new coun-
tries’ that do not have recruitment problems to the scientiﬁ c and technological studies.
Contemporary educational studies have suggested many explanations for the problem. Poorly educated elementary school teachers, lack of money invested in higher education of
scientists, bad representation of science in the media, lack of role models etc. The present dissertation, however, asks if something inherent in science could explain its present lack of appeal to modern human beings. And consequently the dissertation launches an investiga-
tion into the concept of knowledge of nature as it is practised in science.
The concept of nature plays an exceptional role for our self-interpretation as human beings and for our understanding of art, culture and society. This role is inextricably linked
to a perception of nature as ‘the given’, the universally presupposed, ‘the unmade’, that which emphatically is and is by itself. Being such, nature is at the same time our opposite, as
well as what we are. When this is true, an epistemic access to nature is indispensable.
The emerging question now is whether science, presently considered as the holder of our fundamental knowledge of nature, actually satisﬁ es our quest for epistemic access to
the given, to the very being of nature.
The German sociologist Max Weber described almost one hundred years ago the scientiﬁcation of nature as ‘disenchantment’. A scientiﬁc explanation, Weber said, strips nature from sense qualities, immediate experience, values and sense. No wonder then, that science also strips nature from any trait whatsoever that could be of interest to a modern
The thesis of the present dissertation could be considered a reinforcement of Weber’s statement. The thesis claims, that science does not have nature as such as its object, but rather the operationalization of nature. The scientiﬁc concept of knowledge is designed to facilitate the artiﬁcial reconstruction and control of natural phenomena and processes.
And it is legitimized by its utility for our survival. Consequently scientiﬁc knowledge does not meet our quest for epistemic access to nature an sich. Rather it – by substituting natural with artiﬁcial – eliminates nature.
The dissertation now proceeds to show how the modern, operational concept of scientiﬁc knowledge was created. In short it was done by emancipating science from an older
type of knowledge of nature: the philosophy of nature.
Ch. I addresses the question whether Isaac Newton could be used – as he indeed was and is – to authorise the separation of science from philosophy. Through an interpretation of Newton’s manuscript De gravitatione and through a comparison of this text with the French philosopher René Descartes’ Principia Philosophia it is shown, that Descartes, not Newton, is the spokesman of an utilitaristically legitimized emancipation of science from natural philosophy. It is, too, shown that Newton tries to maintain some of the anthropo morphistic traits of the older non-operationalistic or contemplationistic type of knowl-
edge. Newton even develops a rudimentary ‘body-philosophy’ in order to substantiate our epistemic access to non-human bodies or things.
Ch. II examines the construction of ‘Newtonianism’ in the French Enlightenment. Newton’s position is misrepresented as a type of early positivism. This is done by interpreting him through John Locke’s agnostic empiricism and François Voltaire’s and Jean d’Alembert’s not less agnostic Cartesian rationalism.
Ch. III presents some fundamental aspects of Aristotle’s philosophy of nature. It is shown, that Aristotle’s natural forms and natural teleology as well as his qualiﬁ cation of
the dialectical relation between natural and artiﬁ cial, are the logical consequences of his attempt to understand nature qua nature, i.e. to understand nature naturally.
Ch. IV discusses Francis Bacon’s arguments for inverting the Aristotelian physis-technê-relation as well as his arguments for the exchange of contemplatio with operatio, of truth with utility, thus creating our modern idea of what it is to know nature scientiﬁcally.
Ch. V considers the concept of knowledge laid down in Th e French Encyclopedia. Here Bacon’s actionism meets Descartes’ rationalism and science is put on the same footing with
art and craft. Too Denis Diderot’s theory of evolution is discussed.
Ch. VI discusses the lack of explanatory force a non-teleological concept of nature has to determine the transition from nature to society and to substantiate a coherent theory of education. This is done through some of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s writings. The chapter also outlines the naturalistic basis of the German concept of Bildung (English transl.: ‘formation’, ‘ediﬁ cation’ or ‘education’) that was created to answer Rousseau’s antinomy.
Ch. VII presents a few characteristic positions in the 20'th Century-discussion of the concept of science. The purpose of the chapter is to show, that the scientiﬁc concept of knowledge of nature still has not gained a coherent interpretation.
The Conclusion sums up the ﬁndings of the dissertation and asks for a future development of a modern philosophy of nature, and pleads for a closer cooperation between science and philosophy, in order to determine what can be considered natural nature today.
Copyright: Studier i Pædagogisk Filosofi. Monografiserie og forfatteren.