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itself to a certain type of method. For the facts to which experiment or scientific verification can be applied, are limited to what is observable in a place, at a time. An hypothesis is tried by an 'observation'; but an observation is 'taken’ at a designated time and place, and it serves as a test only so far as the space-time orientation is exact. For example, the hypothesis on which the prediction of an eclipse is based, is verified when it appears dark at a specific instant, to an observer stationed at a specific place. The appearance of darkness, not otherwise determined, would verify nothing; nor would it ever suggest a mechanical hypothesis to the mind of a scientist. Science arises as a formulation of experiences that may be non-mechanical in content; but they must be had within a field in which the mechanical axes of reference are already presupposed.
An equally good illustration is afforded by another of Poincaré's examples. "I observe the deviation of a galvanometer by the aid of a movable mirror which projects a luminous image or spot on a divided scale. The crude fact is this: I see the spot displace itself on the scale, and the scientific fact is this: a current passes in the circuit.” 1 A complete account of the "crude fact” would specify not only that the spot shall appear on the scale, that is, at a determined place, but at a determined instant as well; in other words, it must not be too crude to be lacking in specific spacial and temporal relations to other “crude facts.” Thus Poincaré's facts are already virtually mechanical, in that they verify only such hypotheses as contain space-time variables and determine space-time events. The Failure of
$11. Poincaré's position is an impossible comCritical Nat- promise. Either the facts of nature are entirely uralism. The indeterminate, as LeRoy maintains; in which Priority of Logic and Mathe- case the whole scheme of physical nature is matics
improvised by man in the interests of action. Or they are determinate; in which case they are already
"Op. cit., pp. 116-117.
endowed with a complex physical character, which presupposes certain simpler logical and mathematical characters. In the latter case, the categories of logic, mathematics, and physics are all alike factual and independent of the constructive activity of science. “All the scientist creates in a fact,” says Poincaré, “is the language in which he enunciates it.” 1
Then either science is all a matter of language, in which case it is deducible from the practical exigencies of discourse, as LeRoy would maintain; or we must limit "language” to the function of words and symbols. But logic and mathematics must then be distinguished from discourse, and regarded as themselves sciences of fact.
For the truths of logic and mathematics are independent of the conventions employed to express them. We shall then be led to conclude that physical hypotheses as descriptive of physical facts, employ and presuppose logical and mathematical hypotheses, which in turn are descriptions of logical and mathematical facts. Logic and mathematics describe the nature of relation,' 'order,' 'dimensionality,' ‘number,' and ‘space'; physics studies particular cases of these. The concepts of physics are special values of the variables of logic and mathematics; the hypotheses of physics are alternatives supplied by the more abstract principles of logic and mathematics. It follows that there is no sense in which physics can be regarded as the fundamental science; nor is there any sense in which the facts which are determined by physical hypotheses can be regarded as ultimate facts. And this conclusion is fatal to naturalism. It gives to being, in the last analysis, a logical, rather than a physical, character; and reduces the experimental method of physics to the position of being a special instance of logical method.
Thus a critical philosophy of science carries one beyond physical science to simpler non-physical terms, and provides for non-physical methods and non-physical theories with which to formulate these terms. .
Color,' 'sound, i Op. cit., p. 121.
'position,' order,' 'magnitude,''implication,' none of these, nor any such relatively simple term of experience, is physical; and the truths concerning these things are far richer and more various than such as can be ascertained by physical experimentation, or described by physical theories, alone. Whatever testifies to the truth of physics testifies to the wider and more basal truths of logic and mathematics. Hence
Hence Descartes's astonishment, "that foundations so strong and solid should have no loftier superstructure reared on them."
RELIGION AND THE LIMITS OF SCIENCE § 1. NATURALISM, or the claim that physical science is unqualifiedly and exclusively true, is equivalent to the
denial of optimistic religion. If all being is Religious Philosophy and bodily, and all causality mechanical, then there the Limits of
can be no support for the belief that the cosmos Science
at large is dominated by goodness. Life is impotent; and the aspirations and hopes to which it gives rise are vain. Enlightenment destroys what the heart so fondly builds. Man is engaged in a losing fight. He may "develop a worthy civilization, capable of maintaining and constantly improving itself,” but only "until the evolution of our globe shall have entered so far upon its downward course that the cosmic process resumes its sway; and, once more, the State of Nature prevails over the surface from our planet.” 1
When in the course of the last century science became so militant as to pretend to the empire of human knowledge, religion was compelled in self-defence to challenge its title. And once roused to arms, religion not unnaturally sought to carry the war into the enemy's territory. The result was to establish a habit of suspicion and hostility between the party of science and the party of religion. They became hereditary enemies. There are already signs of the dawn of a new era; perhaps the time is not distant when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together. But at present it is still generally assumed that the success of religion is conditioned by the failure of science. The major part of contemporary religious philosophy is devoted to a disproof of science. If there is to be “room
· Huxley: Evolution ond Elhics, p. 45. · See above, pp. 34-38.
for faith,” that room must be gained at the expense of science. When a scientist confesses failure, as when Du Bois-Reymond pronounces his “ignorabimus” concerning the relation between matter and consciousness, he is charged with treason by the partisans of science, but is eagerly quoted and followed by those of religion.
Now it must be admitted that religion's instinctive distrust of science has a basis in reason. It is true, as we shall presently see, that nothing could be more fatuous than the hostility of religion to science. For both are human institutions; and whether a man be a scientist or a theologian, he needs both. Nevertheless, religion of the optimistic type, the belief that civilization dominates and eventually possesses the cosmic process, cannot survive, if the scientific version of things be accepted without reservations. Faith can be justified only provided limits be assigned to science. And religion will be wise to avoid any reconciliation in which it is made dependent on the indulgence of science.
There is some disposition at present to invest religious capital in scientific novelties. Science now employs concepts that seem less forbidding than its classic atomism. May not energy, or the electrically charged ether, or radioactivity, turn out to be the essence of God, or of man's immortal soul? There are two reasons for distrusting such suggestions. In the first place, they derive whatever religious meaning they possess from a loose and anthropomorphic version of science, and not from its rigorous formulation. In order that these scientific concepts shall serve as hints of a 'spirit' in nature, they must be construed as substances and invested with characters drawn from the confused feeling of effort. Religion will indeed
1 E. Du Bois-Reymond: Uber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens, an address at the Scientific Congress at Leipzig, 1872; cf. ninth edition, p. 51. For the sequel, cf. Haeckel: Riddle of the Universe, p. 180 sq.; Fr. Paulsen: Introduction to Philosophy, trans. by F. Thilly, p. 77; James: Humon Immortality, p. 21; etc.
: See above, pp. 71–72.