The Strange Estrangement:
Charles Taylor and the Natural Sciences
 
Clifford Geertz
 
 

In the opening paragraphs of the introduction of his Philosophical Papers, Charles Taylor confesses himself to be in the grip of an obsession.1 He is, he says, a hedgehog, a monomaniac endlessly polemicizing against a single ideaůžthe ambition to model the study of man on the natural sciences.Ó He calls this idea many things, most often žnaturalismÓ or žthe naturalistic world view,Ó and he sees it virtually everywhere in the human sciences. The invasion of those sciences by alien and inappropriate modes of thought has conduced toward the destruction of their distinctiveness, their autonomy, their effectiveness, and their relevance. Driven on by the enormous (and žunderstandableÓ) prestige of the natural sciences in our culture, we have continually been led into a false conception of what it is to explain human behavior.

 

The purpose of this polemic, aside from the desire to rid the human sciences of some žterribly implausible,Ó žsterile,Ó žblind,Ó žhalf-bakedÓ and ždisastrous,Ó enterprises2 ůSkinnerian behaviorism, computer-engine psychology, truth-conditional semantics, and primacy-of-right political theoryůis to clear a space in those sciences for žhermeneuticÓ or žinterpretivistÓ approaches to explanation. Interpretation, the žattempt to make sense of an object of studyÓ in some way žconfused, incomplete, cloudy ÷ contradictory ÷ unclear,Ó3 is an irremovable part of any would-be science of human affairs. And it is precisely that which žthe natural science model,Ó with its passion for Wertfreiheit, predictability, and brute factsůdefensible enough in its proper domainůeffectively blocks.

 

Those who, like myself, find the argument that the human sciences are most usefully conceived as efforts to render various matters on their face strange and puzzling (religious beliefs, political practices, self-definitions) žno longer so, accounted for,Ó4 to be altogether persuasive, and Taylor's development of it magisterial, may nonetheless find themselves disturbed to notice after a while that the žopposing idealÓ5 to which this view is being so resolutely contrasted, žnatural science,Ó is so schematically imagined. We are confronted not with an articulated description of a living institution, one with a great deal of history, a vast amount of internal diversity, and an open future, but with a stereotype and a scarecrowůa Gorgon's head that turns agency, significance, and mind to stone.

 

Taylor's references to žnatural science,Ó though extremely numerous, appearing in almost every essay in Philosophical Papers, are, both there and elsewhere in his work, marked by two characteristics: they are virtually never circumstantial, in the sense of describing actual examples of work in physics, chemistry, physiology, or whatever in a more than glancing fashion, and they are virtually all to the opening stages of the scientific revolutionůGalileo, Bacon, Descartes, Newton, Boyleůnot to anything in any way remotely contemporary. Like so many of the žOthersÓ that we construct these days to haunt us with their sheer alterity, The Japanese, The Muslims, or L'age classique, his countercase to the interpretively oriented human sciences is generically characterized and temporally frozen. A foil for all seasons.

 

One can see the reasons for this. The conception of what it is to be žtruly scientificÓ in the human sciences has indeed normally been both rigid and anachronistic, as well as deeply uninformed about the realities of the žreal sciencesÓ whose virtues are to be imported into these žsofter,Ó žweaker,Ó žless matureÓ enterprises. Taylor is not wrong to think that the Skinnerian version of behaviorism or the Fodorian version of cognitivism are less extensions of a proven approach to explanation into new fields than parodies of it. Nor is he wrong to think that the rejection of such parodies, and others like them, does not condemn the human sciences to a theworld-is-what-I-say-it-is žHumpty Dumpty subjectivism,Ó6 incapable of either framing an honest hypothesis or confronting one with genuine evidence. Yet, it may be that the creation of an out-and-out, fixed and uncrossable gulf between the natural and human sciences is both too high and unnecessary a price to pay to keep such muddlements at bay. It is obstructive at once of either's progress.

 

The notion of such a gulf, a dichotomy as opposed to a mere difference (which latter no one clothed and in their right mind would want to deny), traces, of course, back to the Geisteswissenschaften versus Naturwissenschaften, verstehen versus erklĒren conceptualization under which, with Dilthey, modern hermeneutics got definitively under way, and which, with Heidegger and Gadamer, Ricoeur and Habermas, žis very strong in the later twentieth century.Ó7 And there can be little doubt (at least, I don't have any) that this to-each-its-own view of things did yeoman service in defending the integrity and vitality of the human sciencesůsociology, history, anthropology, political science, less so psychology, less so yet economicsůunder the enormous pressures exerted upon them in the heyday of positivism, logical or otherwise. Without it, Taylor's worst nightmares might well have come true and we would all be sociobiologists, rational-choice theorists, or covering-law axiomatizers. The issue is whether so radically phrased a distinction is any longer a good idea, now that the point has been made, and made again, that the human sciences, being about humans, pose particular problems and demand particular solutions, and that the idea of a žsocial physicsÓ seems a quaint fantasy of times gone by. Are either the human or the natural sciences well served by it? Is the conversation across the corpus callosum of our culture inhibited, or prevented, by this sort of commissural surgery? Is such surgery to the disadvantage of both, reductive to half-brained reasoning? Is an eternal methodological civil war, the Hermeneuts versus the Naturalists, in anyone's interest?

 

The questions are, of course, rhetoricalůnot to say, tendentious. The homogenization of natural science, both over time and across fields, as a constant other, an žopposing idealÓ permanently set off from other forms of thought, as Richard Rorty has put it, žby a special method [and] a special relation to reality,Ó is extremely difficult to defend when one looks at either its history or its internal variety with any degree of circumstantiality.8 The danger of taking objectivist reductionism as the inevitable outcome of looking to the natural sciences for stimulation in constructing explanations of human behavior is very great without a richer and more differentiated picture of what they are (and the plural is essential here), have been, and seem on their way toward becoming than Taylor has so far recognized. So also is the possibly even greater danger of isolating those sciences themselves in such an outmoded sense of their aim and essence (as well as an exaggerated sense of their own worth), beyond the reach of hermeneutic self-awareness. The tendency toward oversimplification Taylor so rightly deplores seems to thrive, in both the human and the natural sciences, precisely to the degree that the intellectual traffic between them is obstructed by artificial notions of primordial separateness.

 

Both sorts of schematization of the natural sciences, that which sees them as being without a history, or anyway as having a history consisting only in the development to greater and greater levels of complexity of an epistemological paradigm laid down in the seventeenth century, and that which sees them as an only pragmatically differentiated mass basically defined by their adherence to that paradigm, are essential to the notion that they form a closed off world, sufficient unto itself. Without either, and certainly without both, such a notion seems distinctly less obvious.

 

The view that the history of natural science consists in the mere development from a once-and-for-all foundational act (ž[The] great shift in cosmology which occurred in the seventeenth century, from a picture of a world-order based on the ideas to one of the universe as mechanism, was the founding objectification, the source and inspiration for the continuing development of a disengaged modern consciousnessÓ9 ) not only neglects both historiographical works, of which Thomas Kuhn's is probably the most famous, stressing ruptures, wanderings, and discontinuities in the advance of those sciences and the complications that have been forced on the idea of ždisengaged consciousnessÓ by quantum-level theorizationsůHeisenberg, Copenhagen, and SchrĖdinger's cat.10 It more importantly leaves out a fact which Gyorgy Markus, speaking of ža second scientific revolutionÓ which occurred during the second half of the nineteenth century, has pointed out: the characteristic features of the natural sciences, which Taylor takes to be so destructive when imported into psychology and politics, are not a direct-line projection into our times of Renaissance and Enlightenment ideas but a much more recent, and quite radical, transformation of them. žNatural science as the cultural genre which we know ÷ is the product of a nineteenth-century development in which [its] cognitive structure, institutional organization, cultural forms of objectivity and ÷ global social function have changed together.Ó11 The world before Maxwell is, in fact, not a very good model of žnaturalismÓ as now understood. It was a stage in a project (or, more accurately, an assemblage of projects) still going on.

 

And as it is still going on, and not, so it looks from the outside, becoming all that consensual in its self-understandings, it may transform itself again; unless history really is over, it almost certainly will do so. There are, in fact, more than a few signs that it is already in the process of doing so. The emergence of biology (not just genetics and microbiology, but embryology, immunology, and neurophysiology) to the point where it threatens the status of physics as the archetype of scientific enquiry; the epistemological and ontological problems besetting physics itself (ždon't ask how it can be that way, it can't be that wayÓ); the increasing difficulty of žbig,Ó that is expensive, science in isolating itself from public scrutiny, as well as the increasing tenuousness of practical spin-off arguments for funding much of it; the return of cosmology as a general cultural concern, the appearance of experimental mathematics, the growth of computer-mediated žsciences of complexityÓ (negative entropy, fractals, and strange attractors)ůall these matters, and others, suggest that the withdrawal of the natural sciences over the last 120 years or so from connections with any discourse but their own is not the permanent condition of things.12

 

It may not be the permanent condition of things (to my mind, it almost certainly is not) because, alongside the enormous gains in cognitive power that have accomplished it, there have been considerable costs as well, costs by now severe enough to imperil the gains. The most serious of these is, as Markus points out, precisely the extreme narrowing of the cultural significance of the natural sciences that Taylor, anxious to keep them away from interfering with our conceptualization of human affairs, seems so determined to reinforce:

Seventeenth-to-eighteenth century žnatural philosophyÓ still had a markedly multifunctional character and was in general successfully communicated to socially and culturally divergent groups of addressees. Even those works which represented the most formidable difficulties of understanding, like Newton's Principia, quickly became not only objects of widely read žpopularizations,Ó but also exercised a deep influence upon ÷ other, already culturally ÷ separated forms of discourse: theological, properly philosophical and even literary ones. In their turn, these discussions occurring in žalienÓ genres seriously influenced that more narrowly scientific impact of the works concerned, and were usually regarded as having a direct bearing upon the question of their truth÷. It is only with the deep transformation of the whole organizational framework of natural scientific activities ÷ that the audience's specialization and professionalization became established during the nineteenth century ÷ simultaneously with the professionalization of the scientistauthor's role itself. It is in this process that the r»publique des savants of the eighteenth century, still loosely uniting scientists, philosophers, publicists and cultivated amateurs, has been transformed into a multitude of separated research communities comprising the professional specialists in the given area and now posited as the sole public for the relevant scientific objectifications.

This historical process in which the monofunctional character of the contemporary natural sciences has first been formed, at the same time meant a progressive narrowing of their cultural significance÷. When the cultural closure of natural scientific discourse upon itself becomes a fact ÷ the divorce of natural scientific inquiry from general culture and cultivation is also inevitable÷. [It] is now posited as having no significance whatsoever for orienting men's conduct in the world they live in, or their understanding of this lived world itself. Tenbruck aptly formulated it: the view of nature provided by the sciences is no more a world-view.13

This is perhaps a bit overstated, even for the nineteenth century, when the žworld viewÓ transactions between the sciences technically defined and the general movement of žculture and cultivationÓ were not altogether attenuated, as witness the žringing grooves of changeÓ anxieties of a Tennyson or the heat death of the universe resonations of a Kelvin. And, in any case, this image of disconnection again applies rather more to the physical sciences than it does to the biological; the role that Newton, and Newtonianism, played in the eighteenth century, Darwin, and Darwinism, played in the nineteenth. But the general drift is clear enough. The same historical movement that dissolved žthe r»publique des savantsÓ into ža multitude of separated research communitiesÓ produced as well the cultural disengagement of the natural sciences, the cultural entrenchment of the human ones which Taylor opposes to it, and the increasing awkwardness of the relations between them.

 

If the awkwardness is to be relieved (relieved only, hardly removed) and the natural sciences reinvolved in the self-reflective conversation of humankind, it cannot be by reversing history. The days of the r»publique des savants, to the extent they ever existed, are over and unrecoverable. The unavailability of the technical interior of particle physics, neurophysiology, statistical mechanics, or the mathematics of turbulence (and of whatever succeeds them) to anyone beyond the research communities professionally involved with the matters they address is by now but a fact of life. The whole issue needs to be approached in some other way, one which rather than polarizing the intellectual world into a grand disjunction seeks to trace out its obscured dependencies.

 

 

The beginning of such a reframing would seem to involve taking seriously the image (and the reality) of a loose assemblage of differently focused, rather self-involved, and variably overlapping research communities in both the human and the natural sciencesů economics, embryology, astronomy, anthropologyůand the abandonment therewith of the Taylor-Dilthey conception of two continental enterprises, one driven by the ideal of a disengaged consciousness looking out with cognitive assurance upon an absolute world of ascertainable fact, the other driven by that of an engaged self struggling uncertainly with signs and expressions to make readable sense of intentional action. What one has, it seems, is rather more an archipelago, among the islands of which, large, small and in between, the relations are complex and ramified, the possible orderings very near to endless. Such questions as (to quote Rorty again) žŽwhat method is common to paleontology and particle physics?Ū or Žwhat relation to reality is shared by topology and entomology?ŪÓ are hardly more useful than (my inventions, not Rorty's), žis sociology closer to physics than to literary criticism?Ó or žis political science more hermeneutic than microbiology, chemistry more explanatory than psychologyÓ14 We need to set ourselves free to make such connections and disconnections between fields of enquiry as seem appropriate and productive, not to prejudge what may be learned from what, what may traffic with what, or what must always and everywhere inevitably comeůžreductive naturalismÓůfrom attempts to breach supposedly unbreachable methodological lines.

 

There is indeed some evidence from within the natural sciences themselves that the continental image of them as an undivided bloc, united in their commitment to Galilean procedures, disengaged consciousness and the view from nowhere, is coming under a certain amount of pressure. In a chapter of his Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of Mind called žPutting the Mind Back into Nature,Ó the neurophysiologist and immunologist Gerald Edelman sounds almost like Taylor in his hedgehog resistance to the domination of such presumptions and preconceptions in his own field of enquiry, the development and evolution of the human brain:

[As] Whitehead duly noted, the mind was put back into nature [from which physics had removed it] with the rise of physiology and physiological psychology in the latter part of the nineteenth century. We have had an embarrassing time knowing what to do with it ever since. Just as there is something special about relativity and quantum mechanics, there is something special about the problems raised by these physiological developments. Are observers themselves žthingsÓ like the rest of the objects in their world? How do we account for the curious ability of observers ÷ to refer to things of the world when things themselves can never so refer? When we ourselves observe observers, this property of intentionality is unavoidable. Keeping in line with physics, should we declare an embargo on all the psychological traits we talk about in everyday life: consciousness, thought, beliefs, desires? Should we adopt the elaborate sanitary regimes of behaviourism? ÷ Either we deny the existence of what we experience before we žbecome scientistsÓ (for example, our own awareness), or we declare that science (read žphysical scienceÓ) cannot deal with such matters.15

Nor is it only vis-ż-vis žbehaviorismÓ that Edelman, the natural scientist, sounds like Taylor, the human scientist, railing against sterile, blind and disastrous models of analysis drawn from celebrated but inappropriate places, but with respect to computer-analogy cognitive psychologyůAI and all thatůas well. He even uses the same term of abuse for it:

The term žobjectivismÓ has been used to characterize a view of the world that appears at first sight to be both scientifically and commonsensically unexceptionable÷. Objectivism assumes ÷ that the world has a definite structure made of entities, properties, and their interrelationships÷. The world is arranged in such a way that it can be completely modelled by ÷ set-theoretical models÷.

Because of the singular and well-defined correspondence between set-theoretical symbols and things as defined by classical categorisation, one can, in this view, assume that logical relations between things in the world exist objectively. Thus, this system of symbols is supposed to represent reality, and mental representations must either be true or false insofar as they mirror reality correctly or incorrectly÷.

The ÷ development of the computer ÷ reinforced the ideas of efficiency and rigor and the deductive flavor that ÷ already characterised much of physical science. The žneatÓ deductive formal background of computers, the link with mathematical physics, and the success of the hard sciences looked endlessly extensible÷.

The computational or representationalist view is a God'seye view of nature. It is imposing and it appears to permit a lovely-looking map between the mind and nature. Such a map is only lovely, however, as long as one looks away from the issue of how the mind actually reveals itself in human beings with bodies. When applied to the mind in situ [that is, in the brain], this [objectivist] view becomes untenable.16

It is, no doubt, easier to see the inadequacies of a sheerly oppositionalist žgreat divideÓ formulation of the relations between the žhumanÓ and the žnaturalÓ sciences in work like Edelman's, concerned with the development and functioning of our nervous system, and indeed perhaps in biology, generally, than in work on, say, phase transitions or angular momentum, where God's-eye views would seem less problematical and representationalist mirrorings more in order. But, even if they are (something that itself becomes at least questionable as žthingsÓ like wave functions and nonlocality find their way into physical theory), the loss of detail such an overly contrastive view produces obscures other ways of mapping out the landscape of knowledge, other ways of tying together, or separating out, the disciplinary islands of empirical enquiry. žIf you don't know Russian,Ó the mathematical physicist David Ruelle has written, žall books in that language will look very much the same to you.Ó

Similarly, unless you have the appropriate training, you will notice little difference between the various fields of theoretical physics: in all cases what you see are abstruse texts with pompous Greek words, interspersed with formulas and technical symbols. Yet different areas of physics have very different flavors. Take for instance special relativity. It is a beautiful subject, but it no longer has mystery for us; we feel that we know about it all we ever wanted to know. Statistical mechanics, by contrast, retains its awesome secrets: everything points to the fact that we understand only a small part of what there is to understand.17

Leaving aside the particular judgment here (which I am, of course, incompetent to assess, as I am the strengths or weaknesses of Edelman's neurology), the disaggregation of žthe natural sciencesÓ would indeed seem essential to the sort of non-Taylorian, but also nonreductive non-žnaturalisticÓ vision another mathematical physicist, Richard Feynman, in a passage Edelman uses as an epigraph to his book, has of the general project of human understanding:

Which end is nearer to God; if I may use a religious metaphor. Beauty and hope, or the fundamental laws? I think that ÷ we have to look at ÷ the whole structural interconnection of the thing; and that all the sciences, and not just the sciences but all the efforts of intellectual kinds are an endeavour to see the connections of the hierarchies, to connect beauty to history, to connect history to man's psychology, man's psychology to the working of the brain, the brain to the neural impulse, the neural impulse to the chemistry, and so forth, up and down, both ways÷. And I do not think either end is nearer to God.18

But it is not just from the natural science side, indeed it is not even mainly from that side, that the challenges to strongly binary images of žthe whole structural interconnection of the thingÓ are coming, but precisely from the hermeneutic, intentionalist, agent-centered, language-entranced side that Taylor is, as I am also, so determined to defend against runaway objectivism. The historical, social, cultural, and psychological investigation of the sciences as suchůwhat has come to be known in summary as žscience studiesÓůhas not only grown extremely rapidly in the past twenty years or so but has begun to redraw the lines among Markus' žmultitude of separated research communitiesÓ in a more various, changeful, and particularized way. Looking at žscienceÓ from an interpretivist perspective has in itself begun to displace, or at the very least complicate, the Diltheyan picture that has so long held us captive.19

 

Of all the sorts of work that go on under the general rubric of the human sciences, those that devote themselves to clarifying the forms of life lived out (to take some real examples) in connection with linear accelerators, neuroendocrinological labs, the demonstration rooms of the Royal Society, astronomical observations, marine biology field stations, or the planning committees of NASA, are the least likely to conceive their task as limited to making out the intersubjective worlds of persons. Machines, objects, tools, artifacts, instruments are too close at hand to be taken as external to what is going on; so much apparatus, free of meaning. These mere žthingsÓ have to be incorporated into the story, and when they are the story takes on a heteroclite formůhuman agents and nonhuman ones bound together in interpretivist narratives.

 

The construction of such narratives, ones which enfold the supposedly immiscible worlds of culture and nature, human action and physical process, intentionality and mechanism, has been slow in coming, even in science studies, where they would seem unavoidable. (žOįu sont les Mounier des machines, les L»vinas des Bąetes, les Ricoeur des faits?Ó cries perhaps the most strenuous advocate of such enfolding, the anthropologist of science, Bruno Latour.)20 These issues were avoided, or, more accurately, never arrived at, by the initial sorties in science studies, then called the sociology of science and associated most prominently with the name of Robert Merton, which confined themselves to žexternalistÓ issues, such as the social setting of science, the reward system driving it, and most especially the cultural norms governing it. žInternalistÓ issues, those having to do with the content and practice of science as such, were left beyond the range of enquiry. Later work, more influenced by the sociology of knowledge, attempted to address the operations of science more directly, studying such matters as the evolution of theoretical disputes and the replication of experiments, but in no less objectivist termsů žstanding on social thingsÓ (usually summed up rather vaguely as žinterestsÓ) žin order to explain natural things.Ó It is only quite recently that an interpretivist tack, one that attempts to see science as the consilient interplay of thought and things, has begun to take hold.21

 

As they are quite recent, such interpretivist approaches are both ill formed and variable, uncertain opening probes in an apparently endless and, at least for the moment, ill-marked enquiry. There are analyses of the rhetoric of scientific discourse, oral and written: there are descriptions of human and nonhuman agents as coactive nodes in ramifying networks of meaning and power; there are ethnographic, and ethnomethodological, studies of žfact constructionÓ and žaccounting proceduresÓ; there are investigations of research planning, instrument construction, and laboratory practice. But, however undeveloped, they all approach science not as opaque social precipitate but as meaningful social action: žWe have never been interested in giving a social explanation of anything ÷ we want to explain society, of which ÷ things, facts and artefacts, are major components.Ó22 This hardly seems the objectivist, agentless žnaturalismÓ of which Taylor is so rightly wary. Different as they are, the natural sciences and the human may not be so radically other, their intellectual congress not so inevitably barren.

 

Sciences, physical, biological, human, or whatever, change not only in their content or their social impact (though they do, of course, do that, and massively), but in their character as a form of life, a way of being in the world, a meaningful system of human action, a particular story about how things stand. Like all such ways, forms, systems, storiesůstill life, say, or criminal lawůthey are constructed in time (and, despite their reach for universality, to an important degree in space as well), and thus any image of them that remains stable over their entire course and across their whole range of activities and concerns is bound to turn into an obscuring myth. Such a myth indeed exists, and, as Taylor has demonstrated, has had destructive effects upon attempts by those who have bought into it to explain politics, language, selfhood and mind. But it has also had, as he seems not very clearly to realize, no less baneful effects on, to borrow Woolgar's borrowing of Davidson's slogan, the very idea of science itself.23

 

Taylor's resistance to the intrusion of žthe natural science modelÓ into the human sciences seems in fact to accept his opponents' view that there is such a model, unitary, well-defined, and historically immobile, governing contemporary enquiries into things and materialities in the first place; the problem is, merely, to confine it to its proper sphere, stars, rocks, kidneys, and wavicles, and keep it well away from matters where žmatteringÓ matters.24 This division of the realm, which reminds one of nothing so much as the way some nineteenth-century divines (and some pious physicists) attempted to žsolveÓ the religion versus science issueůžyou can have the mechanisms, we will keep the meaningsÓůis supposed to ensure that ideas will not trespass where they don't belong. What it in fact ensures is symmetrical complacency and the deflation of issues.

 

There are, as virtually everyone is at least dimly aware, massive transformations now in motion in the studies conventionally grouped under the rather baggy category (does mathematics belong? does psychopharmacology?) of the natural sciences, transformations social, technical, and epistemological at once, which make not only the seventeenth-century image of them, but the late nineteenth and early twentieth ones as well, clumsy, thin, and inexact. The price of keeping the human sciences radically separated from such studies is keeping such studies radically separated from the human sciencesůleft to the mercy of their own devices.

 

Such devices are not enough. The outcome of this artificial and unnecessary estrangement is, at once, the perpetuation within the various natural sciences of outmoded self-conceptions, global stories that falsify their actual practice, the žsterile,Ó žhalf-baked,Ó and žimplausibleÓ imitations that those outmoded conceptions and false stories induce in human scientists ignorant of what in fact, physics, chemistry, physiology, and the like come to as meaningful action, and, perhaps worst of all, the production of various sorts of New Age irrationalismsůZen physics, Maharishi cosmology, parapsychologyůsupposed to unify everything and anything at some higher, or deeper or wider level.25

 

Fighting off the žnaturalizationÓ of the human sciences is a necessary enterprise, to which Taylor has powerfully contributed; and we must be grateful to him for the dauntlessness of his efforts in that regard, and for their precision. Possessed himself of some dusty formulas, he has, to our general loss, not so contributed to the no less necessary enterprise of reconnecting the natural sciences to their human roots, and thus of fighting off their naturalization. It is an enormous pity that some of the most consequential developments of contemporary culture are taking place beyond the attention of one of that culture's profoundest students.

 

 

Notes

 

1

The žIntroductionÓ is repeated, with slightly different pagination, in volume 2. The themes in Taylor's work I discuss here run throughout the whole of it, from Explanation of Behavior, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964, to Sources of the Self, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989, but for simplicity I shall confine direct citations to Philosophical Papers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, 2 vols.

2

Taylor, Philosophical Papers, 1: 1, 2: 21, 1: 187, 1: 247, and 2: 92.

3

Ibid., 2: 15.

4

Ibid., 2: 17.

5

Ibid., 2: 117.

6

Ibid., 1: 11.

7

Ibid., 1: 45, 2: 15. As Taylor recognizes, the genealogy of this notion is both deep and wide in Western thought and in its modern version is perhaps as often dated from Vico as Dilthey, its defining exemplar as often seen to be Weber as Gadamer. For a subtle and detailed tracing of the contrast as it has worked itself out from the ancient world forward, sometimes as a difference, sometimes as a dichotomy, sometimes as a mere unclarity, under the original Greek distinction (they seem to have invented this too) of nomos and physis, see Donald Kelley's important study, The Human Measure, Social Thought in the Western Legal Tradition, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990.

8

Richard Rorty, žIs Natural Science a Natural Kind?,Ó in his Philosophical Papers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, 1: 46. Rorty is, of course, as I am, questioning such a view.

9

Taylor, Philosophical Papers, 1: 5.

10

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed., Chi cago: University of Chicago Press, 1977. For an accessible discussion of žquan tum weirdness,Ó see Heinz Pagels, The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature, New York: Bantum, 1983. The absence from Taylor's major study of žthe making of the modern identity,Ó Sources of the Self, of any signifi cant discussion of developments in physical theory as such is, given this trac ing of žmodern consciousnessÓ to the mechanical world view, at the very least, odd. Like the Deist's god, žScienceÓůDescartes and Bacon, Newton and Boyleůgot the enterprise going, but doesn't seem to have had much of a hand in it since.

11

Gyorgy Markus, žWhy Is There No Hermeneutics of Natural Sci ences? Some Preliminary Theses,Ó Sciences in Context 1 (1987): 5Ů51; quota tions at 42, 43 (emphasis in original).

12

The ždon't askÓ quotation has been attributed to Richard Feynman, but I have no citation for it. For discussions of some of the matters mentioned, see, again, Heinz Pagels, The Cosmic Code; see also The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988, and Perfect Symmetry: The Search for the Beginning of Time, New York: Bantam, 1986.

13

Markus, žWhy Is There No Hermeneutics of Natural Sciences?,Ó pp. 26, 27, 28, 29; references omitted, reparagraphed, emphases original.

14

Rorty, žIs Natural Science a Natural Kind?,Ó p. 47.

15

Gerald M. Edelman, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind, New York: Basic Books, 1992, p. 11.

16

Ibid., pp. 230, 231, 232; emphasis original. For Taylor's very similar animadversions against žmachine modelled explanations of human perfor mance,Ó see his essay, žCognitive Psychology,Ó Philosophical Papers, 1: 187Ů212; on žobjectivism,Ó žTheories of Meaning,Ó 1: 248Ů292. For a related attack on žobjectivismÓ in neurology, there called ždiagram making,Ó see Israel Rosen feld, The Strange, Familiar and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness, New York: Knopf, 1992.

17

David Ruelle, Chance and Chaos, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991, p. 122. The notion of žappropriate trainingÓ necessary to appreci ate the differences Ruelle, in a book designed after all for an audience that doesn't have it, wishes us to appreciate rather more raises a question, and in a guild-protective form, than answers it. Translation exists, and commentary too (Ruelle's being a fine example): I don't know Russian, and thus miss much; but Dostoevsky does not look the same to me as Tolstoy.

18

Cited in Edelman, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire, p. vii. The last line sug gests that žhierarchyÓ may not be the best figure, either, for tracing out such a meshwork of connections.

19

For a brief general review, see Steve Woolgar, Science, the Very Idea, Chichester: Ellis Horwood, 1988; for a current collection of debates and posi tions in this creatively disorganized, usefully combative field, see Andrew Pick ering, ed., Science as Practice and Culture, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992; for a sustained study, crossing the human-natural division with some thing of a vengeance, see Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life, Princeton: Princeton Uni versity Press, 1985.

20

Bruno Latour, Nous n'avons jamais »t» modernes: Essai d'anthropologie sym»trique, Paris: La D»couverte, 1991, p. 186. This is Latour's most general, and most provocative, statement of position; for more detailed discussion, see his Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987; for a specific application, The Pas teurization of France, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

21

The quotation is from H. M. Collins and Steven Yearley, žJourney into Space,Ó a polemic against Latour, in Pickering, ed., Science as Practice and Culture, p. 384. For the Merton approach, see his The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973. For the sociology of (scientific) knowledge approach (SSK), sometimes referred to as žthe strong program,Ó see Barry Barnes, Interests and the Growth of Knowledge, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977. I borrow the limpid, if antique, term žconsilientÓ (which seems to me an improvement over, or any way a useful supplement to, the aesthetical žcoherentÓ as applied to texts, the formalistic žconsistentÓ as applied to beliefs, the functionalist žintegratedÓ as applied to institutions, or the psychologistic žattunedÓ as applied to persons) from Ian Hacking, žThe Self-Vindication of the Laboratory Sciences,Ó in Pick ering, ed., Science as Practice and Culture, pp. 29Ů64, a searching examination of the course it celebrates. For an extended discussion, cf. his Representing and Intervening, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. (Since this note was written, the sociobiologist E. O. Wilson has introduced the word in a quite different sense, totally opposed to mine. See E. O. Wilson, Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge, New York: Alfred Knopf, 1998. The term is originally due to William Whewell, whose use comports with my and Hacking's sense, not with Wilson's.)

22

Michel Callon and Bruno Latour, in Pickering, ed., Science as Practice and Culture, p. 348. They continue: žOur general ÷ principle is ÷ not to alternate between natural realism and social realism but to obtain nature and society as twin results of another activity, one that is more interesting for us. We call it network building, or collective things, or quasi-objects, or trials of force; and others call it skill, forms of life, material practiceÓ (references eliminated).

23

Woolgar, Science. Cf. Donald Davidson, žOn the Very Idea of a Con ceptual Scheme,Ó Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Asso ciation 47 (1973Ů74): 5Ů20.

24

Taylor, Philosophical Papers, 1: 197.

25

For some interesting comments on this latter, see Jeremy Bernstein, Quantum Profiles, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991, esp. pp. viiŮ viii, 77Ů84.

 

 


The strange estrangement: Taylor and the natural sciences, in: Tully, James Hamilton/ Weinstock, Daniel Marc (eds.): Philosophy in an age of pluralism: the philosophy of Charles Taylor in question. Cambridge/UK etc. 1994: Cambridge University Press, pp. 83-95


cf. Available light: anthropological reflections on philosophical topics. Princeton/N.J./USA: Princeton University Press, pp. 143-159


 

online source: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=99830258

 


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