1887

n Koers : Bulletin for Christian Scholarship = Koers : Bulletin vir Christelike Wetenskap - The Achilles' heel of positivism : research article

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Abstract

The Achilles' heel of positivism


The 20th century encompasses philosophical trends as wide apart as (neo-) positivism and postmodernism. The assumed objectivity and neutrality of the former and the radical relativity claimed by the latter both have difficulties in accounting for the nature of universality. Since sense experience is directed towards concrete entities and events, the universal scope of law-statements remains problematic - particularly exemplified in the universal scope of modal terms (what will be designated as modal universality). Not even postmodernism can side-step this fundamental ontic dimension of reality. Insofar as the positivistic ideal of an objective and neutral science still dominates the thought-world of many practising (natural and social) scientists, a critique of the Achilles' heel of positivism may render a service to the ideal of Christian scholarship, since it is argued that such a critique highlights the inevitability of a distinct theoretical view of reality which ultimately emanates from a person's deepest convictions. The contributions of Popper and Stegmüller are contextualized in the argumentation. Popper realized that rationality needs a more-than-rational foundation and Stegmüller acknowledges that one cannot justify something without a prior trust. The inability of sense experience to account for the functional properties of natural things and their accompanying concepts indeed reveals the Achilles' heel of positivism. This view is explained with reference to the uniqueness of function concepts employed in the historical development of the concept of matter. In the final part of the article Popper's idea of falsification is assessed by taking into account the criticism raised by Stegmüller. In the course of the argumentation the relevance for the South African context is mentioned with reference to the idea of neutrality as it is advanced in the current debate about the teaching of religion at school.

Die Achilleshiel van die positivisme


Die 20ste eeu omvat wysgerige strominge so ver van mekaar verwyderd soos die (neo-) positivisme en die postmodernisme. Die veronderstelde objektiwiteit en neutraliteit van eersgenoemde en die radikale relatiwiteit waarop laasgenoemde aanspraak maak, loop albei in probleme vas wanneer rekenskap gegee moet word van die aard van universaliteit. Aangesien sintuiglike ervaring altyd gerig is op konkrete dinge en gebeurtenisse, kan dit nie werklik rekenskap gee van die status van die formulering van (natuur-)wette nie - veral nie soos wat laasgenoemde weerspiëel word in die universele reikwydte van modale terme nie (wat aangedui sal word as modale universaliteit). Nie eers die postmodernisme kan hierdie fundamentele dimensie van die werklikheid omseil nie. Insoverre die positivistiese ideaal van 'n objektiewe en neutrale wetenskap nog steeds die gedagtewêreld van praktiserende (natuur- en geestes-) wetenskaplikes domineer, sal kritiek op die Achilleshiel van die positivisme 'n diens lewer aan die ideaal van Christelike wetenskapsbeoefening, aangesien betoog word dat dit die onvermydelikheid van 'n teoretiese werklikheidsvisie belig wat uiteindelik in die greep van die diepste oortuiginge van die wetenskaplike denker is. Die bydraes van Popper en Stegmüller word gekontekstualiseer in die ontvouende argumentasie. Popper het besef dat rasionaliteit 'n meer-as-logiese fundering benodig, terwyl Stegmüller erken dat niks geregverdig kan word sonder 'n voorafgegewe vertroue nie. Die onmoontlikheid om met behulp van sintuiglike ervaring rekenskap te gee van die funksionele eienskappe van natuurdinge en die daarmee gepaardgaande begrippe, onthul die Achilleshiel van die positivisme. Hierdie gesigspunt word verduidelik met verwysing na die uniekheid van die funksiebegrippe wat benut is in die ontwikkeling van die begrip materie. In die laaste gedeelte van die artikel word Popper se idee van valsifikasie beoordeel deur die kritiek van Stegmüller in ag te neem. In die loop van die argumentasie word die relevansie vir die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks vermeld met verwysing na die idee van neutraliteit wat 'n rol speel in die huidige debat oor godsdiensonderrig op skool.

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/content/koers/68/2_3/EJC59095
2003-01-01
2016-12-06
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