n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Die geesteswetenskaplike agtergrond van die natuurwetenskappe s (2)

Volume 56 Number 4-2
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


The cradle of our Western intellectual legacy is found in ancient Greece where philosophy witnessed the slow process of differentiation through which the various social sciences started to come into their own. Their interconnectedness precluded a separation between philosophy and the academic disciplines, explaining why throughout the subsequent history all the existing special sciences harboured schools of thought that reflected the influence of philosophical trends. Contemplate for example how the way in which Thomas Hobbes portrayed the "state of nature," namely as a battle of everyone against everyone (), influenced Charles Darwin in his conception of nature as a "struggle for existence." Stephen Gould even holds that natural selection essentially transposes the economic theory of Adam Smith to nature. Darwin struggled with the Enlightenment idea of progress although his theory as such does not leave any room for a purpose or goal. In all of this Gould discerns a paradox: the absence of a statement about general progress and the fossil record, crying out for "a rationale that will place progress into the center of evolutionary theory". Nineteenth century historicism succeeded the ideal of progress. It opened the way for unlimited change and transformation and at once highlights philosophical problems and insights already found in Greek philosophy. The all-important contribution of Plato was to realize that change always presupposes something persistent or enduring. This insight later on returned in the formulation of the law of inertia by Galileo and in the special theory of relativity by Einstein. Immanuel Kant articulated what he called the "law of the continuity of all change". However, it was the relationship between universality and what is individual that paved the way for the linguistic turn at the beginning of the 20th century. No science is possible of what is individual. Aristotle therefore had to introduce a universal secondary substance adjacent to his purely individual primary substance. While Plato actually stumbled upon a given law as things, Aristotle wrestled with the of things (such as the houseness of this house or the of this circle). Mediated by the space metaphysics of Parmenides' medieval philosophy eventually wrestled with the so-called ontic status of universals (). Realistic metaphysics accepted a threefold existence of the as ideas in God's Mind, as their universal essential forms, and post rem as universal concepts in the mind of the human subject. By the beginning of the 13th century William of Ockham questioned the threefold existence of the . Outside the human mind there is only a multiplicity of individual entities. Since nominalism rejected both a universal order for and a universal orderliness of things, it actually stripped reality of its laws and lawfulness, paving the way for Kant to introduce human understanding to fill this vacant position. He holds: "Understanding creates its laws (a priori) not out of nature but prescribes them to nature." Whereas Ray and Linnaeus continued the idea of types in their idealistic morphology (accepting universality outside the human mind in classifying plants and animals), Darwin and his followers adhere to nominalism, more recently articulated in a clear statement of Simpson: "Organisms are not types and do not have types." Not even modern mathematics escaped from the problem of because (according to Fraenkel et al.) sets participate in the "well-known and amply discussed classical problem of the ontological status of the universals". Stegmüller even relates this problem to basic issues in mathematics as such - the three ontological positions, namely nominalism, conceptualism and platonism could be mapped upon "the quantitative categories finite totality () - denumerable infinite totality - non-denumerable infinite totality". Paul Bernays holds that the application of platonism in mathematics is so widespread that it is not an exaggeration to say that platonism reigns supreme in the field of mathematics. The remarkable and at once astonishing effect of the influence of the contest about universals in the modern natural sciences is that there is an abyss between nominalistic Darwinism and platonistic mathematics. All-in-all it is clear that the natural sciences were (and still are) thoroughly influenced by the humanities.

In hierdie artikel word ondersoek ingestel na die funderende rol van die geesteswetenskappe ten opsigte van die natuurwetenskappe. As toeligting hierop word enkele voorbeelde vermeld. Dink byvoorbeeld aan Thomas Hobbes wat die voorstaatlike natuurtoestand as 'n stryd van almal teen almal gesien het en daarmee 'n invloed op Darwin se "struggle for existence" uitgeoefen het. Hierdie invloed is versterk deur die historisme van die vroeg negentiende eeu waarin historiese veranderlikheid voorop gestel word. Plato het egter reeds ingesien dat verandering duursaamheid (konstansie) veronderstel - 'n insig wat Immanuel Kant sou verwoord in sy wet van die kontinuïteit van alle verandering. Plato se transendente ideë en Aristoteles se algemene wesensvorme het sowel die idee van tipes as van universaliteit na vore gebring, wat op hul beurt tot die "universalia"- stryd van die laat-middeleeue sou lei, met die realisme (waaronder platonisme) en nominalisme as teëgestelde pole. Dit is merkwaardig dat die moderne biologiese denke (neo-Darwinisme) nominalisties georiënteerd is terwyl die moderne wiskunde oorwegend platonisties is.

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