Thursday, June 14, 2007

Husserl on Science

I read recently of a man who enjoyed philosophy until he discovered that every philosophical "truth" was debatable. So he ditched philosophy for science because he thought the scientific method provided the best way of discovering truth. (I suppose science is so good nowadays that its truths aren't even debatable?)

Evidently, this gentleman is not a student of the works of Husserl, who says in The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology:

[Galileo's idea was] remarkable because the hypothesis, in spite of the verification, continues to be and is always a hypothesis; its verification . . . is an endless course of verification. (p. 42)

And later Husserl says,

In geometrical and natural-scientific mathematization . . . we measure the life-world -- the world constantly given to us as actual in our concrete world-life -- for a well-fitting garb of ideas, that of the so-called objectively scientific truths. . . . Mathematics and mathematical science . . . represents the life-world, dresses it up as "objectively actual and true" nature. It is through the garb of ideas that we take for true being what is actually a method . . . . (p. 51)

So, the "obvious" certainty that science holds to is illusory; recalling the opening points about philosophy's alleged ignorance, I say with Husserl that science cannot provide solid answers without first changing the questions. In Husserl's terms, natural science is a method masquerading as something that itself really is true. But how could a method be true? It certainly is an impressive method, but its great impression does not change its nature. More on this later.

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