THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #10–Scientific Pietism and Scientific Naturalism.
By Robert Hanna
This book, THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE: Uniscience and the Modern World, by Robert Hanna, presents and defends a critical philosophy of science and digital technology, and a new and prescient philosophy of nature and human thinking.
It is being made available here in serial format, but you can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text of THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE HERE.
This tenth installment contains section 1.5.
We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart. It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them. (Pascal, 1995: #110, p. 28)
If there is any science humankind really needs, it is the one I teach, of how to occupy properly that place in [the world] that is assigned to humankind, and how to learn from it what one must be in order to be human. (Rem 20: 45)
Natural science will one day incorporate the science of humankind, just as the science of humankind will incorporate natural science; there will be a single science. (Marx, 1964: p. 70, translation modified slightly)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A NOTE ON REFERENCES TO KANT’S WORKS
1.5 Scientific Pietism and Scientific Naturalism
Chapter 2. This is The Way The Worlds Ends: A Philosophy of Civilization Since 1900, The Rise of Mechanism, and The Emergence of Neo-Organicism
Chapter 3. Thought-Shapers
Chapter 4. How To Complete Physics
Chapter 5. Digital Technology Only Within The Limits of Human Dignity
00. Conclusion: The Point Is To Shape The World
Appendix 1: A Note on The Löwenheim-Skolem Theorem, “Skolem’s Paradox,” and Neo-Organicism
Appendix 2: A Neo-Organicist Approach to The Nature of Motion
Appendix 3: Sensible Set Theory
Appendix 4: Neo-Organicism and The Rubber Sheet Cosmos
1.5 Scientific Pietism and Scientific Naturalism
Here again are three of the texts I displayed in section 1.4, each characteristic of natural piety —
It is quite certain that we can never adequately come to know the organized beings and their internal possibility in accordance with merely mechanical principles of nature, let alone explain them; and this is so certain that we can boldly say that it would be absurd for humans to make an attempt or to hope that there could ever arise a Newton who could make comprehensible even the generation of a blade of grass according to natural laws that no intention has ordered; rather we must absolutely deny this insight to human beings. (CPJ 5: 400)
After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter…. I see by your eagerness, and the wonder and hope which your eyes express, my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted; that cannot be; listen patiently until the end of my story, and you will easily perceive why I am so reserved upon that subject. I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow. (Shelley, 1818: vol. 1, ch. 3)
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety. (Wordsworth, 1807)
Now, Pietism was a European reformist religious movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, whose central emphasis was on religious feeling or sensibility, direct religious experience of the holy, and experiential faith, as the cognitive and practical grounds of religion and theology. Kant was raised in the Pietist tradition, but strongly rejected its mystical fideism, its dogmatic noumenal theology, and its sociocultural/political coercive moralism (DSS 2: 315–373; CPR A567–704/B595–732; Rel 6: 151–202). Nevertheless, Kant retained a small-p but still fundamentally pietistic ideain his Critical philosophy, namely his thesis that all theoretical cognition, scientific knowledge, practical cognition and practical motivation, including specifically moral cognition and moral motivation, aesthetic cognition, artistic cognition, religious cognition, and sociocultural/political cognition are all primitively grounded on the faculty or innate mental power of sensibility (Sinnlichkeit), in a broad sense that includes our capacities for sense perception, imagination, feeling, desire, emotion, and volition. This small-p pietistic way of thinking about Kant’s theory of cognition, epistemology, and metaphysics in particular is Strong Kantian Non-Conceptualism (Hanna, 2005, 2008b, 2011a, 2011b, 2013c, 2015: ch. 2, 2016c, 2017d: supplement 1) and correspondingly, this small-p pietistic way of thinking about Kant’s ethics and practical philosophy in particular is Strong Kantian Non-Intellectualism (Hanna, 2021d). And in order to give this new, unified approach to the interpretation of Kant’s theoretical and practical philosophy a single, easy-to-remember label, I call it the Sensibility First approach (ibid).
As applied to the philosophy of nature and natural science, Kant’s small-p pietism and Sensibility First entail the anti-mechanistic/organicist, anti-physicalist (including both reductive and non-reductive physicalism), and natural-dynamicist (as opposed to ontological-vitalist or property-vitalist/supervenient[i]-emergentist) epistemological, metaphysical, aesthetic/ artistic, practical/moral, religious, and sociocultural/political attitude of Kantian natural piety towards nature itself, and also towards the natural sciences, that I spelled out and defended in section 1.4. Roughly speaking, and put in terms of the history of 17th, 18th, and early 19th century ideas, Kantian natural piety, as I’m conceiving it in terms of small-p pietism and Sensibility First, is what you get when (i) you start out with Spinoza’s pantheistic monistic metaphysics of deus sive natura in the Ethics, that is, the one universal dual-aspect substance that is the weak disjunction of god-or-nature, and classical Pietism, then (ii) rigorously apply the Critical philosophy and transcendental idealism to Spinozist pantheism and Pietism alike, then (iii) fuse that Critically-filtered result with Critically-filtered versions of the nature-romanticism and natural-religion-without-god-or-the-church of Rousseau, Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, and then finally (iv) round it all off with Critically-filtered versions of Rousseau’s, William Godwin’s, and Mary Wollstonecraft’s radical liberationist political philosophies (Hanna, 2018c: part 2).[ii] Otherwise and more briefly put, Kantian natural piety is Kant’s transcendental-philosophical-political Sentimental Journey,[iii] standing in essential complementarity with his Copernican Revolution.
What I want to do in the next few sections is to apply the doctrine of Kantian natural piety directly to the natural sciences, and especially physics, by showing how they have a cognitive, epistemic, metaphysical, practical/moral, aesthetic/artistic, religious, and sociocultural/political grounding in Kantian sensibility, both pure and empirical. This is what I call Kantian scientific pietism, and it’s to be directly and radically opposed to scientific naturalism, by which I mean the philosophical doctrine consisting of (i) universal natural mechanism, (ii) ontological and explanatory materialism/physicalism (whether reductive or non-reductive), and above all (iii) scientism (i.e., the epistemic and metaphysical valorization of the formal and natural sciences and their methods), including (iiia) epistemic empiricism (whether classical empiricism, as per Locke, Hume, and Mill, or radical Quinean empiricism), (iiib) the Lockean epistemological “underlaborer” conception of the relation between natural science and philosophy, such that philosophy is the underlaborer of the sciences (Locke, 1975: “Epistle to the Reader”), which is also re-affirmed in Sellars’s mid-20th century slogan that
science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not. (Sellars, 1963: p. 173),
and (iiic) the Baconian and Cartesian technocratic ideology according to which, as natural scientists, we are “the lords and masters of nature” (Bacon, 1620; Descartes, 1985: part 6, p. 142/AT VI, 62). As the direct and radical philosophical opponent of scientific naturalism, Kantian scientific pietism entails the denial and rejection of universal natural mechanism, physicalism, and scientism alike.
In a word, or in at least a few words, Kantian scientific pietism entails a thoroughly sensible approach to natural science, in both basic senses of the term “sensible,” that is, (i) essentially having to do with the complex faculty for sensibility, and (ii) expressing a fundamentally healthy and sane common sense, hence it is (iii) consistently pro-natural-science, but without universal natural mechanism, materialism/physicalism, or scientism. In view of the deep, seemingly irreversible, and indeed hegemonic ideology[iv] of the connection between modern and contemporary formal and natural science, the military-industrial-university-digital complex, mastery-of-nature technology, advanced capitalism in the post-Cold War, early 21st century age of neoliberalism and neofascism, especially in quasi-democratic nation-States like the USA, the threat of permanent eco-disaster (whether by nuclear holocaust, biochemical holocaust, or slow-moving global-warming-driven disasters), and the all-encompassing metaphysics of natural mechanism — in a word, The Four Horsemen of The New Apocalypse — it is not going too far to claim that rational hope for the future of humanity itself is closely bound up with the philosophical fate of Heavy-Duty-Enlightenment-driven Kantian scientific pietism and natural piety.
[i] For explicit definitions of logical and natural/nomological strong supervenience, see sub-sub-section 188.8.131.52 below.
[ii] As to the Shelleys, Godwin, and Wollstonecraft: the connections-of-influence here are closely personal, as well as intellectual. Mary Shelley was married to Percy Shelley, also the daughter of Godwin and Wollstonecraft, and conceived the basic idea of Frankenstein on a visit to Byron’s villa on Lake Leman, near Geneva, in 1816.
[iii] Cf. Laurence Sterne’s eponymous novel, published in 1768, the same year as Kant’s breakthrough proto-Critical essay, “Concerning the Ultimate Ground of the Differentiation of Directions in Space” (DDS 2: 375–383). The “Directions in Space” essay, in turn, is essentially linked, by way of its basic philosophical content, to Kant’s Inaugural Dissertation and the Transcendental Aesthetic. See (Hanna, 2016b).
[iv] [I’m using “a hegemonic ideology” in a broadly Marxist or at least neo-Marxist way, to mean any system of more-or-less mind-controlling, often unreflectively-held, and generally pernicious beliefs, images, and affects that’s imposed, or at least importantly controlled, by a dominant social group that possesses the power of authoritarian coercion.]
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