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Giving Compass' Take:
· Writing for the Hudson Institute, Abram N. Shulsky discusses recent changes in human life, including: modern science, advancing technology and medicine, and the new science of nature.
· What is the crisis of modern science? What is the new science of nature? How is science being separated from philosophy?
The larger political and philosophic phenomenon that may be called “modernity” was the result of an effort, by and large successful, to bring about a fundamental change in human life—a change as significant as that brought about by the victory of Christianity in the fourth-century Roman Empire. This change was proposed by a group of thinkers in the 16th and 17th centuries, among the most prominent of whom were Niccolò Machiavelli, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Benedict Spinoza, and John Locke.
This claim is admittedly astounding, and may well seem incredible to some. Indeed many scholars have rejected it. Various scholars have interpreted the thinkers noted above as being much less innovative in their thought than is implied by the notion of a “modern project.” Machiavelli, far from being a founder and promoter of “new modes and orders,” has been understood as striving for the revival of classical republicanism. The English editor of Bacon’s works, Thomas Fowler, saw him as “mid-way, as it were, between Scholasticism, on one side, and Modern Philosophy and Science, on the other.” John Locke has been seen, not as a bold innovator in the theory of natural law, but as a follower of “the judicious Hooker,” an Anglican theologian in the Thomistic tradition. This article won’t enter into this debate. However, regardless of what their intentions and self-understandings may have been, the changes in human life that have come into being since their time reflect much of what they wrote.
What was the modern project? In brief, it involved a new political approach aimed somewhat single-mindedly at security and prosperity, and a reformulation of human life on the basis of a new philosophic/scientific method aimed at increasing man’s power over nature. The latter became the triumph, however beleaguered and uncertain, of liberal democracy as a mode of governance. The former, which is most important for my purposes here, became modern science, with all the advances in technology and medicine it made possible.
The new science of nature can be regarded as new in at least two respects: a new approach, and a new goal. The new approach may be described as dogmatism based on skepticism: in other words, as Descartes explained his Discourse on Method, the proper procedure for science is to discard every idea and notion that can possibly be doubted and then build up a solid structure of knowledge of the basis of what remains—that is, what is indubitably true. Any conclusions that could be reached by means of this method, Descartes claimed, would necessarily be known as confidently as the proofs of geometry.
Read the full article about the crisis of modern science by Abram N. Shulsky at Hudson Institute.