Monday, January 16, 2012

A scientific method that has a disintegrating effect on the person or thing it was introduced to understand is of no "scientific value" at all

"the pursuits of biology, medicine, psychology and the social sciences, may [1-2] rectify our everyday conceptions of plants and animals, and even of man and society; but we must set against any such modification its effect on [3] the interest by which the study of the original subject matter had been prompted and justified.  If the scientific virtues of [1] exact observation and [2] strict correlation of data are given absolute preference for the treatment of a subject matter which disintegrates when represented in such terms, the result will be irrelevant to the subject matter and probably of no [3] interest at all."

     Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge:  towards a post-critical philosophy, pt. 2, chap. 6, sec. 2 ((London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1958]), 137).  Polanyi is here weighing the first two of the three factors constitutive of "scientific value" against the third (pp. 135-136), and grounding the third, or "intrinsic interest," in "ordinary" or "everyday" or "pre-scientific interest".

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