Monday, May 21, 2012

Polanyi on "the scientistic Minotaur" born of the illusion of objectivism

"a dogmatic orthodoxy can be kept in check both internally and externally, while a creed inverted into a science is both blind and deceptive."

     Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy, pt. 3, chap. 8, sec. 12 ((London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1958]), 268).

     "This then is our ultimate liberation from objectivism:  to realize that we can voice our ultimate convictions only from within our convictionsfrom within the whole system of acceptances that are logically prior to any particular assertion of our own, prior to the holding of any particular piece of knowledge. . . . I believe that the function of philosophical reflection consists in bringing to light, and affirming as my own, the beliefs implied in such of my thoughts and practices as I believe to be valid; that I must aim at discovering what I truly believe in and at formulating the convictions which I find myself holding; that I must conquer my self-doubt, so as to retain a firm hold on this programme of self-identification. . . .
     "This invitation to dogmatism may appear shocking; yet it is but the corollary to the greatly increased critical powers of man.  These have endowed our mind with a capacity for self-transcendence of which we can never again divest ourselves.  We have plucked from the Tree a second apple which has for ever imperilled our knowledge of Good and Evil, and we must learn to know these qualities henceforth in the blinding light of our new analytical powers.  Humanity has been deprived a second time of its innocence, and driven out of another garden which was, at any rate, a Fool's Paradise.  Innocently, we had trusted that we could be relieved of all personal responsibility for our beliefs by objective criteria of validityand our own critical powers have shattered this hope.  Struck by our sudden nakedness, we may try to brazen it out by flaunting it in a profession of nihilism.  But modern man's immorality is unstable.  Presently his moral passions reassert themselves in objectivist disguise and the scientistic Minotaur is born" (267-268, italics mine).

No comments: