Friday, March 15, 2019

On The Origin of Empirical Science

Eric Voegelin
There are philosophers who insist that philosophy determines the course of history, and that politics, science, art, industry, etc., are the applications of philosophical ideas. But there is no evidence to back such a sweeping claim. The research done by the anthropologists show that human beings have gathered much of their knowledge through observation of nature and experience—philosophical knowledge was developed after lot of progress had already been made in other areas of knowledge.

In Eric Voegelin’s Order and History (Volume 2): The World of the Polis, I have discovered a passage in which he briefly comments on the independence of empirical science from philosophy. Here’s an excerpt (Page 430-431):
Empirical science is an independent factor in intellectual history; and, in particular, its independence from the development of philosophy must be recognized. Unless one has preconceived ideas about the origin of science, the existence of this factor should not be too surprising; for a more or less extended knowledge of causes and effects in the surrounding world is an ineluctable condition of human survival even on primitive levels of civilization. And wherever this knowledge is intensified through specialization of crafts, the basis for systematic elaboration into an empirical science is present. In all civilizations, Western or Eastern, ancient or medieval, empirical science does not originate in philosophy but in the knowledge of craftsmen. When such a body of empirical knowledge falls into the hands of professional theorists, it may flower into a science if the methods (as, for instance, experimentation and mathematization) are suitable; but, obviously, it also may be ruined if the method is a fashion of fallacious speculation.
The craftsmen accumulate their knowledge through experience and observation and that is the root of all empirical science. Philosophers are not the creators of scientists—the craftsmen are.

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