Friday, October 1, 2010

Lancelot Hogben on the fusion of science & mysticism

The apologetic attitude so prevalent in science to-day is not a logical outcome of the introduction of new concepts. It is based upon the hope of reinstating traditional beliefs with which science was at one time in open conflict. This hope is not a by-product of scientific discovery. It has its roots in the social temper of the period. For half a decade the nations of Europe abandoned the exercise of reason in their relations with one another. Intellectual detachment was disloyalty. Criticism of traditional belief was treason. Philosophers and men of science bowed to the inexorable decree of herd suggestion. Compromise to traditional belief became the hall-mark of good citizenship. Contemporary philosophy has yet to find a way out of the intellectual discouragement which is the heritage of a World War.

SOURCE: Hogben, Lancelot. The Nature of Living Matter. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1930.

1 comment:

Jim F. said...

Lancelot Hogben, as I understand him, was rather inclined towards a mechanistic materialism. He attempted to synthesize Marxism with Bertrand Russell's empiricism, and he was also a Watsonian behaviorist to boot. (See his *The Nature of Living Matter*).

He seemed to think that mechanism had progressive political implications, as outlined in the following quotes:

...mechanistic philosophy cannot offer to the privileged a supernatural sanction for the things they value most. It cannot proffer to the underprivileged the shadowy compensation of a world into which the thought of science is unable to penetrate.

Hogben admitted that in the nineteenth century materialism and secularism had flourished and had enjoyed support within the bourgeoisie. But in his view that was because that was a period of prosperity and expansion while:

the period in which we live is one of ferment and disintegration.

Therefore, the ruling class and its apologists within the scientific community had to abandon materialism along with its benevolent liberalism in order to stabilize their social order.