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Strauss on Scientism

“The belief that scientific knowledge, i.e., the kind of knowledge possessed or aspired to by modern science, is the highest form of human knowledge, implies a depreciation of prescientific knowledge.

[/] If one takes into consideration the contrast between scientific knowledge of the world and prescientific knowledge of the world, one realizes that positivism preserves in a scarcely disguised manner Descartes’ universal doubt of prescientific knowledge and his radical break with it. It certainly distrusts prescientific knowledge, which it likes to compare to folklore.

[/] This superstition fosters all sorts of sterile investigations or complicated idiocies. Things which every ten-year-old child of normal intelligence knows are regarded as being in need of scientific proof in order to be come acceptable as facts. And this scientific proof, which is not only not necessary, is not even possible.

[/] To illustrate this by the simplest example: all studies in social science presuppose that it’s devotees can tell human beings from other beings; this most fundamental knowledge was not acquired by them in classrooms; and this knowledge is not transformed by social science into scientific knowledge, but retains its initial status without any modification throughout.

[/] If this prescientific knowledge is not knowledge, all scientific studies, which stand or fall with it, lack the character of knowledge.

[/] The preoccupation with scientific proof of things which everyone knows well enough, and better, without scientific proof, leads to the neglect of that thinking, or that reflection, which must precede all scientific studies if these studies are to be relevant.”


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