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On science and meaning

Summary

Charles Taylor talks about how we achieved scientific progress, and where it doesn’t apply.

Summary

Charles Taylor talks about how we achieved scientific progress, and where it doesn’t apply.

Transcript

The really great key to the take-off of natural science, with Galileo and Newton and so on, was that – I mean we’ll discover that if you looked at the world in abstraction from any human beings, the fact that it means this to us or that to us, that some levels of being are higher and some are lower, if you abstracted from all that, you could develop mathematical science which had tremendous success in predicting and manipulating and so on. See, but exactly that move – taking the meaning out of it – is what means that that kind of stuff can’t help us understand ourselves.

So the great mistake of that picture – well, science starts, and then we get rid of superstition, and then we put it all on a very empirical basis and so on – is that it neglects this tremendously important fact. What happened is, certain kinds of science took off by stripping down our descriptions – which worked for non-human, non-animate beings, but can’t work when it comes to understanding ourselves. So that if you take the field of physics and chemistry and so on on one hand, and the field of human self-understanding on the other hand, it’s a terrible mistake to think that we understand ourselves more deeply than Aristotle – I mean, he may be right, he may be wrong etc. Anyway, we don’t agree with each other, you know – we’re pretty well established about Einstein, Newton, and so on, that’s what physics is about, plus the changes that are coming about. But we’re just as much at sixes and sevens about what human life is about, about what a good life is, about – see, that idea, that notion of a shift to science across the board, is just a myth.