Between postmodernism, positivism and (new) atheism
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Keywords

autonomy
law-giver
historicism
paradigm
ultimate commitment
atheism
epigenetic information

Abstract

The Renaissance introduced the autonomy of being human which in turn resulted in promoting the position of human understanding as the formal law-giver of nature. Twentieth century philosophy of science acknowledged the necessity of a theoretical frame of reference (paradigm) as well as ultimate (more-than-rational) commitments. Historicism and the linguistic turn, however, relativized the objectivity and neutrality of scientific reason (with its universality) and co-influenced the rise of postmodernism. After discussing the distinction between linear and non-linear thinking it is shown that Derrida does accept universality outside the human mind. The denial of ontic universality influenced the nominalistic orientation of modern biology, particularly since Darwin’s Origin of Species, consistently denying the reality of type laws. Under the spell of Leibniz’s slogan that nature does not make leaps, as natural selection merely exemplifies the overriding law of continuity. Darwin was in two minds about accepting his biological idea of non-progression and his socio-cultural conservatism in which progress was dominant. More recently new atheism divinized natural laws, identified them with human reason, while Hawking even claims that the law of gravity would create the universe out of nothing. Finally physicalism is subjected to immanent criticism, the pretence that mathematics is exact is questioned and some recent problems facing neo-Darwinism are highlighted. [1]

Opsomming

Tussen postmodernisme, positivisme en (nuwe) ateïsme

Die Renaissance-waardering van die mense se outonomie het uitgeloop op die verheffing van die menslike verstand as die formele wetgewer van die natuur. Nogtans sou die wetenskapsfilosofie van die twintigste eeu erkenning verleen aan die noodsaaklikheid van ‘n teoretiese verwysingsraamwerk (paradigma) en ‘n diepste (meer-as-rasionele) grondoortuiging. Die historisme en die taalwending het die idee van ‘n objektief-neutrale rede gerelativeer en bygedra tot die ontstaan van die postmodernisme. Na ‘n bespreking van die onderskeiding tussen liniêre en nie- liniêre denke is aangetoon dat Derrida universaliteit buite die menslike gees erken. Die ontkenning van ontiese universaliteit het die nominalistiese oriëntasie van die moderne biologie, veral sedert Darwin se Origin of Species beïnvloed – wat konsekwent die realiteit van tipe-wette misken het. Betower deur die slagspreuk van Leibniz dat die natuur nie spronge maak nie sien Darwin natuurlike seleksie bloot as ‘n beliggaming van die oorkoepelende wet van kontinuïteit. Darwin was in twee verdeel tussen sy biologies-non-progressionistiese benadering en sy sosiaal-kulturele konserwatisme waarin die idee van vooruitgang dominant was. Meer onlangs sou die nuwe ateïsme natuurwette goddelik ag en met die menslike rede vereenselwig, met Hawking wat selfs beweer dat die swaartekragwet uit niks die heelal sal skep. Ten slotte is die fisikalisme aan immanente kritiek onderwerp, is die aanspraak dat die wiskunde eksak is bevraagteken en is saaklik aandag geskenk aan enkele resente probleme waarmee die neo-Darwinisme worstel.


[1] An earlier version of this article was presented as a Stoker-Lecture at the University of North West, September 2013.

https://doi.org/10.19108/KOERS.80.1.2209

https://doi.org/10.19108/KOERS.80.1.2209
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