If both natural law and ceaseless creativity partially beyond natural law are necessary for understanding our world, and if we as whole human beings live in this real world of law and unknowable creativity, these two ancient strands of Western civilization can reunite in ways we cannot foresee. Out of this union can arise a healing of the long split between science and the humanities, and the schism between pure reason and practical life, both subjects of interest to Immanuel Kant. Science is not, as Galileo claimed, the only pathway to truth. History, the situated richness of the humanities, and the law are true as well. This potential union invites a fuller understanding of ourselves creating our histories and our sacred, as we create our lives.

By Stuart A. Kauffman


The false dichotomizing between absolutely positivist science and, in the the case of this interesting essay, ‘ceaseless creativity,’ reprises a generic argument against the most vaunted possible claim a certain brand of doctrinaire philosopher of science can make. This claim fuses epistemic positivism with ontic positivism to state that the only positive existing truth about a phenomena is that which understands completely the phenomena’s causation and workings. I mention this is a claim a philosopher could hold because an actual scientist is very likely to report that whatever truth they might lay claim too, such truth is always tentative and subject to revision should new data and/or instrumental tools change.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere on Explorations, (for me) the pragmatics of scientific knowledge-making do not rely on any operational philosophical assumptions whatsoever. Those pragmatics are rooted in proto-empiricism, a cognitive capability traceable to primitive ancestors who happened to discover that what was observed yesterday could be manipulated to advantage today. Utility came to reign thereafter.

This utility is relevant to truth claims in the domains of practical, natural, and meta-physical phenomena. If you added up the total truth derived and claimed each day on the planet, almost all of it exists in the practical realm. Science itself is so lacking practical capacity and thus utility in the necessarily large daily scheme, that it seems ridiculous to pose an argument against scientism–in Hampshire’s present terms–in light of this ‘sociological’ truth about the TRUE.

Still, Hampshire doesn’t seem struck by the very reduction he deploys to boil away many strands so as to elevate the (his) two ancient strands. Oh well, twas ever thus. About the pragmatics of claiming something to be true, it seems obvious most such (non-analytic) claims are conditioned by incomplete: knowledge, methods, cognition, experience, bandwidth, etc., and etc.. If it were a totally ‘billiard ball’ universe, we already can assume we won’t ever know of starting positions, super-positions, the wave functions’ implications, on and on; and furthermore, it’s completely unimaginable how the magnitude of data required to perfectly know start-conditions-process–of the all–could be managed by a sub-system under constraints.

In fact it seems silly to whack scientism for this inflation of its capacity, a capacity it cannot aspire to. (I’ve always thought the whacks supplied by James and Peirce were sufficient!)

So I don’t feel the generative creative capacity as a fact of human life (and nature too–viewed very broadly,) needs anyone to come to their defense at all. Flows of neurochemicals issued as a response to hearing the last movement of Mahler’s 8th Symphony don’t explain what’s true about the experience to any interesting point. Even something as basic as why tomato A seems a likely candidate for purchase is a creative act of truth-making and it is unlikely to be explained veraciously except as a matter of pragmatic enactment.

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