Re: The Empirical

>It may be that the difference of emphasis is not so much cultural as
>historical: the attempt to separate the scientific from the philosophical
>only dates from the nineteenth century, which is when the *term* "science"
>first came to be used to describe the enterprise of understanding the
>physical world through mathematics and experimentation. Until that time,
>such an enterprise was known as "natural philosophy," not science, and it
>was an attempt to arrive at a philosophy of nature. Its affiliations
>with philosophy were evident in the way that natural philsophers such as
>Newton saw their empirical investigations as part of a much larger
>philosophical purpose, and Foucault is accurate in equating science with
>philosophy when discussing the history of science.

If this were the case, which it may indeed be, then everything is kosher.
However, I got the impression that Foucault was referring to his
contemporaries, although rereading the passage I have in mind, it is a wee
bit vague. I shall requote it and drop the issue.

In France at least, the history of science and thought give pride of
place to mathematics, cosmology, and physics - noble sciences,
rigorous sciences, sciences of the necessary, all close to
philosophy: one can observe in their history the almost
uniterrupted emergence of truth and pure reason.

Perhaps it is the "in France at least" which has thrown me off, but I think
not. I am less than convinced he is being historical when discussing the
empirical because, in the preface, where these quotes occur, he is
discussing his methodology, his raison d'etre, and how the reader should
approach his text. His is juxtaposing how the history of natural science is
perceived by his contemporaries, as opposed to how the history of the human
sciences is perceived. Granted, he is talking about history, but more
importantly it seems to me, how history is seen. I took the references to
the empirical to be within this grid, and not within the sites investigated.

Stuart Chaulk


Partial thread listing: