MS 1343 (1902) - Of the Classification of the Sciences

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Of the Classification of the Sciences. Second Paper. Of the Practical Sciences.

The endeavor of this book will be to institute an inquiry into Logic which shall be scientific in a pretty rigorous sense. But no pretension to a particularly scientific character can be made on the part of this first chapter, whose purpose is simply to aid the reader to seize the import of the question that the book will strive to solve. It must fall short of the lowest scientific standard in sundry respects, and particularly as to definiteness of assertion and perhaps as to freedom from personal bias.

The multiplicity of proposed systems of classification of the sciences is, at first blush, amazing. A useful little volume by Mr. Ernest Cushing Richardson entitled 'Classification, theoretical and practical' (Chas. Scribners Sons:

Last edit 10 months ago by Jon Alan Schmidt
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1901) gives references to no less than 146 of them. But one's surprise at the number is considerably reduced on remarking that several different meanings are attached to the word 'science' and its equivalents in other languages by the different authors of those systems. Some by 'science' mean systematized knowledge, others research conducted in certain ways. The idea of the Greek word επιστημη, which is usually translated 'science,' is nearly that which might be expressed by the English 'comprehension.' Some of the schemes proposed have in view the sciences that actually exist in some state of intellectual development, which must of course vary with the date of their invention. Other schemes aim to classify all possible sciences, whether they have ever been heard of or not. One of the most famous of them, that of Francis Bacon's 'De dignitate et augmentis Scientiarum,' has for its principal

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purpose that of pointing out directions in which new investigations would be timely. Understood as a table of all possible knowledge it would be imperfect to the point of puerility. The different classifications also differ exceedingly as to the extent of the different units of science which they undertake to arrange in systems. Furthermore different writers have very different ways of drawing the boundaries between pairs of sciences which they all call by the same pair of names, but defined by each writer agreeably to his own theories, mostly without the least conscience of any duty to restrain his caprices in the use of terms.

Thus these different systems classify entirely different collections of species, and a corresponding degree of diversity in the results is no more than might have been foretold. There is, however, another cause of diversity and a far more potent one. It is that even if all the different systems dealt with precisely the same collection of specific

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II - #10 Cf The Classification of the Sciences Second Paper Of the Practical Sciences

sciences, still no two would be alike, because each classification has its peculiar motive, purpose, and governing idea, which is almost invariably to make a good showing for some theory of philosophy.

It is now time to explain the classification of this chapter, what it aims to be, by what means that aim has been pursued, and how nearly it seems to have been attained. Two questions have to be answered at the outset: What is here meant by science? And what is meant by a science, one of the unit species out of which the system is built up? The spirit of this book is always to look upon those aspects of things which exhibit whatever of living and active there is in them.

The prevalent definition of science, the definition of Coleridge, which influenced all Europe through the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, that sciences is a sys-

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tematized knowledge, is an improvement upon a statement of Kant (Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft: 1786): "Eine jede Lehre, wenn sie ein System, dass ist, ein nach Principien geordnetes Ganzes der Erkenntnis sein soll, heisst Wissenschaft." Yet it is to be noted that knowledge may be systematic or "organized," without being organized by means of general principles. Kant's definition, however, is only a modification of the ancient view that science is the knowledge of a thing through its causes,—the comprehension of it, as we might say,—as being the only perfect knowledge of it. In short, the Coleridgian definition is nothing but the last development of that sort of philosophy that strives to draw knowledge out of the depths of the Ich-heit. If, on the other hand, one opens the works of Francis Bacon, one remarks that, with all the astounding greenness and inexperience of his views of science, in some respects

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