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The Humanities should be part of scientific heuristics

Por Eduardo Zeind Palafox , 16 octubre, 2020

ENGLAND – JANUARY 01: Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) .Canvas. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images) [Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) . Gemaelde.]

Eduardo Zeind Palafox

In the last days I read the American press, and I remembered an old, classic problem between the Humanities and the Natural Sciences, which I can formulate in the next fast question: are the Humanities useless for Natural Sciences? Leon Wieseltier says (1) that the Humanities, in the technocratic world, without solid reasons have been accused of having a “nonutilitarian character”. With criticism he remarks, besides, “the essential inability of the natural sciences to offer a satisfactory explanation” of human concerns, such as Soul, God, World, Freedom, abortion, euthanasia, etc. He argues that “the character of our society cannot be determined by engineers”. He says that “no distinction between human and machine”, as a director of engineering at Google wants, is nonsense.

For four reasons, with optimism says Ross Douthat (2), we must return to the Humanities studies, namely: Religion and Theology contain categorical moral imperatives, that improves our occidental civilization; History is not an archive of evil acts, but of political and ethnic wisdom; our cultural liberal identity was founded on classical literature authors, such as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Joyce, Shaw, Tennyson, Browning, etc.; we must fight against the fascist infantilizing ideologies promoted in the Mass Media, which are already an “Totalitarian Machine”. “Truth is replaced by useful knowledge” (Under Which Lyre) is an Auden´s false verse. “Truth” is an idea that is the heuristic origin of logical and useful scientific knowledge. This is easy to demonstrate.

Immanuel Kant, in the 1787´s Preface of the Critique of Pure Reason (3), indicates two psychological faculties, three metaphysical questions and one anthropological mental vice which are not parts or chapters (4) of scientific logic, but of scientific heuristics. The psychological faculties are wit (5) and imagination (6); the metaphysical questions are certitude (7), empirical or intellectual origin of knowledge (8) and taxonomy of objects (9); and, finally, the anthropological vice is prejudice (10).

Imagination is the faculty of represent objects without sensuous data. Wit is the faculty of make accurate inductions. Certitute is what can be tested by theories and experiments. Knowledge comes from concepts and experiences. Objects are classified by their essence, by what is permanent in them. Prejudice is a preconceived concept, an illusory concept. We will see, with these short terms, what faculties, questions and vices arise in the general process of human invention, invention that we divided into seven big moments, and we will see if the Humanities are or are not useful for the improvement of Natural Sciences.

Moment one. Imagine, reader, the following abstract problem: we need to bring matter or energy X from point A to point B by force 1 and container 2. I propose, now, a concrete horological example: we need to make a quartz analog clock. We need, therefore, to bring energy from a battery to a crystal oscillator and an electrical circuit and a stepper motor (11). Both imaginative acts constitute a theoretical conception. An anthropological or cultural mental vice determines such a theoretical conception: the unconscious prejudices. History, in the best way, illuminates ethnic and political prejudices or illusions. Then, History, which is a branch of the Humanities, should be part of scientific heuristics.

Moment two. We need to study, with ingenuous intuition, what energies or matters are useful to solve the horological problem. We need, therefore, to analyze various new energies, stuff and the oscillating crystal. Four metaphysical questions arise: epistemological uncertainty, paralogistic intuitions, lack of precise language and non-recognition of new phenomena. Philosophy, in the best way, theorizes, formalizes epistemology and essences; Paint improves, in the best way, intuition or experiences; Grammar, Dialectics and Rhetoric, together, in the best way weave language or concepts; and Theology, in the best way, teaches contemplation, that is, objective taxonomies. Then, Philosophy, Paint, the “Trivium” and Theology, which are branches of the Humanities, should be part of scientific heuristics.

Moment three. We, now, need to establish the quantities of energy or matter that we can handle or control. Such quantities, such as kilos, volts, etc., are human arbitrariness, that is, synthesis of the human mind. The number 12, remember the reader, is a synthetic proposition result of adding 7 and 5, but also of adding 10 and 2 or 8 and 4. A psychological faculty governs the synthesis: the productive imagination. Pure mathematics, that is, philosophical, in the best way methodizes the imagination, the faculty of representing things without data. Then, pure mathematics, which is a branch of the Humanities, should be part of scientific heuristics.

Moment four. The theoretical conception, the achievements of the ingenuous intuition and the technical and arbitrary synthesis are now, for solving the problem, organized. Another psychological faculty arises in this organization: the wit, which creates new methods. With the rigorous study of the structure of scientific revolutions we avoid, in the best way, repeating old ingenuous inductions, dogmatic methods and authoritarian errors. Then, History, the greatest font of prudence, should be part of scientific heuristics.

After the mentioned moments follows acts as mechanization (moment five), machining or automation (moment six), and structuring various machines (moment seven). In such acts methods are not created, but are obeyed, and the imagination merely reproduces images, and unconscious prejudices rule the mind, and we, without intellectual efforts, work with epistemological certainty, with assertorical intuitions, with technical language, with objects already known. Natural Sciences or useful knowledge without Humanities, without the truth, are mere blind technique; Humanities or truths without Natural Sciences and techniques are useless dogmas.-


(1) Wieseltier, Leon, Among the Disrupted, The New York Times, Jan. 7, 2015.

(2) Douthat, Ross, Oh, the Humanities!, The New York Times, Aug. 8, 2018.

(3) Kant, Immanuel, Kritik der reinen Vernunft. Stuttgart: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1995. See Vorrede zur zweiten Auflage (1787).

(4) The German text says “Capitel” (B VIII).

(5) The German text says “Witze” (ibidem).

(6) The German text says “Einbildungskraft” (ibidem).

(7) The German text says “Gewissheit” (ibidem).

(8) The German text says “Ursprung der Erkenntnisse” (ibidem).

(9) The German text says “Verschiedenheit der Objecte” (ibidem).

(10) The German text says “Vorurtheilen” (ibidem).

(11) Miyota. Retrieved October 1, 2020, from: https://miyotamovement.com/feature/analog-quartz-movements/

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