4. Infallibility or depth?

Since we are talking about utilitarian, everyday science, the rule is obvious: such science can easily do without mental synthesis; without complex judgements; on the contrary, it finds strength in the extreme simplification of the subject and in the search for the simplest and, as far as possible, all-inclusive set of rules explaining the behaviour of this subject. Scientific ‘truths’ are a series of successively refuted false statements; the least refutable ones at the present moment constitute the ‘scientific picture of the world’. The goal of science, therefore, is not depth but infallible judgements. And infallible judgements cannot be based on generalisations.

The choice of infallibility over depth has been exceptionally fortunate. As it has long been said, ‘the power of science is that it asks nature only those questions that nature can answer’. Yet all the things about which ‘infallible’ judgements are possible have turned out to be of little importance in terms of the fundamental questions of life. Everything essential to human life is nourished (as far as it is still alive) from extra-scientific roots, while the things about which precise, preferably quantitative judgements are possible are the least important for it. Counting, for example, how much paper in ‘War and Peace’, published according to classical orthography, is taken up by hard signs, will not bring us any closer to understanding the meaning of the novel or the significance of the final yer (ъ) in Russian writing. We will simply get another infallible judgement.

Here is the breaking point between philosophy (thought in general) and science: the question of the meaning of things. Judgements about meaning cannot be universally binding. Only the statement that there is no meaning can be universally binding. With the disappearance of meaning, self-cognition has also ended (‘to cognise’ from the point of view of thought means ‘to search for meaning’).

It should be noted and repeated: the scientist (whatever he may say about himself) is not a supreme being; he is not the victor of vestiges; he is not the servant of thought. A scientist is a man who has given up self-cognition for the sake of infallible judgements, i. e. judgements that give power over matter.

Only unimportant questions provide exhaustively accurate answers. The greater the complexity of what is cognised, the less unambiguous are these answers. The cognition of the human will always be uncertain, shaky; based on a vague understanding of hard-to-express laws — in other words, it will never be ‘scientific’.

Science and humanity diverge objectively, not by the ill will of scientists; good intentions can’t fix anything here. Science cannot, in its essence, be a force, much less the only force, determining the development of the individual and society; its field of application is questions of technology and hygiene, important but not essential for those who live and sooner or later are going to die.

As Alexei Losev says: the historian must ‘trace every mythological image, starting from its embryonic state, moving on to its developed and flowering form and ending with its decomposition, inner devastation and death’. What is true of myth is also true of science. Science arises in history, obeys historical laws and suffers, like all historical phenomena, from incompleteness and limitation, finding its complement and correction in other phenomena. The ‘unscientific’ is extra-scientific, but not necessarily false.

The unwillingness to recognise anything beyond their own limits, by the way, is common to mental constructions and their creators. In their exclusive will to win and live, they are like their makers. All powerful mental constructs have a thirst for immortality inherited from the creators (even if those ones do not believe in eternal life); defend themselves like living beings; and see themselves as eternal. Every human construction is limited; each desires an exclusive triumph…

While recognising the merits of science, let us admit that its field of applicability is limited.

Everything human is vague, conjectural. To express the truths about man we need rich, loaded with shades of meaning, saturated with internal connections means of expression; science may express its truths in worn-out clichés, which is what it does in the modern world. It may, but it should not: a scientist of the old world could be a good stylist, but he got the refined style, as well as the culture of thought, from non-scientific sources. (Another feature of science and the world it has imprinted on: simple thoughts require simple forms, and infallible judgements are always simple. This does not depend on the will of the scientist; such is the nature of the things with which he deals. The language of pre-prepared clichés, words and borrowings taken indiscriminately from other languages is simple in use, but it ruins the generalising ability, because simplicity is contrary to generalisation). [1]

Infallible judgements, in essence, are unambiguous answers to questions that have no two interpretations. This is the meaning of the scientific method. This is also its divergence from (call it what you like) the sphere of culture and spirit. Everything human — the higher, the further — implies ambiguity of answers, excess of meanings.

With an excess of meanings, the scientific method does not know what to do; its power has no use here. ‘Scientific’ interpretation of Dostoevsky is not worth the paper spent on it. In the realm of the spirit, science is left with nothing but descriptiveness: ‘Dostoevsky and Socialism’, ‘Dostoevsky and the Woman Question’, ‘Dostoevsky and Sexuality’. The topics are innumerable and always irrelevant to Dostoevsky the writer and the human being. The essence of the human is multiple meanings, multiple connections, depth and freedom of manifestation, from the highest to the lowest. The art of obtaining unambiguous answers to unambiguous questions does not help the study of man.

[1] It is not by chance that in 1918, under the flag of ‘science’, a spelling was introduced in Russia that is most suitable for those who do not like to think about the meaning of the written word, who want to possess speech without understanding its meaning. Inner-linked orthography makes mental demands that seem superfluous from a purely technical point of view. Why think about a thought, build a grammatically correct sentence in your mind before expressing it on paper? And ‘classical’ spelling requires it. The new spelling principle may have been useful for speeding up writing, but it ruined the written word.

Timofey Sherudilo.
From the book Twilight Time.

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