Oct 3, 2005


"Man's quest for knowledge is an expanding series whose limit is infinity, but philosophy seeks to attain that limit at one blow, by a short circuit providing the certainty of complete and inalterable truth. Science meanwhile advances at its gradual pace, often slowing to a crawl, and for peiriods it even walks in place, but eventually it reaches the various ultimate trenches dug by philosophical thought, and, quite heedless of the fact that it is not supposed to be able to cross those final barriers to the intellect, goes right one.

How could this not drive the philosophers to despair? One form of that despair was Positivism, remarkable in its hostility, because it played the loyal ally of science but in fact sought to abolish it. The thing that had undermined and destroyed philosophy, annulling its great discoveries, now was to be severely punished, and Positivism, the false friend, passed that sentence - demonstrating that science could not truly discover anything, inasmuch as it constituted no more than a shorthand record of experience. Positivism desired to muzzle science, to compel it somehow to declare itself helples in all transcendental matters (which, however, as we know, Positivism failed to do).
The history of philosophy is the history of successive and nonidentical retreats. Philosophy first tried to discover the ultimate categories of the world; then the absolute categories of reason; while we, as knowledge accumulates, see more and more clearly philosophy's vulnerability: because every philosopher must regard himself as a model for the entire species, and even for all possible sentient being. But it is science that is the transcendence of experience, demolishing yesterday's categories of thought. Yesterday, absolute space-time was overthrown; today, the eternal alternative between the analytic and the synthetic in propositions, or between determinism and randomness, is crumbling. But somehow it has not occurred to any of our philosophers that to deduce, from the pattern of one's own thoughts, laws that hold for the full set of people, from the eolithic until the day the suns burn out, might be, to put it mildly, imprudent."

-- Stanislaw Lem, His Master's Voice

Lem is a genius. Oh, I just can't wait to show this to some of my more philosophicaly-oriented friends :) There will be a reckoning... :)


martin the great said...

This. Is. Too. Good.

No, seriously. It's like perfectness made flesh, only it's text and not flesh. I've always liked Lem's work, but I'll be damned if THAT isn't the best sentence ever written by Mankind.

Man, I can't wait for my philosophy professor to read this.

Algeroth said...

A)You are already damned.
B)Your philosophy professor? Where have you been hiding him for all the years?
C)Why is this article so special? What new information i missed?

martin the great said...

Bah, real life friends always ruining the fun.

Y'know, -THE- philosophy professor. Or at least what they pass for philosophy professors these days.

Piotr Konieczny said...

D) Algeroth likes bullet points :>

Do you guys have your own blogs?

martin the great said...

Nope, neither of us.

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Voice of the Prokonsul by Piotr Konieczny is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.