science + humanities

Mr J.M. Ottevanger (J.Ottevanger@LIVERPOOL.AC.UK)
Tue, 5 Sep 1995 13:22:16 +0100

Perhaps it's a bit late in the day to say this, but my previous attempts have
failed due to a temperamental terminal. I would find it very helpful if before
we go any further with the "Third Culture" debate we defined what we meant by
science and humanities (unless we choose to define the latter as not-the-former)
Do we mean by science any discourse that uses Popperian logic (ill-equipped
though I am to dicuss that), that formulates hypotheses in order to attempt to
destroy and discard them, and thus test their robusticity (and which does not
see them as proved, just not yet disproved)? We probably agree that science
relies on the testability of hypotheses, which puts many supposed scientists on
shaky ground. The humanities seem, as has been noted, to rest on assumptions
that may often have been around so long that they have become part of the
furniture, "facts" by virtue of their familiarity, allowing theory to pile upon
theory in an alarming way. One would hope would cause people to question
the validity of the highest level conclusions. But then, the same problems
apply to science or we would be paralyzed. Is the only difference that
scientists, while treating certain assumptions as facts, will always claim that
they were aware of their theoretical status all along?
I don't know. If anyone's still with me, sorry if I sound muddled. It's just
that at first glance the distinctions between science and humanities seem clear
enough, but they dissolve rapidly when I try to look at them. That is why I
would appreciate someone explaining the supposed differences to me before we go
any further.
THanks, Jeremy.