A trans-historical given

Teaduslugu (FLFI.03.098) [Kevad 2021]

Ruse, Michael 2009. The Darwinian revolution: Rethinking its meaning and significance. PNAS 106(s1): 10040-10047. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0901011106

In response, let us agree at once that focusing on revolutions (in science) does rather skew things in certain ways. Dwelling at length on Darwin carries the danger of ignoring the contributions of others in the 19th century, from the Naturphilosophen (people like the German anatomist Lorenz Oken who saw homologies everywhere) at the beginning to the orthogeneticists (people like the American paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn who thought that evolution has a momentum that carries it beyond adaptive success) at the end. Worse, it gives the impression that unless you have something dramatic and crisis-breaking, the science is of little value. (Ruse 2009: 10040)

Even science must have a "hook" if it is to catch any attention.

The same is true of others, like Herbert Spencer. For all that Spencer, too, hit on the idea of selection, he always thought that Lamarckism is the chief cause of evolutionary change, and while his thinking did influence some, including his big friend Thomas Henry Huxley, he likewise did not swing people in the way that the Origin did. (Ruse 2009: 10041)

Naturally. I'll have to keep this in mind if or when I read them both.

Before the Origin, the evidence for evolution just was not there. If you believe in evolution, you were fueled primarily by ideological reasons. It is true that people knew about homologies, the fossil record was starting to fill out, embryology was suggestive, and so forth. But the full picture was not there. After the origin, being an evolutionist was just plain common sense. And people did become evolutionists. Even church people. With the notable exception of American evangelicals, especially in the South, evolution was accepted. (Ruse 2009: 10042)

Reminiscent of how Lavoisier doubted in the phlogiston theory before he could disprove it (cf. Butterfield 1958: 206).

First, he argued analogically from artificial selection (the work and triumphs of the animal and plant breeders) to natural selection, from something known and seen to something not known and seen. Then he turned around, and showed how evolution through selection throws light on topics across biology, instinct, paleontology, biogeography, systematics, anatomy, embryology, and more. (Ruse 2009: 10042)

But God made the banana specifically for the shape of the human hand!

There certainly was professional evolutonism, particularly that around the German biologist Ernst Haeckel. But, increasingly, a lot of what was produced lost touch with reality as fantabulous tales were spun using the unreliable biogenetic law, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. (Ruse 2009: 10042)

This I recall from some audiobook about the history of biology. If memory serves, Haeckel's wife died and this sent him spiralling, psychologically, and writing a work that gave us many commonplaces (e.g. "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny") but also some nonsense that is nearly undecypherable.

And what you want in museums are displays, with an educational and cultural message. So this is what was supplied. Terrific displays of fossils, especially of all of those dinosaurs now being discovered and brought back from the American West, and all put in a progressive fashion to demonstrate that life may have started as blobs but that it ends as humans, especially white humans. (Ruse 2009: 10042)

Life is truly miraculous, from its humble single-celled beginnings to its pinnacle, Josh.

The official Catholic position, for instance, is that we have souls and these are created and inserted miraculously into human frames, actually, human zygotes. And this obviously is but one end of the spectrum that goes all of the way, through the kind of directed evolution allowed by some members of the intelligent design theorists, across the hard-line young earth creationists who think that humans were created miraculously on the sixth day. (Ruse 2009: 10043)

Why stop at zygotes? Perhaps there are billions of half-souls trapped in our testicles and ovaries waiting to be made whole.

When, to take a particularly egregious example, German general Friedrich von Bernhardi claimed that Darwin showed that might is right and that the Motherland has almost an obligation to seize from its neighbors, he owed little to the old evolutionist who had worked away in his study in the English countryside. One might as much credit Plato because the doctrine more closely resembled the thinking of Thrasymachus in the Republic. Today one has similar divisions. For instance, philosopher Peter Singer has claimed the authority of Darwin for an explicitly left-wing manifesto. Philosopher Larry Arnhart has no less enthusiastically claimed Darwin's support for a right-wing view of society. (Ruse 2009: 10043)

"Trasymachus [...] was the first to discover period and colon". What? How do you discover punctuation marks?

And in confirmation of Kuhn, this is where we tend to get the nastiness: Sedgwick writing irate letters to the newspaper about Darwin's methodology; Bishop Wilberforce sneering at Huxley's ancestry; Owen doing everything he could to give the Darwinians a bad name; and so forth. There were certainly vigorous debates about the science, but rarely did the science itself cause unpleasantness. It was always (as in the Huxley-Owen squabble over the brain) in the cause of the bigger metaphysical picture. (Ruse 2009: 10045)

As with flame wars online: whatever particular is in question, ultimately it comes down to the general world-views of the participants.

Less paradoxically, let us say that a complex phenomenon like the Darwinian revolution demands many levels of understanding. Blunt instruments will fail us as we try to understand scientific change. It is necessary to tease strands apart and consider them individually as we try to understand and to assess what is going on. (Ruse 2009: 10046)

Throwing putty does little. What are needed are sharpened instruments.

Ghiselin, Michael T. 2005. The Darwinian Revolution as Viewed by a Philosophical Biologist. Journal of the History of Biology 38:123-136. DOI: 10.1007/s10739-004-6513-2

Even though the crucial breakthrough that resulted from reading Malthus would seem to have come to him in a moment, the Origin was the product of some 20 years of study and reflection. We know that he only gradually abandoned the old ways of thinking and replaced them with the new. (Ghiselin 2005: 124)

Likewise with The Expression of the Emotions, for which he reportedly collected materials for several decades.

The layperson's travesty of evolution has been that man is descended from an ape: it has not changed much since Darwin's day. The twentieth-century historian's travesty of evolution has been that although the [|] Darwinian Revolution succeeded with respect to evolution, so far as natural selection goes, it was a non-event. Both of these travesties are at once closer to reality and farther from reality than one might think. (Ghiselin 2005: 124-125)

It is truly tragic that Harambe was killed before he could evolve into a human.

The problem of intellectual retooling is particularly difficult because the old assumptions and ways of thinking often persist, whether explicitly, implicitly, or unconsciously, as a part of intellectual tradition. A great deal of that which is implied or unconscious is there because it is taken over uncritically, perhaps from every day life, perhaps from what we have been taught in school, perhaps through indoctrination as a graduate student. (Ghiselin 2005: 125)

Permanent dynamic synchrony in the realm of scientific assumptions or ideology.

Pre-Darwinians conceived of change as something superficial, and in that sense they did not treat it as real. This is clear from the way in which they attempted to relate organic evolution to the kinds of change with which they were already familiar. If the world was created, then it had pre-existed in the Mind of the Creator and therefore evolution was the unfolding of something that already existed but had not yet been realized. (Ghiselin 2005: 126)

The archetype/ectype question in the realm of evolution/creation. Cabbits

There is no way in which an "ought" can be justified by an "is" once the teleological assumptions that underlie such efforts have been rejected. Whatever is is trite. But efforts along such lines have been pervasive, and it is obvious that the teleology is still being presupposed, as it is in other contexts, perhaps without the proponents even being aware of what they are doing. (Ghiselin 2005: 129)

A kind of ontology in four words.

Everything could be arranged in a single series from lower to higher. That conception underlay Lamarck's approach to taxonomy. It was also integral to Lamarck's notion of progress: a law of nature necessitated that animals would evolve so as to become increasingly like man, unless something interfered. There was an implicit theosophical assumption driving Lamarck's thinking. (Ghiselin 2005: 130)

Again, they interfered with evolution when they took that shot at the gorilla, hindering him from actualizing his full evolutionary potential and becoming a real estate agent in Akron.

The rejection of typology, or essentialism, has often been treated as one of the most important features of the Darwinian Revolution. However the essences of "essentialism" that are invoked by its critics all too often reveal that essentialism has been dealt with only at a very [|] superficial level. The priority of the concrete implies that what is causally important is particular things, not abstractions. That does imply that individual organisms are important, and that when dealing with evolutionary problems we must not screen out variation or think of groups in terms of stereotypes. (Ghiselin 2005: 130-131)

The problem of essentialism in attempts at typologization should also be examined in semiotics. Abstract typologies without concrete examples are... typical.

Supposedly, Scholastic notions about definition in terms of necessary and sufficient defining properties could be replaced by more "Wittgensteinian" notions of family resemblances, disjunctive or polythetic definitions, fuzzy sets, or whatever. But there is no reason why a Platonic Idea cannot be conceptualized as somewhat elastic, fuzzy, or even muddled. A timeless and eternal pattern can still be assumed to underlie appearances. Both the distinction between essential and accidental characters and the notion that the essential limits cannot be passed are unaffected. (Ghiselin 2005: 131)

As I (currently, without yet having read him) understand it, we don't have, by definition, access to Platonic ideas to confirm their distinctness or indistinctness.

Morphology has been somewhat modernized by the adoption of cladistic techniques and new materials such as sequence data. However, many who have embraced cladism are retread typologists who continue to think as if only the algorithms had changed. One wonders why they continue to use the nomenclature of eighteenth century occult metaphysics rather than modern science. Why do they talk about Baupläne, instead of anatomical diagrams? Why do they talk about archetypes, rather than common ancestry? Why do they say that synapomorphies define groups, rather than diagnose them? (Ghiselin 2005: 132)

A terminological permanent dynamic synchrony in the field of morphology.

Orr, H. Allen 2009. Darwin and Darwinism: The (Alleged) Social Implications of The Origin of Species. Genetics 183: 767-772. DOI: 10.1534/genetics.109.110445

In the decades that followed the publication of The Origin of Species, it was often suggested that Darwin's work had implications for the economic order. Darwinism, it was said, demonstrated the effectiveness of competition and provided a defense of capitalism. This claim is, at best, only partly true. As many have emphasized, the full story is far more complex and interesting. (Orr 2009: 767)

Taking the surplus value of your workers makes you better adapted?

Taken to their extreme, Darwinian defenses of laissez-faire capitalism shaded into arguments for full-blown Social Darwinism of the sort often associated with Herbert Spencer: competition in human society may be ruthless but it is natural, inevitable - and defensible scientifically. (Orr 2009: 768)

This I'll have to find out when I read him beyond that one paper.

Nonetheless, it's tricy to see how an economic situation that suggested a biological theory can be simultaneously justified by that theory, an objection that goes back at least to Engels. In any case, folk sociology probably reveals as much as scholarly history here. (Orr 2009: 768)

"Folk psychology" is familiar enough, but "folk sociology" is new. Is there a "folk politology" or "folk semiotics", too?

To Darwin, the challenge of adaptation was that of simultaneously reforming and preserving a species. A species must be able to change those aspects of its [|] phenotype that require improvement without thereby wrecking the intricate arrangement of parts that characterizes any living thing. Darwin and his intellectual heirs concluded that the answer to this challenge was change that is gradual. In a phrase, successful change must be evolutionary, not revolutionary. (Orr 2009: 768-769)

Not that far off from the "permanent dynamic synchrony" I've evoked several times here already. Innovations reform, archaisms preserve.

The second component of the argument - the necessity of gradual change in complex systems - can also be found in pre-Darwinian political thought. In my own reading, I have been struck by the similarity between Edmund Burke's arguments for the wisdom of gradual change in politics and Darwin and Fisher's arguments in biology. Burke (1729-1797), an Irish political thinker and member of Parliament, is best remembered as a father of modern conservative political philosophy. Shaken by the turmoil that followed the revolution in 1789, Burke (1790) produced his best-known work, Reflections on the Revolution in France. (Orr 2009: 769)

Even Estonian conservatives are bouncing on this guy's D - see Edmund Burke'i Selts.

In the now well-known words of Brooke (1991, p. 321), these historians have concluded that "[t]here is no such thing as the relationship between science and religion." In some places and at some times, science and religion have conflicted (e.g., the Galileo affair, although even here matters were more complex than they first appear). In other places and times, they have lived in harmony (e.g., the Church was a leading patron of astronomical research). And, just as often, science and religion have been indifferent to each other (e.g., Pauling's discovery of beta-sheets caused little stir in Sunday schools). (Orr 2009: 771)

Well, beta-sheets have no bearing upon religious dogmas, whereas evolutionary theory makes the story of genesis look like the fairy-tale it is.

The appearance of The Origin of Species came as a great shock to Victorian culture and many, in the wake of the Darwinian revolution, felt their world to be upended. Darwinism, they concluded, perhaps hastily, had changed everything. Moreover, among those with a political or cultural agenda, the temptation to overextend or otherwise exploit a scientific theory can be strong (if often unconscious). (Orr 2009: 772)

My favourite example, for which I am currently unable to find the citation, is that William James read Darwin and fell into a decade long depression because of it.

Claeys, Gregory 2000. The "Survival of the Fittest" and the Origins of Social Darwinism. Journal of the History of Ideas 61(2): 223-240. DOI: 10.1353/jhi.2000.0014

Darwin was extraordinarily widely read and extraordinarily influential. We are all aware of the great theological debates associated with his name in late Victorian Britain, of the counter-attack against Darwin begun by Bishop Wilberforce in June 1860, and of the tenacious war of attrition conducted by "Darwin's bulldog," T. H. Huxley, who coined the term "agnostic" in 1869 to define the lack of scientific evidence for the existence of God. Much has been written of the moral panic and growing loss of religious faith, paralleling the course of darwin's own "reluctant agnosticism," which followed the conclusion that human beings had been levelled to the status of animals and deprived of a special Providential creation as well as any divine purpose in the perpetuation of their species. (Claeys 2000: 225)

Wow. This is surprising but makes perfect sense.

With the extension of the doctrine that "Might is Right" to international conflict and the rendering of Darwinism "in terms of efficiency resting on force," warfare between nations at a time of critical intra-European economic, military, and imperial competition was increasingly praised as a salutary means of testing the criteria of survival. Selfishness, personal and national, seemed to be the prescribed law of social evolution. To assist the weak by any form of mutual aid was to act as "the persistent enemy of progress." The Darwinian world-view, "red in tooth and claw," thus seemingly legitimated both social and international warfare. (Claeys 2000: 226)

Is this why conservatives/rightists are vehemently opposed to helping anyone but themselves?

It is a mistake, therefore, to presume that there was a single "poritics" of Social Darwinism or that all forms of Social Darwinism were illiberal. Evolutionist perspectives bolstered liberal arguments in a number of notable instances. In Walter [|] Bagehot's Physics and Politics (1872), for example, liberal democracy was touted as most likely to ensure progress towards higher forms of social development, primarily because political freedom ensured the wider circulation of competing ideals and people. (Claeys 2000: 228-229)

This seems to have survived in the figure of "the marketplace of ideas". Bagehot's Physics and Politics is available.

For Malthus of course did propose gradually abolishing the poor laws as a means of ensuring that the natural and necessary course of nature was not stemmed by human error. Benevolent assistance did not aid the poor but weakened their prospects for survival by undermining their desire for independence, augmenting population, and indulging idleness without increasing the food supply. (Claeys 2000: 231)

This reads like a summary of the whole American political discourse about black single mothers. From tha end of the page: "In 1834, poverty was believed to be chiefly a function of character. Assisting the poor prevented them from supporting themselves." (ibid, 231) - Too many Americans appear to believe in this in 2021 still.

In the mid-1860s Darwin himself became in effect a Social Darwinist, and came increasingly to hope that the optimal outcome of human natural selection would be the triumph of "the intellectual and moral" races over the "lower and more degraded ones." It must be stressed that this was not the inevitable outcome of the logic of the Origin of Species nor the only path Darwin might have trod but the specific result of his reaction to a variety of critics and fellow philosophers. In this sense too, then, "Social Darwinism" was not as such "Darwinian" but the result of Darwin's acceptance of other interpretations of evolutionary theory, some of which were incorporated into the Descent of Man. (Claeys 2000: 237)

How is morality hereditary? How does it apply to a whole race? Are there genetic markers for moral choices?

Hull, David L. 2005. Deconstructing Darwin: Evolutionary Theory in Context. Journal of the History of Biology 38:137-152. DOI: 10.1007/s10739-004-6514-1

For almost a half-century students of science have disagreed fundamentally about what influences science. Put too crudely this controversy is between "internalists" and "externalists." The traditional internalist view is that reason, argument and evidence play the major role in science. Other factors at times also enter into science, but the influence of these factors is treated as being extraneous if not downright detrimental. [|] Chief among these "other factors" are sociopolitical factors. Darwin lived in a competitive, individualistic, dog-eat-dog society. So the story goes, Darwin came up with a scientific theory that was just as competitive, individualistic and dog-eat-dog as Victorian society because of his experience in Victorian England. (Hull 2005: 137-138)

A short breakdown of these terms. Internalist factors (reason, argument and evidence) are removed from the context, whereas the externalist factors include economic, social, and political aspects.

What is more, Darwin's contemporaries accepted Darwin's theory because it fit in so nicely with this very same view of society. For example, according to Alexander Vicinich, Karl von Baer thought that the "Darwinian theory was popular not because of its scientific merits but because it was in full harmony with the materialist bent of modern ideologues." (Hull 2005: 138)

For some reason our two-kroon-boy keeps popping up in recent readings (cf. e.g. Gomperz 1901a, where he was mentioned several times, more than anyone else).

In Darwin's own day, students of science saw an interplay between Darwin's theory and politico-economical theories. For example, Charles Sanders Peirce claimed that the "Origin of Species of Darwin merely extends politico-economical views of progress to the entire realm of animals and vegetable life." It is the "Gospel of Greed." Here Peirce is explicit with respect to politico-economic views. They are views, not causes. (Hull 2005: 140)

Would not have expected to meet Peirce here, though it's on point. James, Peirce, Baldwin, etc. were all in some sense reacting to Darwin's work (cf. e.g. Peirce's "Evolutionary Love").

The familiar claim is that Darwin and later Wallace read the socio-economic views of Malthus into their biological theories. What is rarely, if ever, mentioned is that Malthus himself begins his treatise by reasoning from biology to human beings. In the opening pages of the 1803 edition of his famous book, Malthus begins by noting the fecundity of plants and animals and then goes on to apply these observations to human beings. For example, if all the people in the world except Englishmen were removed from the face of the earth, within a few ages it would become completely replenished. (Hull 2005: 141)

A sort of scientific "dialogism". From nature to society and back.

The social constructivists are certainly right about Victorian society being dog-eat-dog. All you have to do is read Dickens to get a feel for exactly how brutal the early years of capitalism were in England. The data on the period are staggering. Of the children put in work houses, 85% died before they were old enough to leave. But Victorians could also be extreme maudlin, especially when it came to faithful dogs and little match girls, but not sufficiently concerned to do much about these conditions. Instead they introduce Poor Laws that were so harsh that one might suspect that they were devised to make poor people strive even harder to free themselves from poverty. Herbert Spencer for one thought that these laws were not stringent enough. (Hull 2005: 142)

Never forget that these are your class-enemies.

Numerous scholars have complained that Wallace did not get the credit he deserved for the genesis of evolutionary theory. This tradition has been continued with respect to the reception of evolutionary theory. Wallace gets even less credit - and for good reason. The papers by Darwin and Wallace appeared in 1859 and caused hardly a ripple. It was Darwin's Origin of Species that raised all the hubbub. If Wallace had returned to England immediately upon discovering the fate of his paper and started publishing on the evolution of species, we might today refer to the Darwin-Wallace Theory. As it was, Wallace did not return to England until 1862 and did not publish his Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection untyl 1870. Whatever the early reception of evolutionary theory, Wallace did not play much of a role in it. (Hull 2005: 148)

An instance of the role of intrigue in science. They say "publish or perish" but if you publish something no-one reads and feels compelled to "forward", how is it different from perishing?

Shapin, Steven 2006. The Man of Science. In: Daston, Lorraine; Park, Katharine (eds.), The Cambridge History of Science Vol. 3: Early Modern Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 179-191. [ESTER]

The significance of the priestly role for contemporary appreciations of the proper relationship between natural knowledge and religion cannot be overemphasized. When some seventeenth-century practitioners circulated a conception of natural philosophers as "priests of nature," they meant to display the theological equivalence of the Books of Nature and Scripture and also to imbue scientific work with the aura surrounding the formally religious role. (Shapin 2006: 181)

There's a perfect identification in those religionists who consider god to be nature.

The man of science, and almost all specific versions thereof, represented a subset of the early modern learned classes. By construing the investigation of nature as an act within learned culture, one is immediately marking out a massively importance social division in early modern Europe, that between those who were literate and those who were not, between those who had passed through formal schooling and those who had not. European cultures did differ in the extent to which their populations were schooled, and therefore literate, but, in general, the fractions of the literate was very small and that of the learned even smaller. (Shapin 2006: 182)

This cannot be undertaken. There are probably more learned people in modern Estonia today than there were in the whole of europe two to three centuries ago.

Throughout the early modern period, universities outside Italy were widely under church control - the Reformation splitting the institutional nature of that control but not, with some important exceptions, diluting it. The universities had as one of their major purposes the training of individuals for clerical roles, and membership in the clergy, or formal subscription to church doctrine, were very general conditions for matriculation, graduation, or entry to the fellowship and professoriate. (Shapin 2006: 184)

Of course I believe your nonsense, please let me study.

The Royal Society of London was a notable site in which such sentiments were expressed, whereas in Germany Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's (1646-1716) plans for a state-supported scientific academy stressed the importance of selecting persons who were not only knowledgeable but who were "also endowed with a unique goodness of mind; in whom rivalry and jealousy are wanting; who will not use despicable devices to appropriate for themselves the labors of others; who are not factitious and have no wish to be regarded as the founders of sects; who labor for love of learning and not for ambition or sordid pay." (Shapin 2006: 185)

Why even take up higher education if you can't become a leader of your own cult?

Scholars might in many cases be genuinely respected by gentle society, but that society importantly distinguished the roles of the gentleman and the professional scholar or pointed to features of the scholar's "character" that handicapped his ability to take part in gentlemanly conversation. Particular targets of criticism were the scholar's traditional isolation, his "morose" or "melancholic" complexion, his tendency toward disputation, and his pedantry. (Shapin 2006: 188)

"For such knowledge as this of yours much servile labor and memory work are required, so that a man is rendered unskilful, since he has contemplated nothing but the words of books and has given his mind with useless result to the consideration of the dead signs of things." (Campanella 1901: 151)

Daston, Lorraine 1992. Objectivity and the Escape from Perspective. Social Studies of Science 22(4): 597-618. [JSTOR]

Current usage allows us to apply the word as an approximate synonym for the empirical (or, more narrowly, the factual); for the scientific, in the sense of public, empirically reliable knowledge; for impartiality-unto-self-effacement [|] and the cold-blooded restraint of the emotions; for the rational, in the sense of compelling assent from all rational minds, be they lodged in human, Martian, or angelic bodies; and for the 'really real', that is to say, objects in themselves independent of all minds except, perhaps, that of God. (Daston 1992: 597-598)

"Objectivity" in premodern usage - archetypes in the mind of god.

Among philosophers, those who have written analytically about objectivity recognize (or exemplify) the conceptual fault lines that sunder its various meanings, but all nevertheless treat it as a trans-historical given. Few of these recent studies, even those most directly concerned with objectivity in the sciences or with the historical context in which objectivity allegedly emerged once and for all, seriously entertain the hypothesis that objectivity might have an ongoing history intimately linked to the history of scientific practices and ideals. (Daston 1992: 598)

The common enemy of all historians - ahistoricity. Objectivity, indeed, comes across as tran-historical almost by definition or tautology - objectivity is objective.

Only in the middle decades of the nineteenth century was aperspectival objectivity imported and naturalized into the ethos of the natural sciences, as a result of a reorganization of scientific life that multiplied professional contacts at every level, from the international commission to the well-staffed laboratory. Aperspectival objectivity became a scientific value when science came to consist in large part of communications that crossed boundaries of nationality, training and skill. Indeed, the essence of aperspectival objectivity is communicability, narrowing the range of genuine knowledge to coincide with that of public knowledge. In the extreme case, aperspectival objectivity may even sacrifice deeper or more accurate knowledge to the demands of communicability. (Daston 1992: 600)

This is curious. Wasn't the medieval intercommunication in latin an analogous case? Did aperspectival objectivity emerge amongst the scholastics?

The terms 'objective' and 'subjective' were native to scholastic philosophy, where they signified something quite different from what they do now: 'objective' pertained chiefly to objects of thought, rather than those of the external world. These terms were of ontological, not epistemological import in late medieval discussions of universals, and were flavoured with a strong Augustinian aftertaste: truly real objects were ideas in the divine mind. (Daston 1992: 600)

Oh, yeah: Latin objectum, 'thing presented to the mind'. Finite human minds naturally a reduced images of infinite divine mind.

These are citations taken more or less at random, and they witness rather than fix the meaning of the word 'objectivity' during this period. It is Kant who appropriated the old scholastic derivative objektiv as a technical term and gave it a new lease on life as a key concept in philosophy, albeit a concept that still differs significantly from our own. Kant's 'objective validity' (objektive Gültigkeit) pertains not to external objects in se, but rather to the relational categories (such as time, space and causality) which are the preconditions of experience. For our purposes, Kant's own use of the term is less important than its adoption and adaptations by less nice-minded followers, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was Coleridge who seems to have re-introduced the term into English philosophical usage in 1817, and it was his creative misunderstanding of Kant that crystallized an opposition of objective and subjective which we can at last readily recognize if not wholly embrace:
Now the sum of all that is merely OBJECTIVE we will henceforth call NATURE, confining the term to its passive and material sense, as comprising all the phenomena by which its existence is made known to us. On the other hand the sum of all that is SUBJECTIVE, we may comprehend in the name of SELF or INTELLIGENCE. Both conceptions are in necessary antithesis. Intelligence is conceived of as exclusively representative, nature as exclusively represented; the one conscious, the other as without consciousness.
This Gallop throught the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century usage of the word 'objectivity' and its variants in English, French and German (all deriving and then diverging from the Latin terminology of scholasticism) is intended to make three points. First, 'objectivity' concerned ontology, and, post-Kant, to some measure epistemology in a transcendental vein. It had little or nothing to do with emotional detachment, restraint from judgment, method and measurement, or [|] empirical reliability. Second, its inseparable opposite, subjectivity in the sense of the mental, has yet to become a matter for regret or reproach. On the contrary: Coleridge branded our instinctive belief in the existence of things independent of us a 'prejudice', and though '[t]he highest perfection of natural philosophy would consist in the perfect spiritualization of the laws of nature into the laws of intuition and intellect', Third, the perspectival metaphor that (Daston 1992: 602-603)

Absolutely riveting stuff. Naturally Kant had his hand in this. Quote from Coleridge's Biographia Literaria (1817; Vol. I and Vol. II), which looks exceedingly interesting (cf. e.g. Ch. V, "The laws of association"). As to the use of "objective" and "nature" in his quote, it got me thinking about the "objectification" in young Marx's ramblings about alienation, especially with regard to his odd view of nature.

Kant could use the 'subjective' and the 'empirical', both belittled by a prefatory 'merely', as near-synonyms in his treatment of duty, so remote was his moral conception of objectivity from the natural sciences. (Daston 1992: 606)

Phraseology concerning mereness. I would not have thought to use "prefatory" in this sense.

Charles Sanders Peirce conceived of this necessarily communal form of truth-seeking as proceeding by a kind of symmetric concellation of individual errors:
The individual may not live to reach the truth; there is a residuum of error in every individual's opinions. No matter, it remains that there is a definite opinion to which the mind of man is, on the whole and in the long run, tending [...] This final opinion, then, is independent, not indeed of thought in general, but of all that is arbitrary or individual in thought; it is quite independent of how you, or I, or any number of men think.
The objectively real is not that which eliminates the mental, but that which eliminates individual idiosyncracy through the prolonged 'averaging' of viewpoints by communication. (Daston 1992: 607)

I think about this often whenever "truth" or objectivity is under discussion. The "final interpretant" in the community of inquirers.

Scientific communication also lies near the heart of Gottlob Frege's conception of objectivity, his reputation as a metaphysical Platonist notwithstanding. Frege objected to a psychological treatment of logic because it would make scientific communication impossible: 'Thus, I can also acknowledge thoughts as indepnedent of me. Other men can grasp as much as I: I can acknowledge a science in which many can be engaged in research'. (Daston 1992: 607)

As did Peirce. See his arguments for an unpsychological logic in "On the logic ofscience" (MS 94; 1865).


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