1. Ludwig Feuerbach, 1843.
2. Smedley Butler, 1933.
3. Karl Popper, 1934, 1959.
Numero Uno—“§ 1The task of the modern era was the realisation and humanisation of God – the transformation and dissolution of theology into anthropology.
§ 2 Protestantism
The religious or practical form of this humanisation was Protestantism. The God who is man, that is to say the human God, Christ, this and only this is the God of Protestantism. Unlike Catholicism, Protestantism is no longer concerned with what God is in himself, but only with what he is for man; hence, it knows no speculative or contemplative tendency like Catholicism. It has ceased to be theology – it is essentially Christology; that is, religious anthropology.
However, Protestantism negated God-in-himself or God as God – for only God-in-himself is, strictly speaking, God – only in practice; theoretically, it left him intact. He exists; however, not for man; that is, the religious man. He is a transcendent being or a being that will one day become an object for man up there in heaven. But that which is other-worldly to religion, is this-worldly to philosophy; what does not constitute an object for the former, does so precisely for the latter.
The rational or theoretical assimilation and dissolution of the God who is other-worldly to religion, and hence not given to it as an object, is the speculative philosophy.
The essence of speculative philosophy is nothing other than the rationalised, realised, actualised essence of God. The speculative philosophy is the true, consistent, rational theology.
§ 6 Theism
Taken as an intelligible (geistig) or an abstract being, that is, regarded neither as human nor as sensuous, but rather as one that is an object for and accessible only to reason or intelligence, God qua God is nothing but the essence of reason itself. But, basing themselves rather on imagination, ordinary theology and Theism regard him as an independent being existing separately from reason. Under these circumstances, it is an inner, a sacred necessity that the essence of reason as distinguished from reason itself be at last identified with it and the divine being thus be apprehended, realised, as the essence of reason. It is on this necessity that the great historical significance of speculative philosophy rests. The proof of the proposition that the divine essence is the essence of reason or intelligence lies in the fact that the determinations or qualities of God, in so far as they are rational or intelligible and not determinations of sensuousness or imagination, are, in fact, qualities of reason.
“God is the infinite being or the being without any limitations whatsoever.” But what cannot be a limit or boundary on God can also not be a limit or boundary on reason. If, for example, God is elevated above all limitations of sensuousness, so, too, is reason. He who cannot conceive of any entity except as sensuous, that is, he whose reason is limited by sensuousness, can only have a God who is limited by sensuousness. Reason, which conceives God as an infinite being, conceives, in point of fact, its own infinity in God. What is divine to reason is also truly rational to it, or in other words, it is a being that perfectly corresponds to and satisfies it. That, however, in which a being finds satisfaction, is nothing but the being in which it encounters itself as its own object. He who finds satisfaction in a philosopher is himself of a philosophical nature. That he is of this nature is precisely what he and others encounter in this satisfaction. Reason “does not, however, pause at the finite, sensuous things; it finds satisfaction in the infinite being alone” – that is to say, the essence of reason is disclosed to us primarily in the infinite being.
“God is the necessary being.” But his necessity rests on the ground that he is a rational, intelligent being. The ground for what the world or matter is does not lie in the world or matter itself, for it is completely indifferent to whether it is or is not, or to why it is so and not otherwise. [It is quite obvious that here, as in all sections where the problem is to deal with, and present the development, of historical phenomena, I do not speak and argue from my point of view, but rather let each phenomenon speak for itself. This applies to my treatment of theism here.] Hence, it must necessarily presuppose another being as its cause, a being that is intelligent and self-conscious and acts according to reasons and goals. For if this being were to be conceived of as lacking intelligence, the question as to its own ground must arise again. The primary and the highest being rests, therefore, on the presupposition that the intellect alone is the being that is primary, highest, necessary, and true. Just as the truth and reality of metaphysical or onto-theological determinations depend on their reducibility to psychological or rather anthropological determinations, so the necessity of the divine being in the old metaphysics or onto-theology has meaning, truth, and reality only in the psychological or anthropological characterisation of God as an intelligent being. The necessary being is one that it is necessary to think of, that must be affirmed absolutely and which it is simply impossible to deny or annul, but only to the extent to which it is a thinking being itself. Thus, it is its own necessity and reality which reason demonstrates in the necessary being.
“God is unconditional, general – ‘God is not this or that particular thing’ – immutable, eternal, or timeless being.” But absoluteness, immutability, eternality, and generality are, according to the judgment of metaphysical theology itself, also qualities of the truths or laws of reason, and hence the qualities of reason itself; for what else are these immutable, general, absolute, and universally valid truths of reason if not expressions of the essence of reason itself?
“God is the independent, autonomous being not requiring any other being in order to exist, hence subsisting entirely by and through itself.” But even this abstract, metaphysical characterisation has meaning and reality only as a definition of the essence of intelligence and, as such, it states only that God is a thinking and intelligent being or, vice versa, that the thinking being is the divine being; for only a sensuous being will need some other being outside itself in order to exist. I need air to breathe, water to drink, light to be able to see, plants and animals to eat, but nothing – not directly at any rate – in order to think. I cannot conceive of a breathing being without air, nor of a seeing being without light, but I can conceive of a thinking being as existing in complete isolation. A breathing being is necessarily referred to a being outside itself, that is to say, it has the essential object, through which it is what it is, outside itself, but the thinking being is referred only to itself, is its own object, carries its essence within itself and is what it is only through itself.
§ 7 Subject & Object
That which is object in theism is subject in speculative philosophy. That which is only the conceived and imagined essence of reason in theism, is the thinking essence of reason itself in speculative philosophy.
The theist represents to himself God as a personal being existing outside reason and man; as a subject, he thinks God as an object. He conceives God as a being, i.e., as an intelligible, non-sensuous being with regard to his idea of it, but as a sensuous being with respect to its actual existence or its truth; for the essential characteristic of an objective existence; i.e., of an existence outside thought or perception, is sensuousness. He distinguishes God from himself in the same sense in which he distinguishes the sensuous objects and beings from himself as existing outside himself; in short, he thinks God from the standpoint of sensuousness. In contrast to this, the speculative theologian or philosopher thinks of God from the standpoint of thought, that is why the distracting idea of a sensuous being does not interpose itself between him and God; and, thus unhindered, he identifies the objective, conceived being with the subjective, thinking being.
The inner necessity by which God is turned from an object of man into his subject, into his thinking ego, can be demonstrated more specifically in the following way: God is an object of man and of man alone and not of the animal. However, what a being is can be known only through its object; the object to which a being is necessarily related is nothing but its own manifest being. Thus, the object of the herbivorous animals is the plant; it is, however, precisely through their object that these are distinguished from other animals, the carnivorous ones. Similarly, the object of the eye is light and not sound or smell, it is through this object that the eye reveals its essence to us. It therefore comes down to the same thing whether someone cannot see or has no eyes. That is also why we name things in life with respect to their objects. The eye is the “light organ.” He who cultivates land is a land cultivator (peasant); someone else, the object of whose activity is hunting, is a hunter; he who catches fish is a fisher, and so forth. Now, if God is an object of man – and he is indeed that necessarily and essentially – the essence of this object expresses nothing but man’s own essence. imagine to yourself that a thinking being on some planet, or even on a comet, happened to glance at a few paragraphs of Christian dogmatics dealing with the being of God. What would this being infer from these paragraphs? Perhaps the existence of a God in the sense of Christian dogmatics? No, its inference would be that the earth, too, is inhabited by thinking beings; in their definitions of God, it would discover only the definitions of their own essence. For example, in the definition “God is spirit,” it would only see the proof and expression of their own spirit; in short, it would infer the essence and the qualities of the subject from those of the object. And with complete justification, because in the case of this particular object the distinction between what the object is in itself and what it is for man dissolves itself. This distinction is valid only in the case of an object which is given in immediate sense perception and which, precisely for that reason, is also given to other beings besides man. Light is there not only for man; it also affects animals, plants, and inorganic substances; it is a being of a general nature. In order to know what light is, we therefore observe not only the impressions and effects it makes upon ourselves, but also upon beings different from us. Hence, in this context, the distinction between the object in itself and the object for us, that is, between the object in reality and the object in our thought and imagination is necessary and objectively founded. God, however, is an object only for man. Animals and stars praise God only in a human sense. It belongs therefore to the essence of God himself that he is not an object of any other being except man, that he is a specifically human object, that he is a secret of man. But, if God is an object only for man, what does his essence disclose to us? Nothing but the essence of man. He whose object is the highest being is himself the highest being. The more man is the object of animals, the higher they must rank, and the closer must their approximation be to man. An animal whose object was man qua man, that is, man in his specific human nature, would itself be a man and no longer simply an animal. Only equal beings are equal objects for one another; that is, beings as they are in themselves. Now, it is true that theism, too, knows the identity of the divine and the human essence, but this identity forms its object only as sensuous identity, only as similarity or affinity, because, even if it grounds the essence of God in the spirit, it conceives God as a sensuous being existing outside man. Affinity expresses the same thing as identity; but concurrently connected with it is the sensuous idea that the related beings are two independents; that is, sensuous, beings existing apart from each other.
§ 8 Theology & Philosophy
Ordinary theology turns the standpoint of man into the standpoint of God; by contrast, the speculative theology turns the standpoint of God into the standpoint of man, or rather into that of the thinker.
For ordinary theology, God is an object just like any other sensuous object; but, at the same time, he is also a subject for it, and, indeed, just like the human subject. God creates things that are apart from himself, he is referred back to himself in a reflexive self-relationship and is related to other things existing apart from him; he both loves and contemplates himself simultaneously with other beings. In short, man makes his thoughts, even his feelings, the thoughts and feelings of God; his own essence and standpoint are made the essence and standpoint of God. Speculative theology, however, reverses this.
In ordinary theology, God is thus a contradiction with himself, for he is supposed to be a non-human, a super-human being, and yet with respect to all his determinations, he is in truth only a human being. In speculative theology or philosophy on the other hand, God is in contradiction to man; he is supposed to be the essence of man – at any rate of reason – but he is in truth a non-human, a super-human, that is, an abstract being. In ordinary theology, the super-human God is only an edifying phrase, a mere idea, a toy of fantasy; in speculative philosophy, on the other hand, he is truth, bitter seriousness. The acute contradiction experienced by speculative philosophy arose from the fact that it turned God, who in theism is merely a being of fantasy, an indefinite, nebulous and remote being, into a definite and encounterable being, thus destroying the illusory magic which a distant being has in the blue haze of the imagination. No wonder then that the theists have been vexed by the circumstance that although Hegel’s Logic understands itself as the presentation of God in his eternal, world-antecedent essence, it nevertheless deals – for example, in the doctrine of magnitude – with extensive and intensive quantity, fractions, powers, proportions, etc. How, they exclaimed in horror, can this God be our God? And yet, what else is this God if not the God of theism who has been drawn out of the fog of the imagination and brought into the light of the determining thought; the God of theism who has created and ordered everything according to measure, number and weight taken, so to speak, by his word? If God has ordered and created everything according to number and measure; that is, if measure and number, before they assumed reality in things existing apart from God, were contained in the intelligence and, hence, in the essence of God – and there is no difference between God’s intelligence and his essence – does not, then, mathematics, too, belong to the mysteries of theology? But of course there is a world of difference between what something appears to be in the imagination and what it is in truth and reality. No wonder then that the one and the same thing appears as two completely different things to those who rely only on appearance.
The essential qualities or predicates of the Divine Being are the essential qualities or predicates of speculative philosophy.
§ 10 Speculative Philosophy
God is pure spirit, pure essence, pure activity – actus purus – without passions, without predicates imposed from outside, without sensuousness, without matter. The speculative philosophy is this pure spirit, this pure activity realised as an act of thought – the absolute being as absolute thought.
Just as once the abstraction from all that is sensuous and material was the necessary condition of theology, so it was also the necessary condition of speculative philosophy, the only difference being that the abstraction of theology was itself a sensuous abstraction (or ascetics) because its object, although arrived at through abstraction, was nevertheless conceived as a sensuous being, whereas the abstraction of speculative philosophy is only spiritual and ideated, having only a scientific or theoretical, but no practical, meaning. The beginning of Cartesian philosophy – namely, the abstraction from sensuousness and matter – is also the beginning of modern speculative philosophy. But Descartes and Leibniz regarded this abstraction only as a subjective condition for cognising the non-material being of God; they conceived the non-materiality of God as an objective quality independent of abstraction and thought. Theirs was still the standpoint of theism, that is to say, they considered the non-material being as the object and not as the subject, i.e., the active principle, the real essence of philosophy itself. It is of course true that God, in both Descartes and Leibniz is the principle of philosophy, but only as an object distinguished from thought and hence a principle only in a general sense and only imagination, but not in reality and truth. God is only the first and the general cause of matter, movement, and activity; the particular movements and activities, the definite and concrete material things are, however, considered and cognised independently of God. Leibniz and Descartes are idealists only in a general sense, but when it comes to particular things they are materialists. God is the only consistent, perfect, and true idealist because he alone perceives things in complete freedom from darkness or, in the sense of Leibniz’s philosophy, without the mediation of the senses and the imagination; he is pure intellect, that is, pure in the sense of being separated from all sensuousness and materiality; for him, material things are therefore pure creatures of the intellect, pure thoughts; for him, matter does not exist at all because its possibility is anchored only in dark, that is, sensuous, perceptions And yet man, according to Leibniz, carries within himself a good portion of idealism, for how else would it be possible for him to conceive a non-material being without possessing a non-material faculty and, consequently, non-material perceptions? In addition to the senses and the imagination, man possesses intellect and the intellect is precisely a non-material, a pure being because it thinks; the human intellect, however, is not quite as pure as the divine intellect or the Divine Being because it lacks pure infinity and extension. Man, or rather this man Leibniz, is therefore only a partial, a semi-idealist, whereas God alone is a complete idealist, “the Perfect Philosopher” as Wolff expressly calls him. This means that God is the idea underlying the absolute idealism of the later speculative philosophy, but only in its completed form and only as unfolded in all its details. For what after all is the intellect and what, in general, the essence of God? Nothing other than the intellect and nothing other than the essence of man, though severed from the determinations that, at a given time, constitute the limitations of man, no matter whether real or imaginary. He whose intellect is not at odds with his senses, he who does not take the senses to be a limitation, also does not take the intellect without the senses to be the highest, the true intellect. What else is the idea of a thing if not its essence having been purged of the limitations and obscurations to which it is subject on account of its coexistence with other things in reality? Thus, according to Leibniz, the limitation of the human intellect arises out of the fact that it is burdened with materialism, that is to say, with dark perceptions; and these dark perceptions spring only from the circumstance that the being of man is interrelated with other beings, that it finds itself in the context of the world. This relatedness, however, does not apply to the essence of the intellect; rather, it is in contradiction to it, because the intellect in itself; that is, according to its idea, is something non-material or something which is for itself – an isolated being. And this idea, this intellect, purged of all materialistic perceptions is precisely the divine intellect. But what was just an idea with Leibniz became truth and reality in later philosophy. The absolute idealism is nothing but the realised divine intellect of Leibnizian theism, nothing but pure intellect which has been systematically unfolded, which strips all things of their sensuousness turning them into pure entities of intellect and thought, and which, unhampered by anything alien, is occupied with itself alone as the essence of all essences.
God is a thinking being; but the objects that he thinks and encompasses in himself are, like his own intellect, not distinguished from his being, so that in thinking other things he thinks only himself and thus persists in an uninterrupted unity with himself. But this unity of the thinking and the thought is precisely the secret of speculative philosophy.
Thus, for example, in the Logic of Hegel the objects of thought are not distinguished from the essence of thought. Here thought exists in an uninterrupted unity with itself; the objects of thought are only the determinations of thought itself, that is, they have nothing in themselves that would resist their complete dissolution in thought. But that which is the essence of Logic is also the essence of God. God is a spiritual and an abstract being; but he is at the same time both the essence of all beings and that which encompasses all beings so as to form a unity with his abstract essence. But what are these beings that are identical with an abstract and spiritual being? They are themselves abstract beings – thoughts. As things are in God, so they are not outside God; they are just as distinguished from the real things as the things constituting the object of Logic are from those given as the objects real perception. To what, therefore, is the distinction between the divine and the metaphysical thought reducible? Only to the one imaginary distinction – that between imaginary and real thought.
The difference between God’s knowledge or thought, which precedes and creates all things as their archetype, and man’s knowledge, which follows things as their copy, is nothing but the difference between a priori, or speculative, and a posteriori, orempirical knowledge.
Although theism looks upon God as a thinking or spiritual being, it regards him at the same time as a sensuous being. Hence, it directly links sensuous and material effects with the thought and will of God – effects that are in contradiction to the essence of thought and will, expressing nothing more than the power of nature. Such a material effect – hence merely an expression of sensuous power – is above all the creation or bringing forth of the real material world. Speculative theology, on the other hand, transforms this sensuous activity which contradicts the essence of thought into a logical or theoretical activity; the material creation of the object into a speculative creation out of the Notion. In theism, the world is a temporal product of God – the world exists for several million years, but God’s existence antedates this; in speculative theology, on the other hand, the world or nature comes after God only according to rank or significance; the accident presupposes the substance, and nature presupposes logic according to the notion and not according to sensuous existence and, hence, not according to time.
Theism, however, attributes to God not only speculative but also sensuous and empirical knowledge understood in its highest perfection. But just as God’s pre-worldly and object-antecedent knowledge has found its realisation, truth, and reality in the a priori knowledge of speculative philosophy, so too has the sensuous knowledge of God found its realisation, truth, and reality in the empirical sciences of the modern era. The most perfect and, hence, divine, sensuous knowledge is therefore nothing but the most sensuous of all knowledge, the knowledge of the tiniest minutiae and of the most inconspicuous details – “God is omniscient,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “because he knows even the most particular things” – the knowledge that does not just indiscriminately put the hair on the human head together into a tuft, but counts and knows each one of it, hair for hair. But this divine knowledge, which is only a matter of imagination and fantasy in theology, became the rational and real knowledge of the natural sciences produced through the telescope and microscope. Natural science has counted the stars in the sky, the ova in the spawn of fish and butterflies, and the dots on the wings of the insects in order to distinguish one from the other; alone in the caterpillar of the willow moth, it has anatomically demonstrated the existence of 288 muscles in the head, 1,647 in the body, and 2,186 in the stomach and intestines. What more can one ask? We have here a clear example of the truth that man’s idea of God is the idea of the human individual of his own species, that God as the totality of all realities and perfections is nothing other than the totality of the qualities of the species compendiously put together in him for the benefit of the limited individual, but actually dispersed among men and realising themselves in the course of world history. In terms of its quantitative scope, the field of the natural sciences is too vast for any single individual to traverse. Who will be able to count the stars in the sky and at the same time the muscles and nerves in the body of the caterpillar? Lyonet lost his sight over the anatomy of the willow caterpillar. Who is able to observe simultaneously both the differences of height and depth on the moon and at the same time observe the differences of the innumerable ammonites and terebrates? But what one man cannot accomplish and does not know, can be accomplished and known by all men collectively. Thus, the divine knowledge that knows each particular thing simultaneously has its reality in the knowledge of the species.
What is true of the Divine Omniscience is true also of the Divine Omnipresence which has equally realised itself in man. While one man heeds what is going on on the moon or Uranus, someone else observes Venus, or the entrails of the caterpillar, or some other place never penetrated by the human eye under the erstwhile reign of an omniscient and omnipresent God. Indeed, while man observes this star from the standpoint of Europe, he also observes it simultaneously from the standpoint of America. What is absolutely impossible for one man alone to achieve is possible for two. But God is present in all places at one and the same time and knows everything simultaneously and completely. Of course. But it must be noted that this omniscience and omnipresence exists only in the imagination and fantasy, and we must not lose sight of the important distinction between the merely imagined and the real things we have already mentioned several times. In the imagination, to be sure, one can survey the 4,059 muscles of a caterpillar in one glance, but in reality, where they exist apart from one another, they can be viewed only one at a time. Thus, the limited individual can also conceive in his imagination the whole extent of human knowledge as limited, but if he really wanted to make it his own, he would never reach the point where it ends. Take just one science – say history – as an example, and try in thought to “dissolve” world history into the history of the individual countries, these into the history of individual provinces, these again into the chronicles of towns, and the chronicles, finally, into family histories and biographies. Would it ever be possible for one single man to arrive at the point where he could exclaim: “Here, at this point, I stand at the end of the historical knowledge of mankind!” In the same way, our life span – both the past as well as the possible future – appears to us in the imagination as extraordinarily short, no matter how long we extend it; and we feel compelled to make good this evanescent brevity by an infinite and unending life after death. But how long in reality does a day, or just an hour, last! Whence this difference? From the following: Time in the imagination is empty time, that is, a nothing between the beginning and the termination of our reckoning of it; the real life span is, however, fulfilled time where mountains of difficulties of all kinds lie midway between the now and the then.
§ 13 God & Man
The beginning of speculative philosophy, in so far as it is a beginning without any presuppositions whatsoever, is nothing else than the beginning without presuppositions, or the aseity of the Divine Being. Theology distinguishes between active and reposing qualities of God. Philosophy, however, transforms even the qualities of repose into active ones; the whole being of God into activity – human activity. This is also true of what was mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. Philosophy presupposes nothing; this can only mean that it abstracts from all that is immediately or sensuously given, or from all objects distinguished from thought. In short, it abstracts from all wherefrom it is possible to abstract without ceasing to think, and it makes this act of abstraction from all objects its own beginning. However, what else is the absolute being if not the being for which nothing is to be presupposed and to which no object other than itself is either given or necessary? What else is it if not the being that has been subtracted from all objects – from all things distinct and distinguishable from it – and, therefore, becomes an object for man precisely through abstracting from these things? Wherefrom God is free, therefrom you must also free yourself if you want to reach God; and you make yourself really free when you present yourself with the idea of God. In consequence, if you think God without presupposing any other being or object, you yourself think without presupposing any external object; the quality that you attribute to God is a quality of your own thought. However, what is activity in man is being in God or that which is imagined as such. What, hence, is the Fichtean Ego which says, “I simply am because I am,” and what is the pure and presuppositionless thought of Hegel if not the Divine Being of the old theology and metaphysics which has been transformed into the actual, active, and thinking being of man?
§ 14 Pantheism
Speculative philosophy as the realisation of God is the positing of God, and at the same time his cancellation or negation; theism and at the same time atheism: for God – in the sense of theology – is God only as long as he is taken to be a being distinguished from and independent of the being of man as well as of nature. The theism that as the positing of God is simultaneously his negation or, conversely, as the negation of God equally his affirmation, is pantheism. Theological theism – that is, theism properly speaking – is nothing other than imaginary pantheism which itself is nothing other than real and true theism.
What separates theism from pantheism is only the imaginary representation of God as a personal being. All the determinations of God – and these must be predicated of him, otherwise he would be nothing and not at all the object of the imagination – are determinations of reality, either of nature or of man or those common to both, and hence pantheistic determinations; for that which does not distinguish God from the being of nature or of man is pantheism. God is distinguished from the world, from the totality of nature and mankind, only with respect to his personality or existence, but not with respect to his determinations or to his essence; that is, he is only imagined to be but is in truth not a different being. Theism is the contradiction of appearance and essence, imagination and truth, whereas pantheism is the unity of both – pantheism is the naked truth of theism. All the conceptions of theism, if taken seriously, carried out, and realised, must necessarily lead to pantheism. Pantheism is consistent theism. Theism holds God to be the cause, indeed, to be the living, personal cause, to be the creator of the world; God has brought forth the world by his will. But the will alone does not suffice. If the will is there, the intellect must also be there; what one wills is a matter of the intellect. There can be no object without the intellect. The things that God created existed therefore in God prior to their creation; that is, existed in him as the objects of his intellect, or as intellectual entities. As theology has it, the intellect of God is the comprehensive unity of all things and essences. Whence could they have sprung if not out of nothing? And what difference does it make whether you think of this nothingness in your imagination as independent or transpose it into God? But God contains everything or is everything in an ideational way; that is, in the way of the imagination. This ideational pantheism, however, leads necessarily to the real or concrete; for it is not far from the intellect of God to his being and from his being to his reality. How should it be possible to separate the intellect from the being, and the being from the reality or existence of God? If things are in the intellect of God, how could they be outside of his being? If they result from his intellect, why not then also from his being? And if in God his being is directly identical with his reality, if the existence of God cannot be divorced from the concept of God, how then could the conception of the object and the real object be separated in God’s conception of things?
How, therefore, could the difference that constitutes only the nature of the finite and non-divine intellect, namely, the difference between the object as given in the imagination and as existing apart from it, occur in God? But once we have no objects whatsoever left outside the intellect of God, we soon will have nothing whatsoever left outside his being and finally nothing outside his existence. All objects are in God and, indeed, actually and in truth, not only in the imagination; for where they exist only in the imagination of God as well as of man, that is, where they are in God only in an ideal, or rather imaginary way, they exist at the same time outside the imagination, outside God. But given that we have no objects and no world outside God, we would also no longer have God outside the world; that is, God taken not only as an ideal or as imagined, but also as a real being. In one word, we thus have Spinozism or pantheism. Theism conceives God only as a purely non-material being. But to determine God as non-material is nothing different from determining matter as a nonentity, as a monstrosity, for only God is the measure of what is real; only God is Being, truth, and essence; only that which is true of God and in God, that alone is, what is negated of God, that also does not exist. To derive matter from God means, therefore, nothing but to want to establish its being through its non-being; for to derive means to establish something by indicating its ground. God made matter. But how, why, and out of what? Theism does not provide an answer to these questions. Matter for theism is a purely inexplicable existence; this means that it is the limit, the end of theology on which it founders in life as well as in thought. How can I then extract out of theology itself its negation and end without discarding it? How can I expect any explanatory principle or information from theology when its wisdom falters? How can I extract the affirmation of matter from a negation of matter and world which constitutes the essence of theology? How can I, despite the God of theology, produce the proposition “matter exists” out of the proposition “matter does not exist?” How else but through mere fiction? Material objects can be derived from God only if God himself is determined as a material being. Only thus can God become the real cause of the world and not merely be an imagined and fictitious cause. He who is not ashamed to make shoes, should also not be ashamed to be and be called a cobbler. Hans Sachs was indeed both a cobbler and a poet. But the shoes were the work of his hands whereas the poems were that of his head. As the effect, so the cause. But matter is not God; it is rather the finite, the non-divine, that is, that which negates God – the unconditional adherents and worshipers of matter are atheists. Hence, pantheism unites atheism with theism, the negation of God with God; God is a material or, in Spinoza’s language, an extended being.
§ 15 Materialism
Pantheism is theological atheism or theological materialism; it is the negation of theology while itself confined to the standpoint of theology, for it turns matter, the negation of God, into a predicate or an attribute of the Divine Being. But he who turns matter into an attribute of God, declares matter to be a divine being. The realisation of God must in principle presuppose godliness, that is, the truth and essentiality of the real. The deification of the real, of that which exists materially – materialism, empiricism, realism, and humanism – or the negation of theology, is the essence of the modern era. Pantheism is therefore nothing more than the essence of the modern era elevated into the divine essence, into a religio-philosophical principle.
Empiricism or realism – meaning thereby the so-called sciences of the real, but in particular the natural science – negates theology, albeit not theoretically but only practically, namely, through the actual deed in so far as the realist makes the negation of God, or at least that which is not God, into the essential business of his life and the essential object of his activity. However, he who devotes his mind and heart exclusively to that which is material and sensuous actually denies the trans-sensuous its reality; for only that which constitutes an object of the real and concrete activity is real, at least for man. “What I don’t know doesn’t affect me.” To say that it is not possible to know anything of the supersensuous is only an excuse. One ceases to know anything about God and divine things only when one does not want to know anything about them. How much did one know about God, about the devils or angels as long as these supersensuous beings were still objects of a real faith? To be interested in something is to have the talent for it. The medieval mystics and scholastics had no talent and aptitude for natural science only because they had no interest in nature. Where the sense for something is not lacking, there also the senses and organs do not lack. If the heart is open to something, the mind will not be closed to it. Thus, the reason why mankind in the modern era lost the organs for the supersensuous world and its secrets is because it also lost the sense for them together with the belief in them; because its essential tendency was anti-Christian and anti-theological; that is, anthropological, cosmic, realistic, and materialistic. [In the context of the present work, the differences between materialism, empiricism, realism, and humanism are, of course, irrelevant.] Spinoza hit the nail on the head with his paradoxical proposition: God is an extended, that is, material being. He found, at least for his time, the true philosophical expression for the materialistic tendency of the modern era; he legitimated and sanctioned it: God himself is a materialist. Spinoza’s philosophy was religion; he himself was an amazing man. Unlike so many others, Spinoza’s materialism did not stand in contradiction to the notion of a non-material and anti-materialistic God who also quite consistently imposes on man the duty to give himself up only to anti-materialistic, heavenly tendencies and concerns, for God is nothing other than the archetypal and ideal image of man; what God is and how he is, is what man ought to be or wants to be, or at least hopes to be in the future. But only where theory does not belie practice, and practice theory, is there character, truth, and religion. Spinoza is the Moses of modern free-thinkers and materialists.
§ 16 The basis of Materialism
Pantheism is the negation of theoretical, and empiricism the negation of practical, theology. Pantheism negates the principle, whereas empiricism negates the consequences of theology.
Pantheism makes God into a present, real, and material being; empiricism – to which rationalism also belongs – makes God into an absent, remote, unreal, and negative being. Empiricism does not deny God existence, but denies him all positive determinations, because their content is supposed to be only finite and empirical; the infinite cannot, therefore, be an object for man. But the more determinations I deny to a being, the more do I cut it of[ from myself, and the less power and influence do I concede to it over me, the freer do I make myself of it. The more qualities I possess, the more I am for others, and the greater is the extent of my influence and effects. And the more one is, the more one is known to others. Hence, each negation of an attribute of God is a partial atheism, a sphere of godlessness. To the extent to which I take away an attribute of God, to the same extent do I take away his being. If, for example, sympathy and mercy are not attributes of God, then I am alone with myself in my suffering; God is not there as my comforter. If God is the negation of all that is finite, then, in consequence, the finite is the negation of God. Only if God thinks of me – so concludes the religious man – have I reason and cause to think of him; only in his being-for-me lies the ground of my being-for-him. In truth, therefore, the theological being is no longer anything to empiricism, at least nothing real; but empiricism does not transpose this non-being into the object, but only into itself, into its knowledge. It does not deny God being, a being that is a dead or indifferent being, but it denies him the being which proves itself as being; namely, as effective and tangible being that cuts into life. It affirms God, but negates all the consequences which necessarily follow from this affirmation. It rejects and abandons theology, although not out of theoretical grounds, but out of aversion and disinclination for the objects of theology; that is, out of a vague feeling for its unreality. Theology is nothing, thinks the empiricist; but he adds to this, “for me,” that is, his judgment is a subjective, a pathological one; for he does not have the freedom, nor the desire and the calling, to drag the objects of theology before the forum of reason. This is the calling of philosophy. The concern of modern philosophy was therefore none other than to elevate the pathological judgment of empiricism – theology is nothing – to a theoretical and objective judgment, to transform the indirect, unconscious, and negative negation of theology into a direct, positive, and conscious negation. How ridiculous it is, therefore, to want to suppress the “atheism” of philosophy without at the same time suppressing the atheism of empiricism! How ridiculous it is to persecute the theoretical negation of Christianity and to ignore the actual refutations of Christianity with which the modern era is replete! How ridiculous it is to hold that with the awareness of the symptom of evil, the cause of evil is also eliminated! How ridiculous indeed! And yet, how rich is history in such mockeries! They repeat themselves in all critical periods. And no wonder! We are always accommodating to whatever has happened in the past and acknowledge the necessity of all the changes and revolutions that have occurred, but we resist with all the means at our disposal to take the same attitude to the present situation. Out of shortsightedness and complacency, we except the present from the rule.
§ 17 Idealism
The elevation of matter into a divine being is directly and at the same time the elevation of reason into a divine being. What the theist negates of God by means of the imagination and out of his emotional need and his yearning for unlimited bliss, the pantheist affirms of God out of his rational need. Matter is an essential object for reason. If there was no matter, reason would have no stimulus and no material for thought and, hence, no content. One cannot give up matter without giving up reason; onecannot acknowledge matter without acknowledging reason. Materialists are rationalists. But pantheism affirms reason as a divine being only indirectly; namely, only by turning God from a being mediated through the imagination – and this is what he is in theism as a personal being – into an object of reason, or a rational being. The direct apotheosis of reason is idealism. Pantheism necessarily leads to idealism. Idealism is related to pantheism in the same way as pantheism is related to theism.
As the object, so the subject. According to Descartes, the being of physical things, the body or substance, is the object of reason alone and not of the senses. But precisely because of this, the being of the perceiving subject, that is, of man, is not the senses, but reason. It is only to being that being is given as object. For Plato, the objects of opinion are only transient things; but for that matter opinion itself is transient and changing knowledge – mere opinion. The being of music is the highest being to the musician and, consequently, the sense of hearing, the highest organ; he would sooner lose his eyes than his ears. The natural scientist, on the contrary, would sooner part with his ears than with his eyes because his objective being is light. To elevate sound to godliness is to deify the ear. Hence, if I, like the pantheist, say the deity or, what amounts to the same thing, the absolute being or absolute truth is an object for and of reason alone, then I declare God to be a rational thing or a rational being, and in so doing I indirectly express only the absolute truth and reality of reason. Hence, it is necessary for reason to turn to itself with a view to reverse this inverted self-recognition, to declare itself directly to be the absolute truth and to become, without the intervention of any intermediary object, its own object as the absolute truth. The pantheist says the same thing as the idealist, except that the former expresses objectively and realistically what the latter expresses only subjectively or idealistically. The pantheist has his idealism in the object. Nothing exists apart from substance, apart from God, and all things are only determinations of God. The idealist has his pantheism in the ego. Nothing exists apart from the ego, and all things are what they are only as objects of the ego. But all the same, idealism is the truth of pantheism; for God or substance is only the object of reason, of the ego, or of the thinking being. If I believe in and conceive of no God at all, then I have no God. He exists for me only through me, and only “through reason does he exist” for reason. The a priori, or “the initial being is therefore not the being that is thought,”, but the thinking being; not the object, but the subject. With the same necessity with which natural science turned from the light back to the eye, philosophy turned from the objects of thought back to the thinking ego. What is light – as the shining and illuminating being, as the object of optics – without the eye? Nothing. And thus far goes natural science. But what – asks philosophy further – is the eye without consciousness? Equally nothing: It is identical whether I see without consciousness or I do not see. Only the consciousness of seeing is the reality of seeing or actual seeing. But why do you believe that something exists apart from you? Because you see, hear and feel something. This something is therefore a real something, a real object, only in so far as it is an object of consciousness, and hence, consciousness is the absolute reality or actuality – the measure of all existence. All that exists, exists only in so far as it exists for consciousness, that is, in so far as it is conscious; for only consciousness is being. Thus does the essence of theology realise itself in idealism; namely, the essence of God in the ego and in consciousness. Nothing can exist, and nothing can be thought of, without God; this means, in the context of idealism, that all that exists, be it an actual or a possible object exists only as the object of consciousness. To be is to be an object; that is, being presupposes consciousness. Things, the world in general, are the work and the product of God as an absolute being. This absolute being is, however, an ego, a conscious and thinking being, which means that the world is, as Descartes admirably puts it from the standpoint of theism, an Ens rationis divinae, a thought-thing, a phantom of God. But in theism and theology, this thought-thing itself is again only a vague idea. If we therefore realise this idea, if we, so to say, translate into practice what in theism is only theory, then we have the world as a product of the ego (Fichte) or – at least as it appears to us and as we perceive it – as a work or product of our perception and understanding (Kant). “Nature is derived from the laws of the possibility of experience in general. . . . The understanding does not obtain its laws (a priori) from nature, but rather prescribes them to it.” The Kantian idealism, in which things conform to the intellect and not the intellect to things, is therefore nothing other than the realisation of the theological conception of the divine intellect which is not determined by things, but, on the contrary, determines them. How absurd it is, therefore, to acknowledge idealism in heaven – that is, the idealism of the imagination, as a divine truth – but reject the idealism on earth – that is, the idealism of reason – as a human error! Should you deny idealism, then you must also deny God! God alone is the originator of idealism. If you do not like the consequences, then you also should not like the principle! Idealism is nothing but rational or rationalised theism. But the Kantian idealism is still a limited idealism – idealism situated on the standpoint of empiricism. According to what has been discussed above, God is for empiricism only a being in the imagination, or in theory – in the ordinary, bad sense – but not in practice and truth; a thing in itself, but no longer a thing for empiricism, for as far as empiricism is concerned, only real and empirical things are things for it. Since matter is the only material for its thinking, it is left without any material to construct God. God exists, but he is for us a tabula rasa, an empty being, a mere thought. God, as we imagine and think of him, is our own ego, our own reason, and our own being; but this God is only an appearance of us and for us, and not God in himself. Kant is the embodiment of an idealism that is still shackled by theism. It often happens that in actual practice we have long ago freed ourselves from a particular thing, a doctrine, or an idea, but we are far from being free from it in the mind. it has ceased to have any truth for our actual being – perhaps it never had – but it still continues to be a theoretical truth; that is, a limit on our mind. The mind is always the last to become free, because it takes things more thoroughly. Theoretical freedom is, at least in many things, the last freedom. How many are republicans in their heart and in their attitude, but in their minds cannot reach beyond monarchy; their republican heart founders on the objections and difficulties raised by the intellect. This is also the case with Kant’s theism. Kant has realised and at the same time negated theology within the sphere of morality, and the divine being within the sphere of the will. For Kant, the will is the true, original, absolute, and self-initiating being. In other words, Kant actually bestows on the will what are the predicates of the divinity; the only significance his theism can have, therefore, is that of a theoretical limit. Fichte is a Kant who has been liberated from the limit of theism – the “Messiah of speculative reason.” Fichte’s is the Kantian idealism, but an idealism nonetheless. Only from the standpoint of empiricism can, according to Fichte, there be a God distinguished from and existing apart from us. But in truth, from the standpoint of idealism the thing in itself, God – for God is, properly speaking, the thing in itself – is only the ego in itself, that is, the ego that is distinct from the individual and empirical ego. Outside the ego, there is no God: “Our religion is reason.” But the Fichtean idealism is only the negation and realisation of abstract and formal theism, of monotheism, and not of religious, material, content-replete theism, not of trinitarianism, whose realisation is the “absolute,” or Hegelian idealism. Or in other words, Fichte has realised the God of pantheism only in so far as he is a thinking being, but not in so far as he is an extended and material being. Fichte embodies theistic, whereas Hegel embodies pantheistic, idealism.
§ 18 Modern Philosophy
Modern philosophy has realised and superseded the Divine Being which is severed and distinguished from sensuousness, the world, and man, but only in thought, only in reason, and indeed in a reason that is equally severed and distinguished from sensuousness, the world, and man. That is to say, modern philosophy has proved only the divinity of the intellect, it recognised only the abstract intellect as the divine and absolute being. Descartes’ definition of himself as mind – ‘my being consists solely of the fact that I think’ – is modern philosophy’s definition of itself. The will in both the Kantian and the Fichtean idealism is itself a pure being of the intellect, and sense perception, which Schelling, in opposition to Fichte, connected with the intellect, is mere fantasy; it is not the truth and hence does not come into consideration.Modern philosophy proceeded from theology; it is itself nothing else but theology dissolved and transformed into philosophy. The abstract and transcendent being of God could therefore be realised and superseded only in an abstract and transcendent way. In order to transform God into reason. reason itself had to assume the quality of an abstract, divine being. T he senses, says Descartes, do not yield true reality, nor being, nor certainty; only the intellect separated from all sensuousness delivers the truth. Where does this dichotomy between the intellect and the senses come from? It comes only from theology. God is not a sensuous being; rather, he is the negation of all sensuous determinations and is known only through abstraction from the senses. But he is God; that is, the truest, the most real, the most certain being. Whence should the truth enter into the senses, the born atheists? God is the being in which existence cannot be separated from essence and concept; God is the being that cannot be thought of in any other way except as existing. Descartes transforms this objective being into a subjective one and the ontological proof into a psychological one; he transforms the proposition, ‘because God is thinkable, therefore he exists,’ into the proposition, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Just as in God, being cannot be separated from being thought, so in me – as I am essentially mind – being cannot be separated from thought; and just as this inseparability is constitutive of the essence in the former, so also is it in the latter. A being – no matter whether in itself or for me – that exists only to the extent that it is thought of, and only to the extent that it forms the object of abstraction from all sensuousness, necessarily realises and subjectifies itself in a being that exists only to the extent that it thinks and whose essence is abstract thought.” Ludwig Feuerbach, Principles of the Philosophy of the Future; Part One, “History of Modern Philosophy,” 1843.
Numero Dos—“I have been asked to give the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States some good advice. Boys, there is no use giving you any advice. You always do the right thing anyhow. This outfit always does. The V. F. W. isn’t a knitting society; it is a real outfit and it always pleases me very much to be invited to meet with you because I just love to go every place soldiers ask me to go. I have noticed that you are getting a little old, but you are the same lovable class of Americans as ever—dumb though you are. Anybody can put anything over on you but you are lovable just the same.Usually soldiers don’t know what it is all about. Somebody beats a drum, somebody yells ‘Patriotism’ and the soldiers go out, carry the guns, get shot, and, when there is no war, do all the suffering at home. Peace times they suffer and in war times they bleed.
When you got ready to go to war to lick the Hun, what did you do? You first learned how to fight, and a whole lot of brass-hats wrote a lot of instructions on how to shoot, how to march, how to do everything; so that you all marched together, keeping step. You all spoke the same language. You all had the same objective and when anybody asked you your general orders, you all said the same thing.
Now what happens? There aren’t any ten veterans in a hundred who will say the same thing to a man who asks them about a veterans’ question. No positive information. My advice to every Post is to go to school.
We are divided, in America, into two classes: The Tories on one side, a class of citizens who were raised to believe that the whole of this country was created for their sole benefit, and on the other side, the other 99 per cent of us, the soldier class, the class from which all of you soldiers came. That class hasn’t any privileges except to die when the Tories tell them. Every war that we have ever had was gotten, up by that class. They do all the beating of the drums. Away the rest of us go. When we leave, you know what happens. We march down the street with all the Sears-Roebuck soldiers standing on the sidewalk, all the dollar-a-year men with spurs, all the patriots who call themselves patriots, square-legged women in uniforms making Liberty Loan speeches. They promise you. You go down the street and they ring all the church bells. Promise you the sun, the moon, the stars and the earth,—anything to save them. Off you go. Then the looting commences while you are doing the fighting. This last war made over 6,000 millionaires. Today those fellows won’t help pay the bill.
All of these things you must be told so that you can present your case. Remember, we can’t win this alone. We have got to have the sympathy of all of our class of people. Go out and make friends with the farmers; they are a scrapping outfit. Be able to argue intelligently; know what you are talking about. Get all these people to join and then go after the enemy in the way that is provided for in your constitution. That is, go to the polls. Before you go to the polls, make every public office seeker state where he stands. Don’t take any alibi. A man who is not for the soldiers is against them. There isn’t any middle course. If he hasn’t got the courage to say yes for you, then lick hell out of him.
You can only lick him by every Post and every man going to school on your meeting nights, learning what it is all about with your instructions from your headquarters just as when you went to war. There is no difference between this battle and a sanguinary battle with guns. Learn what you want, learn to be able to express yourselves. If I were the Commander of a Post, I would have a speaking class so that everybody would learn to get up and shoot off his mouth. Bring into line all his family, all his friends, because the American people are absolutely fair. It is only this damned Tory class that doesn’t want this thing, doesn’t want the veteran class cared for. Don’t you realize that when this country started out, it wasn’t worth more than 2.5 cents, and that every damned bit of land we have we took at the point of a gun? The soldiers took it. All except a bare 60 millions that we paid France and Spain after we took their land from them. And now this nation is worth 320 billions by the work of the soldiers. So don’t let anyone bluff you. Stand by your own kind. That is what your conventions are for, to get together and learn to love each other all over again. Some of you have got falling chests and don’t look exactly right but you rub shoulders and it all comes back. There is a bond among soldiers who have slept in the mud together that nothing can supplant. Just get over your petty jealousies. Because one fellow may get ahead a little faster, the rest turn on him. You have been used to discipline and now you haven’t got it.
When you came home from the World War, you marched along Fifth Avenue, great heavy masses of men, all your feet moving together, one objective, one cause, all swaying back and forth as you went along. You were a unit. All the people of America applauded. But on the second day they disbanded you and they said, “To hell with you,” because you were then individuals and politically the soldiers never amounted to anything.
A whole lot of things face the veterans continually. Right now we are all called upon to support the administration. I know the soldiers; no matter what you tell them they are always going to support any president up to a certain point, but you must remember that you have two duties. One is to your own flesh and blood, yourself and your family; and the next is your public duty. Combined is another duty, equally important, and that is the duty to the people, the buddies who served with you, who have been hurt. Go along, do the right thing. We can’t afford to bust up this country. Nobody knows where these schemes are going to lead us nowadays. But they won’t work if the soldiers don’t make them work. You know that. Because we are the class that wins all the wars. Hell, this is a war, but at the same time you give some advice. In other words, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours to this capitalistic bunch. You have a difficult role to play because you can’t afford to have public opinion against you. At the same time, we must not desert the fellows among us who deserve help.
After all is said and done, the soldiers are one class of people and we deserve some-thing as a class. Never mind what we have done. Every other class is getting something but the soldiers. This organization, every other soldier organization, will disappear from the earth if you don’t do something for your less fortunate comrades, the fellows who have done all the bleeding. So just think it over. You have a whole lot to decide. You have got to decide whether to put up NRA signs. I am going to put an NRA sign in my window but I am going to say, “Here, come across for the soldiers, too.”
It will come, don’t worry. You have been spanked two or three times. This is going to be a tough battle all the way through and you will have to be spanked and spanked and. spanked until you get mad enough to do something. There is no class of people in the world which has been as abominably treated as the soldiers in the United States, and it is all your own fault because you haven’t stood together. Two big veteran organizations fighting each other and the Spanish American War fellows get in between. Nobody joins hands, nobody joins together to fight a common battle for the class of people who do the dying.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a gorgeous scrapping outfit. There are no fakers in it. For that reason, it is a joy to be with you and it is our business as soldiers to stick together.
Let me tell you again. Just get together, learn your lessons, be able to say them in your sleep. Get together, follow your leaders. You have never had a leader in this outfit that sold you out and I don’t believe you ever will. I never knew a commander of another veterans’ organization who didn’t sell out every year. When you go down to Washington, you’ve got to growl and bite. When you soldiers agree to lay aside your petty jealousies and personal ambitions and fight as you fought in wars, you’ll get somewhere. Not until then will you get what you want.
You’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to hate. You’ve got to turn on these fellows who call you names such as ‘treasury raiders.’
The only trouble with you veterans is that you still believe in Santa Claus. It’s time you woke up—it’s time you realized there’s another war on. It’s your war this time. Now get in there and fight.” Smedley Butler, “You’ve Got to Get Mad: Too Many Veterans Believe in Santa Claus;” in Louis Proyect–Unrepentant Marxist, 1933.
Numero Tres—“The hint that man has, after all, solved his most stubborn problems … is small solace to the philosophic connoisseur; for what he cannot help fearing is that philosophy will never get so far as to pose a genuine problem.
M. Schlick (1930)
I for my part hold the very opposite opinion, and I assert that whenever a dispute has raged for any length of time, especially in philosophy, there was, at the bottom of it, never a problem about mere words, but always a genuine problem about things.
I. Kant (1786)…
A scientist engaged in a piece of research, say in physics, can attack his problem straight away. He can go at once to the heart of the matter: to the heart, that is, of an organized structure. For a structure of scientific doctrines is already in existence; and with it, a generally accepted problem-situation. This is why he may leave it to others to fit his contribution into the framework of scientific knowledge.The philosopher finds himself in a different position. He does not face an organized structure, but rather something resembling a heap of ruins (though perhaps with treasure buried underneath). He cannot appeal to the fact that there is a generally accepted problem-situation; for that there is no such thing is perhaps the one fact which is generally accepted. Indeed it has by now become a recurrent question in philosophical circles whether philosophy will ever get so far as to pose a genuine problem.
Nevertheless there are still some who do believe that philosophy can pose genuine problems about things, and who therefore still hope to get these problems discussed, and to have done with those depressing monologues which now pass for philosophical discussions. And if by chance they find themselves unable to accept any of the existing creeds, all they can do is to begin afresh from the beginning.
VIENNA, Autumn 1934.
There is nothing more necessary to the man of science than its history, and the logic of discovery . . . : the way error is detected, the use of hypothesis, of imagination, the mode of testing.
Preface to the
First English Edition, 1959
In my old preface of 19341 tried to explain — too briefly, I am afraid — my attitude towards the then prevailing situation in philosophy, and especially towards linguistic philosophy and the school of language analysts of those days. In this new preface I intend to explain my attitude towards the present situation, and towards the two main schools of language analysts of today. Now as then, language analysts are important to me; not only as opponents, but also as allies, in so far as they seem to be almost the only philosophers left who keep alive some of the traditions of rational philosophy.
Language analysts believe that there are no genuine philosophical problems, or that the problems of philosophy, if any, are problems of linguistic usage, or of the meaning of words. I, however, believe that there is at least one philosophical problem in which all thinking men are interested. It is the problem of cosmology: the problem of understanding the world — including ourselves, and our knowledge, as part of the world. All science is cosmology, I believe, and for me the interest of philosophy, no less than of science, lies solely in the contributions which it has made to it.
For me, at any rate, both philosophy and science would lose all their attraction if they were to give up that pursuit. Admittedly, understanding the functions of our language is an important part of it; but explaining away our problems as merely linguistic ‘puzzles’ is not.
Language analysts regard themselves as practitioners of a method peculiar to philosophy. I think they are wrong, for I believe in the following thesis.
Philosophers are as free as others to use any method in searching for truth. There is no method peculiar to philosophy.
A second thesis which I should like to propound here is this.
The central problem of epistemology has always been and still is the problem of the growth of knowledge. And the growth of knowledge can be studied best by studying the growth of scientific knowledge.
I do not think that the study of the growth of knowledge can be replaced by the study of linguistic usages, or of language systems.
And yet, I am quite ready to admit that there is a method which might be described as ‘the one method of philosophy’. But it is not characteristic of philosophy alone; it is, rather, the one method of all rational discussion, and therefore of the natural sciences as well as of philosophy. The method I have in mind is that of stating one’s problem clearly and of examining its various proposed solutions critically.
I have italicized the words ‘rational discussion’ and ‘critically’ in order to stress that I equate the rational attitude and the critical attitude. The point is that, whenever we propose a solution to a problem, we ought to try as hard as we can to overthrow our solution, rather than defend it. Few of us, unfortunately, practise this precept; but other people, fortunately, will supply the criticism for us if we fail to supply it ourselves. Yet criticism will be fruitful only if we state our problem as clearly as we can and put our solution in a sufficiently definite form — a form in which it can be critically discussed.
I do not deny that something which may be called ‘logical analysis’ can play a role in this process of clarifying and scrutinizing our problems and our proposed solutions; and I do not assert that the methods of ‘logical analysis’ or ‘language analysis’ are necessarily useless. My thesis is, rather, that these methods are far from being the only ones which a philosopher can use with advantage, and that they are in no way characteristic of philosophy. They are no more characteristic of philosophy than of any other scientific or rational inquiry.
It may perhaps be asked what other ‘methods’ a philosopher might use. My answer is that though there are any number of different ‘methods’, I am really not interested in enumerating them. I do not care what methods a philosopher (or anybody else) may use so long as he has an interesting problem, and so long as he is sincerely trying to solve it.
Among the many methods which he may use — always depending, of course, on the problem in hand — one method seems to me worth mentioning. It is a variant of the (at present unfashionable) historical method. It consists, simply, in trying to find out what other people have thought and said about the problem in hand: why they had to face it: how they formulated it: how they tried to solve it. This seems to me important because it is part of the general method of rational discussion. If we ignore what other people are thinking, or have thought in the past, then rational discussion must come to an end, though each of us may go on happily talking to himself. Some philosophers have made a virtue of talking to themselves; perhaps because they felt that there was nobody else worth talking to. I fear that the practice of philosophizing on this somewhat exalted plane may be a symptom of the decline of rational discussion. No doubt God talks mainly to Himself because He has no one worth talking to. But a philosopher should know that he is no more godlike than any other man.
There are several interesting historical reasons for the widespread belief that what is called ‘linguistic analysis’ is the true method of philosophy.
One such reason is the correct belief that logical paradoxes, like that of the liar (T am now lying’) or those found by Russell, Richard, and others, need the method of linguistic analysis for their solution, with its famous distinction between meaningful (or ‘well-formed’) and meaningless linguistic expressions. This correct belief is then combined with the mistaken belief that the traditional problems of philosophy arise from the attempt to solve philosophical paradoxes whose structure is analogous to that of logical paradoxes, so that the distinction between meaningful and meaningless talk must be of central importance for philosophy also. That this belief is mistaken can be shown very easily. It can be shown, in fact, by logical analysis. For this reveals that a certain characteristic kind of reflexivity or self-reference which is present in all logical paradoxes is absent from all the so-called philosophical paradoxes — even from Kant’s antinomies.
Now to those who favour this approach to the theory of knowledge I should reply as follows. Although I agree that scientific knowledge is merely a development of ordinary knowledge or common-sense knowledge, I contend that the most important and most exciting problems of epistemology must remain completely invisible to those who confine themselves to analysing ordinary or common-sense knowledge or its formulation in ordinary language.
I wish to refer here only to one example of the kind of problem I have in mind: the problem of the growth of our knowledge. A little reflection will show that most problems connected with the growth of our knowledge must necessarily transcend any study which is confined to common-sense knowledge as opposed to scientific knowledge. For the most important way in which common-sense knowledge grows is, precisely, by turning into scientific knowledge. Moreover, it seems clear that the growth of scientific knowledge is the most important and interesting case of the growth of knowledge.
It should be remembered, in this context, that almost all the problems of traditional epistemology are connected with the problem of the growth of knowledge. I am inclined to say even more: from Plato to Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Duhem and Poincare; and from Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke, to Hume, Mill, and Russell, the theory of knowledge was inspired by the hope that it would enable us not only to know more about knowledge, but also to contribute to the advance of knowledge — of scientific knowledge, that is. (The only possible exception to this rule among the great philosophers I can think of is Berkeley.) Most of the philosophers who believe that the characteristic method of philosophy is the analysis of ordinary language seem to have lost this admirable optimism which once inspired the rationalist tradition. Their attitude, it seems, has become one of resignation, if not despair. They not only leave the advancement of knowledge to the scientists: they even define philosophy in such a way that it becomes, by definition, incapable of making any contribution to our knowledge of the world. The self-mutilation which this so surprisingly persuasive definition requires does not appeal to me. There is no such thing as an
The main reason for exalting the method of linguistic analysis, however, seems to have been the following. It was felt that the so-called ‘new way of ideas’ of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, that is to say the psychological or rather pseudo-psychological method of analysing our ideas and their origin in our senses, should be replaced by a more ‘objective’ and a less genetic method. It was felt that we should analyse words and their meanings or usages rather than ‘ideas’ or ‘conceptions’ or ‘notions’; that we should analyse propositions or statements or sentences rather than ‘thoughts’ or ‘beliefs’ or ‘judgments’. I readily admit that this replacement of Locke’s ‘new way of ideas’ by a ‘new way of words’ was an advance, and one that was urgently needed.
It is understandable that those who once saw in the ‘new way of ideas’ the one true method of philosophy may thus have turned to the belief that the ‘new way of words’ is the one true method of philosophy. From this challenging belief I strongly dissent. But I will make only two critical comments on it. First, the ‘new way of ideas’ should never have been taken for the main method of philosophy, let alone for its one true method. Even Locke introduced it merely as a method of dealing with certain preliminaries (preliminaries for a science of ethics); and it was used by both Berkeley and Hume chiefly as a weapon for harrying their opponents. Their own interpretation of the world — the world of things and of men — which they were anxious to impart to us was never based upon this method. Berkeley did not base his religious views on it, nor Hume his political theories (though he based his determinism on it) .
But my gravest objection to the belief that either the ‘new way of ideas’ or the ‘new way of words’ is the main method of epistemology — or perhaps even of philosophy — is this.
The problem of epistemology may be approached from two sides:
(1) as the problem of ordinary or common-sense knowledge, or (2) as the problem of scientific knowledge. Those philosophers who favour the first approach think, rightly, that scientific knowledge can only be an extension of common-sense knowledge, and they also think, wrongly, that common-sense knowledge is the easier of the two to analyse. In this way these philosophers come to replace the ‘new way of ideas’ by an analysis of ordinary language — the language in which common-sense knowledge is formulated. They replace the analysis of vision or essence of philosophy, to be distilled and condensed into a definition.
A definition of the word ‘philosophy’ can only have the character of a convention, of an agreement; and I, at any rate, see no merit in the arbitrary proposal to define the word ‘philosophy’ in a way that may well prevent a student of philosophy from trying to contribute, qua philosopher, to the advancement of our knowledge of the world.
Also, it seems to me paradoxical that philosophers who take pride in specializing in the study of ordinary language nevertheless believe that they know enough about cosmology to be sure that it is in essence so different from philosophy that philosophy cannot make any contribution to it. And indeed they are mistaken. For it is a fact that purely metaphysical ideas — and therefore philosophical ideas — have been of the greatest importance for cosmology. From Thales to Einstein, from ancient atomism to Descartes’s speculation about matter, from the speculations of Gilbert and Newton and Leibniz and Boscovic about forces to those of Faraday and Einstein about fields of forces, metaphysical ideas have shown the way.
Such are, in brief, my reasons for believing that even within the province of epistemology, the first approach mentioned above — that is to say, the analysis of knowledge by way of an analysis of ordinary language — is too narrow, and that it is bound to miss the most interesting problems.
Yet I am far from agreeing with all those philosophers who favour that other approach to epistemology — the approach by way of an analysis of scientific knowledge. In order to explain more easily where I disagree and where I agree, I am going to sub-divide the philosophers who adopt this second approach into two groups — the goats and the sheep, as it were.
The first group consists of those whose aim is to study ‘the language of science’, and whose chosen philosophical method is the construction of artificial model languages; that is to say, the construction of what they believe to be models of ‘the language of science’.
The second group does not confine itself to the study of the language of science, or any other language, and it has no such chosen philosophical method. Its members philosophize in many different ways, because they have many different problems which they want to solve; and any method is welcome to them if they think that it may help them to see their problems more clearly, or to hit upon a solution, however tentative.
I turn first to those whose chosen method is the construction of artificial models of the language of science. Historically, they too take their departure from the ‘new way of ideas’. They too replace the (pseudo-) psychological method of the old ‘new way’ by linguistic analysis. But perhaps owing to the spiritual consolations offered by the hope for knowledge that is ‘exact’ or ‘precise’ or ‘formalized’, the chosen object of their linguistic analysis is ‘the language of science’ rather than ordinary language. Yet unfortunately there seems to be no such thing as ‘the language of science’. It therefore becomes necessary for them to construct one. However, the construction of a full-scale working model of a language of science — one in which we could operate a real science such as physics — turns out a little difficult in practice; and for this reason we find them engaged in the construction of intricate working models in miniature — of vast systems of minute gadgets.
In my opinion, this group of philosophers gets the worst of both worlds. By their method of constructing miniature model languages they miss the most exciting problems of the theory of knowledge — those connected with its advancement. For the intricacy of the outfit bears no relation to its effectiveness, and practically no scientific theory of any interest can be expressed in these vast systems of minutiae.
These model languages have no bearing on either science or common sense.
Indeed, the models of ‘the language of science’ which these philosophers construct have nothing to do with the language of modern science. This may be seen from the following remarks which apply to the three most widely known model languages. (They are referred to in notes 13 and 15 to appendix *vii, and in note *2 to section 38.) The first of these model languages lacks even the means of expressing identity. As a consequence, it cannot express an equation: it does not contain even the most primitive arithmetic. The second model language works only as long as we do not add to it the means of proving the usual theorems of arithmetic — for example, Euclid’s theorem that there is no greatest prime number, or even the principle that every number has a successor. In the third model language — the most elaborate and famous of all — mathematics can again not be formulated; and, what is still more interesting, there are no measurable properties expressible in it. For these reasons, and for many others, the three model languages are too poor to be of use to any science. They are also, of course, essentially poorer than ordinary languages, including even the most primitive ones.
The limitations mentioned were imposed upon the model languages simply because otherwise the solutions offered by the authors to their problems would not have worked. This fact can be easily proved, and it has been partly proved by the authors themselves. Nevertheless, they all seem to claim two things: (a) that their methods are, in some sense or other, capable of solving problems of the theory of scientific knowledge, or in other words, that they are applicable to science (while in fact they are applicable with any precision only to discourse of an extremely primitive kind), and (b) that their methods are ‘exact’ or ‘precise’. Clearly these two claims cannot both be upheld.
Thus the method of constructing artificial model languages is incapable of tackling the problems of the growth of our knowledge; and it is even less able to do so than the method of analysing ordinary languages, simply because these model languages are poorer than ordinary languages. It is a result of their poverty that they yield only the most crude and the most misleading model of the growth of knowledge — the model of an accumulating heap of observation statements.
I now turn to the last group of epistemologists — those who do not pledge themselves in advance to any philosophical method, and who make use, in epistemology, of the analysis of scientific problems, theories, and procedures, and, most important, of scientific discussions. This group can claim, among its ancestors, almost all the great philosophers of the West. (It can claim even the ancestry of Berkeley despite the fact that he was, in an important sense, an enemy of the very idea of rational scientific knowledge, and that he feared its advance.) Its most important representatives during the last two hundred years were Kant, Whewell, Mill, Peirce, Duhem, Poincare, Meyerson, Russell, and — at least in some of his phases — Whitehead. Most of those who belong to this group would agree that scientific knowledge is the result of the growth of common-sense knowledge. But all of them discovered that scientific knowledge can be more easily studied than common-sense knowledge. For it is common-sense knowledge writ large, as it were. Its very problems are enlargements of the problems of common-sense knowledge. For example, it replaces the Humean problem of ‘reasonable belief by the problem of the reasons for accepting or rejecting scientific theories. And since we possess many detailed reports of the discussions pertaining to the problem whether a theory such as Newton’s or Maxwell’s or Einstein’s should be accepted or rejected, we may look at these discussions as if through a microscope that allows us to study in detail, and objectively, some of the more important problems of ‘reasonable belief.
This approach to the problems of epistemology gets rid (as do the other two mentioned) of the pseudo-psychological or ‘subjective’ method of the new way of ideas (a method still used by Kant). It suggests that we analyse scientific discussions, and also scientific problem situations. And so it can help us to understand the history of scientific thought.
I have tried to show that the most important of the traditional problems of epistemology — those connected with the growth of knowledge — transcend the two standard methods of linguistic analysis and require the analysis of scientific knowledge. But the last thing I wish to do, however, is to advocate another dogma. Even the analysis of science — the ‘philosophy of science’ — is threatening to become a fashion, a specialism, yet philosophers should not be specialists. For myself, I am interested in science and in philosophy only because I want to learn something about the riddle of the world in which we live, and the riddle of man’s knowledge of that world. And I believe that only a revival of interest in these riddles can save the sciences and philosophy from narrow specialization and from an obscurantist faith in the expert’s special skill, and in his personal knowledge and authority; a faith that so well fits our ‘post-rationalist’ and ‘post-critical’ age, proudly dedicated to the destruction of the tradition of rational philosophy, and of rational thought itself.
Penn, Buckinghamshire, Spring 1958.
A SURVEY OF SOME FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS
A scientist, whether theorist or experimenter, puts forward statements, or systems of statements, and tests them step by step. In the field of the empirical sciences, more particularly, he constructs hypotheses, or systems of theories, and tests them against experience by observation and experiment.
I suggest that it is the task of the logic of scientific discovery, or the logic of knowledge, to give a logical analysis of this procedure; that is, to analyse the method of the empirical sciences.
But what are these ‘methods of the empirical sciences’? And what do we call ’empirical science’?
i THE PROBLEM OF INDUCTION
According to a widely accepted view — to be opposed in this book — the empirical sciences can be characterized by the fact that they use ‘inductive methods’, as they are called. According to this view, the logic of scientific discovery would be identical with inductive logic, i.e. with the logical analysis of these inductive methods.
It is usual to call an inference ‘inductive’ if it passes from singular statements (sometimes also called ‘particular’ statements), such as accounts of the results of observations or experiments, to universal statements, such as hypotheses or theories.
Now it is far from obvious, from a logical point of view, that we are justified in inferring universal statements from singular ones, no matter how numerous; for any conclusion drawn in this way may always turn out to be false: no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white.
The question whether inductive inferences are justified, or under what conditions, is known as the problem of induction.
The problem of induction may also be formulated as the question of the validity or the truth of universal statements which are based on experience, such as the hypotheses and theoretical systems of the empirical sciences. For many people believe that the truth of these universal statements is ‘known by experience’; yet it is clear that an account of an experience — of an observation or the result of an experiment — can in the first place be only a singular statement and not a universal one. Accordingly, people who say of a universal statement that we know its truth from experience usually mean that the truth of this universal statement can somehow be reduced to the truth of singular ones, and that these singular ones are known by experience to be true; which amounts to saying that the universal statement is based on inductive inference. Thus to ask whether there are natural laws known to be true appears to be only another way of asking whether inductive inferences are logically justified.
Yet if we want to find a way of justifying inductive inferences, we must first of all try to establish a principle of induction. A principle of induction would be a statement with the help of which we could put inductive inferences into a logically acceptable form. In the eyes of the upholders of inductive logic, a principle of induction is of supreme importance for scientific method: ‘. . . this principle’, says Reichenbach, ‘determines the truth of scientific theories. To eliminate it from science would mean nothing less than to deprive science of the power to decide the truth or falsity of its theories. Without it, clearly, science would no longer have the right to distinguish its theories from the fanciful and arbitrary creations of the poet’s mind.”
Now this principle of induction cannot be a purely logical truth like a tautology or an analytic statement. Indeed, if there were such a thing as a purely logical principle of induction, there would be no problem of induction; for in this case, all inductive inferences would have to be regarded as purely logical or tautological transformations, just like inferences in deductive logic. Thus the principle of induction must be a synthetic statement; that is, a statement whose negation is not self-contradictory but logically possible. So the question arises why such a principle should be accepted at all, and how we can justify its acceptance on rational grounds.
Some who believe in inductive logic are anxious to point out, with Reichenbach, that ‘the principle of induction is unreservedly accepted by the whole of science and that no man can seriously doubt this principle in everyday life either’. 2 Yet even supposing this were the case — for after all, ‘the whole of science’ might err — I should still contend that a principle of induction is superfluous, and that it must lead to logical inconsistencies.
That inconsistencies may easily arise in connection with the principle of induction should have been clear from the work of Hume;* 1 also, that they can be avoided, if at all, only with difficulty. For the principle of induction must be a universal statement in its turn. Thus if we try to regard its truth as known from experience, then the very same problems which occasioned its introduction will arise all over again. To justify it, we should have to employ inductive inferences; and to justify these we should have to assume an inductive principle of a higher order; and so on. Thus the attempt to base the principle of induction on experience breaks down, since it must lead to an infinite regress.
Kant tried to force his way out of this difficulty by taking the
principle of induction (which he formulated as the ‘principle of universal causation’) to be ‘a priori valid’. But I do not think that his ingenious attempt to provide an a priori justification for synthetic statements was successful.
My own view is that the various difficulties of inductive logic here sketched are insurmountable. So also, I fear, are those inherent in the doctrine, so widely current today, that inductive inference, although not ‘strictly valid’, can attain some degree of ‘reliability’ or of ‘probability’.
According to this doctrine, inductive inferences are ‘probable inferences’. 3 ‘We have described’, says Reichenbach, ‘the principle of induction as the means whereby science decides upon truth. To be more exact, we should say that it serves to decide upon probability. For it is not given to science to reach either truth or falsity . . . but scientific statements can only attain continuous degrees of probability whose unattainable upper and lower limits are truth and falsity’. 4
At this stage I can disregard the fact that the believers in inductive logic entertain an idea of probability that I shall later reject as highly unsuitable for their own purposes (see section 80, below). I can do so because the difficulties mentioned are not even touched by an appeal to probability. For if a certain degree of probability is to be assigned to statements based on inductive inference, then this will have to be justified by invoking a new principle of induction, appropriately modified.
And this new principle in its turn will have to be justified, and so on.
Nothing is gained, moreover, if the principle of induction, in its turn, is taken not as ‘true’ but only as ‘probable’. In short, like every other form of inductive logic, the logic of probable inference, or ‘probability logic’, leads either to an infinite regress, or to the doctrine of apnonsm.
The theory to be developed in the following pages stands directly opposed to all attempts to operate with the ideas of inductive logic. It might be described as the theory of the deductive method of testing, or as the view that a hypothesis can only be empirically tested — and only after it has been advanced.
Before I can elaborate this view (which might be called ‘deductivism’, in contrast to ‘inductivism’ 5 ) I must first make clear the distinction between the psychology of knowledge which deals with empirical facts, and the logic of knowledge which is concerned only with logical relations.
For the belief in inductive logic is largely due to a confusion of psychological problems with epistemological ones. It may be worth noticing, by the way, that this confusion spells trouble not only for the logic of knowledge but for its psychology as well.
2 ELIMINATION OF PSYCHOLOGISM
I said above that the work of the scientist consists in putting forward and testing theories.
The initial stage, the act of conceiving or inventing a theory, seems to me neither to call for logical analysis nor to be susceptible of it. The question how it happens that a new idea occurs to a man — whether it is a musical theme, a dramatic conflict, or a scientific theory — may be of great interest to empirical psychology; but it is irrelevant to the logical analysis of scientific knowledge. This latter is concerned not with questions of fact (Kant’s quid facti?), but only with questions of justification or validity (Kant’s quid juris?). Its questions are of the following kind. Can a statement be justified? And if so, how? Is it testable? Is it logically dependent on certain other statements? Or does it perhaps contradict them? In order that a statement may be logically examined in this way, it must already have been presented to us. Someone must have formulated it, and submitted it to logical examination.
Accordingly I shall distinguish sharply between the process of conceiving a new idea, and the methods and results of examining it logically. As to the task of the logic of knowledge — in contradistinction to the psychology of knowledge — I shall proceed on the assumption that it consists solely in investigating the methods employed in those systematic tests to which every new idea must be subjected if it is to be seriously entertained.
Some might object that it would be more to the purpose to regard it as the business of epistemology to produce what has been called a ‘rational reconstruction’ of the steps that have led the scientist to a discovery — to the finding of some new truth. But the question is: what, precisely, do we want to reconstruct? If it is the processes involved in the stimulation and release of an inspiration which are to be reconstructed, then I should refuse to take it as the task of the logic of knowledge. Such processes are the concern of empirical psychology but hardly of logic. It is another matter if we want to reconstruct rationally the subsequent tests whereby the inspiration may be discovered to be a discovery, or become known to be knowledge. In so far as the scientist critically judges, alters, or rejects his own inspiration we may, if we like, regard the methodological analysis undertaken here as a kind of ‘rational reconstruction’ of the corresponding thought-processes. But this reconstruction would not describe these processes as they actually happen: it can give only a logical skeleton of the procedure of testing. Still, this is perhaps all that is meant by those who speak of a ‘rational reconstruction’ of the ways in which we gain knowledge.
It so happens that my arguments in this book are quite independent of this problem. However, my view of the matter, for what it is worth, is that there is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of this process. My view may be expressed by saying that every discovery contains ‘an irrational element’, or ‘a creative intuition’, in Bergson’s sense. In a similar way Einstein speaks of the ‘search for those highly universal laws . . . from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path’, he says, ‘leading to these . . . laws. They can only be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love (‘Einfiihlung’) of the objects of experience.’ 6
3 DEDUCTIVE TESTING OF THEORIES
According to the view that will be put forward here, the method of critically testing theories, and selecting them according to the results of tests, always proceeds on the following lines. From a new idea, put up tentatively, and not yet justified in any way — an anticipation, a hypothesis, a theoretical system, or what you will — conclusions are drawn by means of logical deduction. These conclusions are then compared with one another and with other relevant statements, so as to find what logical relations (such as equivalence, derivability, compatiblity, or incompatibility) exist between them.
We may if we like distinguish four different lines along which the testing of a theory could be carried out. First there is the logical comparison of the conclusions among themselves, by which the internal consistency of the system is tested. Secondly, there is the investigation of the logical form of the theory, with the object of determining whether it has the character of an empirical or scientific theory, or whether it is, for example, tautological. Thirdly, there is the comparison with other theories, chiefly with the aim of determining whether the theory would constitute a scientific advance should it survive our various tests. And finally, there is the testing of the theory by way of empirical applications of the conclusions which can be derived from it.
The purpose of this last kind of test is to find out how far the new consequences of the theory — whatever may be new in what it asserts — stand up to the demands of practice, whether raised by purely scientific experiments, or by practical technological applications. Here too the procedure of testing turns out to be deductive. With the help of other statements, previously accepted, certain singular statements — which we may call ‘predictions’ — are deduced from the theory; especially predictions that are easily testable or applicable. From among these statements, those are selected which are not derivable from the current theory, and more especially those which the current theory contradicts. Next we seek a decision as regards these (and other) derived statements by comparing them with the results of practical applications and experiments. If this decision is positive, that is, if the singular conclusions turn out to be acceptable, or verified, then the theory has, for the time being, passed its test: we have found no reason to discard it. But if the decision is negative, or in other words, if the conclusions have been falsified, then their falsification also falsifies the theory from which they were logically deduced.
It should be noticed that a positive decision can only temporarily support the theory, for subsequent negative decisions may always overthrow it. So long as theory withstands detailed and severe tests and is not superseded by another theory in the course of scientific progress, we may say that it has ‘proved its mettle’ or that it is ‘corroborated’* 1 by past experience.
Nothing resembling inductive logic appears in the procedure here outlined. I never assume that we can argue from the truth of singular statements to the truth of theories. I never assume that by force of ‘verified’ conclusions, theories can be established as ‘true’, or even as merely ‘probable’.
In this book I intend to give a more detailed analysis of the methods of deductive testing. And I shall attempt to show that, within the framework of this analysis, all the problems can be dealt with that are usually called ‘epistemologicol’. Those problems, more especially, to which inductive logic gives rise, can be eliminated without creating new ones in their place.
4 THE PROBLEM OF DEMARCATION
Of the many objections which are likely to be raised against the view here advanced, the most serious is perhaps the following. In rejecting the method of induction, it may be said, I deprive empirical science of what appears to be its most important characteristic; and this means that I remove the barriers which separate science from metaphysical speculation. My reply to this objection is that my main reason for rejecting inductive logic is precisely that it does not provide a suitable distinguishing mark of the empirical, non-metaphysical, character of a theoretical system; or in other words, that it does not provide a suitable ‘criterion of demarcation’.
The problem of finding a criterion which would enable us to distinguish between the empirical sciences on the one hand, and mathematics and logic as well as ‘metaphysical’ systems on the other, I call the problem of demarcation. 1
This problem was known to Hume who attempted to solve it. 2 With Kant it became the central problem of the theory of knowledge. If, following Kant, we call the problem of induction ‘Hume’s problem’, we might call the problem of demarcation ‘Kant’s problem’.
Of these two problems — the source of nearly all the other problems of the theory of knowledge — the problem of demarcation is, I think, the more fundamental. Indeed, the main reason why epistemologists with empiricist leanings tend to pin their faith to the ‘method of induction’ seems to be their belief that this method alone can provide a suitable criterion of demarcation. This applies especially to those empiricists who follow the flag of ‘positivism’.
The older positivists wished to admit, as scientific or legitimate, only those concepts (or notions or ideas) which were, as they put it, ‘derived from experience’; those concepts, that is, which they believed to be logically reducible to elements of sense-experience, such as sensations (or sense-data), impressions, perceptions, visual or auditory memories, and so forth. Modern positivists are apt to see more clearly that science is not a system of concepts but rather a system of statements.* 1 Accordingly, they wish to admit, as scientific or legitimate, only those statements which are reducible to elementary (or ‘atomic’) statements of experience — to ‘judgments of perception’ or ‘atomic propositions’ or ‘protocol-sentences’ or what not.* 2 It is clear that the implied criterion of demarcation is identical with the demand for an inductive logic.
Since I reject inductive logic I must also reject all these attempts to solve the problem of demarcation. With this rejection, the problem of demarcation gains in importance for the present inquiry. Finding an acceptable criterion of demarcation must be a crucial task for any epistemology which does not accept inductive logic.
Positivists usually interpret the problem of demarcation in a naturalistic way; they interpret it as if it were a problem of natural science. Instead of taking it as their task to propose a suitable convention, they believe they have to discover a difference, existing in the nature of things, as it were, between empirical science on the one hand and metaphysics on the other. They are constantly trying to prove that metaphysics by its very nature is nothing but nonsensical twaddle — ‘sophistry and illusion’, as Hume says, which we should ‘commit to the flames’.* 3
If by the words ‘nonsensical’ or ‘meaningless’ we wish to express no more, by definition, than ‘not belonging to empirical science’, then the characterization of metaphysics as meaningless nonsense would be trivial; for metaphysics has usually been defined as non-empirical. But of course, the positivists believe they can say much more about metaphysics than that some of its statements are non-empirical. The words ‘meaningless’ or ‘nonsensical’ convey, and are meant to convey, a derogatory evaluation; and there is no doubt that what the positivists really want to achieve is not so much a successful demarcation as the final overthrow 3 and the annihilation of metaphysics. However this may be, we find that each time the positivists tried to say more clearly what ‘meaningful’ meant, the attempt led to the same result — to a definition of ‘meaningful sentence’ (in contradistinction to ‘meaningless pseudo-sentence’) which simply reiterated the criterion of demarcation of their inductive logic.
This ‘shows itself very clearly in the case of Wittgenstein, according to whom every meaningful proposition must be logically reducible 4 to elementary (or atomic) propositions, which he characterizes as descriptions or ‘pictures of reality’ 5 (a characterization, by the way, which is to cover all meaningful propositions) . We may see from this that Wittgenstein’s criterion of meaningfulness coincides with the inductivists’ criterion of demarcation, provided we replace their words ‘scientific’ or ‘legitimate’ by ‘meaningful’. And it is precisely over the problem of induction that this attempt to solve the problem of demarcation comes to grief: positivists, in their anxiety to annihilate metaphysics, annihilate natural science along with it. For scientific laws, too, cannot be logically reduced to elementary statements of experience. If consistently applied, Wittgenstein’s criterion of meaningfulness rejects as meaningless those natural laws the search for which, as Einstein says, 6 is ‘the supreme task of the physicist’: they can never be accepted as genuine or legitimate statements. Wittgenstein’s attempt to unmask the problem of induction as an empty pseudo-problem was formulated by Schlick* 4 in the following words: ‘The problem of induction consists in asking for a logical justification of universal statements about reality . . .
We recognize, with Hume, that there is no such logical justification: there can be none, simply because they are not genuine statements.’
This shows how the inductivist criterion of demarcation fails to draw a dividing line between scientific and metaphysical systems, and why it must accord them equal status; for the verdict of the positivist dogma of meaning is that both are systems of meaningless pseudo-statements. Thus instead of eradicating metaphysics from the empirical sciences, positivism leads to the invasion of metaphysics into the scientific realm.
In contrast to these anti-metaphysical stratagems — anti-metaphysical in intention, that is — my business, as I see it, is not to bring about the overthrow of metaphysics. It is, rather, to formulate a suitable characterization of empirical science, or to define the concepts ’empirical science’ and ‘metaphysics’ in such a way that we shall be able to say of a given system of statements whether or not its closer study is the concern of empirical science.
My criterion of demarcation will accordingly have to be regarded as a proposal for an agreement or convention. As to the suitability of any such convention opinions may differ; and a reasonable discussion of these questions is only possible between parties having some purpose in common. The choice of that purpose must, of course, be ultimately a matter of decision, going beyond rational argument.*
Thus anyone who envisages a system of absolutely certain, irrevocably true statements 9 as the end and purpose of science will certainly reject the proposals I shall make here. And so will those who see ‘the essence of science … in its dignity’, which they think resides in its ‘wholeness’ and its ‘real truth and essentiality’. 10 They will hardly be ready to grant this dignity to modern theoretical physics in which I and others see the most complete realization to date of what I call ’empirical science’.
The aims of science which I have in mind are different. I do not try to justify them, however, by representing them as the true or the essential aims of science. This would only distort the issue, and it would mean a relapse into positivist dogmatism. There is only one way, as far as I can see, of arguing rationally in support of my proposals. This is to analyse their logical consequences: to point out their fertility — their power to elucidate the problems of the theory of knowledge.
Thus I freely admit that in arriving at my proposals I have been guided, in the last analysis, by value judgments and predilections. But I hope that my proposals may be acceptable to those who value not only logical rigour but also freedom from dogmatism; who seek practical applicability, but are even more attracted by the adventure of science, and by discoveries which again and again confront us with new and unexpected questions, challenging us to try out new and hitherto undreamed-of answers.
The fact that value judgments influence my proposals does not mean that I am making the mistake of which I have accused the positivists — that of trying to kill metaphysics by calling it names. I do not even go so far as to assert that metaphysics has no value for empirical science.
For it cannot be denied that along with metaphysical ideas which have obstructed the advance of science there have been others — such as speculative atomism — which have aided it. And looking at the matter from the psychological angle, I am inclined to think that scientific discovery is impossible without faith in ideas which are of a purely speculative kind, and sometimes even quite hazy; a faith which is completely unwarranted from the point of view of science, and which, to that extent, is ‘metaphysical’.
Yet having issued all these warnings, I still take it to be the first task of the logic of knowledge to put forward a concept of empirical science, in order to make linguistic usage, now somewhat uncertain, as definite as possible, and in order to draw a clear line of demarcation between science and metaphysical ideas — even though these ideas may have furthered the advance of science throughout its history.
5 EXPERIENCE AS A METHOD
The task of formulating an acceptable definition of the idea of an ’empirical science’ is not without its difficulties. Some of these arise from the fact that there must be many theoretical systems with a logical structure very similar to the one which at any particular time is the accepted system of empirical science. This situation is sometimes described by saying that there is a great number — presumably an infinite number — of ‘logically possible worlds’. Yet the system called ’empirical science’ is intended to represent only one world: the ‘real world’ or the ‘world of our experience’.*
In order to make this idea a little more precise, we may distinguish three requirements which our empirical theoretical system will have to satisfy. First, it must be synthetic, so that it may represent a non-contradictory, a possible world. Secondly, it must satisfy the criterion of demarcation (cf. sections 6 and 21), i.e. it must not be metaphysical, but must represent a world of possible experience. Thirdly, it must be a system distinguished in some way from other such systems as the one which represents our world of experience.
But how is the system that represents our world of experience to be distinguished? The answer is: by the fact that it has been submitted to tests, and has stood up to tests. This means that it is to be distinguished by applying to it that deductive method which it is my aim to analyse, and to describe.
‘Experience’, on this view, appears as a distinctive method whereby one theoretical system may be distinguished from others; so that empirical science seems to be characterized not only by its logical form but, in addition, by its distinctive method. (This, of course, is also the view of the inductivists, who try to characterize empirical science by its use of the inductive method.)
The theory of knowledge, whose task is the analysis of the method or procedure peculiar to empirical science, may accordingly be described as a theory of the empirical method — a theory of what is usually called ‘experience’.
6 FALSIFIABILITY AS A CRITERION OF DEMARCATION
The criterion of demarcation inherent in inductive logic — that is, the positivistic dogma of meaning — is equivalent to the requirement that all the statements of empirical science (or all ‘meaningful’ statements) must be capable of being finally decided, with respect to their truth and falsity; we shall say that they must be ‘conclusively decidable’. This means that their form must be such that to verify them and to falsify them must both be logically possible. Thus Schlick says: ‘. . . a genuine statement must be capable of conclusive verification’; 1 and Waismann says still more clearly: ‘If there is no possible way to determine whether a statement is true then that statement has no meaning whatsoever. For the meaning of a statement is the method of its verification.’ 2
Now in my view there is no such thing as induction.* 1 Thus inference to theories, from singular statements which are ‘verified by experience’ (whatever that may mean), is logically inadmissible. Theories are, therefore, never empirically verifiable. If we wish to avoid the positivist’s mistake of eliminating, by our criterion of demarcation, the theoretical systems of natural science,* 2 then we must choose a criterion which allows us to admit to the domain of empirical science even statements which cannot be verified.
But I shall certainly admit a system as empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience. These considerations suggest that not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system is to be taken as a criterion of demarcation.* 3 In other words: I shall not require of a scientific system that it shall be capable of being singled out, once and for all, in a positive sense; but I shall require that its logical form shall be such that it can be singled out, by means of empirical tests, in a negative sense: it must be possible for an empirical scientific system to be refuted by experience.
(Thus the statement, ‘It will rain or not rain here tomorrow’ will not be regarded as empirical, simply because it cannot be refuted; whereas the statement, ‘It will rain here tomorrow’ will be regarded as empirical.)
Various objections might be raised against the criterion of demarcation here proposed. In the first place, it may well seem somewhat wrong-headed to suggest that science, which is supposed to give us positive information, should be characterized as satisfying a negative requirement such as refutability. However, I shall show, in sections 31 to 46, that this objection has little weight, since the amount of positive information about the world which is conveyed by a scientific statement is the greater the more likely it is to clash, because of its logical character, with possible singular statements. (Not for nothing do we call the laws of nature ‘laws’: the more they prohibit the more they say.)
Again, the attempt might be made to turn against me my own criticism of the inductivist criterion of demarcation; for it might seem that objections can be raised against falsifiability as a criterion of demarcation similar to those which I myself raised against verifiability.
This attack would not disturb me. My proposal is based upon an asymmetry between verifiability and falsifiability; an asymmetry which results from the logical form of universal statements.* 4 For these are never derivable from singular statements, but can be contradicted by singular statements. Consequently it is possible by means of purely deductive inferences (with the help of the modus tollens of classical logic) to argue from the truth of singular statements to the falsity of universal statements. Such an argument to the falsity of universal statements is the only strictly deductive kind of inference that proceeds, as it were, in the ‘inductive direction’; that is, from singular to universal statements.
A third objection may seem more serious. It might be said that even if the asymmetry is admitted, it is still impossible, for various reasons, that any theoretical system should ever be conclusively falsified. For it is always possible to find some way of evading falsification, for example by introducing ad hoc an auxiliary hypothesis, or by changing ad hoc a definition. It is even possible without logical inconsistency to adopt the position of simply refusing to acknowledge any falsifying experience whatsoever. Admittedly, scientists do not usually proceed in this way, but logically such procedure is possible; and this fact, it might be claimed, makes the logical value of my proposed criterion of demarcation dubious, to say the least.
I must admit the justice of this criticism; but I need not therefore withdraw my proposal to adopt falsifiability as a criterion of demarcation. For I am going to propose (in sections 20 f.) that the empirical method shall be characterized as a method that excludes precisely those ways of evading falsification which, as my imaginary critic rightly insists, are logically possible. According to my proposal, what characterizes the empirical method is its manner of exposing to falsification, in every conceivable way, the system to be tested. Its aim is not to save the lives of untenable systems but, on the contrary, to select the one which is by comparison the fittest, by exposing them all to the fiercest struggle for survival.
The proposed criterion of demarcation also leads us to a solution of Hume’s problem of induction — of the problem of the validity of natural laws. The root of this problem is the apparent contradiction between what may be called ‘the fundamental thesis of empiricism’ — the thesis that experience alone can decide upon the truth or falsity of scientific statements — and Hume’s realization of the inadmissibility of inductive arguments. This contradiction arises only if it is assumed that all empirical scientific statements must be ‘conclusively decidable’, i.e. that their verification and their falsification must both in principle be possible. If we renounce this requirement and admit as empirical also statements which are decidable in one sense only — unilaterally decidable and, more especially, falsifiable — and which may be tested by systematic attempts to falsify them, the contradiction disappears: the method of falsification presupposes no inductive inference, but only the tautological transformations of deductive logic whose validity is not in dispute.
If falsifiability is to be at all applicable as a criterion of demarcation, then singular statements must be available which can serve as premisses in falsifying inferences. Our criterion therefore appears only to shift the problem — to lead us back from the question of the empirical character of theories to the question of the empirical character of singular statements.
Yet even so, something has been gained. For in the practice of scientific research, demarcation is sometimes of immediate urgency in connection with theoretical systems, whereas in connection with singular statements, doubt as to their empirical character rarely arises. It is true that errors of observation occur and that they give rise to false singular statements, but the scientist scarcely ever has occasion to describe a singular statement as non-empirical or metaphysical.
PROBLEM OF THE EMPIRICAL BASIS
Problems of the empirical basis — that is, problems concerning the empirical character of singular statements, and how they are tested — thus play a part within the logic of science that differs somewhat from that played by most of the other problems which will concern us. For most of these stand in close relation to the practice of research, whilst the problem of the empirical basis belongs almost exclusively to the theory of knowledge. I shall have to deal with them, however, since they have given rise to many obscurities. This is especially true of the relation between perceptual experiences and basic statements. (What I call a ‘basic statement’ or a ‘basic proposition’ is a statement which can serve as a premise in an empirical falsification; in brief, a statement of a singular fact.)
Perceptual experiences have often been regarded as providing a kind of justification for basic statements. It was held that these statements are ‘based upon’ these experiences; that their truth becomes ‘manifest by inspection’ through these experiences; or that it is made ‘evident’ by these experiences, etc. All these expressions exhibit the perfectly sound tendency to emphasize the close connection between basic statements and our perceptual experiences. Yet it was also rightly felt that statements can be logically justified only by statements. Thus the connection between the perceptions and the statements remained obscure, and was described by correspondingly obscure expressions which elucidated nothing, but slurred over the difficulties or, at best, adumbrated them through metaphors.
Here too a solution can be found, I believe, if we clearly separate the psychological from the logical and methodological aspects of the problem. We must distinguish between, on the one hand, our subjective experiences or our feelings of conviction, which can never justify any statement (though they can be made the subject of psychological investigation) and, on the other hand, the objective logical relations subsisting among the various systems of scientific statements, and within each of them.
The problems of the empirical basis will be discussed in some detail in sections 25 to 30. For the present I had better turn to the problem of scientific objectivity, since the terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ which I have just used are in need of elucidation.
The words ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ are philosophical terms heavily burdened with a heritage of contradictory usages and of inconclusive and interminable discussions.
My use of the terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ is not unlike Kant’s. He uses the word ‘objective’ to indicate that scientific knowledge should be justifiable, independently of anybody’s whim: a justification is ‘objective’ if in principle it can be tested and understood by anybody.
‘If something is valid’, he writes, ‘for anybody in possession of his reason, then its grounds are objective and sufficient.”
Now I hold that scientific theories are never fully justifiable or verifiable, but that they are nevertheless testable. I shall therefore say that the objectivity of scientific statements lies in the fact that they can be inter-subjectively tested.* 1
The word ‘subjective’ is applied by Kant to our feelings of conviction (of varying degrees). 2 To examine how these come about is the business of psychology. They may arise, for example, ‘in accordance with the laws of association’. 3 Objective reasons too may serve as ‘subjective causes of judging’, 4 in so far as we may reflect upon these reasons, and become convinced of their cogency.
Kant was perhaps the first to realize that the objectivity of scientific statements is closely connected with the construction of theories — with the use of hypotheses and universal statements. Only when certain events recur in accordance with rules or regularities, as is the case with repeatable experiments, can our observations be tested — in principle — by anyone. We do not take even our own observations quite seriously, or accept them as scientific observations, until we have repeated and tested them. Only by such repetitions can we convince ourselves that we are not dealing with a mere isolated ‘coincidence’, but with events which, on account of their regularity and reproducibility, are in principle inter-subjectively testable.
Every experimental physicist knows those surprising and inexplicable apparent ‘effects’ which in his laboratory can perhaps even be reproduced for some time, but which finally disappear without trace.
Of course, no physicist would say in such a case that he had made a scientific discovery (though he might try to rearrange his experiments so as to make the effect reproducible) . Indeed the scientifically significant physical effect may be defined as that which can be regularly reproduced by anyone who carries out the appropriate experiment in the way prescribed. No serious physicist would offer for publication, as a scientific discovery, any such ‘occult effect’, as I propose to call it — one for whose reproduction he could give no instructions. The ‘discovery’ would be only too soon rejected as chimerical, simply because attempts to test it would lead to negative results. 6 (It follows that any controversy over the question whether events which are in principle unrepeatable and unique ever do occur cannot be decided by science: it would be a metaphysical controversy.)
We may now return to a point made in the previous section: to my thesis that a subjective experience, or a feeling of conviction, can never justify a scientific statement, and that within science it can play no part except that of an object of an empirical (a psychological) inquiry. No matter how intense a feeling of conviction it may be, it can never justify a statement. Thus I may be utterly convinced of the truth of a statement; certain of the evidence of my perceptions; overwhelmed by the intensity of my experience: every doubt may seem to me absurd. But does this afford the slightest reason for science to accept my statement?
Can any statement be justified by the fact that K. R. P. is utterly convinced of its truth? The answer is, ‘No’; and any other answer would be incompatible with the idea of scientific objectivity. Even the fact, for me to so firmly established, that I am experiencing this feeling of conviction, cannot appear within the field of objective science except in the form of a psychological hypothesis which, of course, calls for intersubjective testing: from the conjecture that I have this feeling of conviction the psychologist may deduce, with the help of psychological and other theories, certain predictions about my behaviour; and these may be confirmed or refuted in the course of experimental tests. But from the epistemological point of view, it is quite irrelevant whether my feeling of conviction was strong or weak; whether it came from a strong or even irresistible impression of indubitable certainty (or ‘self-evidence’), or merely from a doubtful surmise. None of this has any bearing on the question of how scientific statements can be justified.
Considerations like these do not of course provide an answer to the problem of the empirical basis. But at least they help us to see its main difficulty. In demanding objectivity for basic statements as well as for other scientific statements, we deprive ourselves of any logical means by which we might have hoped to reduce the truth of scientific statements to our experiences. Moreover we debar ourselves from granting any favoured status to statements which describe experiences, such as those statements which describe our perceptions (and which are sometimes called ‘protocol sentences’). They can occur in science only as psychological statements; and this means, as hypotheses of a kind whose standards of inter-subjective testing (considering the present state of psychology) are certainly not very high.
Whatever may be our eventual answer to the question of the empirical basis, one thing must be clear: if we adhere to our demand that scientific statements must be objective, then those statements which belong to the empirical basis of science must also be objective, i.e. inter-subjectively testable. Yet inter-subjective testability always implies that, from the statements which are to be tested, other testable statements can be deduced. Thus if the basic statements in their turn are to be inter-subjectively testable, there can be no ultimate statements in science: there can be no statements in science which cannot be tested, and therefore none which cannot in principle be refuted, by falsifying some of the conclusions which can be deduced from them. We thus arrive at the following view. Systems of theories are tested by deducing from them statements of a lesser level of universality. These statements in their turn, since they are to be intersubjectively testable, must be testable in like manner — and so ad infinitum. It might be thought that this view leads to an infinite regress, and that it is therefore untenable. In section 1 , when criticizing induction, I raised the objection that it may lead to an infinite regress; and it might well appear to the reader now that the very same objection can be urged against that procedure of deductive testing which I myself advocate. However, this is not so. The deductive method of testing cannot establish or justify the statements which are being tested; nor is it intended to do so.
Thus there is no danger of an infinite regress. But it must be admitted that the situation to which I have drawn attention — testability ad infinitum and the absence of ultimate statements which are not in need of tests — does create a problem. For, clearly, tests cannot in fact be carried on ad infinitum: sooner or later we have to stop. Without discussing this problem here in detail, I only wish to point out that the fact that the tests cannot go on for ever does not clash with my demand that every scientific statement must be testable. For I do not demand that every scientific statement must have in fact been tested before it is accepted. I only demand that every such statement must be capable of being tested; or in other words, I refuse to accept the view that there are statements in science which we have, resignedly, to accept as true merely because it does not seem possible, for logical reasons, to test them.” Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery; Preface to the original edition, Preface to the first American English edition, Chapter One, “A Survey of Fundamental Problems,” 1934, 1959.