To govern life through science would have no other result that to brutalise humanity.
To face the problem of science in a perspective of social revolution within the restricted limits of an essay for a review might seem rash, and that is why some initial clarification is required.
In fact, it is not easy to make a definition of science, pointing out the characteristics that appear to be more or less constant in all the various sectors which science is divided into, i.e. in the individual sciences. We all believe that we know far more than we actually do, so when we are faced with the real importance of the problem, we end up confusing the few clear ideas we have, retreating into the commonplaces of solidified knowledge, prevailing academism or ideologism.
The more we go into things, the more we tend to establish a distinction between the truths supplied to us by the factory stamp of scientific truth, and the certainty that we carry in our hearts that everything has been produced by exploitation, and that the dominion of capital must be destroyed, science included. We feel a sense of disgust for everything, even for the certainties and progress that man has accomplished along the road of liberation, and which have duly been mixed up in the great caldron of science and the absurdity and ideology masked by scientism.
But then, on reflection, we realise that the effective improvements realised by science have been artfully mixed by our dominators in the midst of a jumble of metaphysical theories, and we cannot throw everything away, but must develop a method that consents us to decodify the swindle, separating all that really constitutes progress brought about by science, from that which constitutes superfluous ideological cover aimed at perpetuating power.
This should not lead us to believe that a use of the instruments of repression is possible in the revolutionary sense, something like the use that marxists claim to make of the repressive and productive mechanisms of the State as they wait for its impossible extinction. Science is undoubtedly one of the most efficient instruments of repression, but that is not all it is. It is also an instrument; not taken as a whole, but it is in part an instrument. Today, presenting itself as an (apparently) organic co-ordinated complex of knowledge, it has turned out to be addressed exclusively towards exploitation; tomorrow, submitted to a suitable selection based on revolutionary criteria, it could become one instrument of liberation, contributing to those irreplaceable constructive forces which are today diverted with metaphysical coverings in favour of oppression and exploitation, to man's struggle for the construction of a new world.
The social revolution would not be able to change the science of today all at once, which is undoubtedly the science of the bosses, into proletarian science, or a science of the revolution. The marxists, coherent with their initial error, fell prey to this illusion, claiming to be able to use the instruments of repression taken as a whole. The proletarian science of the future has been in the course of construction for centuries, only it is necessary to free it, begining now, from its obligatory marriage with all the metaphysical and ideological distortions that the project of managerial exploitation has constricted it with.
Before discussing this necessary selection, which could be brought about now, and in certain aspects is already being realised, it is necessary to better make an outline of the problem in all its particulars.
Science and knowledge
As a rule, science means knowledge in the widest sense. But to better clarify it, we should mean by this term a kind of knowledge that is particularly suited to becoming a method of control, capable of guaranteeing the reliability of the results obtained within certain limits.
If we strip science of its metaphysical, theological and ideological layers, as far as such an operation is possible today, we can see that the concept of truth, which is how the knowledge specific to science is qualified today, would be better substituted with the concept of reliability, or, if we prefer, validity, approximation, and so on.
If knowledge includes a much wider field than that specific to science, in that it includes the experience of daily life, the method for qualifying the results achieved by science is not really very different to the method of common sense, which qualifies the consequences of the experience of everyday life. In fact, it could be said that the man in the street does not think in ways that are better or worse than the scientist, and is afflicted with the same objective limitations, and tormented - nearly always without realising it - by the same ideological deformations. The cleaning up made necessary concerning concepts of daily life, always at the prey of deformation by the means of mass information, is equally necessary concerning scientific concepts, which have been submitted to another, more refined kind of ailment.
But for the time being what we want to do is to point out the main procedures used to qualify scientific results. We must say right away that the procedure used by marxism is not included in this list, for the simple reason that it is not actually a specific procedure, but at best is a repetition of the descriptive one. We shall see the real significance of the marxist analysis on this argument further on.
1) The demonstrative procedure. The results obtained are placed at the end of a chain of statements bound by logical rules, constituting a more or less complete system. Aristotle writes at the beginning of the Primi Analitici: "Above all it should be said what object is concerned and the discipline the present enquiry is concerned with, that it concerns the demonstration and is up to demonstrative science." (1) And Plato "True opinions (i.e. science), for the whole time in which they stand, are a beautiful possession and produce every good, but they do not want to stand firm for long and flee from the human soul, therefore they are not worth much, until someone manages to link them with a casual reasoning." (2) Descartes finds in " ... these long chains of reasoning are simple and easy of which geometers usually use to reach their most difficult demonstrations" a new method for re-examining all the "things susceptible to fall under human knowledge." (3) Kant reproposes the procedure at a more complete level: "..Systematic unity is the only element that is capable of transforming common knowledge into science - thus drawing a system of a simple aggregate of knowledge."(4) Hegel concludes: "The need to produce a totality of knowledge, a system of science, must arise. Only under this condition can the multiplicity of relations free itself from accidentality, in that the latter receive their place in the whole of the objective totality of knowledge and reach their objective accomplishment. " (5) And more recently, to conclude concerning the "systematising" fortunes of science, Hermann Cohen: “.. the category of the system, like the category of the object, is the category of nature. From this the concept of the object is therefore determined, as object of the mathematical science of nature.”(6) This procedure has now been considerably devalued. The concept of system claimed to give qualification not only to the results of research but also to the single procedures which made the research possible, right to the individual concepts. In this way it is easy to understand that a concept with a given meaning elsewhere, took on another one once in the system, leading to considerable consequences in the qualification of results, now strongly impregnated with the metaphysical premise.
2) The descriptive procedure. Upturns the claims of the demonstrative procedure. It does not begin from a general a priori system of ideas, but from the investigation of single phenomena. In the Discours preliminaire of the Enclyclopaedie d'Alembert writes, referring to Newton: “This great genius saw that it was time to banish physics, conjecture and vague hypotheses, or at least not give them more than they were worth, and that science should be submitted to experience and geometry.”(7) And further on, in the same Discours, it is not insignificant that the same d'Alembert referring to Newton's System of the World (8), writes in brackets “I am not referring in fact to his System, but his Theory of the World.” (9), making clear, even at the simple level of terminology, the refusal of any kind of system, a refusal which characterises the spirit of the Enlightenment. Compte bases the theory of positive science on the refusal of the search for a cause: “(it is necessary) to consider all phenomenon subject to invariable natural laws, the precise discovery of, and reduction to the minimum possible number, is the aim of all our efforts, while we consider the research for what are called causes to be absolutely inaccessable and senseless.”(10). The most obvious characteristic of this way of thinking is not so much determinism, which can also be alimented by the preceding demonstrative procedure, so much as economism The clearest formulation in this direction is that of Mach. “Every science must substitute or save facts, copying them or constructing models of them in thought, which are, precisely, copies which we can use more easily than the events themselves, representing them for us advantageously in more than one aspect. This economic function of science, which penetrates its whole essence, already appears clear at the most general reflections on the subject. Once the economic principle is understood, all mysticisim disappears from science.”(11) The descriptive procedure still finds wide acceptation in the scientific world today. Thus one of the most famous theoreticians, Richard B. Braithewaite writes, “The function of science... is to establish general laws which reflect the behaviour of empirical laws or objects which the science in question deals with... and to supply reliable forecasts of events that are as yet unknown.”(12) The characteristic of this procedure of qualification is therefore the refusal of the system, and the reduction of scientific laws to simple enunciations of phenomena which develop in a given way. The demonstrative procedure on the other hand added something more than simple generalisation to scientific laws, although it did not succeed in explaining what this something more was, beyond a "fideistic" adjournment to the normative capacity of the scientific system as a whole.
3) The fallible procedure. Although this position was developed and accepted by other scholars, it is to Popper that we owe the best formulation. In a letter sent by Popper to the editor of the review "Erkenntnis" in 1933, we read: “We can, in a perfectly coherent way, interpretate natural laws or theories of nature as genuine assertions that can be partly made assertions, that is, which for logical reasons are not verifiable, but are only falsifiable, in an assymmetrical way: they are assertions which are controlled by submitting them to systematic attempts to falsify them.”(13) This proposal, which was to become the battle horse of the social democrats and liberals, advocates of the new course of science, that is of the attempt to bring the structure of science up to the requirements of capital, comes to be considered by Popper himself as an “agreement or convention”(14), making it possible for the epistomologists, men of science and all researchers, to discuss problems that interest them "reasonably", in such a way that any criticism is utilised and inglobated.
4) The procedure of methodological anarchism This is almost exclusively based on research carried out by Feyerabend. In the next issue of this review there will be an in depth examination of one of Feyerabend’s most important books, paying particular attention to his concept of "anarchism" which, as can be seen, has little in common with what we as anarchist militants mean by it. Here we are interested in pointing out that the methodological thesis of Feyerabend criticises the positivist rationalism of which Popper is the outstanding representative, in that this: “..(gives) an inadequate framework of the previous development of science... and obstructs its future development.”(15) Feyerabend continues: “Without chaos, there can be no knowledge. Without a frequent renunciation of reason, there can be no progress. Ideas which form the very basis of science today, only exist because there were things like prejudice, opinion, passion; because these things opposed themselves to reason; and because they were allowed to operate in their own way.”(16) It is not difficult to discern the limitations of this conception which, contrary to what various scholars of the philosophy of science have done(17), are not to be found in the contradictions of a thesis which picks up history again, the abandoned theories of the past and all that has been considered "outdated"; so much as in the fact that has always claimed, remaining within a structure of scientific research under the dominion of the exploiters, to improve the research itself without considering that the thing is impossible if it does not insert itself within an action of a struggle aimed at defeating the exploiters along with their scientific domination and their "vision" of science.
None of these procedures of qualification supply a secure, unsuspectable key of reliability, in that they all postpone everything (methodological anarchism included) to an affirmation or re-affirmation of the old myth of truth, even if this is in the new guise of modern reformism (approximation, Systemisation, adjustment, resolution of problems, improvement, Progress, etc).
The determinist mechanism
Assigns the real world into the hands of science, considering the latter to be attainable through the perception of the senses. It includes the objectivist, behaviourist, mechanicist tendencies, as well as a number of others which can be traced to the latter. The principle of cause and effect is at the basis of this interpretative tendency of science, a principle which presupposes the idea of the order of nature. Newton’s law of the motion of planets and the mathematical system he derives from it, maintains that the initial conditions of the solar system rigorously determine the future. In this way Newton substitutes the exclusively empirical method with a generalisation capable of predicting possible future events. The most famous formulation of mechanistic determinism is that of Laplace: “An intelligence that were to know all the forces that act in nature at a given moment, as well as all the positions occupied in that moment by all the things of the universe, would be able to comprehend in one single formula, the motion of the larger bodies in the same way as the lightest atoms of the world, provided that its intellect were able to submit all the data to analysis, for it nothing would be uncertain, the future, like the past, would be present in its eyes.”(18)
The scientific analysis conducted in the eighteenth century came under the influence of determinism, and in particular its philosophical elaboration, positivism. In this way science became the only knowledge possible. The empirical scientific method became the only acceptable one, the description of facts and the connections between facts the sole means for prediction ("seeing in order to foresee"). Many anarchist analyses have remained at this concept of the task of science and theory and this interpretation of the world, because they were developed at the end of the nineteenth century in a positivist and evolutionist philosophical climate. Very little has been done to examine this theory and its consequences critically, for example Kropotkin's determinism on the organisation of the international anarchist movement before the Russian revolution. (19)
The model of classical mechanics came to be taken as point of reference by every philosopher and man of science. Economists built the laws of the "capitalist market” on the mechanical model of equilibrium. Mathematics supplied the framework suited to essentialising the evidence of the conclusion reached. The capitalists dreamed of eternal dominion, the revolutionaries of the automatic coming about of their revolution: each deceived themselves with the myth of science, drawing comfort from the expectations derived from it. Very soon, however, these myths and expectations were to be upturned.
From the beginning of the nineteenth century, geometry had been experiencing strong underground tremors, which were known to the specialists but capable of throwing the entire community of scientists into a panic. The foundations of Euclidean geometry, considered for centuries to be unshakeable, came to be disputed by other parallel geometries, different to that of Euclide and just as logical, although in radical disagreement with what the senses inmmediately perceive.
Something similar happened in mathematics, where the concept of number came to be denounced as mystificatory. In this way mathematics began its own revisionism, which goes from the phase of the analysis of preconstituted truths to the phase of language capable of going into formal knowledge.
But physics is without doubt the science which has produced the most astounding results, bringing about the definitive collapse of the determinist illusions. Planck contributes to modifying the very old conviction that nature does not go forward by leaps and bounds. Einstein relativises time and space, which for centuries had been considered as absolute. Going into the critique of causality, the use of statistical analysis and the analysis of approximation has spread.
The culminating point of this revision brought about by physics is to be found in Heisenberg’s principle of indetermination. Here is how it comes to be described by Reichenbach: “It (the transversal law of limitation of measurability or principle of indetermination ndr) establishes that contemporary values of independant parametres cannot be measured with as much exactitude as we would like. We can only measure half of all parametres with the desired level of precision, while the other half must remain partially indeterminate (therefore) if the value of the independant parametres are not known exactly, we cannot expect to be able to make rigorous forecasts concerning future observations.”(20)
The most widely accepted concept of science today is the progressist, or rather, possibilist, one. It has maintained its empirical content, but without the dogmatism that concealed itself under the metaphysical developments of positivism. Scientists today are for the most part laymen and social democrats. They consider that science is not a whole of “true” observations which, once fixed, are not returned to, just as they consider that science is not an organic system which is advancing definitively towards its conclusion. For them science is not knowledge in the sense of the conquest of truth, nor is it the idea of the conquest of a second rate truth such as probability. In this sense the illusions which Heisenberg’s principle of indetermination left standing, and which were to be alimented in the extraordinary technical capacity developed with the manipulation of the atom, subsequently fell. Thus Popper: “The old scientific ideal of the episteme - of absolutely certain demonstratable knowledge - has turned out to be an idol. The need for scientific objectivity renders it ineluctable that any affirmation of science must necessarily remain at the level of test. It is also true that a scientific ascertion can be corroborated, but each corroboration is relative to other ascertions, which in turn have the nature of a test. We can only be absolutely certain in our subjective experiences of conviction, in our subjective faith.” (21)
Today science avails itself of a agile use of its results by capital and, at the same time, in the sense of a better, more direct possibility of conditioning concerning financing and research projects. Dogmatic perspectives such as evolutionary positivism were no longer suitable for this purpose. Not by chance, the culmination of the development of this interpretion of reality corresponded to the phase of artisanal and individual discovery in science, and the phase in the development of capitalist dominion we could define as formal. In an extremely different phase, such as the present one where capitalist dominion covers the totality of the real, the model of scientific research is that of the big university, the big institute, the big State department, with financing and projects controlled by the State.
The taking up again of the subjectivism referred to by Popper is possible because it is submerged in capitalism's false intention of guaranteeing the freedom of the individual (and therefore also of scientists). And with subjectivism, metaphysics is also reappearing. In fact, science has come to be considered as a (non organic) whole of research, analyses, hypotheses, etc., which finds its roots precisely in metaphysics, i.e. in the primary formulae of philosophy. So, according to the new scientific intentions, metaphysics are not to be rejected as a whole, but should be criticised and gone into more thoroughly. But these questions should not be considered the same as those which should be attracting our attention, i.e. those relative to the conditioning which the structure of power exercises on knowledge in its formation. This political vision is rejected by most scientists because it would disturb the peace of their conscience. Still Popper defines "intolerant and totalitarian" a conception of the world which starts off from the "conspiratorial" point of view. In fact, this point of view considers that a "conspiracy" of forces exists, putting erroneous ideas into circulation aimed at concealing the truth. He writes:*(22) This consideration of truth is typical of scientific research today. It is thought that scientific realism can have a logical, rigorous form of expression (for instance through the mathematical language of computers), making it possible to speak of reality in an accumulative, controllable way. But these affirmations are only hypotheses based on fundamental myths such as the objective existence of the real, independently of our action, the progressive accumulation of observable data and phenomena, and the control or measuration of their level of truth.
The social democratic conception at the basis of this reasoning can be seen clearly, showing how recourse is always made to the procedure of control and the idea of a progressive elimination of error. These conditions are considered indispensable by science today, in order to allow growth in knowledge and to struggle against dogmatism and intolerance. And this is the best that real dominion can desire.
The social democratic critique of science
The enthusiasm for determinism was exported with ease from the strictly methodological field of the so-called natural sciences to the problems of society as a whole; on the other hand, critical reflection and preoccupation had difficulty in going beyond the tight circle of specialists.
In fact, such preoccupations were not lacking. Going back in time, we find that it had ethical and philosophical characteristics, such as the attempts made by the Church to put a brake on scientific development, considering it a danger to the health of the spirit; or the attempts of the idealist philosophical schools to reject the premises of evolutionist positivism in the name of an absolute value of the self (ich in German). Later on, on the other hand, with the full maturation of the class struggle, other preoccupations emerged. The science of society was more widely recognised, due to the need to find a final solution to the social question. The positivist faith was no longer sufficient. Pareto, who was indiscutably one of the most brilliant heirs of the mathematical school of economy, successor in Lausanne of its founder Walras, renounces this perspective with a public declaration (23), and all the conseguences this impIied, to dedicate himself entirely to the study of sociology. Certainly in these studies, as was to happen for Weber and others, the myth of science is still intact, but some interesting doubts and perplexities have been put forward.
Pareto writes: *(24)
In a more detailed way. Weber. *(25): and elsewhere:*(26)
But this critique stops here. Neither Pareto or Weber take the next step, that of affirming that science is socially conditioned in its internal structures. This step would have been revolutionary, and neither of them were able to take it.
Subsequent investigations were made by the theoreticians of the sociology of knowledge who, moreover, were already living in a different general political climate, one which had seen the formation, development and defeat of the great labour organisations in Germany. Mannheim writes: *(27)
Important from a sociological point of view are the more recent critiques of science, by scholars who want to modify and improve the ramifications of power upon which it stands. Kuhn, for example, has made a distinction between normal science and scientific research. The majority of scientists, the mass of labourers which the power structure bases itself in order to bring about its projects of dominion, is not made up of researchers and innovators, but of men of routine. Kuhn writies:*(28) This mass of labour, these scientific manpower, are not in fact disposed to putting their social position in question by bringing out dangerous theories: more simply it is a question of individuals who are prepared to obey in order to earn their salary. Kuhn points out that the normal activity of scientists does not include taking the trouble to examine the basic precepts which justify the limits and reasons for their work. *(29) But the theses supported by most of those addetti ai lavori to work reject Kuhn's preoccupations in such a way as to block the road to the hypothesis of an interference by power and the political structure. Once again it is Popper who is the clearest theoretician of the new progressist conservatism. * (30) But Popper does not make it clear whether this contaminating presence that appears in the concept of "applied scientist" is of an ideological nature. More than anything it seems that Popper wants to point out a danger, something that deforms the correct way of intending knowledge and the processes that preside over its development and possibility for growth. For example, speaking of Boltzmann (31), he says that although he had been a follower of Maxwell (32), he cannot be considered a "normal scientist" in that, for his whole life he was "a brave combattent who resisted the dominant fashion of the moment" (33). But there is nothing revolutionary about this “resisting". Popper simply wants to point out the activity of a scientist who did not allow himself to be dazzled by the myth of absolute truth, but, while largely remaining faithful to a certain basic conception, is fighting to find and eliminate eventual errors. No more than that.
The Frankfurt school was to give its contribution, but always within the limits of a criticism of restoration and maintenance: the power of the scientific elite and their submission to power, which much of the pollution about the objectivity of knowledge is derived from, are never questioned. Attempting to demonstrate, within the above-mentioned limits, the concrete conditions and contradictions of society, Adorno denounces the risk of exalting method as something absolute, leaving out of consideration the objective reality to which it is applied. He writes: *(34) His conclusion is of the materialist-dialectical type, it keeps account of the contradictions caused by ideological action in reality, which denies the possibility of an objective analysis in absolute. So the same author writes: *(35)
Close to Adorno’s position is that of Habermas. If the sciences of society were to be seen through the restricting lense of the natural sciences, one would end up reducing their normative content to a simple analysis of means, while nothing is said concerning ends. In this way a dualism comes about between facts and decisions, corresponding to the distinction between knowing and evaluating. But that puts all the facts/events of private life beyond science, reducing them to experimental research, or that which can be led back to the quantitive. In the dialectical materialistic methodology, Habermas affirms: *(36)
The marxist critique of bourgeois science
Marxism has never developed a true critique of science, but has always claimed to make a critique of "bourgeois" science, carried out by juxtaposing it with what was claimed to be proletarian, exemplified by the research and knowledge carried out in the countries of so-called real socialism.
Here we will give an account of Marx's critique of science, along with that of other classical marxist theoreticians, then try to point out the limitations and validity of the above affirmations. There have been attempts(37) to pass Marx off as the precursor of the modern marxist critics of science. There is practically no foundation to this. For Marx, science goes through precise phases of development, in that it is one of the productive forces which intervenes as technology in the process of production as a whole. When Marx happens to refer to a model of precision which he would like to apply for his research, he, like everyone else in that period, refers to che natural sciences (38). Writing to Annenkov in 1846 Marx affirms*(39). And, as was pointed out earlier, science, according to Marx, is one of the forces of production. In substance, Marx, as well as other revolutionary socialist theoreticions of his time, set himself both the acceptation of the myth of determinist science and the aspiration towards a different society that would be capable of changing the social structure of dominion, therefore also of science. It was his followers, once again, beginning from the great responsibility of Engels, who were to crystallise the process of the new science in proletarian science, simply by applying methodological principles which were considered to be revolutionary but were basically specific to the scientific climate of the time. In this way the proletarian legitimacy of the new science came to be based on the conquest of power by a revolutionary minority: methodological ground which is laughable today, but which led directly to the incredible affirmations of the Stalinist era. Engel's work The Dialectics of Nature supplied the foundations for the first great sclerotisation of Marx's position. The Antiduhring was a kind of simplification for the social democrat party, a kind of simple encyclopaedia in which all theoretical problems were to find a simple solution: so the Dialectic of Nature demonstrates its substantial and ingenuous 19th century positivism. *(40) Clearly, a regular position, in line with the objectivist illusions of the science of Engel's time. Thus in the Antiduhring:*(41)
The Materialism and Empiriocriticism of Lenin takes up Engel's thesis again after he had hinted in What are the friends of the people at a retum to the more original positions of Marx on the problem of the relationship between determinism and dialectical materialism. (42) So he writes:*(43) Stalin extends the above described determinism directly to the foundation of the political praxis of the party.(44)
The grotesque circumstances of this position, indicated in the USSR with the word diamat, did not end with the Stalinian period but still persists, although in a more attenuated way. In substance it is a question of using methodological principles produced by that world which is rightly considered bourgeois or reactionary, and declaring them, freezing them, principles of proletarian science simply because they are used by a State and a scientific apparatus which defines itself proletarian. It follows that every subsequent examination of the principles carried forward by science (always of a bourgeois and reactionary world) comes to be considered a negation of the results obtained by real socialism, and not simple investigation and progress in methodology. These investigations in fact are expected from the activity of the so-called proletarian State and its scientific bureaucracy, something which is impossible given that, leaving everything -