Positivism: (II) Using Defective Theoretical Principles


Much deeper than by the easily recognizable accumulation of trivialities has science been destroyed by the second manifestation of positivism, that is, by the operation on relevant materials under defective theoretical principles. Highly respectable scholars have invested an immense erudition into the digestion of historical materials, and their effort has gone largely to waste because their principles of selection and interpretation had no proper theoretical foundation but derived from the Zeitgeist, political preferences, or personal idiosyncrasies.

Into this class belong the histories of Greek philosophy that from their sources primarily extracted a "contribution" to the foundation of Western science; the treatises on Plato that discovered in him a precursor of Neo-Kantian logic or, according to the political fashions of the time, a constitutionalist, a Utopian, a socialist, or a Fascist; the histories of political ideas that defined politics in terms of Western constitutionalism and then were unable to discover much political theory in the Middle Ages; or the other variant that discovered in the Middle Ages a good deal of "contribution" to constitutional doctrine but completely ignored the block of political sectarian movements that culminated in the Reformation; or a giant enterprise like Gierke's Genossenschaftsrecht that was badly vitiated by its author's conviction that the history of political and legal thought was providentially moving toward its climax in his own theory of the Realperson.

In cases of this class the damage is not due to an accumulation of worthless materials; on the contrary, the treatises of this type quite frequently are still indispensable because of their reliable informations concerning facts (bibliographical references, critical establishment of texts, etc.). The damage is rather done through interpretation. The content of a source may be reported correctly as far as it goes, and nevertheless the report may create an entirely false picture because essential parts are omitted. And they are omitted because the uncritical principles of interpretation do not permit recognizing them as essential. Uncritical opinion, private or public ( doxa in the Platonic sense), cannot substitute for theory in science.

CW VOL 5,
The New Science of Politics
Introduction,
p 95.
[U.Chicago ed., p 9-10]

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