The relevance of myth to science

Farzad Mahootian, Fordham University


The intent of this work is to re-envision science in order to bring about the self-consciousness of scientific consciousness, to bring self-reflection to scientific thinking. I refer to the process of science becoming conscious of itself. A word of explanation regarding this apparent anthropomorphization of science is in order: My delineation of a direction of thought about the relation between scientific and normative thinking involves listening to the mute language (Vico) of the history of science, the sensual speech (Boehme) of the history of scientific discovery and invention. To decipher and render intelligible the sphere of thought generated by the history of scientific theorizing we must read it metaphorically, for example, seeing the relationship between classical and quantum theory as a metaphor "mutely appealing for an imaginative leap" (Whitehead). The history of science may be seen as a metaphor of the process of self-consciousness: the story of the soul understanding itself in the act of trying to understand the world. In this vein, the development of the notion of complementarity in the context of physics, and of autopoiesis in the context of open systems in biology and chemistry, represent moments of self-reference and potential self-consciousness in the history of science. The self-consciousness of anything, including science, amounts to a self-recognition. The history of scientific ideas, and their value to those who originated, inherited or used these ideas, must be the ground upon which the cultivation of self-discovery, self-recognition, and self-possessed expression of the human being must occur. Self-possession, as the understanding of one's own limits, is one of the necessary conditions for maturity and moral responsibility. In the concepts of autopoiesis and complementarity, science refers directly to itself in the process of making reference to nature: it becomes necessary to describe the describing system in order to proceed with a clear description of the subject matter at hand. In other words, the instrument must account for itself, the theory must, as a matter of theoretical necessity, compensate for its own epistemological limitation and gain perspective on its perspective.

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Recommended Citation

Mahootian, Farzad, "The relevance of myth to science" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9020016.