The Relationship of the Human Sciences to the Natural Sciences

Topics: Science, Nature, Human Pages: 7 (2715 words) Published: September 29, 2013
The Relationship of the Human Sciences to the Natural Sciences To a great extent, however, the human sciences do encompass natural facts and are based on knowledge of nature. If one were to imagine purely spiritual beings in a realm of persons which consisted only of such beings, then their coming-to-be, preservation, and development, as well as their extinction - whatever representations we may form of the background from which these beings appear and into which they disappear - would be dependent on purely spiritual conditions. Their well-being would be based on their relation to a world of spirit, their contact with each other and their interactions would be effected through purely mental means, and the lasting effects of their actions would be of a purely spiritual sort. Even their disappearance from the realm of persons would be grounded in the spiritual sphere. The system of such individuals would be known by pure sciences of spirit. In reality, however, an individual comes into being, survives, and develops on the basis of the functions of an animal organism and its connections to his natural environment. His feeling of life is, at least partly, based on these natural functions; his impressions are conditioned by his sense organs and the way they are affected by the external world. We find that the abundance and liveliness of his representations, the strength and direction of his acts of will, are in many ways dependent on changing conditions within his nervous system. His volitional impulses induce contractions in the muscle fibers when effect directed outwards is bound to molecular changes in his body; lasting results of his acts of will exist only in the form of changes in the material world. Thus the mental life of a man is part of the psychophysical life-unit which is the form in which human existence and human life are manifested. Only by means of abstraction is mental life separable from that psychophysical life-unit. The system of these life-units is the reality which constitutes the subject matter of the socio-historical sciences. Whatever the metaphysical facts may be, man as a life-unit may be regarded from the two points of view that we have developed: seen from within he is a system of mental facts, but to the senses he is a physical whole. Inner and outer perception never occur in one and the same act, and consequently the reality of mental life is never given simultaneously with that of our body. On account of this, there are necessarily two different and irreducible standpoints for a scientific approach aimed at grasping the connection of the mental and the physical as expressed in the psychophysical life-unit. If I start with inner experience, then I find the whole external world to be given in my consciousness and all the laws of nature to be subject to the conditions of my consciousness and, therefore, dependent on them. This is the standpoint which German philosophy at the turn of the eighteenth century designated as "transcendental philosophy." On the other hand, I can start from the world of physical nature, as I see it before me, and perceive psychic facts ordered within space and time; I then see changes within spiritual life subject to external interference-natural or experimental-consisting of physical changes impinging on the nervous system. Observation of human growth and pathology can extend this standpoint into a comprehensive picture of the dependence of the human spirit on the body. This results in a scientific approach which proceeds from Outer to inner, from physical changes to mental ones. Thus the antagonism between the philosopher and the natural scientist is conditioned by their antithetical starting points. Let us now take as our point of departure the perspective of the natural sciences. Insofar as this perspective remains conscious of its limits, its results are incontestable. These results receive a closer determination of their cognitive value only from the standpoint of...
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