3 0 D O C U M E N T 6 R E V I E W O F M E Y E R S O N 6. Review of Émile Meyerson’s La déduction relativiste [Berlin, before 15 June 1927][1] What makes this book so extraordinary can be readily stated: It was written by a man who has encompassed the thought processes of modern physics and who has also penetrated deeply into the history of philosophy and of the exact sciences, with an authoritative view of psychological mainsprings and interrelations. Logical pre- cision, psychological instinct, multifaceted knowledge, and clear and simple ex- pression meet up here in a happy conjunction. Meyerson’s guiding principle seems to me to be the following: A theory of knowledge cannot be arrived at through an analysis of the mind and through logical speculations, but rather only by the consideration and intuitive assessment of em- pirical data. “Empirical data” refers here to the totality of scientific results that are currently at hand, as well as to the history of their accrual.[2] It would seem that the following appeared to the author to be the main problem: What is the relationship between scientific knowledge and the embodiment of empirical facts? To what ex- tent can one speak of an inductive and to what extent of a deductive methodology of science? Pure positivism and pragmatism are rejected, indeed, even passionately op- posed. Experience and empirical facts admittedly form the basis of every science, but they are not its content or its essence instead, they are only the givens on which the science is based. Merely determining the empirical interrelations between ex- perimental facts cannot be claimed to be the unique goal of science, according to this author. First of all, interrelations of such a general nature as are expressed by our natural laws are not at all simply determinations of what can be experienced they can be formulated and derived only on the basis of a conceptual construction that itself cannot be obtained from experience as such. Secondly, however, science does not content itself with formulating empirical laws. Instead, it attempts to con- struct a logical system based on as few premises as possible that contains all the natural laws as logical consequences. This system, or the entities that occur within it, are attributed to the objects of experience reason tries to establish this system, which is taken to correspond to the world of the real, existing things in a prescien- tific worldview in such a way that it encompasses the totality of empirical facts and experiences. All of the natural sciences are thus based upon a philosophical realism.[3] The attribution of all empirical laws to theorems that can be logically deduced is the final goal of all scientific research, according to Meyerson—a goal toward which we continually strive, but are murkily aware that we can achieve only incompletely.
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