SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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The process of intellectualism is not the subject I wish to treat: I wish to speak of science, and about it there is no doubt; by definition, so to speak, it will be intellectualistic or it will not be at all. Precisely the question is, whether it will be. (417)                                                 h. poincare
The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. .. . Seek simplicity and distrust it. (573)                            a. n. whitehead
The present enquiry originated in my attempt to build a science of man. The first task was to define man scientifically in non-elementalistic, functional terms. I accomplished that in my book Manhood of Humanity (New York, E. P. Dutton & Co.), and in it I called the special characteristic which sharply distinguishes man from animal the time-binding characteristic.
In the present volume I undertake the investigation of the mechanism of time-binding. The results are quite unexpected. We discover that there is a sharp difference between the nervous reactions of animal and man, and that judging by this criterion, nearly all of us, even now, copy* animals in our nervous responses, which copying leads to the general state of un-sanity reflected in our private and public lives, institutions and systems. By this discovery the whole situation is radically changed. If we copy animals in our nervous responses through the lack of knowledge of what the appropriate responses of the human nervous system should be, we can stop doing so, both individually and collectively, and we are thus led to the formulation of a first positive theory of sanity.
The old dictum that we 'are' animals leaves us hopeless, but if we merely copy animals in our nervous responses, we can stop it, and the hopeless becomes very hopeful, provided we can discover a physiological difference in these reactions. Thus we are provided with a definite and promising program for an investigation.
Such an investigation is undertaken in the present volume.
The result of this enquiry turned out to be a non-aristotelian system, the first to be formulated, as far as I know, and the first to express the very scientific tendency of our epoch, which produced the non-euclidean and non-newtonian (Einstein's and the newer quantum theories) systems. It seems that these three, the non-aristotelian, non-euclidean and non-newtonian systems are as much interwoven and interdependent
♦The use of the term 'copy' is explained in Chapter II.