A critique of Science: Weber

The enlightenment brought us advances in fields such as science, philosophy and art, leading us to characterize the event as the beginning of the age of reason. The advances in the field of science and art are of the most recognizable and celebrated as they have led to a series of advances and premises that to this day have not been widely obsoleted (or at least, not to the extent of philosophical ideas becoming obsolete), but rather, advanced upon. Yes, the same can be said about philosophy, but so much has been changed as the age of modernity has dawned upon us that, while advances in philosophy can be seen as progressing upon enlightenment philosophy, the field has largely discredited many of the former assertions.

These changes in philosophical reasoning, in the age of modernity, have played an important role in the analysis of the “age of reason” entertaining some interesting critiques, especially in the realm of science (in this context, science covers msot other fields of academics). Max Weber, an influential sociologist, contributed to this critique of the vocation of science in his lecture The Vocation of Science. He analyzes the presuppositions implied by science, specifically that of the knowledge that science gathers is worth knowing, and attacks it as existing without a logical substantial base. He uses the example of medicine keeping a dying patient alive despite a person’s will to cease to exist to explain the presupposition that the knowledge that science gives is useful and universally worth implementing (that, and the old legal ramifications doctors would be faced with by failing to do everything within their means to keep the patient alive). According to Weber,

“Who… still believes today that a knowledge of astronomy or biology or physics or chemistry could teach us anything at all about the meaning of the world? …If anything, the natural sciences tend to make the belief that there is something like a ‘meaning’ of the world die out at its very roots.”

Science, he goes on to say, gives us a methodology for implementing a series of values that we may or may not hold. If, for example, it is the goal of humanity to gather massive amounts of wealth, the science of liberal economics can provide a model that will assist with the accumulation of wealth. What economics cannot answer is whether or not we should accumulate wealth. The same goes for every science.

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