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MARXISM AND THE SCIENTIFIC TRADITION D. R.- G. OWEN THE thesis of this article is that the dominating factor in producing modern culture has been the scientific tradition, and that this tradition receives - ~ts most explicit formulation in_ the philosophy of M_arxism. What is meant by "tradition"· is explained in the first section, and what is meant by the "scientific tradition'_ ' in the second, while the third part is an attempt to show that Marxism is an articulation of the scientific tradition and, as· such, is a natural conclusion of the whole trend of modern culture. The thesis is intended not as a defence of Marxism, but as a ·criticism of modern culture. I Every historical epoch has a characteristic culture, cons·1stmg of its peculiar political, economic, and social institutions, its laws, moral standards, art, religion, and philosophy. A number of theories have been advanced - as to the nature of the determining factor or dominating influence which gives, to a culture its shape a·nd character. Marx has suggested ·that }this determining factor is economic in nature, Freud that. it is sexual. In my opinion it is something much broader and more complex, and therefore less easy to identify and define. I call this underlying, determining force a "tradition." A tradition, in this sense, is an attitude towards life, a way of looking at things, whi~h is almost instinctively and unconsciously adopted by the immense majority of those who live in the historic~} period. . What is meant by the tradition of an ·age can best be seen in examples from history. There is some such underlying influence behind every culture and civilization. The tradition. of the Graeco-Roman period might' be called the Greek aristocratic tradition. Among its characteristics was the . unquestioning acceptance of a realm of reality other than ·the physical, a realm whose authori.ty 'was absolute.- Above both gods and men Fate reigned, inexorably determining the course 6£ individual and social history. A second characteristi~ of this tradition was the recognition of certain moral standards (the classical virtues), the violation of which led to disaster. T~is, in turn, involved a typically tragic view of life. It was under the influence of this tradition that Greek society took its shape and Greek art _and literature developed their form. Finally, the tradition was given rational expression and articulation in Greek philosophy, beginning with the Pythagoreans in th.e sixth century B.C. and culminating with Plato and Aristotle in the fourth century B.C. The supra-physical realm is rationally articulated in terms of numbers, id~as, form; the _classical virtues are rationally established; aristocratic society is proved to be the highest type. Thus the tradition becomes self-conscious and perfectly explicit. 239 240 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLy; In the meclieval period the prevailing tradition might be called the Catholic Christian tradition. Here again ·there is the unquestioning acceptance of the reality and absolute authority of the supra-physical, ' the validity of certain moral standards (the classical plus the theological), the superiority o'f a certain type of social organization. Again the tradition manifests itseli in a characteristic culture and is given rational expression in typical philosophies which culminate in the system of Thomas - -Aquinas in the thirteenth century. In the same way we can find a tradition behind· modern culture and philosophy. It manifests itself in the various cultural institutions and tendencies -of our age, and is articulated in various typical philosophies, culminating in Marxism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This tradition might be called the s'cientific tradition. II The scientific tradition took its rise in the sixteenth century, simultaneously with the emergence of the physical sciences in their modern dress. Francis Bacon attacked the old deductive method of acquiring knowledge, and insisted that empirical induction was the only valid method. Kepler added the significant point that the scientific method, which he elaborated on the basis of Bacon's work, could obviously be interested only in physical matters of fact accessible to observation. Science is only. inte~ested in measurable quantity; not in intangible quality. In other ·words, Kepler was insisting that if science is to be true to its proper...


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