Against the Technical Rationality of Positivism LO26991

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 07/12/01

Replying to LO26970 --

Dear Organlearners,

Artur F. Silva <> writes:

>I admit that in physics sure knowledge or scientific
>knowledge must be obtained through experience or
>at least be confirmed (or not falsified, to use Popper's
>words) by experience. My question with positivism is
>its unscientific claim that the same methods must be
>applied to obtain sure knowledge in social subjects,
>and even in politics and moral...

Greetings Artur,

I agree, although I would have used the word "uncreative" rather than

As I now understand it, apart form exploring the traditional (and failing)
methods of positivism, we have two other possibilities also to explore.
The one possibility is to employ completely different methods like the
methods of dialecticism developed by Hegel or the methods of phenomenology
developed by Husserl. But we know tacitly that each of these sets of
methods also have their limitations in the human subjects. I myself become
increasingly wary of using such a "toolbox of methodologies".

The other possibility is to search for a complex methodology which upon
various reductions will degenerate into the positivistic, dialectical and
phenomenological methods. For example, as a result of positivism, it is
assumed that should we make a multivariable regression analysis, we will
discover the rules govering the relation between all the variables.
However, how much have we questioned this assumption whether it will still
hold in one complex methodology.

Already early in the 20th century the pioneer population geneticist,
Sewall Wright, shot a hole as wide as a barn door through this assumption
with his breath taking work called Path Analyis. However, while not trying
to diminish his accomplishment, I think we have to become aware that even
more creativity than that in Path Analysis is needed.

For example, will we discover all the "rules" by searching for the
"pre-patterns" which make up these "rules"? Should we not also search for
"post-patterns" which do not make up these "rules", but which actually
flow forth from such "rules" as consequences of it, thereby identifying
the "rule" from what has emerged from it rather than what causes it to
operate. By this I do not mean that we have to scrap that principle which
we all know tacitly and which got articulated with bewildering names such
as "causality', "irreversibility", "adaptivity", "history", "evolution"
and even my own "endless becoming".

What I rather mean is that we have to use our sheer imagination to go from
the present into the past, search for all available information so as to
learn how past became the present and thus speculate on the future using
what we have learned. Furthermore to document the present so carefully
that when we look at it from the future which it has become we will learn
from the mistakes in our speculation. It is something which is nowadays
called "strategic planning", but what I have in mind is far more complex
that what "strategic planning" presently involves. In present "strategic
planning" future sureness is sought. Yet sureness is but one of the seven
essentialities of creativity. Should we not seek the other six too. For
example, another fellow learner is using liveness in his strategic
planning and his work is already very exciting. Hopefully he will some day
report some of it to us.

Artur, you also write:

>....But I would argue that this way of "imparting
>information" (and testing it) has a more fundamental
>It makes very difficult for the students to generate
>a "second order" kernel that is most needed today
>- not the kernel to understand the paradigm (mental
>model) implicit in what is being teached today, but
>the one to allow for the change of any paradigm to
>another (and hopefully a better one) in the future.

I agree. There is even a darker side to it which I and another fellow
learner explore in private emails. (I will not tell the name of that
fellow learner or any others in this contribution because it involves the
"questionable character" of many of our universities of today.) But since
you and I have pushed our heads so far out, let we do it even more. There
is but only one head for each of us to lose ;-)

Increasing numbers of PhD from different faculties find their way to
my office. What you call as the "Technical Rationality of Positivism"
of their promoters, is actually stiffling their creativity for making such
(what you call) "second order kernels". It happens to such an extent
that these candidates want to give up their study rather than allowing
their creativity to become so compromised. The syndrome is invariably:
. "I will not allow you this innovation in your
. PhD thesis and I have CV as long as my
. arm to back up my decision."
What these promotors actually do, is to warn the candidates to stay in
the promotor's paradigms and mental models if they want to have success.
This intimidation by "going against the system" is a serious misuse of
academical authority to suppress the creativity of the younger generation.

Fortunately, not all promotors are like this. I know many jewels among
them, but they all also have their daily problems by "going against the
system" with their own creativity.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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