Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology
Kilby, Clyde S.
[Editorial comment: the lost myth], pp. [unnumbered]-163 PDF (10.1 MB)
worlds that have been: it simply drifts. Hence the strange combination of a sense of power and a sense of insecurity which has taken up its abode in the soul of modern man. To him is happening what was said of the Regent during the minority of Louis XV: he had all the talents except the talent to make use of them."' This sense of a broken and adrift civilization is, I think, the most apparent thing on our present horizon. I should like to discuss mainly one possible factor attendant upon even if not fully causal to our atomized world. And I hope I may be excused if, like so many others, I go back to Lord Bacon and the year 1620. In the preface to his famous Novum Organum he says, "I propose to establish progressive stages of certainty . . . starting directly from the simple sensuous perception . . . (and having) no confidence in the native and spontaneous process of the mind . . . There remains but one course for the recovery of a sound and healthy condition, - namely, that the entire work of the understanding be commenced afresh, and the mind itself be from the very outset not left to take its 156 own course, but guided at every step; and the business be done as if by machinery." This was the road, Bacon said, to certainty and health. The thing which had been at fault was "the native and spontaneous process of the mind." The remedy to overcome this outlaw was to destroy, if I may put it so, its mythic tendency. Bacon, with motives which are understandable, wished to have something certain, something men could quietly and surely agree upon, money they could put in the bank and get a receipt for, a golden yardstick that would enable men forever to say that a yard is a yard is a yard. But how could one begin to establish Bacon's "progressive stages of certainty" and perhaps in time move on to some final glorious climax of finitude and total knowing? Not backwards towards metaphysics and theology. These were the realms that had made Bacon and his century dizzy and given them the longing for certainty. Much earlier there had been a period when the universe appeared a splendid unity. Pythagoras and his Brotherhood more than twenty centuries before had discovered what they believed to be a cosmos, one world, one whole, inclusive universe, with a great Mathematician at its center and circumference. There are stories to the effect that when Pythagoras discovered the square on the hypotenuse he sacrificed a hundred oxen, also that when irrational numbers were discovered a penalty of death was set for allowing such an heretical idea to escape and work its evil in the world. The Pythagorean spring had welled up into a great river with glorious tributaries such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas and the like. But after all the centuries there was still not the certainty that Bacon zealously longed for. How could that certainty be attained? "I propose," he said, "to establish progressive stages of certainty starting directly from the simple sensuous perception." We know the direction that was taken, what today we call science (from sciens, knowing). And out of Bacon's century and following there have flowed rivers of knowing. One need only mention such names as those of Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Newton, Locke, the Encyclopedists, the Royal Society, etc. and remind ourselves how chemistry swallowed up alchemy and astronomy swallowed up (or did it?) astrology. I need not take any time describing the ever-widening river of "progressive stages of certainty" that flowed through the nineteenth century and has become something of an ocean in our time. Bacon's method is far more successful today than perhaps he ever dreamed. Many are wondering if anything at all is beyond the reach of the inductive method, from physics to chemistry, from chemistry to biology, from biology to psychology, from psychology to sociology, etc. In medicine, for instance, we can now do for men what we do for automobiles - we can supply new parts and there is talk of starting all over again with some sort of brand new man-made model. In Brave New World Revisited Aldous Huxley spoke of his shock at finding his imagined world of total scientific control rapidly coming into actuality within his own lifetime. Dr. Philip Siekevitz, biochemist at Rockefeller Institute, said not long ago: "There is a golden age ahead on earth . . We are approaching the greatest event in human history . . . the deliberate changing by man of many of his biological