Religion, Philosophy, and Technology
WHAT WE have been trying to show is that the historical process reflects the interaction between three families of people descended respectively from the three sons of Noah to whom God appears to have apportioned specific responsibilities and equally specific capabilities for the fulfillment of them: to Shem, responsibility for man’s religious and spiritual well-being; to Japheth, his mental well-being; and to Ham, his physical well-being. By this apportionment it is not implied that every Semite has tended to be more religiously minded, and every Japhethite more interested in intellectual exercise, and every Hamite more mechanically inclined or more practical than members of the other two families. All that is intended is that the great religions of the world — true and false (46) — had their roots in the family of Shem, all true philosophical systems have originated within the family of Japheth, (47) and the world’s basic technology is a Hamitic contribution. We have then noted that when these three worked together in balanced harmony, civilization as a whole has advanced because maximurn restraints have been placed upon the evil consequences of sin while the purposes of God are being carried forward.
46. The paganism of the Old World, rooted in Babylonian religious beliefs (see A. Hislop, The Two Babylons, Loizeau Brothers, New York, 1953): Mohammedanism; and Judaism, with its outgrowth Christianity. Hinduism is not a religion in the sense that these are, but a religiously coloured philosophy.
47. I think it is noteworthy that the gods of the Hamitic peoples have tended to be gods of power; the god of the Aryans, a god of intellectual enlightenment; and the God of Israel, a God of the salvation of the soul.
It is important to observe that all three are necessary for this. If any one element is given over-emphasis the ultimate effect is detrimental. No society prospers which is overly materialistic, or overly intellectual, or overly spiritual. Man is neither an animal nor an angel. He cannot dedicate himself to mere physical survival and the exploitation of his animal appetites. Nor can he dedicate himself to nurturing his soul to the neglect of his body. And by the same token, of course,he cannot retire to an ivory tower either, for then he must starve in body and soul.
One of the effects of the Fall is to rob man of a proper balance. He becornes a creature of extremes, of improper enthusiasms, of unbalanced dedications, and correspondingly of a tendency to fatal neglect. Many neglect their spiritual life in our materialistically oriented culture. Many neglect the nceds of the body in the mystically oriented cultures of lndia. Many neglect the exercise of their minds, as primitive peoples have often been accused of doing. (48) Any such neglect violates human nature and severely hinders the normal development of the whole man. Both excess and neglect are equally unhappy in their consequences and serve rathcr to heighten than to restrain the disastrous effects of the Fall. Neither the spiritual contribution of Shem, nor the intellectual conltribution of Japhteth, nor the technological contribution of Ham really benefit man as they were intended to do without the balancing constraint of the other two.
We have also noted that only when the contribution of Japheth is effectively brought to bear upon the contribution of Shem does theology emerge; and theology does not emerge without it. Moreover, when this
same intellectual contribution of Japheth is applied to the technology of Ham, then science emerges, and science does not emerge without it. This does not really mean that the contribution of Japheth is more irnportant than the other two, for it might just as easily have been stated in reverse. The philosophizing of Japheth leads nowhere without the pabulum of technology supplied by Ham, and this pabulum far antedates any scientifc philosophizing of Japheth, as we shall
48. I do not mean by this that primitive people are potentially any less intelligent: only that they seem to rest content with a thorough knowledge of the total wisdomof their culture without challenging, exploring, or seeking to understand the rationale of it. ‘I’hey neglect mental activity for its own sake. The important difference between intelligence and accumulated knowledge is explored in an interesting way in “Establishing a Paleolithic IQ” (see Part III in Genesis and Early Man, vol.2 of The Doorrway Papers Series) which deals with early man as well as modern primitives.
show. By the same token, human intellect does not do well in its reach after spiritual truth apart from revelation: indeed, it leads rather into darkness and general skepticism. Between Malachi and Matthew God remained silent, while at the same time the outworkings of Greek philosophy were permitted to run their course in the search for ultimate reality and spiritual understanding. And how did it end? It ended in almost total skepticism summed up in Pilate’s cynical and yet perhaps honest question, “What is truth?” I suggest that this is why Paul, after visiting Athens and seeing there their altar to “an Unknown God” (Acts 17:23), suddenly realized with new force how hopeless it was even for the best intellects in the world and under ideal conditions to arrive at a true understanding of the nature of God and man’s relationship to Him. This, I suggest, is why he wrote later to the Corinthians and said, “After that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God,” then God sent forth His Son (1 Corinthians 1:21). Thus did God permit Japheth to discover for himself the inadequacy of the contribution he could make apart from the revelation of God which came through Shem.
However, it is in harmony with this view of history that after the revelation of Himself had been established through the Old Testament — the nature of true religion, of true worship, of what God required of man and of what man might hope for in God — and after God had completed (really, “fulfilled”) the Old Testament revelation in the Person of Jesus Christ His Son and seen to it that the details of His rnessage and lifework were sufficiently preserved in a record, the Gospels — then God turned to the Gentiles, the Japhethites, to take this body of religious truth and set it forth as a Christian theology. God used Hebrew for the Old Testament and probably a form of Semitic speech, namely, Aramaic, as the basis of the Gospel record. (49) But then He turned to a Japhetic language in order to convert this revelation into a structured organic systematized faith, in short, into a theology.
It will be worth examining to what extent scholars have recognized the uniqueness of Semitic forms of speech, and particularly of Hebrew, as a vehicle for the presentation of truth which concerns man’s soul, and then to explore Japhetic
49. On this question, sce Edouard Naville, Archaeology of the Old Testament: Was the Old Testamerit Written in Hebrew, Scott, London, 1913, 212 pp., and see especially pp.3-29; and also George Lamsda, The Four Gospels According to the Eastern Version Translated from the Aramaic, Holman, Philadelphia, 1933, Introduction, pp. v-xxii.
It is perhaps significant that of all peoples who can trace themselves back or who can be traced back to Japheth, the Greeks have been most forward in recognizing him as their great progenitor, under the name Japetos. It is as though God wished us to know in no uncertain terms that it was Shem through whom the initial revelation came to us, and Japheth through whom that revelation was finally set in order. Yet the two languages are fundamentally different. In a study of the contrast between Greek and Hebrew thought, Thorlief Boman has gone to great lengths to show how different are these two modes of speech and consequently how different are the ways of thinking which these two languages allow. One might even say predetermined. (50) In a critical study of Boman’s views, Professor James Barr in spite of his hostility towards them, has nicely summarized the position taken by Boman and others, as follows. (51)
First, the contrast is made between “the static and the dynamic.” The Greeks were ultimately interested in contemplation, in withdrawing from “doing,” in order to be free to meditate and to reason. The Hebrews were not interested in philosophy per se, but only in action. Their religious zeal was dynamic. Secondly, the contrast is between the “abstract” and the “concrete.” Barr states it: (52)
It is a characteristic procedure of Greek thought to work with abstractions. Abstract terms of the kind we call qualities and properties are essential in this kind of discussion. . . . Hebrew thought, on the other hand, does not work with abstractions; its terms are always related to the actual object or situation and not to an abstraction from it.. . . The contemplative approach, by contrast, means dissociation of the mind from involvement in action. In Hebrew thought the thinking object is the acting person.
Thirdly, the contrast is in “the conception of man,” as Barr puts it: (53) “In Greek thought man is seen as a duality, with an irnmortal soul imprisoned or confined in a mortal body; the two are
50. Boman, Thorlief, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, SCM Press, London, 1960.
51. Barr, James, The Semantics of Biblical Language, Oxford, 1962.
52. Ibid., p.11.
53. Ibid., p.12.
only temporarily or accidentally related. In Hebrew thought the soul is the living person in his flesh.”
This dualism versus monism has been viewed as analogous to the difference between a rider (the soul) on a horse (the body), and a centaur, a soul-body entity. In the Old Testament, and not unnaturally to some extent in the Gospels, the soul is without hesitation taken as the whole man. Thus by inspiration and looking forward to the Lord’s Resurrection David said, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell”: and in saying this he meant as much his spirit as he did his body. In the Epistles, by contrast, rnan is taken apart, the body, the soul, and the spirit, being concretely ï¿½ or perhaps one should say, discretely ï¿½ divisible (Hebrews 4:12). Such a prayer as that our whole soul and body and spirit might be preserved blameless is a Greek concept of man rather than a Hebrew one, though God saw fit to set forth both concepts in Scripture. Thus it comes about that in the New Testament the construction of biblical psychology in this matter is quite possible and certainly worth attempting. But the Old Testarnent does not encourage the making of such an attempt, though it provides the basic framework in a different form The two complement each other, and the complementarity resides ultimately in the difference between the two languages, not merely in vocabulary but in mode of expression, way of thinking, in its view of reality.
The extent to which this difference is dependent primarily upon language and secondarily upon the kind of mentality which emerges as an individual matures while speaking that language is noted by Barr. The point at issue here is very similar to the old question of the hen and the egg: which came first? Only in this case, I think the answer is clearer. It is the language which we learn as children that orders our thought processes as we mature, until we come to equate the two and to presume that we are thinking first and then finding words to express our thought, while all the time the vocabulary and grammar of our language is determining for us how we shall view reality. As B. L. Whorf rightly observed, (54) we see things not as they are but as we are, a fact of fundamental importance which every once in a while becomes startlingly clear when we come to discuss some subject of mutual interest with a person whose language differs from our own.
54. Whorf, Benjamin Lee, “Science and Linguistics,” Technology Review, vol.48, 1940.
It is perfectly true that we do think first and then put our thoughts into words whenever we are trying to comrnunicate in a language which is not our own. Indeed, it is universally agreed that we do not really master any language until we think in it, without any need for translation, a circumstance which proves the point I am making, i.e., that we think in words.
It will be worth pausing for a moment at this point before proceeding to examine the implications of this, to consider a few opinions on the matter from those best qualified to speak, namely, the linguists.
Although the intimate relationship between word and thought has been remarked upon and studied since the time of Humboldt, it is only in recent years that the natter has become a subject of study in its own right and not merely as a side issue in general linguistics. Two names stand out pre-eminently in relation to this, namely, Ernst Cassirer and Benjamin Lee Whorf. As an introcluction to what Whorf called metalinguistics, the following quotations are taken from miscellaneous writings of his, and although they are extracts from a number of separate papers, they can be read consecutively as though they were a continuum. In a paper entitled, “Science and Linguistics,” he wrote: (55)
Talking, or the use of language, is supposed only “to express” what is essentially already formulated (in the mind). Formulation is an independent process, called thought or thinking, and is supposedto be largely indifferent to the nature of particular languages. Languages have grammars which are assumed to be merely norms of conventional and social correctness but the use of language is suppose to be guided not so much by them as by correct, rational, or intelligrent thinking.
Thought, in this view, does not depend on grammar but on laws of logic or reason which are supposed to be the same for all observers of the universe — to represent a rationale in the universe that can be “found” independently by all intelligent observers, whetlher they speak Chinese or Choctaw
Subsequently, he continues: (56)
When linguists became able to examine critically and scientifically a large number of languages of widely different patterns . . . it was found that the grammar of each language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas [my emphasis], the programme and guide for the individual’s mental activity, for his analysis of impressions. . . .
55. Ibid., p.3 of reprint.
56. Ibid., p.5 of reprint.
Formulation of ideas is not an independent process . . . but part of a particular grammar, and differs as between different grammars. We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there simply because they stare every observer in the face: on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impression which has to be organized by our minds — and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. . . .
This fact is very significant for modern science for it means that no individual is free to describe nature with absolute impartiality, but is constrained to certain modes of interpretation even while he thinks himself most free. The person most nearly free in such respects would be a linguist familiar with very many widely different linguistic systems. As yet no linguist ever is in any such position. We are thus introduced to a new principle . . . which holds that all observers are not [my emphasis] led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar or can in some way be calibrated.
This rather startling conclusion is not so apparent if we compare only our modern European languages. . . . Among these tongues there is an unanimity of major pattern whichat first seems to bear out natural logic. But this unanimity exists only because these tongues are all Indo-European dialects cut out of the same basic plan, being historically transmitted from what was long ago one speech community. . . .
When Semitic, Chinese, Tibetan, or African languages are contrasted with our own, the divergence in analysis of the world becomes more apparent; and when we bring in the native languages of the Americas where speech communities for many millennia have gone their ways independently of each other and of the Old World, the fact that languages dissect nature in many different ways becomes patent. The relativity of all conceptual systems, ours included, and their deperdence upon a language [my emphasis] stands revealed.
What surprises most is to find that various grand generalizations of the Western World, such as time, velocity, and matter, are not essential to the construction of a consistent picture of the Universe. 0
In another paper of his entitled “Language and Logic,” Whorf wrote: (57)
We cut up and organize the spread and flow of events as we do largely because, through our mother tongue, we are parties to an agreement to do so, not because nature itself is segmented in exactly that way for all to see. Languages differ not only in how they build their sentences but in how they break down
57. Whorf, Benjamin Lee, “Language and Logic,” Technology Review, vol.43, 1941, p.21.
Then in a further paper entitled “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behaviour to Language,” Whorf wrote: (58)
How does such a network of language, culture, and behaviour come about historically? Which was first, the language patterns or the cultural norms? In the main they have grown up together, constantly influencing each other. But in this partnership the nature of the language is the factor that limits free plasticity and rigidifies channels of development in the rmore autocratic way.
Thus far, then, we see the direction in which modern thinking about the relationship between language and thought, language and World View, language and how people perceive the world about them has been going. In a volume of the collected works of Whorf we may extract one or two further insights. With respect to the question of whether thought is possible without some kind of verbalization, Whorf wrote, “The linguistic side of silent [his emphasis] thinking, thinking without speaking, is of a nature as yet little appreciated.” (59) At this point there is a footnote as follows:
Some have supposed thinking to be entirely linguistic. Watson, I believe, holds or held this view, and the great merit of Watson in this regard is that he was one of the first to point out and teach the very large and unrecognized linguistic element in silent thinking. His error lies in going the whole hog; also, perhaps, in not realizing or at least not emphasizing that the linguistic aspect of thinking is not a biologically organized process . . . but a cultural organization, i.e., a language [his emphasis].
Thus Whorf would not argue that all things that go on in the mind involve the use of words, but he does hold categorically that one cannot think conceptually, one cannot build a philosophy or a World View silently and to oneself, except by the use of words.
As a heading to one of his papers, there is a quotation from Edward Sapir which reads: (60)
Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor
58. Whorf, Benjamin Lee, “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behaviour to Language” in Language, Culture, and Personality, Menasha, Wisconsin, 1941, p.91.
59. Whorf, Benjamin Lee, Language, Thought and Reality, Selected Writings of B. L. Whorf, The Technology Press of M.I.T., Wiley, New York, 1956, p.66.
60. Ibid., p.134.
alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality without the use of language and that language is merely an accidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection.
The fact of the matter is that the “real world” is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. . . . We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.
The extent to which a word imposed upon some object can predetermine our whole attitude towards that object is strikingly borne out by a simple experiment conducted by Dr. Samuel Glucksberg of Princeton, who found that by giving a common wrench a nonsense label, in this case calling it a “jod,” he could greatly increase the number of novel uses to which a group of students imagined it could be put. In other words, given an ordinary wrench which was just called a “wrench,” when the students were invited to imagine themselves isolated somewhere and limited entirely to the use of this one tool and then to list all the things they thought might be done with it, they did fairly well. But when they were handed the same tool and told that it was a “jod” and that they were not to think of it by its old name, they did a great deal better and managed to dream up many more useful applications for it. Glucksberg has also said, “To a certain extent the name determined and limited what the object was and therefore what it could be used for.” (61) In the light of this experiment it is a measure of Humboldt’s perceptiveness that he could write so long ago: (62)
Man lives with his objects chiefly ï¿½ one may say exclusively ï¿½ as language presents them to him. By the same process whereby he spins language out of his own being, h,e ensnares himself in it; and each language draws a magic circle round the people to which it belongs, a circle from which there is no escape save by stepping out it into another.
It is not hard to see that since language is passed on to each new generation with comparatively small changes in its grammatical structure, though its vocabulary may change, any society will tend to perpetuate its own way of looking at things. And as
61. Gluckberg, Samuel, “Human Inventiveness,” Science News, Mar. 4, 1967, p.216.
62. Humboldt: quoted by Ernst Cassirer, Language and Myth, Dover Publication, New York, 1946, p.9.
there are families of language, so there will be families of peoples who tend to see things in the same way. Since Indo-Europeans have for some reason maintained the evident relationships in their particular family of languages — and the same observation applies within the Semitic languages ï¿½ it is not surprising that even though they have spread so widely they have continued to share a certain way of looking at things: Indo-Europeans philosophically with an emphasis upon the abstract and the Semites with their emphasis upon behaviour from a more transcendental point of view. But what shall we say of the Hamites? From all over the world, wherever they are found and wherever linguists have examined their speech forms and the philosophy of their grammar (to use Jespersen’s term), the witness is the same. Their view of the world is an entirely practical one, rooted in the present, wise in a canny sort of way, specific, particular, uninterested in the abstract, inventive, always creating new words or new terms for things, interested in particulars rather than categories, earthy, and very largely disinterested in unlikely possibilities. While we may think of primitive people as being less truthful than ourselves ï¿½ and most if not all “primitive” people known to us have belonged within the family of Ham ï¿½ the fact of the matter is quite the reverse. They find it difficult to think hypothetically, to do what every scientist must do, i.e., to tell lies deliberately. If asked a hypothetical question they will not answer it but reject the question as not applicable. Asked how many apples, for example, we would have between us if he had two and I had two, a native would not say “four” but more probably, “Well, I do not have two apples!”
Elie Reclus, an ethnologist, writing some years ago and speaking of certain primitive tribes, notably the Khonds, says of them: (63)
Veracious and sincere, they disdain to escape a peril to gain an advantage at the price of a lie, or even a voluntary
inexactitude. . . .
It was one of the rare errors of J. Stuart Mill to assert that uncivilized men take pleasure in lying, and seem incapable of speaking the truth. . . . But the great philosopher would have expressed himself otherwise if a sojourn in tle Indies had brought him into contact with Gonds and Khonds, with Malers, Birhors, Donthals, and others, who hold truth sacred, and contract no engagement that they do not fulfill. There is no graver
63. Reclus, Elie, Primitive Folk: Studies in Comparative Ethnology, Walter Scott, London, no date, p.258.
In a recent communication, Miss Beatrice Myers, a missionary attending the Summer Institute of Linguistics (U.S.A.) said that on one occasion she asked a Cheyenne Indian how he would say, “This is your house.” His reply was: “If you owned the house, I wouldn’t have to tell you, so I wouldn’t say it!” (64) Similarly, the Hopi will speak of ten men because one can actually have ten men: but they would not speak of ten days because one cannot have ten days. Such a concept as a negative number is quite absurd, unless it is seen as a practical indebtedness in economic, or some other such terms. We shall have occasion shortly to docnment these observations extensively. In the meantime it may be observed that while the family of Indo-European languages is readily identifiable as a family, and the Semitic as a family, this does not apply at all to the third group of languages, the Harnitic. The fact is that Hamites have been so inventive that they invent terms with equal facility, and their languages are in such a constant state of flux that within a few generations even tribes living just across a river from each other will find themselves scarcely able to converse any longer. (65) It is the same strange proliferating tendency which prevented the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Chinese, and Central American Indians from developing an alphabetical script, even though the numbers of signs they were creating multiplied almost astronomically.
It appears to me that this very fact may have been part of God’s providential economy in order to guarantee the quick dispersal of the family of Ham all over the world, to open it up for their brethren who were to follow. A community of language
64. In a letter to her supporters in America and Canada, 1968.
65. Rapid change of native languages: there seem to be several contributing factors at work here. One, which is cultural, is the practice of giving new names to things which for one reason or another have become “dangerous” to speak about because of some circumstance in their “history,” or association with the dead. Another is the tendency to see what is specificaily different rather than similar in a series of situations. Thus while we strike various kinds of “blows” with the hand (a tap, a pat, a push, a press, a stroke, etc.), we would retain the common word ”hand” in each case. Natives do not. A “tap with the hand” would be one word, “pat with the hand” an entirely different one. There are hundreds of words for some particular animal seen in various lights, but no single word for the animal genus. People also adopt names of items as personal names and these then become taboo when the person dies, and have to be replaced!
unites people and binds them together. By contrast, when languages proliferate easily to the point of mutual unintelligibility, the tendency to congregate is undermined and dispersion is assisted. It may thus have been God’s way not merely of sharpening their nventive genius, but of ensuring that they would spread at the same time. What divided the Hamites in this way was not a difference in language structure, for the philosophy of their languages remained remarkably similar, so that the ways of thinking of the African native, the Chinese peasant, and the American Indian remained for a very long time comparable; it was the vocabularies which changed. This was not nearly so true with Semites or Indo-Europeans.
But even today, with mobility so tremendously increased and means of rapid communication so greatly extended, it is still true in a way that was largely unexpected, that people hold on to their native language with great tenacity. As Kroeber put it, “Speech tends to be one of the most persistent populational characters and ‘ethnic’ boundaries are most often speech boundaries.” (66)
So it is important to note the difference between the grammar of a language and its vocabulary, for the latter changes constantly whereas the former remains. And it is the grammar which really holds the key to the World View. Ernst Cassirer in speaking of the “inward form of language,” put it this way: (67)
The form of observation, which underlies all speech and language development, always expresses a peculiar spiritual character, a special way of conceiving and apprehending. The difference between the several languages, therefore, is not a matter of different sounds and marks [i.e., ideographs], but of different world conceptions. . . . Language never denotes simply objects, things as such, but always conceptions. . . . The nature of concepts depends on the way this active viewing is directed.
It is not what we see so much as how we see it, and as we have already said, we do not see how things are, but how we are. Cassirer put it this way: “It is not a question of what we see in a certain perspective, but of the perspective itself.” (68) To revert once more to Whorf in connection with the difference between the word-content of a sentence and the structure of the sentence itself, i.e., the vocabulary as opposed to the grammar, we find this observation: (69)
66. Kroeber, A. L., Anthropology, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1948, p.221.
67. Cassirer, Ernst, Language and Myth, Dover Publication, New York, 1946, p.30.
68. Ibid., p.11.
69. Whorf, Benjamin Lee, Language, Thought, and Reality, The Technological Press of M.I.T., Wiley, New York, 1956, p.258.
The meanings of specific words are less important than we fondly fancy. Sentences, not words, are the essence of speech, just as equations and functions and not bare numbers are the real meat of mathematics.
By the same token he holds that thinking is not dependent so much upon words per se as upon sentences. He spells this out: (70)
Actually, thinking is most mysterious, and by far the greatest light upon it that we have is thrown by the study of language. This study shows that the forms of a person’s thoughts are controlled by inexorable laws of pattern of which he is unconscious. These patterns are the unperceived intricate systematization of his own language — shown readily enough by a candid comparison and contrast with other languages, especially those of a different linguistic form. His thinking itself is in a language ï¿½ in English, in Sanskrit, in Chinese.
And every language is a vast pattern system, different from others, in which are culturally ordained the forms and categories by which the personality not only communicates, but also analyzes nature, notices or neglects types of relationships and phenomena, channels his reasoning, and builds the house of his consciousness. This doctrine is new to Western Science, but it stands on unimpeachable evidence.
70. Ibid., p.252.
(Chapter continued . . . .)
The Type of World View Related to Each Language Family
It is clear to me that with three language families capable of sustaining and contributing in three such different ways towards the supply of man’s total needs as a spiritual, intellectual and physiological creature, God has made provision for the preservation of the whole man while His purposes are being unfolded. It remains to be seen now whether the course of events supports this threefold division both with respect to the linguistic evidence and the evidence to be derived from the stream of history itself. The first part of this task requires that we establish the following: First, that Semitic languages favour a World View which is religious and spiritual in colour, that the Indo-European or Japhetic languages favour a World View that is reflective and favourable to philosophical thinking rather than religious in its bent, and that the balance of the world’s languages, or Hamitic languages, are of such a kind that they do not encourage reflection or abstract, but concrete, specific, particular thinking, leading to a very practical view of things. In other words, that as each of these three families have developed their kinds of
language, in such a way they have tended to think and so they have tended to act or be.
G. A. F. Knight is quoted by Barr as having said, “God chose Israel to be the vehicle of His revelation. . . . Now, if God chose Israel, then He chose to use the Hebrew language.” (71) On this observation Barr comments: (72)
The argument may be theologically reasonable, but if it is to be extended to mean that God chose the Semitic languages, and the Semitic culture group, and that His chosen group was the children of Shem and not merely the children of Israel, one wonders if theologians are really willing to go so far: and it is hardy to be reconciled with the constant and obvious struggle of the Israelite religion which was not against Hellenism at all until the latest period, but against neighbouring forms expressed in closely allied Semitic language and Culture.
The point that Barr has overlooked here, I believe, is that if God needed a vehicle for religious truth, especially when that truth was revealed truth, He needed a language best suited to the expression of religious ideas rather than philosophical ones. That other members of the family of Shem also found facility in this direction though they found it in expression of religious error rather than truth, does not alter the fact that the family as a whole was the logical one to choose. It was necessary only to separate out one segrnent of it and to purify that segment from error whenever it was acting as the vehicle of divine revelation. Naturally, thereafter, their most dangerous enemies were bound to be those who shared the same facility but not the same revelation, namely, the Babylonians and the Assyrians, some of the inhabitants of Palestine, and later the Arabs. Shakespeare has said, “The nearer in blood, the nearer bloody,” and although he did not have in mind religious conflict, his aphorism is quite applicable. The Arabs today remain Israel’s most bitter enemy and Islam, the religious expression of the Arabs, the most recalcitrant opponent of Christianity, the religious extension of Judaism.
A Semitic language evidently lends itself to the formulation of a strong religious conviction that will regulate behaviour and can accommodate itself to people with very different cultural backgrounds. The religious beliefs of the Babylonians and the Assyrians came to permeate much of the ancient world, and in due time formed the basis of paganism. Paganism was the first
71. Knight, G. A. F., quoted by James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language, Oxford, 1962, p.19.
72. Barr, James, ibid., p.19.
great religiously oriented opponent of Christianity, as Islam might very well be the last.
Subsequently, Barr quotes with equal disapproval a statement by Pedersen who wrote, “The Semitic languages are as perfect expressions of Semitic thinking as the European languages of European thinking.” (73) And Boman similarly wrote, “The unique character of a people or of a family of peoples finds expression in its own language.” (74) Again, Gerleman observes that “its conception of reality and its manner of narration have their correlate and their reflection in the structure of the Hebrew language, in the construction of sentences, and in the lexical stock . . . the affinity of narrative art with syntax, of Old Testament experience of reality with Hebrew grammar . . . .” (76)
In spite of the fact that Barr disagrees with these ideas (his whole book seems to be an expression of disagreement with everybody), he has already admitted previously that “the typical vehicle in Hebrew thinking is the historical narrative or the future prediction, both being forms of literature in which the verb is likely to be of great significance; and that the typical vehicle of Greek thinking is thle philosophical discussion in which nouns are more prominent and verbs are less important.” (70) Subsequently Barr writes:
One may however go farther and assert that not only the frequency but the very existence of and facility in forming the “abstract” type of noun is to be correlated with abstract thinking; and conversely that Hebrew, as the language of a people whose thought is not abstract, does not form “abstract” nouns and its words are characteristically “concrete”. . .
The Hebrew, almost invariably, thought in terms of the concrete. There are few abstract nouns in the Hebrew language.
74. Boman, Thorlief, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, SCM Press, London, 1960, p.27.
75. Gerleman, G., quoted by Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language, Oxford, 1962, p.33.
76. Barr, James, op. cit. (ref.75), pp.15, 16, 18 and 40. In his able review of Susanne Langer’s Mind: An Essay on Human Feelings, Robert B. MacLeod (Science, vol.157, 1967, p.1544) notes the author’s view that our society sees “things” as the substance of reality, not “acts.’ Action is what happens to things according to our philosophy. This is not true of other cultural world-views, where reality is action not object. Langer believes that our problem in establishing the relationship between mind and brain comes about because we are separating “activity,” from object and should, rather, see the two as aspects of one single realiry. see especially pp 9-11 of vol. I of her book, published by Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1967. 1 am not convinced that her proposal really solves the problem, but it is an interesting idea.
Barr agrees with Boman in one thing at least, namely, that “the thought of other Semitic peoples is on the whole of the same formal structure as Israelite thought. . . . The Hebrew linguistic pattern is not essentially different from the general Semitic.” Thus he concludes, “Obviously the question can be put: Is there an Indo-European cast of min which somehow corresponds to the known linguistic stock of Indo-European?” To which the answer is, I think, “Undoubtedly.” Yet curiously, when Boman wrote, “The unique character of a people or a family of peoples, a race, finds expression in its own language,” Barr states his disagreement.
This emphasis upon verbs rather than nouns, upon action rather than idea, has becn remarked upon by many who have studied the contrast betwcen Hebrew and Greek, and therefore between the Old Testament and the Ncw Testament. While it is so very generally recognized that philosophy is in some unique way a Greek contribution, it is not so generally realized that (1) they were by no means the sole contributors in this respect among Indo-Europeans, for in Infia there were Schools quite as extensive and flourishing as the Greek Schools ï¿½ which were in fact prior in time, and (2) the so-called ”philosophers” from among non-Indo-European cultures, from China, Egypt, and Central America, wcre not really philosophers at all, but intelligent men who were able to crystallize the canny and highly practical wisdom of their own society. The writings of Confucius, of Ptah-hotep, and Pachacutec are intensely practical in their object, almost in the form of proverbs and in some cases quite Machiavellian. The Wisdom Literature of the OId Testament as well as extra-biblical wisdom literature of the Jewish people is of the same kind ï¿½ though not Machiavellian.
It is surprising how wide a recognition has been given to this matter by writers who nevertheless clearly did not have in mind the overall picture which we are presenting. They record their observances without any apparent awareness of the framework which they are helping to establish. For example, Ralph Linton observed: (77)
All monotheistic faiths of which we have record can be traced to Semitic sources, and all of them are confrontedby the same enigma of an all powerful deity in a Universe governed by law.
And Peter Lange in his Comrnentary on Genesis observes that
77. Linton, Ralph, The Tree of Culture, Knopf, New York, 1956, p.293.
the language of the Hebrews did not lend itself to philosophy but was more particularly suited to dynamic religious thought. (78)
It has always seemed to me a strange thing that in the university we were told that the Jewish people were not historians, not really interested in history at all. This is strange because if they had a philosophy in the abstract sense, it is to be found in their overall view of history. It must be admitted, however, that their philosophy of history, if it can properly be called such, was not a disinterested one but had an end in view, namely, the ordering of man’s moral behaviour by using the lessons of history viewed as the working out of the judgments of a righteous God. This is disqualified as philosophy in the strict sense because it has a practical objective. But it would not do to accuse the Old Testament writers of being without any philosophy if by this we mean that their thoughts were shallow and without penetration. On this point Kroeber makes some observations which do not bear on the immediate subject of this Paper but do show in what way the study of history differs from that kind of philosophy which ultimately led to the development of science. He remarks: (79)
Historiographic research, almost alone, remains without systematic and “theoretic” results. Some would say that it is knowledge but not science, because it remains on a concrete level and does not abstract.
It is important to distinguish carefully between the canny wisdom which we have attributed to Confucius and others and the philosophy of history that clearly underlies the Old Testament. And it is even more necessary to distinguish both these kinds of “philosophy” from the unique kind which has been the contribution of the family of Japheth. In order to make this clear, we can with profit note a number of observations made by various authorities on the nature of the intellectual adventure undertaken by Indo-Europeans but not by others.
In Everyman’s Encyclopedia under Philosophy, there is the following observation: (80)
It was not until man sought wisdom for its own sake, and with no religious or other practical motives, that he philosophized
78. Lange, Peter, Commentary on Genesis, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, no date, pp.19, 21.
79. Kroeber, A. L., “Evolution, History, and Culture,” in Evolution After Darwin, vol.2, University of Chicago Press, 1960, p.3.
80. “Philosophy,” Everyman’s Encyclopedia, vol.10, Dent, London, 1913, pp.305, 306.
in the true sense; and previous theogonies, cosmogonies, etc., cannot strictly claim the title of Philosophy. . . . The beginnings of philosophy are as a rule attributed to thle Greeks, but the Indian ideas of the 6th century B.C. and much later, form an interesting parallel philosophic development.
In her contribution to the series Great Ages of Man, Schulberg, writing of historic India, says: (81)
Even before the 6th century B.C. men of India had demonstrated a philosophical bent. Their earliest religious scripture, the Rig Veda, appeared some time in the second millenniurn B.C. . . Some of the Vedic hymns expressed a spirit of philosophical enquiry. . . .
After the composition of the Rig Veda, Indian philosophers began to compose commentaries on the hymns, a practice continued for hundreds of years. The final and rnost significant portion of the resulting literature is a collection of philosophical speculations. This portion, begun about 700 B.C. and called the Upanishads, provided the foundation for Hinduism. The Upanishads . . . speculate, seeking always to find truth.
Ralph Linton noted that the Hindus were always highly receptive to and interested in new philosophic ideas but showed an almost complete indifference, for example, to improved techniques of manufacture. (82) Their interest was in theory not practice, the material world being considered of so little importance that minor advances in its control were not considered worth the trouble of changing established habits. Similarly, A. L. Kroeber observed that “Hindu civilization is not only other worldly, but mystical, rationalizing, and extravagant in its ethos.” (83)
It is not surprising to find, as Miriam Chapin has pointed out, that Hindustani has an enormous vocabulary containing all kinds of scientific concepts, and as a development out of thle more ancient Sanskrit it became a language well able to give expression to philosophic ideas and in the most abstruse speculations.” (84) The reader will notice here that a language which is good for philosophic ideas is also suitable for the development of scientific concepts.
81. Schulberg, Lucille, Historic India, in Great Ages of Man, Time-Life Publication, New York, 1968, p.52.
82. Linton, Ralph, The Study of Man, Student’s edition, Appleton, New York, 1936, p.343.
83. Kroeber, A. L., Anthropology, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1948, p.291.
84. Chapin, Miriam, How People Talk, Longmans Green, Toronto, 1947, p.121.
The recent discoveries of the treasures of Indian literature have shown us what a reputation the Hindus have acquired in Geometry, Astronorny, and Algebra, and that they have made great advances in Philosophy, and that among them the Grammar has been so far cultivated that no language can be regarded as more fully developed than the Sanskrit.
Jacques Maritain has beautifully drawn some of these threads together by rernarking: (86)
It is not surprising that all peoples in the primitive stage of history were ignorant of philosophic speculation. But it is rnore astonishing that even certain civilizations were devoid of philosophy ï¿½ for example, the Semite, and the Egyptian, which is, in this respect in the same category as the Semite. Despite the high level of sciertific (technical) culture reached by the intellectual aristocracy of these races, the sole philosophic conceptions, it would seem, which the Egyptians and the Chaldeans possessed, were a few very general ideas inplicit in their religion concerning the deity, the human soul, its state after death, and the precepts of morality. . . . These truths . . . were never made the subject of rational study and speculation. . . . Religion took the place of philosophy, and from religion these races received certain philosophic truths; philosophy they had none. In this matter the Jews did not differ from their fellow Semites. Scornful of human wisdom and the achievements of pure reason, and indeed without aptitude for such investigation, they produced no philosophers.
By contrast, the opening words of Maritain’s Introduction to Philosophy are: “All the great Indo-European civilizations manifest an impulse, which no doubt took widely different forms, towards rational and, in the strict sense, philosophic speculation.” (87) Somewhere about the 8th to 6th centuries B.C., deeply speculative attempts to give a rational explanation to the vast problem of evil, undertaken in Persia, filtered down into India where what had been a religious faith slowly became a non-religious philosophy — though it still retained the appearance of being religiously oriented. Speaking of this, Maritain says: (88)
When the original religion ï¿½ the primitive religion of the
85. Hegel, G. W. F., “The Philosophy of History” in The World’s Great Classics, vol.20, Colonial Press, New York, I900, pp.161, 162.
86. Maritain, Jacques, An Introduction to Philosophy, Sheed & Ward, New York, 1955, p.25.
87. Ibid., p.26.
88. Ibid., p.27.
Vedas ï¿½ no longer proved sufficient to satisfy the intellectual demands or social needs of a more advanced civilization, philosophical notions, which seemed to have originated as interpretations of sacrifice and other sacred ritual but developed into a spirit hostile to the ancient traditions and the cult of the gods, found a home among the sacredotal class and took possession of the priesthood. . . The priests. . . directed their worship no longer to the old gods but to the undefined and secret forces of the Universe.
This resulted after a period of confusion in the formation of a new system, Brahmanism or Hinduism, which is essentially a philosophy or metaphysic, a work of human speculation, invested from the outset with the sanctions and attributes of religion.
When it is realized that the basic religious concepts which formed the substance of Zoroastrianism in Persia had been inherited by the Persians from the Assyrian and Babylonian priests, it will be seen that what began as a Semitic World View was taken by the Persians, who belong within the family of Japheth, and transformed into a theology. This theology passing down into India lost its spiritual content and reverted more specifically to pure philosophy. In due time under the influence of Cakya-Muni, surnamed Buddha, the philosophy became less pure and more applied to life. Its practical emphasis then made it appealing to the Chinese who adopted it. In the initial stages in India, while the philosophy had been purely speculative, it had not actually been agnostic or atheistic. But under the influence of Buddha it became increasingly more and more agnostic. By the time it had been adopted by the Chinese, it had become entirely non-religious, a practical guide to successful living and nothing more.
When Buddha had made his imprint on Hinduism, in the 6th century B.C., he had taken a very much more practical view, and Schulberg has observed: (89) “In this, Buddha stands alone among the religious leaders of the world, that he refused to engage in metaphysical speculation about the Universe.” Thus, in due time, whereas Buddhism appealed to the Chinese it disappeared almost entirely from India. In this connection Alan Watts observed: (90)
Although Buddhism was originally an Indian religion, emerging from the traditions of Hindu philosophy, it did not attain its full vitality until the T’ang Dynasty in China ï¿½ about
89. Schulberg, Lucille, Historic India, in Great Ages of Man, Time-Life Publication, 1968, p.60.
90. Watts, Alan, “How Buddhism Came to Life,” Asia, Oct., 1939, p.581.
the 8th century A.D. Philosophy, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and religious rites are far less significant in China. Chinese Buddhism ceased to be a matter of other worldly mysticism. . . .
When Buddhism first came to China the method used for attaining spiritual illumination followed the lines of Indian Yoga: a profound state of consciousness obtained by sitting for hours, days, months, or even years in solitary meditation. But this did not really appeal to the practical spirit of the Chinese who wanted a Dhyana that could be applied to everyday life.
Of Confucianism, Maritain says that there can be no doubt it was simply a form of enlightened selfishness, and completely indifferent to metaphysical speculation. (91) In writing of Confucius as a religious philosopher, Epiphanius Wilson, a Chinese Classical Scholar, pointed out: (92)
The strangest figure that meets us in the annals of oriental thought is that of Confucius. To the popular mind he is the founder of a religion, and yet he has nothing in common with the great religious teachers of the East. They despised the present life: to them the future was everything in its promised satisfaction. The teachings of Confucius were of a very different sort. Throughout his whole writings he has not even mentioned the name of God. He declined to discuss the question of immortality. When asked about spiritual beings, he remarked, “If we cannot know men how can we know spirits?”
The influence of Confucius springs, first of all, from the narrowness and definitiveness of his doctrine. He was no transcendenalist. His teaching was of the earth, earthy.
Wilson’s assessment is quite in accord with that of a recent Chinese scholar, Liu Wu-Chi, who wrote: (93)
The distinguishing features of Confucianism are many. First of all it is a moral system which is both practical and practicable. Without any trace of the metaphysical (philosophy) and the supernatural (religion), its contents are readily understood by the man in the street; and its ethical teachings, replete with wisdom and common sense, can be applied in daily life.
Edward H. Schafer in his contribution on Ancient China in the Great Ages of Man Series has a wonderfully illustrative little bit of Chinese “legalistic advice.” It reads: (94)
Make standards clear.
91. Maritain, Jacques, An Introduction to Philosophy, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1955, p.39.
92. Wilson, Epiphanius, Introduction to “The Literature of China” in The Worlrl’s Great Classics, Colonial Press, New York, 1900, pp.3, 4.
93. Wu-Chi, L., A Short History of Confucian Philosophy, Pelican Books, England, 1955, p.9.
94. Schafer, Edward H., Ancient China,i in The Great Ages of Man, Time-Life Publication, New York, 1967, p.83.
More recently, Ilza Veith in a paper on Far Eastern ideology, speaking about the attitude toward the forces of nature, said: (95)
When the fields were scorched and men waited for rain, when winter lingered and sun was needed to thaw the frozen earth, man saw that heaven was the more powerful and therefore made heaven his supreme deity. But Chinese imagination never personalized this higher being or speculated about its intrinsic qualities.
In a similar vein, Edward H. Schafer wrote: (96)
The origin of this physical world does not seem to have concerned the men of Ancient China very much, despite their great interest in its shape. A few creation myths survive, but creator-spirits did not figure significantly in their religion ï¿½ a striking difference from Judaism and Christianity.
Ralph Linton notes interestingly enough: (97)
China is unique among the great civilizations in that at no time in its long history has it produced a strong priestly group.
The Chinese attitudes towards religion are a mixture of superstition and practicality. Although there were some mystics during the early periocls of developing Chinese philosophy, the general approach of the Chinese is a thoroughly practical one. . . . They never persecuted on religious grounds, and there have been few Chinese
martyrs. . . .
In the 1700’s many French Jesuits were sent to China with the hope of converting the Emperor Ch’ien Lung to the faith. They were well received at court, but the Emperor was more interested in their scientific, mathematical and military contribution.
One reason for singling China out from among non-Indo-European people is that the Chinese are particularly useful (in the sense that the Greek philosophers are) as a paradigm or stereotype. They are a people who for many centuries had a far higher civilization than was to be found anywhere else in the world, a people whose technology was advanced and refined, and a people who having reached such a highly civilized state, declined dramatically in many respects almost to the level of a
95. Veith, llza, “Creation and Evolution in the Ear East” in Evolution After Darwin, vol.3, University of Chicago Press, 1960, p.3.
96. Schafer, Edward H., Ancient China in Great Ages of Man, Time-Life Publication, New York, 1967, p.101.
97. Linton, Ralph, The Tree of Culture, Knopf, New York, 1956, pp.566, 569, and 570.
peasant country. Subsequently, in modern times they have begun a revolution which has brought them to a limited extent within the scientific community. It is worthwhile to note just how much progress has been made in this direction and on this matter we shall have a word to say later. In the meantime, Robert S. Cohen remarks of this combination of high civilization yet lack of philosophy: (98)
The only test comparison with a developed civilization is that of non-theological China. As Needham and Northrope have rernarked, theology in China has been so depersonalized, law made so ethical, humanistic, and particular, that the idea of a rational creator of all things was not forrnulated. Hence the idea that we lesser rational beings rnight, by virtue ot that god-like rationality, be able to decipher the laws of nature never was accepted.
He also notes that if such philosophly had developed, scientific activity would have been stimulated, and “if such scientific activity had been stimulated, theology might have been developed, too” [my emphasis].
And what of China today? Writing on this subject, Kurt A. G. Mendelssohn observed: (99)
Science in the Western sense hardly existed in China before 1950 even at Peking University, proper science teaching did not begin until 1920 and made little headway in the following three decades when the country was torn by civil war and had to suffer Japanese invasion. . . .
I have seen near miracles of shrewd inventiveness and manipulative dexterity in some of the srnall factories attached to agricultural communities where essentially no rnachine tools were available at the time.
It is not lack of ingenuity that has “held them back.” Very similarly H. W. Thompson wrote recently: (100 )
There are said to be 800,000 students at university level in the whole of China. All universities are financed of course by
98. Cohen, Robert S., “Alternative Interpretations of the History of Science”, Scientific Monthly, Feb., 1955, p.115.
99. Mendelssohn, Kurt A. G., “Science and Technology in China.” I have unfortunately mislaid the source of this quotation. It appeared in 1960, in the English journal Nature. In the same journal a Dr. K. Mendelssohn (who may not be the same individual) under the title “Science in China” (vol.215, 1967, pp.10f.) indicates in his article that progress is being made, though the emphasis is still upon applied science and technology ï¿½ not unnaturally.
100. Thompson, H. W., “Science in China,” International Science and Technology, June, 1963, p.88.
the state. The four which I visited, three in Peking and the other in Tientsin, presumably rank among the most advanced. It is risky to generalize, but my impression was that they were devoted almost entirely to teaching (i.e., not to experiment) with much emphasis on sociology and politics. As yet they seem to have little contact with scientific research on the frontiers of science.
I think it is worth noting that Needham in Vol. IV of his great work Science and Civilization in China is concerned over the question of why the Chinese did not develop scientific theories in spite of the many practical devices they invented. Needham suggests the lack of an alphabetic language as one reason. (101) The Chinese ideograms, though they are symbolic, are too tightly bound to their original primitive meaning to allow them to be the basis of generalization and abstraction.
In spite of this admission, Needham for some reason still titled his work Science and Civilization in China. It is strange in view of the fact that he wonders why they never achieved science! I think the confusion arises in part from our tendency to equate science with technology, an unwarranted equation which Conant has written eloquently against. (102) Robert Multhauf in reviewing Needham’s second volume, remarks: (103) 00
That he fails to produce a clear exposition of the relationship of technology to scientific thought is a weakness of the book, but an understandable one ï¿½ since it remains to be accomplished in the relatively better known area of Western science.
Our own TV commercials are brilliant examples of this confusion. A man has only to invent a mechanical toothbrush of some kind and it is introduced to us as a “scientific” marvel, when of course it really has nothing whatever to do with science. As L. R. Hafstead, vice-president of research of the General Motors Corporation at the time, wrote a few years ago: (l04)
A scientist’s work is completed when an item of information is established and recorded. The same man who makes a discovery may choose, or be persuaded, to attempt to apply it to a practical problem. In this case he ceases to be a scientist and works essentially as an engineer.
101. Needham, Joseph, from a review of his work Science and Civilization in China, Vol. 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Cambridge, appearing in Nature, Dec., 1962, p.844.
102. Conant, James: his very widely read book, On Understanding Science, Mentor Books, New York, 1951, is a protest against this equation.
103. Muithauf, Robert, in Science, vol.124, 1956, p.631.
104. Hafstead. L. R., `’The Role of Scientists and Engineers in Society,” The Tool Engineer, April, 1957, p.223.
In short, a technical invention is not to be confused with a scientific discovery, and the toothbrush is the former not the latter, as are most commercially advertised products.
In China the prevailing World View is Taoist, which as Needham points out encourages “technology without science.” (105) That technology can thrive independently of science is so easily established historically that one wonders how serious papers can be published in such a journal of international fame as Science stating categorically that technology owes its existence to scientific endeavour. In point of fact the truth is precisely the reverse, as Needham himself admits. He says: “Technologists, lacking scientific background to their thouglit, have a habit of doing the right things for the wrong reasons.” (106) Kroeber has observed, “It is significant that the Chinese have made many important inventions but not one major scientific discovery. They have sought a way of life but not an understanding or a control of nature beyond what was immediately useful.” (107)
Returning to our more general discussion, it is interesting
105. Needham’s words are: “The spirit of technology without theoretical science seems to be found within Taoist philosophy itself” (Science and Civilization in China, vol.2, Cambridge, 1956, p.85) The word”philosophy” here really means “view of nature” — not philosophy as a special concern with understanding purely for its own sake.
106. Ibid., p.84. The assumption that scientific understanding must precede technological advance is a fundamental error which misleads a number of writers today, even such great ones as Claude Levi-Strauss. Lucien Levy-Bruhl held that primitive people do not think “scientifically.” He did not mean “logically,” but rather that they were highly specific and observed distinctions rather than commonalities, concretes rather than abstracts. He used the term prelogical, which was unfortunate, for he did not mean they were illogical but rather that they were logical on different premises. One of the most elaborate challenges to Levy-Brthl has appeared in Levi-Strauss’s work The Savage Mind. But this writer is not less misguided, I believe, because he fails to distinguish between technology (which all primitive people excelled in) and science (which they lacked). Levi~Strauss argues that the technology of Neolithic Man was sufficiently advanced that his predecessors, Paleolithic Man, must have had a highly developed scientific attitude to lay the basis for the subsequent culture. His reference to “scientific” knowledge (p.14) is a serious mistake to my mind. And virtually all his illustrations are really proofs of the precise opposite, since the whole emphasis is upon discrete knowledge,
knowledge of bits and pieces, of particles ï¿½ not recognition of wholes, of non-existent but abstracted categories. The very fact that the Greeks equated philosophers and scientists and that Plato himself defined the former as sunopticoi (i.e., “see-ers of things together”) really proves the difference in approach.
107. Kroeber, A. L., Configurations of Culture Growth, University of California Press, 1944, p.184.
Tlle difference between any of these Chinese tongues and the more Western languages is profound. . . . The relation of words to each other is expressed by quite different methods from tlle Aryan method. Chinese grammar is a thing different in nature from English grammar; it is a separate and different invention. . . . Consequently, any such thing as a literal translation from Chinese into English is an impossibility.. The very method of the thought is different.
The fact is admitted by Needham, for he says that caution is required in interpreting Chinese philosophy since “in China the word Philosophy did not quite mean what it came to mean in Eurrope.” (109)
Throughout this whole discussion one sees repeatedly recognition of the close bond that exists between language and World View. Harry Hoijer has put it: (1l0)
It is quite an illusicn to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of 1anguage and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the “real” world is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group. . . . The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached.
Jespersen repeatedly underscores this fact, and in his famous work The Philosophy of Grammar he quotes Stuart Mill with approval as having said, “The structure of every sentence is a lesson in logic.” (111)
Considering once more the situation in my own country vis-a-vis the French/English language confrontation and the present discussion about bilingualism as the goal for the average citizen, it is doubtful if any one individual can ever be truly bilingual. Possibly a few exceptional people achieve it in a measure, but since, as Susanne Langer put it, one lives in an entire universe when one speaks and thinks in a language and must move into an entirely new one in transferring to another language, it is hard to see how anyone who was not mildly
108. Wells, H. G., Outline of History, new enlarged edition, vol.1, edited ny Raymond Postgate, Doubleday, New York, 1919, p.150.
109. Needham, Joseph, Science and Civilization in China, Cambridge, 1956, vol.2, p.1.
110. Hoijer, Harry, “The Relation of Language to Culture” in Anthropology Today, edited by A. L. Kroeber, University of Chicago Press, 1953, p.558.
111. Jespersen, Otto, The Philosophy of Grammar, Allen & Unwin, 1963, p.47.
schizophrenic could adopt at one and the same time a shift back and forth completely from one universe to another. Perhaps when the languages are very closely related in the philosophy of grammar it may happen, but it seems likely to me that a man who believes he has complete “facility” in both French and English has in fact cornplete facility in neither. But I may be quite wrong. The French language sustains a rather different World View from the English and one wonders if one can live in two such worlds at one time.
A modern Chinese philosopher, Chang Tung-San, was quoted as having said recently: (112) 0
Take Aristotelian logic, for example, which is evidently based on Greek grammar. The differences between Latin, French, English and German grammatical forms do not result in any difference between Aristotelian logic and their respective rules of reasoning, because they belong to the same Indo-European linguistic family. Should this logic be applied to Chinese thought, however, it will prove inappropriate. This fact shows that Aristotelian logic is based on the western system of language. Therefore we should not follow western logicians in taking for granted that their logic is the Universal Rule in human reasoning.
I think it significant that in her latest book, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, Susanne Langer, in trying to deal with the old problem of the relationship between mind and brain argues that we have our problems in dealing with the origin of consciousness because we have a “thing-oriented” culture. (113) It will be recalled that a fundamental difference between Hebrew and Greek lies in the emphasis in Hebrew upon verbal forms by contrast with the Greek emphasis on nouns. So Susanne Langer says that as long as we look at the problem as though man were essentially a machine with a driver in charge (two “things”), we shall always have difficulty in accounting for the driver since he cannot be allowed to originate from the same source as the machine he drives. So she argues we need a new approach, and the key to this new approach is not “thing” but “act.” When we discuss the subject, when we speculate on the problem on the basis of a “thing” view of reality, we have the old classic materialism, a “nothing but” (no-thing but) philosophy, a reductionist
112. Tung-San, Chang, quoted by Warren Weaver, “Science and People,” Science, vol.122, 1955), p.1258.
113. Langer, Susanne, Mind: An E;ssay on Human Feeling, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1967, vol.1, pp.5-10 especially.
philosophy that has not led to any useful advance in our understanding of how the mind works on the body. We see the mind as one thing and the body as another thing, and we have not been able to dream up a useful idea as to how they interact. Langer proposes that we should abandon the old paradigm stated in the form “agent-action-object” which she believes is “rooted in the grammar of our language.” We must not divide the agent from the object but bind them inseparably in the single verb “act”. I have not done justice at all to her thesis which occupied nearly 500 pages, but one cannot help seeing in this approach a reflection of the Chinese philosopher’s complaint that we must not assume that Indo-European languages per se automatically give the only true picture of reality. We may have reached a critical point where the philosophy of grammar of some other culture might have to be called into play to complete our understandmg. It is with some such thought in mind that Benjamin Lee Whorf wrote: (114)
I believe that those who envision a future world speaking only one tongue whether English, German, Russian, or any other, hold a rnisguided ideal and would do the evolution of the human mind a great disservice. Western Culture has made, through language, a provisional analysis of reality and, without correctives, holds resolutely to that analysis as final. The only correctives lie in all these other tongues which by aeons of independent evolution have arrived at different but equally logical provisional analyses.
What has been said of China is also essentially true of primitive people and of all those civilizations of antiquity which were neither Semitic nor Indo-European. At the very foundation of all civilizations in which organized city life plays a significant part were the Sumerians. One of the most informed students of these people at the present time is Samuel N. Kramer. After considering their inventiveness and having referred to them as a gifted and practical people, he says nonetheless that they never apparently made any search after truth for its own sake. The quite advanced subjects (mathematics, and so forth) which tley taught in their schools “did not stem out of what may be called the scientific urge.” (115) Subsequently, the whole idea of making generalizations seems to have been unknown to the Sumerians,
114. Whorf, Benjamin Lee, quoted by Alexander Gode, “The Case for Interlingua,” Scientific Monthly, Aug., 1953, p.90.
115. Kramer, Samuel, The Tablets of Sumer, Falcon’s Wing Press, Indian Hills, Colorado, 1956, pp.6, 33, 59, and 83.
and thus, although we have quite a number of Sumerian grammatical lists, “no where do you find a single explicit grammatical definition or rule.” Similarly, although we have many mathematical tables and illustrations of problems with their solutions, we have “no statement of general principles, axioms, or theories.” Once again, although the Sumerians compiled numerous law codes, “no where is there a statement of legal theory.” Speaking of the highly practical medical knowledge which they left on record, there is no evidence that a Sumerian physician ever made use of experiment or verification. Their cosmology was set forth in some detail and the deities of their pantheon appear to have been real enough, yet the Sumerians apparently never tried to correct the anomalies and inconsistencies that were involved in them; these anomalies never seem to have struck them. Similarly J. J. Finkelstein observed: (116)
There probably has never been another civilization so single-mindedly bent on the accumulation of information, and on eschewing any generalization or annunciating of principles. Ultimate understanding of the Universe, they seem to have held, required nothing but the painstaking accumulation of as much detail as possible about literally everything.
This is not the first step toward scientific thinking: indeed, it may actually be a hindrance against taking any further such steps at all. In his book dealing with science in antiquity, Benjamin Farrington in speaking of the mathematics which the Babylonians inherited from the Sumerians and which, incidentally, was remarkably advanced ï¿½ involving the use of fractions, of quadratic equations, and even of a kind of logarithmic system ï¿½ remarked: (117)
We are in the presence of abundant evidence of Babylonian mathematical ability, but their tables of roots, cube roots, squares, and cubes, etc., are offered to us like our own practical tables for calculating interest, without proof of theory. So that as far as the evidence goes, Babylonian arithmetic is under the suspicion of being largely empirical.
The same is equally true of Egypt. Martin Engberg has said, “Nowhere is there any indication that the Egyptians were interested
116. Finkelstein, J. J., “Mesopotamian Historiography”, Proceedings of American Philosophical Society, vol.107, 1963, p.463, in a series of papers entitled, “‘Cuneiform Studies and the History of Civilization.”
117. Farrington, B., Science in Antiquity, Home University Library, Oxford, 1947. p.24.
in theoretical problems.” (118) Similarly, Sir Alan Gardiner in the introduction to his Egyptian Grammar put the matter even more forcibly when he said, “No people has ever shown itself more adverse from philosophical speculation or more wholeheartedly devoted to material interest.” (119)
It is general to find in articles written for popular consumption references to the highly developed technology of the Egyptians, which is not infrequently equated with or misnamed science. But William Hayes wrote: (120)
Though intensely devout, the ancient Egyptian had neither the mental nor the spiritual equipment necessary to the creation or even the adaptation of a great religion. An analysis of the Egyptian religion shows that it consisted of at least four unrelated cults or phases, no one of which ever passed beyond what we should regard as a primitive stage. Though intelligent and quick to learn, he had a mind of the practical unimaginative type. He was a materialist, not given to deep speculative thought, and was unable either to evolve or express a purely abstract idea.
It is not surprising that for all their advanced technology and skill, the Egyptians should not have moved into a scientific age for the same reason that they did not develop a theology. The reason for this seems once again to be rooted in their World View which, in turn, was predetermined in each generation by language. P. LePage Renouf in his Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, noted that certain languages as vehicles of thought appear to be inferior to others, and he proposed as an example the Egyptian language as not capable of giving expression to theological thinking. (121)
On another occasion Renouf, quoting Renan, wrote: (122)
Certain languages as vehicles of (certain kinds of) thought are inferior to others, and as long as men are confined to the
118. Engberg, Martin, The Dawn of Civilization, University of Knowledge Series, Cuneo Press, New York, 1938, p.153.
119. Gardiner, Martin, Egyptian Grammar, Oxford, 1927, Section 3, p.4.
120. Hayes, William C., “Daily Life in Ancient Egypt,” National Geographic Magazine, Oct., 1941, pp.425f. Susanne Langer says: “The Egyptians and Mayans and Aztecs moved enormous stones, but left no theoretical work on dynamics which would indicate that they knew — or even asked — how and why their methods worked just the way they did” (Mind: An Essay On Human Feeling, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1967, p.56).
121. Renouf, P. LePage, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, Hibbert Lectures for 1897, Williams & Norgate, London, p.60.
122. Ibid., pp.60, 61.
inferior vehicle of thought, they are unable to raise themselves to the levels of others who enjoy a more efficient instrument. It is difficult to conceive the Egyptians as otherwise than incapacitated by their language from profound philosophy. It is hardly possible to read a page written in an Indo-European language, from Sanscrit to Keltic, without coming across some kind of dialectic process of which I do not remember a single trace in an Egyptian text.
Although it is far removed from matters Egyptian, it is interesting to note an ethnologist, Elie Reclus, writing many years ago of the Quoit (Eskimo) and remarking: “Their religion, purely ‘instructive,’ has little resemblance to our abstract theologies, so closely bound up with metaphysics.” (123) He concluded:
Primitive men have some rudimentary ideas, some moral, religious, and philosophic perceptions which after being refined, elucidated, and arranged, would yield a system neither better nor worse than many others, but they have not elaborated this system.
In his four-volume study of mathematics, James Newman, speaking of the Rhind Papyrus, remarked: (124)
The Egyptians made no great contribution to mathematical knowledge. They were practical men, not given to much speculative or abstract inquiries. Dreamers were rare among them, and mathematics is nourished by dreamers.
And mathematics is basic to the development of science. Newman continued subsequently: (125)
The Rhind Papyrus, though it demonstrates the inability of tue Egyptians to generalize and their penchant for clinging to cumbersome calculating processes, proves tuat they were remarkably pertinacious in solving everyday problems . . . and uncommonly skillful in making do with the awkward methods they employed.
Similarly, in connection with Egyptian medicine, Ileen Stewart observed: (123)
Much of the medical law of the Egyptian became the heritage of the Greeks as they fashioned their civilization in the last few centuries B.C. . . . The knowledge they inherited was essentially factual, the accumulation of Egyptian observations and
123. Reclus, Elie, Primitive Folk: Studies in Comparative Ethnology, Walter Scott, London, no date, pp.87, 229.
124. Newman, James R., “The Rhind Papyrus” in The World of Mathematics, vol.1, edited by by J. R. Newman, Simon 8: Schuster, New York, 1956, p.11.
125. Ibid., p.11.
126. Stewart, lleen, “Helminths in History,” Scientific Monthly, June, 1951, p.348.
experience. The Greeks attempted to put these facts together and to derive a systematic pattern in nature. Many of their interpretations are still tinged with mysticism, but they were philosophical and logical — as the Egyptians had never been.
James R. Newman wrote elsewhere in the same connection: (127)
The Greeks were the pupils of the East, but as the noteh historian Michael Rostovtzeff has said, “they refashioned all they received, and stamped a fresh character upon it.” They had an endless curiosity, a passion to discover “the rule of law in nature.” The Greeks asked not How? but Why?
Precisely the same thing may be said of Chinese medicine, the achievements of which are quite astounding. George E. Wakerling in the journal Circulation Research refers to what has come to be known as “the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine,” the Emperor himself being dated somewhere around 2600 B.C., points out that Harvey was anticipated. “The blood current flows continuously in a circle and never stops,” is one among many acute observations in this very ancient manuscript. (128) He points out further that in the 16th and 17th centuries B.C. several Egyptian papyri not only counselled examination of the pulse but also direct auscultation of the heart as the source of the pulse. Wakerling refers to several other remarkable observations but concludes, “. . . then followed the period of the Dark Ages.” Technology, or purely factual knowledge, has its limitations.
One might suppose that in Egypt some philosophers would have arisen, and it is customary to refer to such people as Ptah-hotep as one of them. But just as we have seen in connection with Confucius, so of this man James Baikie remarked: (129)
All the evidence goes to show that the Egyptian was one of the most severely practical of men, who sought learning not for any joy in the attainment of truth for its own sake but simply as a means to an end. . . . The wisdom of Ptah-hotep and of Kagemni is in general of a canny, practical nature, concerning itself with the ordinary details of life and conduct and inculcating
127. Newman, James R., reviewing Morris Kline’s “Mathematics in Western Culture,” Scientific American, Feb., 1954, p.92.
128. Wakerling, George E., “From Bright Towards Light: The Story of Hypertensive Research,” Circulation Research, vol.11. Part 2, 1962, p.131. I think it is worth noting also that the ancient art of feeling the pulse was also known in China from works dated 2500 B.C. 8ee an article on this by D. E. Bedford, British Heart Journal, vol.13, 1951, p. 423-47.
129.Baikie, James, The Story of the Pharaohs, Black, London, 1908, p.59.
The daily lives of their upper classes must have been as comfortable as one can imagine, their physical needs supplied with elegance and good taste in marked contrast with the Greeks who initiated science in Europe but whose lives were evidently lived in rather comfortless austerity. Clive Bell has pointed out that the disinterestedness of the latter in their pursuit of truth has been made a reproach to thern. As he put it, “They sought truth for its own sake . . . not as a means to power and comfort. . . . The Athenians wished to live richly rather than to be rich.” (130) The life of a well-to-do Greek in classical times, so rich and complete in thought and feeling, was in most material tlings, as Clive Bell put it, “indecently deficient.”
I think the same is still true of Indo-Europeans: that those who are really immersed in deep thought have a tendency to be totally indifferent to practical things and to the ordinary amenities of life. This in itself is not too surprising perhaps, and while it might conceivably be true in any culture that some of the more thoughtful members were impractical and would tend to be considered merely as lazy, what is to be remembered is that Indo-Europeans have had a tendency to look up to such men, not down upon them. Not every Semite is religious, nor every Japhethite an intellectual ï¿½ by any means Nevertheless, the Semites have always recognized the pre-eminence of spiritual life over physical life, they have had what might be called a spiritual aristocracy. I am excluding those Semites who are not strictly culturally Semites any longer, who have been immersed in a culture that is alien to their own. It is true also that Indo-Europeans have tended always to revere an intellectual elite. And I think it worth noting (apropos of the Hamite branch) that many primitive cultures demand that a young suitor prove himself in some way to be ingenious before he is acceptable; and the Chinese produced biographies on a national scale dealing with their inventors but not with anyone else. And there is a tendency for Egyptian and Sumerian records to attach more importance to engineers in the broadest sense than to any other class. We do not know the name of one priest as far as I am aware, but we do know the names of some of their architects, builders, and engineers.
Moreover, as Hegel pointed out years ago, Hindu philosophers
130. Bell, Clive, Civilization, Penguin Books, London, 1938, p.63.
achieved great heights, yet because they attached so little importance to the material world they did not produce science. The dependence of science upon the amalgamation of philosophy and technology needs to be underscored, since the Greeks also failed to bring Europe into a scientific age owing to their stated disinterest in practical things, although in both India and Greece the technical base was lacking for the conversion of philosophy into science. The reasons why science did not emerge in either Greece or India seem to have been much the same, in the final analysis: namely, a scorn for things practical and a distaste for manual labour.
Aryan philosophy in India was not applied to Hamitic technology because the caste of technicians was not to be associated with. It was, on the other hand, applied to religion because the priestly caste was a high one. Consequently, while science did not emerge, theology, in the form of Hinduism ï¿½ did. Lucille Schulberg observed: (131)
The enormous racial pride of the Aryans, in fact, encouraged the separation of peoples, and non-Aryan craftsmen who banded together to guard the secrets of their craft, apparently came to supervise all the aspects of the behaviour of their groups.
And again, of these technicians who were the descendants of the original inhabitants of India who had founded the Indus Valley civilization, Schulberg wrote, “These conquered peoples were completely segregated, forced to live in clusters outside the Aryan village boundaries and barred from Aryan religious rites.” (132) Aryan philosophical interests were dominant: (133)
Of all the philosophers that India has produced one who graced the 9th century A.D. ranks among the great minds in all history. That was Shankara, a brahman born in Kerala, in South India. In a brief life of 32 years he did for Hinduism what the 13th century Thomas Aquinas did for Christianity: he took his religion apart and examined it in minute detail, then drew the pieces together again in one cohesive whole. He wrote the most famous of all the commentaries on the Upanishads and established himself as chief exponent of the system of philosophy most esteemed by Hindu intellectuals.
It has often been argued that England lags behind some other countries (notably the U.S.A.) in technology because there is a strong feeling that technology is a somewhat less
131. Schulberg, Lucille, Historic India in Great Ages of Man, Time-Life Publication, New York, p.139.
132. Ibid., p.37.
133. Ibid., p121.
distinguished occupation. The true gentleman does not do things with his hands. Against this, it has also been pointed out that in the early days the Royal Society was formed by men who were actively engaged in doing experiments and working at their instruments with their hands. Still, it appears that they were not really concerned with applied technology. Lord Raglan said of them, “Scientists of the 17th century were but little interested in utilitarian aspects of their inventions. Their object was to cause wonder and surprise, to produce ‘a most incredible thing.’ Nothing was farther from their minds than the idea of developing their inventions for the purpose of altering the conditions under which they lived.” (134)
I think Lord Raglan has stated only half the truth about them, because they were driven by an even more powerful urge, namely, the urge to explore and define and demonstrate the orderliness of the universe — almost as an act of worship. The basis of this urge is important in the present context. Alfred North Whitehead asserted that “centuries of belief in a God Who combined the personal energy of Jehovah (the Semitic contribution) with the rationality of a Greek philosopher (the Japhethic contribution) first produced that firm expectation of systematic order which rendered possible the birth of modern science.” (135) Their concern was in no sense a practical one.
In our culture the scientist in his ivory tower appears generally as something of a heroic figure. But he can also be a ludicrous one. James Conant says, “The scientific attitude is essentially that of the savants who, drinking to their next discovery, coupled with their toast the hope that it might never be of use to anybody.” ( 136) And Robert Clark in a similar vein refers to the great Irish mathematician, William Hamilton, who when he had developed a theory of quarternions in the middle of the 18th century, “was very pleased because it had no practical application.” (137)
Susanne Langer has observed that philosophy has traditionally dealt in general terms and that the reason for its “proverbial uselessness” once the sciences have been “born from its mysterious womb” is that it made general propositions not only its
134. Raglan, Lord, How Came Civilization, Methuen, London, 1939, p.176.
135. Whitehead, Alfred N., quoted by C. S. Lewis, Miracles, Macmillan, New York, 1947, pp.127, 128.
136. Conant, J. B., On Understanding Science, Mentor Books, New York, 1951, p.117.
137. Clark, Robert A., Six Talks on Jung’s Psychology, Boxwood Press Pittsburgh, 1953, p.22.
immediate aim, but its sole material.” (138) The philosopher’s aim is, as she has said, “generality” ï¿½ but it leads to science which can deal with specifics and is increasingly being called upon to do so in terms of “products” of basic research, though “all really basic thinking is philosophical.”
In view of the tremendous strides forward which have resulted technologically as a direct outcome of this philosophizing tendency among Europeans, one may wonder why the Industrial Revolution wasn’t paralleled in India where thoughtful men were doing much the same thing. It seems to me that if the Aryans had not so completely destroyed the Hamitic cultures of the Indus Valley when they first moved down from the north into their subcontinent, and had not also degraded the survivors of that culture to such an extent that they never had the opportunity to perpetuate their technical know-how even at a much reduced level, these conquered people might have provided the same kind of pabulum which Europeans inherited partly from the great Middle East cultures and partly from the Far East through the Arabs, which has been the basis of their advance. Had the Indian also made more frequent contacts with the Chinese and some other Far Eastern peoples like the Koreans who were equally ingenious, this too might have supplied their lack. It has been said of the Greeks that they did not move forward toward an Industrial Revolution because they did not need labour-saving devices or technological aids of any kind since they
138. Langer,Susanne, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1967, vol.1, pp. xx, xxi. A. N. Whitehead wrote: “All the world over and at all times there have been practical men, absorbed in the irreducible and stubborn facts; all the world over and at all times there have been men of philosophical temperament, who have been absorbed in the meaning of general principles” (Science and the Modern World, Macmillan, New York, 1925).
Commenting on this quote, Philipp Frank remarks: “In antiquity and the Middle Ages, there was very little co-operation between these two types of men. Whitehead emphasizes the point that Science in tle modern sense was born when such co-operation started, and when both interests, in facts and ideas, were combined in one and the same person. . . . In the society of ancient Greece the philosophers . . . who were interested in general principles belonged to a higher social class than those more interested in the hard facts of technological application, the artisans and craftsmen. The latter belonged to a low class and had no understanding of general ideas. . . . We know that the ancient Greeks and Romans displayed a marvellous art and skill in building and even in some fields of mechanical engineering but the knowledge of these ancient builders and engineers was not ‘philosophic’ or ‘scientific’; it was purely technological” (Philosophy of Science, Prentice Hall, New Jersy, 1957, p.25).
were so well supplied with slaves. Farrington and others believe that this is not entirely correct. Apparently, what actually happened was that, having a very large slave population, all menial (i.e., manual) tasks were undertaken by them so that any kind of labour was, in a sense, degraded. Hence the Greeks objected to doing anything with their hands, even to drawing diagrams in the sand to illustrate a theorem. There were exceptions among the Greeks, but they were exceptions only in a manner of speaking, and the “manner of speaking” is interesting. Ralph Linton has pointed this out: (139)
At the siege of Syracuse by the Romans, Archimedes really upset them by his constant invention of new devices to burn their ships and disorganize them generally. But Plutarch, writing 600 years later, feels it necessary to apologize for Archimedes having made practical use of his mathematical formulae and so on, and he says that the philosopher had made machines not of his own free will but because the King of Syracuse had requested him to build these machines as a demonstration of the clear laws of mathematics and mechanics which, in this way, could be explained to persons of lower minds who could not perceive the truths in the abstract.
If we go back to Plutarch’s own words, we find the following: (140)
Archimedes had such a depth of understanding, such a dignity of sentiment, and so copious a fund of mathematical knowledge, that, though in the invention of these machines he gained the reputation of a man endowed with divine rather than hurnan knowledge, yet he did not vouchsafe to leave any account of them in writing. For he considered all attention to mechanics and every art that ministers to common use as meanand sordid, and placed his whole delight in those intellectual speculations, which, without any relation to the necessities of life, have an intrinsic excellence arising from truth and demonstration only.
Completely in this tradition is the feeling which has still persisted in parts of Europe, particularly in England, that engineering is a less distinguished and honourable profession than philosophy or scientific research. (141) But so completely deceived
139. Archimedes: see Ralph Linton, The Tree of Culture, Knopf, New York, 1956, p.665.
140. Plutarch, Lives, translated by John and William Langhorne, Routledge, London, no date, p.221.
141. On this see The Integration of Technologies, edited by Leslie Holliday, Hutchinson, London, 1966, 167 pp., illustrated, where it is shown clearly how British social attitudes still militate against the exploration of a scientific technology. In an editorial entitled “Does Every Apple Have A Worm?” in the British journal Nature, Dec. 30, 1967, p.1257, a report is given of the (continued. . .)
have we been in the New World by the tremendous strides we have made in technology that we assume our high technology to be the result of our own natural inventiveness and interest in mechanics, and the almost direct outcome of our science. Charles V. Kidd, quoting Vannevar Bush, remarked: (142)
New products and new processes do not appear full grown. They are founded on new principles and new conceptions, which in turn are painstakingly developed by research in the purest realms of Science.
It is hard to think of any statement on this general subject which is so completely and utterly wrong. Vannevar Bush also remarked: “A nation which depends upon others for its new basic knowledge will be slow in industrial progress. . . .” (143) If the writer did but know it, this too is a complete misrepresentation of history, for it can be shown that our “basic knowledge” in the technical sense ï¿½ and he is speaking of “mechanical skill,” etc. ï¿½ was derived almost entirely from non-Indo-European sources.
Claude Levi-Strauss tends to make precisely the same mistake when he speaks of the emergence of Neolithic culture as being based on a “long scientific tradition” [my emphasis] because the developments which preceded it must have involved an extended period of conscious and deliberate experiment. (144) The fact is that almost all we know about primitive people (with a very few notable exceptions) is that they are conservative in the extreme and simply do not experiment to evolve new and better techniques. What they do seem to have been able to do is to hit upon remarkably effective solutions without hunting for improvements as we habitually find we must do. He argues, wrongly I believe, that only experiment “could have yielded practical and useful results.” Hamitic peoples have advanced technology because they have a genius for invention, not because
(141 continued) Reith Lectures in which Dr. Edmund Leach of Cambridge said: If you ask a professional scientist . . . he will insist that genuine human control of technology is impossible. That being so, the wise man must avoid all involvement in practical
affairs. . . . Only by detachment can he hope to gain true understanding. . . . (This) summarizes the basic philosophy of our science-laden society. . . . His concern is to understand the universe, not to improve it.”
142. Vannevar Bush, quoted by Charles V. Kidd, “Basic Research: Description versus Definition,” Science, vol.129, 1959, p.368.
l44. Levi-Strauss, Claude, The Savzge Mind, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1966, pp.14, 15.
they have been scientific; and Japhethites have advanced technology because they are philosophically minded and not because they are inventive. Our “inventions” are basically imports. In this sense we who lacked technology have been completely dependent in the past upon people who never created science, though we have so far outstripped them that they now look to us instead of we to them.
David G. Barry in the same journal had said this: (145)
As a culture we have prided ourselves on our “practical nature” and on Yankee inventiveness. These ideas are pleasant to contemplate and are seldom questioned. Historians of American Science have not, however, been able to establish any unusual capacity for inventiveness or practicality in the American record.
Barry points out that we have placed tremendous emphasis as a people on the concept of “utility,” but he thinks that this is undoubtedly due to the demanding religious views of the Founding Fathers “who left us with the Puritan ethic of useful work.” He shows how very different this was from the practical interest of the non-Indo-European peoples who had no such “other world” aims in view. Although he does not do so, he might also have noted that this was the spark which led to the founding of the Royal Society. He wrote:
It is generally agreed that this concept is a heritage from the upright and demanding religious views of the New England forefathers, who left us with the Puritan ethic of useful work. However, the operational significance of the early Puritan concept of utility differs greatly from that of the concept widely held in this country today. Utility as early Americans viewed it was an integral part of the Puritan religion blended with their theology and the science they used to support it. The Puritans saw nature and the cosmos as the unchanging product of the original creation. All nature had been designed by the Creator, and was operated with providential utility to benefit man. Man himself was part of this orderly scheme and had a moral responsibility to acquire new knowledge of nature and to seek to understand the divine utility of natural phenomena as part of his daily life. Through such knowledge he could better know the Creator. Thus the Puritan concept of utility was part of an open-ended, ever-expanding system which gave highest honour to pursuit of new knowledge.
We revert once more to the statement made above by Bush.
145. Barry, David G., “Research and Purpose,” in a letter to the editor, Science, vol.147, 1965, p.1524.
A typical statement (from the book) reads as follows: “All progress in technology depends on a scientific understanding of the way in which nature works. . . .” Nonsense! For most of human history, when technological progress was dependent on craft tradition, no “scientific understanding” was involved in technological advance.
He gives several further similar examples of this kind of faulty reasoning which in the final analysis is really based on national pride ï¿½ one might almost say, on racial conceit.
In the next chapter we shall examine some of the evidence which students of the history of technology have begun to uncover.
146. Kranzberg, Melvin, under the heading, “Our Industrial Society,” Science, vol.146, 1964, p.237.