Relationship between Nature and Natural ScienceJune 27, 2021
Dewey’s understanding of knowledge brings with it a different understanding of natural science and nature from that of classical philosophy.
Taking humans as passive audiences of nature implies that there is an objectivity in and of itself beyond the contents we come into contact with mentally. So the main thing is to have knowledge of this objectivity. This is why physics has priority as a science. Physics is a fundamental science to the extent that it presents the “essence” of nature (which, according to modern philosophy, has been associated with spatiality since Descartes).
Dewey is against this result and the science of thought that produces this result. According to Dewey, no science is prioritized, including physics. The understanding of science and nature expressed above is based on a false epistemological perspective based on the separation of the knower and the known. However, the main thing for us humans, who interact with nature, is to solve the problems we face. There are as many different understandings of knowledge as there are different types of operations to solve these problems. Different ideas, concepts and methods used in different branches of science are just tools we use to reach our own goals and solve the problems we face. These tools vary according to the problems we are trying to solve. This approach of Dewey towards knowledge and science is called instrumentalism.
It is therefore wrong to think that physics (or chemistry) presents the essence of nature to us. The concepts of the natural sciences are, after all, only tools that serve certain ends. There is no situation that gives priority and privilege to the concepts and theories of physics or chemistry. It is not correct to take nature as primary and secondary things, as depicted by the concepts and theories of physics or chemistry:
But if the old theory of knowledge and metaphysics is preserved, science will tell us that nature is really just a game of masses in motion, devoid of sound, color, or any other quality associated with use and gratification. What science actually does is to show that any natural object of interest to us can be treated in terms of the relations upon which its formation depends, or as an event. By dealing with it in this way, we may be able to go beyond the immediately present properties of the object given to us through direct experience and arrange for the object in question to occur ourselves, rather than waiting for some conditions beyond our control to occur for that object to appear. The reduction of experienced objects to neutral relations as well as qualitative features is a prerequisite for regulating the course of change so that the change can be finalized with the emergence of an object with desirable qualities (The Quest for Certainty, 104-105).
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook