11.Against the Current(1979) Isaiah Berlin (Princeton University Press,2001)

 The Divorce Between Sciences and The Humanities


(Pg.81) It is not surprising that the this view was most strongly held and most influential in the hour of the greatest triumph of the natural sciences—surely a major, if not the major, achievement of the human mind: and especially, therefore, in the seventeenth century in western Europe. From Descartes and Bacon and the followers of Galileo and Newton, from Voltaire and the Encyclopedists to Saint-Sion and Comte and Buckle, and, in our own century, H.G. Wells and Bernal and Skinner and the Viennese positivists, and their ideal of a unified system of all the sciences, natural and humane, this has been a programme of the modern Enlightenment; and it has played a decisive role in the social, legal and technological organization of our world. This was perhaps bound sooner or later to provoke a reaction form those who felt that constructions of reason and science, or of a single all-embracing system, whether it claimed to explain the nature of thins, or to go further and dictate, in the light of this, what one should do and be and believe, were in some way constricting—an obstacle to their own vision of the world, chains on their imagination or feeling or will, a barrier to spiritual or political liberty.

(pg.82) This is not the first occasion on which this phenomenon occurred: the domination of the philosophical schools of Athens in the Hellenistic period was attended by a noticeable increase in mystery cults and other forms of occultism and emotionalism in which non-rational elements in the human spirit sought an outlet. There was the great Christian revolt against the great organized legal systems, whether of the Jews or the romans; there were medieval antinomian rebellions against the scholastic establishment and the authority of the church—movements of this kind from the Cathars to the Anabaptists are evidence enough of this; the Reformation was preceded and followed by the rise of the powerful mystical irrationalist currents. I will not dwell on more recent manifestations of this—in the German Strum und Drang, in the romanticism of the early nineteenth century, in Carlyle and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and the vast spectrum of modern irrationalism both on the right and on the left.



  1. “Positivist” cultural contexts (defined in fact as staving off opprobic force of human biology from one’s vision of reality) are always historically compensated through the “resurrection of myth” (physiologically relevant vision’s of the real), probably because man’s imagination allows us not to have to live in only the misery of the physically real and immediate. The luxury of physiologically rational, sensory expanse is too important to human need in the context of sedentary life to forego.
  2. Social Congruence of whatever nature (positivist, mythological, religious…) to be structurally viable through time, must allow for the invigoration of individuals in a living present; thus if culturally rational identity is to remain in effect, individuals must live in the possibility of their own physiologically rational and efferent imposition—and structural stability anchored in the past becomes simply the platform for living human groups who then live in their own physiologically rational expanse; resilient anthropological structures allow for this possibility (gain in fact their very stability from physiologically rational invigoration of individuals in this sense).
  3. Science founds itself only on what it already has established rationally; all new phenomena can be considered explained only if subjected exclusively to the corpus of established knowledge. This is to say, the limitations of established knowledge define how we rationally (and culturally) approach our own physiologically sensorial being, but very much extrinsically to our actual experience (that is inevitably the essence of the socially congruent and rational). Culture stability, however, requires some form of collectively recognized authority, and science especially because of its limitations severs that purpose very well, for our experiencing of the sensorial is only transcribable so to speak, to the rational, but is itself broader than just our rational voice (because rational capacity and cultural voice is a mechanism of imposition of limits on physio-sensory and corporal impression—that is the origin of the need for the socially congruent and rational, and the relatively specific cultural individuality the corporeally singular individual must assume).
  4. Following also Bruno Snell* and what constitutes a theory on man’s living, physiological need to impose on his world—conceptually, if physical experience is eventually limited—points to a vision of human existence as inchoative in nature, consisting of a being in imposition itself: Homer’s metaphors constitute a form of physiologically rational aggression against the limits of our physical experience, and given that conceptual forms of rational imposition had yet to be culturally developed (core notion to Snell’s thesis); but metaphor and the process of analogy it is based on can only be understood itself as a form of primitive or proto rational process, that is very probably still for us today at the foundation of our cognizance, although we live culturally in a much broader force of rational-conceptual imposition developed over the millennium since Homer (and since the higher Greek culture that succeed him)—a mode of rational imposition that today tends to remove us from our deeper physiologically corporeal essence, as culture is of itself a process of deferring to some extent physical experience, anyway.
  5. Homer, then, lived and thought physiologically; and so still do we, but the positivist mode of cultural stability we live in, because it removes itself from the opprobic, must compensate for this through the physiologically sensorial exercise of the physio-corporeal individual within the natural confines of our socio-genetic and opprobic physiological constitution—exaclty that which science has freed itself from, or at least in its technical praxis. The divorce of Science is really in regards to this point: technical thought is rational, but we live in more of a physiologically rational mode of relating to the world our bodies depend on. But divorces always go better as a mutally understood agreement between the parts, which historically, in regards to science and the humanities—or between science and the reality of our socio-genetic, physiological nature—has not been the case.



(pg.97) But, Vico maintains, if you read primitive utterances (Latin and Greek antiguities, which he new best, provide him with the majority of his examples) you will soon realise that what we call metaphorical speech is the natural mode of expression of these early men. When we say that our blood is boiling, this may for us be a conventional metaphor for anger, but for primitive man anger literally resembled the sensation of blood boiling within him; when we speak of the teeth of ploughs, or the mouths of rivers, or the lips of vases, these are dead metaphors or,at best, deliberate artifice intended to produce a certain effect upon the listener or reader. But to our remote ancestors ploughs actually appeared to have teeth, rivers, which for them were semi-animate, had mouths: land was endowed with necks and tongues, metals and minerals with veins, the earth had bowels, oaks had hearts, skies smiled and frowned, winds raged, the whole of nature was alive and active. Gradually, as human experience changed, this, once natural speech, which Vico calls poetical, lingered on as turns of phrase in common speech whose origins had been forgotten or at least were no longer felt, or as conventions and ornament used by sophisticated versifiers. Forms of speech express kinds of vision; there is no universal, ‘literal’ speech which denotes a timeless reality. Before ‘poetical’ language, men used hieroglyphs and ideograms which convey a vison of the world very different from our own—Vico declares that men sang before they spoke, spoke in verse before they spoke in prose, as is made plain by the study of the kinds of signs and symbols that they used, and the trypes of use they made of them.


Giambattista Vico (B. Giovan Battista Vico, 23 June 1668 – 23 January 1744)



-Otra forma de enfocar esto es suponer que la forma normal de razonamiento humano es por medio de la analogía que es exactamente lo que son las metáforas en su base y fondo; pero como estas sociedades antiguas aún no se habían desarrollado formas lógicamente sintetizadas de expresar y comprender las cosas, se comunicaban ¨`poéticamente¨ y por metáforas. Pero nosotros, aunque vivimos conceptualmente de la síntesis racional posterior, seguimos siendo capaces de una sensibilidad poética y fisio-sensorial, puesto que es la sensorialidad humana subyace de forma permanente a la congruencia social y es por tanto el agente principal críptico de nuestra propia racionalidad conceptual, mientras que para las sociedades anteriores este vivir conceptual no se había desarrollado aun (tesis de BRUNO SNELL). Pero hoy en día seguimos necesitados de un estímulo auxiliar fisio-sensorial que nos proporciona los medios audiovisuales, paralelamente a la conceptualización racional-empírica que desde la ilustración nos define. De esta manera se ha de considerar que nosotros seguimos siendo ellos, salvo que vivimos de una concepetualidad que, paradójicamente, no concibe su componente subyacente aun hoy original, de sensorialidad propia y fisiológicamente corpórea. Esto es, el hombre racionalmente sintetizador y empírico que somos nosotros vive a espaldas de su propia esencia fisiológicamente sensorial; sigue siendo sensible de hecho a ella, mas no tiene medio de vivir conceptualmente esta circunstancia puesto que su racionalidad es producto de y contrapeso respecto a su propia esencia fisiológica-sensorial. Pero, claro está, las sociedades conceptualmente primitivas (Homero) tampoco contemplaban conceptualmente su propia transcurrir fisiológica y sensorial: no tenían los instrumentos para ello, sino que forzaban los limites solo poéticamente de su propia capacidad cognitiva-semiótica.



La literatura en la forma contemporánea en la que la concebimos nosotros, abarca ambos lados o ámbitos de la individualidad antropológica: se sirve de géneros socialmente congruentes para estructurarse al mismo tiempo que se funda en la sensorialidad fisiológica humana de la impresión (o sea lo que se conoce por la estética); en este sentido la consabida verdad que contiene la literatura se debe al hecho moral que representa, en la relevancia fisio-opróbica que impone, por una parte, al tiempo que se puede y se debe utilizar para alguna forma de síntesis racional, de contenido en última instancia conceptual o que se puede trasladar al mismo mediante la interpretación finalmente intelectual. Es decir, que en la literatura frente a la ciencia, sobrevive un modo de saber que es sustancialmente fisiológoco-sensorial, anclado en el basamento mismo corpóreo de los grupos humanos vivientes que se yerguen oprobicamente ante la realidad circundante-y sobre todo y siempre para nosotros- sensorial.  08SEP17



–Such lingering turns of phrase are really our deeper physio-sensory sensitivity to the imagery of the body, its power, weakness or fragility. In fact, we use even today language in this sense and connotation especially as dominance or the subtle nuance of it, but in regards to language that is fully contemporary in its structure.


* Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind: The Greek Origins of European Thought (Die Entdeckung des Geistes, Hamburg, 1946, trans. T.G. Rosenmeyer, 1953)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.