The Suicide of Thought (Part Seven)

Part Seven: Black Robes and White Labcoats

The second source of prestige for the physical sciences was that no judgment calls were allegedly involved. Let me digress to mention that in most languages there is a distinction between two types of knowledge that English does not distinguish: in French savoir and connaître are distinct, and in German kennen, is distinct from wissen.

Kennen or connaître means personal acquaintance. Wissen or savoir is book learning.

The closest we have in English is the difference between knowledge, a matter of memorizing facts, and wisdom, a matter of getting to know someone or something. One is brainwork, the other is familiarity won through experience.

The best way to explain the distinction is to use the example of a debate between scientists over a scientific issue, and a judge on the bench debating a legal issue, a matter of guilt or innocence, a judgment of which witnesses are lying, what evidence is admissible, what case is relevant as precedent.

Scientists need knowledge. They learn facts. Judges need wisdom. They acquaint themselves with the law, the caselaw, the case at hand, the reliability of the evidence, and the demeanor of the witnesses.

Scientist artificially restrict themselves to subject matters open to the measurement of matter in motion, and with the elegance and the robustness of the model. Nothing of final cause, purpose, intent of the motions is discussed.

It is it an intuitive axiom without which science is impossible that atoms and stars act and move due to external forces, and have no free will.

Likewise, when judges ponder the guilt or innocence where the intent of the accused is an element of the crime, it is an intuitive axiom without which legal reasoning is impossible that men in their right minds act and move according to their free will, that they are responsible for their actions, and have the power and duty to resist temptations inclining them to crime, howsoever strong.

Please note that in debates about these philosophical matters, no one bothers to explain why the axioms of scientific reasoning are regarded as unquestionable, even when applied to non-scientific questions; whereas the axioms of legal reasoning are regarded as dubious or absurd. Please note also that scientific reasoning applies only to a deliberately limited set of circumstances, that is, matter in motion; whereas we all use legal reasoning daily, including when weighing the pros and cons of a philosophical question like this one.