§5. Science as a Guide to Conduct

55. We have seen how success in mathematics would necessarily create a confidence altogether unfounded in man's power of eliciting truth by inward meditation without any aid from experience. Both its confidence in what is within and the absolute certainty of its conclusions lead to the confusion of a priori reason with conscience. For conscience, also, refuses to submit its dicta to experiment, and makes an absolute dual distinction between right and wrong. One result of this is that men begin to rationalize about questions of purity and integrity, which in the long run, through moral decay, is unfavorable to science. But what is worse, from our point of view, they begin to look upon science as a guide to conduct, that is, no longer as pure science but as an instrument for a practical end. One result of this is that all probable reasoning is despised. If a proposition is to be applied to action, it has to be embraced, or believed without reservation. There is no room for doubt, which can only paralyze action. But the scientific spirit requires a man to be at all times ready to dump his whole cart-load of beliefs, the moment experience is against them. The desire to learn forbids him to be perfectly cocksure that he knows already. Besides positive science can only rest on experience; and experience can never result in absolute certainty, exactitude, necessity, or universality. But it is precisely with the universal and necessary, that is, with Law, that [con]science concerns itself. Thus the real character of science is destroyed as soon as it is made an adjunct to conduct; and especially all progress in the inductive sciences is brought to a standstill.

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