Science in Christian Perspective
From: JASA 16 (December 1964): 97-102.
A discussion of the bankruptcy of the merely scientific approach to an understanding of man on the grounds that it subjects man to the procustean bed of scientific methodology. The author has no quarrel with science per se if it recognizes its limitations, but points out that when psychology broke with philosophy in an attempt to become "scientific," it gained some valuable data, but in making man a material object, subject to the laws of cause-effect, determinism, rationalism, biologism, (all synonyms for each other in a real sense), it refused to cope with the very man-ness of man, his spirit. It is this spirit dimension which existential psychology is seeing more and more clearly as characteristically man. Man in existence and as an existent, is the very psyche of psychology. However, the author senses that the phenomenological turn is capable of lapsing back into scientism by its very pre-occupation with the here-and-now. This is to view man as earthbound and earthy and confined within this perimeter, whereas in man's reach for meaning, he not only transcends himself, but he likewise transcends the here-and-now. The author, therefore, suggests, in conclusion, that only a psychology which accepts Weltanschauung as germane to its concern can be considered valid for understanding man.
The subject matter of this paper falls into two natural divisions: the philosophical and the historical. By the
philosophical, I mean that age-long venture in which man has been engaged to resolve the riddles and per plexities of life in all its aspects. By the historical, I refer to that process or quest which has led man through one frustration after another in a ceaseless pursuit to find that particular method that will un fold all knowledge. Man may be described as that
*Dr. Finch is executive secretary of the National Steering Committee of the Fuller Theological Seminary School of Psychology to which this paper was presented.
being who has had an insatiable hunger to conquer all things. This conquest implies a need to bring everything under his control, to "have all knowledge," to use St. Paul's phrase (1 Cor. 13:2) or, as Moffatt translates it, to "fathom all mysteries and secret lore." It is at this juncture that we are confronted by the problem that is absolutely fundamental to our endeavor.
Stated in its simplest form, it is the difference between a logical positivistic approach to understanding data and the existential approach. Thus, we are forced back to asking some very elementary but profound questions: How do we know what we know? Is our sense data reliable? Can we apply mathematical formulae to tabulate sense data in such a manner as to "give" it predictability? Is predictability a valid goal? Can the methodology of the "scientist"" be carried over into areas of non-materialistic science? If so-called materialistic science itself is aware of the limitations of its methodology and starts to question its epistemological presuppositions, are other disciplines -such as psychology and religion-safe in not raising questions about their methodological presuppositions? To illustrate: Can psychology afford to give its sole allegiance to the philosophical position known as logical positivism without at the same time eliminating part of the very subject data under study, viz. the knower himself? Can religion afford to create so much security for the individual by an impregnable fortress of rationalistic dogmatics as to dispense with the knight of faith?
** I have used quotations with this word "scientist" because scientists of the highest caliber are rejecting a static view of the world. Scientists such as Bergmann, in his Gifford Lectures, 1907; S. A. Eddington, in "The Nature of the Physical World," 1928; in 1900 physicists questioned the causallstic methodology of physics; In 1905 Einstein published his first treatise on the theory of relativity, saying in 1929, "That under the influence of the facts of atomic physics, contemporary physics earnestly doubts the practicability of a rigid causality;" Heinrich Gomperz, in "The Problem of the Freedom of the Win;" and see also Whitehead In "Science and the Modern World," etc.)These are not new questions and the alternatives posed are not theoretical. Essentially, throughout the centuries this ball has been tossed back and forth in philosophical speculations. But, more recently, man has discovered afresh the truth that knowledge alone cannot save him, but a commitment to truth. We live under the cloud of Hiroshima, forcing all of us to live Anxiously, not knowing what a day may bring forth. We are becoming somewhat more aware of our need to ask not what is reality like, but how do I relate to reality, or how ' do I become a real or authentic person? As Karl Jaspers indicates, "Philosophy is more than cogent intellectual knowledge and fundamentally different from, yet not opposite to science. The distinguishing feature of the philosophical mind, in contradistinction to the scientific mind, is characterized as personal faith. Though always allied with knowledge, philosophical faith transcends object cognition."l
What Jaspers says about the philosopher's faith is no different from the underlying faith of the so-called scientist who adheres to logical positivism. He limits himself, shall I say, by a lack of faith to certain philosophical presuppositions. This limitation tends to put faith in a methodology above a faithful confrontation by the everchanging facts. These propositions are very accurately and succinctly summarized by Peter Koestenbaum as follows: "M That meaning is tied to method of confirmation. (2) That confirmation is ultimately based on the 'observable characteristics of physical objects.' and (3) That a proposition, to be confirmable and, consequently, meaningful, must be capable of precise and preferably measurable formulation."2 Koestenbaum further points out that "these general features represent the positivistic conception of the structure of cognitive meaning, wherever it is encountered, and form the preamble and paradigm for the notion of scientific theory and explanation."3
This is one of the streams that runs through the history of philosophy as certain of the philosophers attempted to find a ground for knowledge that would be stable, unyielding, and rationally incontrovertible. A ground, so to speak, outside of themselves, and in this sense objective. As more and more stress was placed on man's rationality, man as man withered so that the branch, being severed from the source of life, likewise withered. By stressing man's rationality as primary, he became so obsessed with his discovery that he mistook the essence for existence, and even made the rational error of mistaking a part~ namely reason, for the whole, namely man. The soul became subservient to the system.
From the primacy of Aristotelian logic, to the Thomistic position which defines "man as a rational animal," the Renaissance attitude attempted Self-sufficiency through the priority of reason. This rationalistic bias can be noted, for instance, in the "Autonomy of Moral Reason, in Sir Francis Bacon's Thought (1561 to 1626); in the pantheistic monism of Bruno (1548 to 1600); Spinoza (1632 to 1677); and Goethe (1749 to 1832); the naturalistic empiricism of science; the logical positivism of Comte (1798 to 1857); or the period's initial intellectual doubt, which was itself an indication of the period's intention to submit all to the bar of reason in its singular autonomy."4
This rationalistic thrust nowhere comes to a more reasonable hiatus than in Descartes (1596 to 1650) and Hegel (1770 to 1831).
Descartes attempted to find a foundation for knowledge that would be stable, unyielding, and incontrovertible. This he found by running the principle of doubt to the ground. He disclosed in doubt itself, the reality of thought. To doubt is to think. Hence his famous "Cogito, Ergo Sum' - the clue to his system.
"It is to be observed, however, that this is no syllogism: it is an axiom. The conclusion is identical with the premise. It is a self-evident proposition."5
Or, as Jacques Maritain observes: "He (Descartes) has reduced knowledge to an abyss of uncertainty by classifying human thought along with angelic thought' (p. 78). This knowledge becomes inhuman through trying to be superhuman. That is the ground, not only of Descartes' brutal disregard for the Humanities . . . it is the principle and origin of the profound inhumanity of our modern science (pp. 92-93). We see today the delightful outcome of this materialization of science, and the dismaying intellectual poverty characteristic of a progress (wonderful in its own way) of technical specialization and mechanical process" (p. 94)6.
Descartes' gross error apparently lies in his isolation of reason as an a priori-something than which nothing is prior, i.e., something that is "prior to experience and innate in the mind." But, where if you please, do you rest your fulcrum of rationality if not in experience itself and the experiencer? In asserting "the complete autonomy of human reason, one merely closes the mind upon its own processes." But, if other results emerge, it is because another methodology has surreptitiously crept in, viz., the experience of the experiencer himself.
For, what is really meant by Descartes' famous dictum: "Cogito, Ergo Sum" is: "I think, therefore, I am a thinker! To be a thinker is to deliver one's self into a mere knowing."7 But, mere knowing is an attempt to bifurcate the knower from that which is known and is tantamount to creating such a logic tight system "that the propounder of the system in propounding what was more important than anything else in the world, should, by a series of irrefutable propositions, delete himself from the system."8
What we are stating is that Cartesian logic leads us not to thought as 'a priori', but to existence itself. And, whereas his proposition reads "because I think, therefore, I exist," it should more properly read "because I exist, therefore, I think." This would be to recognize "the existential qualification which surrounds and conditions all abstract thoughts,"9 and would make us cognizant of the very ground of all knowing, and without which ground, all knowing is mere fragmentation.
Allow me to proceed one step further in drawing out the implications of this existential qualification. If, in the domain of so-called scientific knowledge, this dimension is present and must be reckoned with, namely, the relation of the known to the knower, then a relationship with truth is uncovered. This means that the end of knowing involves the knower in a relationship with truth. Stated conversely, this suggests that trut is unavailable except through a relationship.
Moving to that other great dialectitian, Hegel ' for a moment, we must ask: "Do we really have anything different here?" Speaking of Descartes, Hegel says, "in this new age, the leading principle is thought, and thought which orginates from itself."10 Once again, he appears to stress the "a priori" character of thought, of reason. But, how does he come upon such a derivation? As Kierkegaard points out, "it is impossible to discover within the instrumentality of reason itself the meaning of the whole"" or, to put it more simply, a part cannot explain the whole. Hegel assumes that the whole system of things is implicit in the notion of being or in the system of reason itself, but this does not follow. Reason as a system of principles is only a formal outline of possibility, and contains nothing specific and actual. The actual is found, not deduced; it is a fact of experience, not an implication of reason."12
It would reach beyond the scope of this discussion to attempt even a partial exegesis of Hegel's system, but we must pause to note that Hegel so deified reason that he even went so far as to try to derive being therefrom. Thus he sets pure being over against "nothing, pure nothing" which he has already identified as one and the same, and then proceeds to the point where pure being passes over into pure nothing and there becoming is born, (nevertheless he fails to account for this passing or movement). There are perhaps two possible ways that this could happen: (1) That Hegel, like God, was directly implied in his philosophy; or (2) on a lesser scale, like the magician, he could, by clever manipulation and sleight of hand, extract the rabbit from the hat.
Suppose, now, we follow the repercussions of these rationalistic premises and positivistic presuppositions into the area of psychology and its effect on a view of man.
In order to be consistent with its method, man has had to be objectified, made into an object, studied as a part of the material phenomena and subjected to the criteria of such scientific presuppositions.
What, then, is man? In Behavioristic Psychology, he is a biological entity with a stimulus-response mechanism, devoid of freedom and by implication bereft of responsibility. To summarize the position of J. B. Watson, "Psychology is purely objective natural science. No division between man and brute. The independent value of behavioral material. Fallacv of the analogical interpretation of all behavior from the point of view of consciousness. Psychology must discard all reference to consciousness. Behaviorism avoids the dangers of parallelism and of interactionism. Animals and men are to be studied in the same way. Dissatisfaction with the fact that psychology has no realm of application. Avoidance of introspection. Denial that the realm of psychics is open to experimentation."13Thus, at any rate, man is a biological organism. What, then, is anxiety? It must be some form of biological frustration. When the instinctual drives are thwarted, anxiety results. When the libidinal flow is blocked, the damming up of such a flow causes anxiety. As Ruth Monroe suggests in her Schools of Psychoanalytic Thought, (p. 177), for e.g., "It is characteristic of Freud that he could not accept even anxiety as a simple fact, but felt that it must be biologically explicable."14 Now, we must not become guilty of lampooning Freud, for his genius will stand as a milestone through the ages. But, neither can we take away from him what he insisted on clinging to, namely, his Project, in which he determined to "furnish us with a psychology which shall be a natural science."15.
What is amiss about this way of conceiving man, in my view, is the emphasis on the physiological. Given the naturalistic and biological assumptions, this becomes quite understandable. But, this is precisely what we are challenging. Man is more than physiological phenomena. Freud did have some kind of teleology; namely, his "pleasure principle," but, as we have demonstrated with reference to the rationalism of the era, it bifurcated essence from existence and to the detriment of its own findings, concentrated on essence. If he had seen life whole, and man in his existential dimension, he may even have noted that anxiety is the creative directive to every being to be one's self, relentlessly. "Anxiety is the moment (or series of moments) when man is thrust inward upon his own nudity, when his history confronts nullity, when the question as to his own significance balances between life and death."16
This hiatus results from the assumption that knowl
edge can be separated from existence. I want to sug
gest that reason divorced from life is an attempt to
rationalize. It is to try to work out
a system that
does not require the rationalist to do anything more
than systematize. It is to try to confront life's chal
lenges with an intellectual answer. It is, to use Pas
cal's word, a divertissement-a diversion from con
fronting the self with reality.17
The intensity of emotionality that gets associated with dogmatic systems itself evidences the ponderous weight placed on the system. The system becomes identified with absolute truth and very easily a person's faith rests in the absolute nature of the system instead of in the fruits that result from the relationship of the person to the truth. Thus, the system or reason becomes "the mask by which the mind covers over moral impotence, (irresponsibility) and skillfully escapes detection."18 This states incisively what I mean when I say that the bifurcation of essence from existence, of reason from life, makes reason a rationalization. Or, to use Jasper's phrase, "non-being masquerading as life triumphs in the incomprehensible configurations of sophistry."19
This fact has been developed much more fully in Jasper's work Great Philosophers, where he makes it more than evident that philosophers were not so involved in a theoretical and dispassionate pursuit of truth as they were attempting to rationalize themselves out of anxiety.
"Kierkegaard also has noted the case wherewith the philosopher builds with his mind a stately palace for his thoughts, while he lives in the dog kennel outside! ......
"Thus, Descartes . . . died of an inflammation of the lungs at the age of fifty-four years-just before he had completed the application of his method to medicine, which, he little doubted, would easily have kept him alive for a hundred years!"20
One wonders if Descartes was attempting to allay his anxiety via a, dogmatic system that proved he could stay the last avenger!
This indeed, is what functional emotional illness seems to be: an attempt to confront life with an inadequate, outworn, outmoded strategy; namely, a strategy which attempts to substitute symptoms and systems instead of confronting life.21
"Socrates insisted on the belief in moral values, on an austere conduct of life, and on the unity of wisdom, knowledge and virtue."22
In this connection, Rollo May appears to make the same demand for unifying wisdom or insight with action. He points out, "it is well known to every therapist that patients can talk theoretically and academically from now 'till doomsday about their problems and not really be affected' indeed, particularly in cases of intellectual and professional patients, this very talking, though it may masquerade under the cloak of unbiased and unprejudiced inquiry into what is going on, is often the defense against seeing the truth and against committing one's self; a defense, indeed, against one's own vitality. The patient's talking will not help him to get to the reality until he can experience something or some issue in which he has an immediate and absolute stake . . . the patient must find or discover some point in his existence where he can commit himself before he can permit himself even to see the truth of what he is doing."23 Then again, he continues, "the significance of commitment is not that it is simply a vaguely good thing or ethically to be advised, it is a necessary prerequisite, rather, for seeing truth. This involves a crucial point which has never, to my knowledge, been fully taken into account in writings on psychotherapy; namely, that decision precedes knowledge. We have worked normally on the assumption that, as the patient gets more and more knowledge and insight about himself, he will make the appropriate decisions. This is a halftruth. The second half of the truth is generally overlooked; namely, that the patient cannot permit himself to get insight or knowledge until he is ready to decide, takes a decisive orientation to life, and has made the preliminary decisions along the way."24
In another source book of wisdom, this idea is aptly summarized: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine."25
This is no different from what Allport is apparently saying: "The developed personality will not fabricate his religion out of some emotional fragment, but will seek a theory of being in which all fragments are meaningfully ordered."26
Thence, to the historical aspects of our subject, we first discover psychology as part and parcel of the primeval mass of philosophy. Man's curiosity and search for truth found him reaching out and touching vast unchartered seas of knowledge. Little by little one and another specialty broke away from the parent tree and sponsored its claims to be a discipline in its own right. But, again, the important question of validation of knowledge began to challenge issues. This is where Descartes' (1596 to 1650) formula of the priority of reason gave the nudge which eventuated 150 years later in the logical positivism of Auguste Comte (1798 to 1857). It is not as though there were no dissenting voices, for there were. Perhaps among the most prominent of the early dissenters was Blaise Pascal, who at the age of 22 rather embarrassed Descartes. Then, too, there were Kant with his Critique of Pure Reason, or Brentano, Scheler, Nietzsche and others. But, it is not alone the names stacked on one side of the ledger or the other that lends significance to the argument, but rather the spirit of the 18th cenury enlighterunent with its "questioning of traditional doctrines and values, a tendency toward individualism, and an emphasis on the idea of universal human progress, the empirical method in science, and the free use of the reason."27
Historically, man had moved from the Dark Ages (476 to 1000 A.D.) with its suppressions and was bursting his seams in a new-found freedom of self-aggrandizement which showed itself impatient of all restraints. From misery, fear and ignorance, man now moved to self-deification in which he saw himself as in full possession of all power and all knowledge and once and for all rid of such trivia as faith and soul and God. It was to Comte's logical positivism he turned for the clue to answer all questions. And, when the object of his concern became man, he construed this object as a thing, divorced from all philosophical antecedents, and as subject to the laws of cause and effect and nothing more than a stimulus-response mechanism, as J. B. Watson told us, "with no division between man and brute," and to be studied as an object of natural science. Pavlov (1849-1936) was a child of this age. No less was Freud (1856-1939), who set himself the task of demonstrating that psychical states were physical states and as Munroe indicated, "biologically explicable". Thus we arrive at what might be termed a two-dimensional view of man: stimulus-response, or body-mind relation. Somewhat like Hegel's thesisantithesis, even this type of psychology had surreptitiously to introduce the characteristic of transcendence to achieve synthesis or becoming. It seems reasonable (allow me to use this term) to assume that the logical positivistic method could not quite contain all that the subject data involved. The materialistic scientific analogy fell short of comprehending the full stature of man. There were two alternatives open. One was to abandon the scientific method as inadequate to its subject. The other was to constrain man on this procrustean bed. Or, perhaps a third alternative. Recognize the limitations of the scientific method, derive from it all the information possible, but under no circumstances limit the subject of knowledge to its methodology. As Gordon Allport suggests "we should exercise great caution when we extrapolate the assumptions, methods, and concepts of natural and biological science to our subject matter. In particular, we should refuse to carry over the indifference of other sciences to the problem of individuality."28
It is this third alternative, it seems to me, that has been called into the service of understanding man as (at least) a tri-dimensional being: body-mind-spirit. Now, of course, these are not construed as three separate entities. Any separation is merely an attempt to speak to the various aspects of this highly complex and complicated being, Man. None of the terms is crystal clear, but the least understood is the term spirit. Perhaps the handiest way to comprehend spirit is to see it as that characteristic of man that lifts him above himself and allows him to see himself objectively. To quote Allport again: "We maintain, therefore, that personality is governed not by the impact of stimuli upon a slender endowment of drives common to the species. Its process of becoming is governed, as well, by a disposition to realize its possibilities, i.e., to become characteristically human at all stages of development. And, one of the capacities most urgent is individuation, the formation of an individual style of life that is self-aware, self-critical, and self-enhaneing."29 Put differently, what Allport sees as the chief quality of man may be termed self-transcendence, freedom and responsibility. This, indeed, is how I have come to recognize the dimension of spirit.30
It is the pressure of such data as is incapable of inclusion within the framework of the naturalistic scientific methodology that has brought into being the discipline known as phenomenology. In the tradition of Hamilton's Lectures on Metaphysics (1858) and Moritz Lezarus' Leben Der Seele, psychology and phenomenology are distinguished from one another: "psychology seeks the causal explanation of mental life, whereas, the task of phenomenology is descriptive."31 If nothing else was accomplished, phenomenology with its adherents like Husserl, Brentano, Scheler, etc. achieved two important things. It introduced a new departure in the study of man which broke with the naturalistic method of science, and it emphasized the spirit dimension in man which transcends that method.
This is a f ar step f orward and a step in the right direction, but it still omits an area of research which cannot be left to the biological sciences as important as they are, nor to phenomenology which chooses to ignore it by its preoccupation with the here-and-now, but must be the concern of the Christian whether theologian or psychologist. Logical positivism has no place for the dimension of the spirit. Phenomenology concentrates on a description of the phenomena and their meaningful relations that point to this dimension. Only the Christian raises the question of ontology in relation to this spirit dimension in all its ramifications. He asks: Is this what is understood by the phrase "made in the image of God?" Can this spirit be identified with the Imago Dei? Christian Existentialism goes beyond phenomenology while yet accepting its description of spirit as free, responsible and self-transcending, to state that these only have meaning as they relate to Another who created it. Christian Existentialism submits "The spirit cannot be grounded in itself. It must be grounded in the Power which posited it."32
After all the meaningful issues of life have been explored, it seems meaningless does it not, to omit some reference to and understanding of the meaning of life itself, as a whole? FrankJ33 is one among many researchers who points out that meaning spells the difference between life and death for people. His entire psychology is based on this premise. Meaning and its difference to life and death is a phenomenological fact. Why, then, should it be unacceptable if a Weltanschauung which includes not only a meaningful relation to man, but also a meaningful relation to God, be considered a most integral part of the human psyche? For, if the meaning associated with the variables of the here and now are seen to make the difference between life and death, surely meaning in its widest and deepest dimensions involving a Weltanschauung, cannot be omitted from the most careful scrutiny. Of course, we should expect to encounter all kinds of problems of validation and verification, but then seeking solutions to problems is the way to proceed rather than to allow our methodology to discord the evidence.
We have noted the dimension of the spirit burst through the methods of scientific naturalism to create a new discipline in phenomenology. Are we reaching too far beyond the pale of good sense when we suggest that the Christian understanding of man, as made in the image of God, may create a new approach to psychotherapy? Does it not seem valid to assume with Augustine that the causes of our emotional pains and pangs derive from a sense of alienation? Is he making a theological statement when he says: "Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee?"34 Or, is this psychologically valid? Allport, to quote him again, says: "An adequate psychology, would, in effect be a psychology of the ego."35 He identifies this ego with Adler's life-style. I am proposing that this life-style may be identified with a way of life, a strategy of life, a philosophy of life, in which God's Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God because we are existentially involved in the truth and thus come to an awareness of our freedom in responsibility as heirs and joint heirs with Christ. This strikes at the root of the meaninglessness of the ungrounded or misgrounded existence so characteristic of functional emotional illness.
"Just how far the existentialist movement, already well developed in philosophy, literature, and theology, will affect the psychology of personality, we cannot yet predict. Already it seems to be a needed blood transfusion. The propositions of existentialism are for the most part stated abstractly or in metaphor. But, even so, they admonish psychology to strengthen itself in those areas where today it is weak. Existentialism calls for a doctrine of an active intellect, for more emphasis upon ap propriate functions, including self-objectification and oriented becoming. In particular, it calls for a wider and fresher view of anxiety, of courage, and of freedom.36
"As a (natural) science, psychology can neither prove nor disprove religious claims to truth . . . (but it) can study man as a self-assertive, self-critical, and self-improving individual whose passion for integrity and for a meaningful relation to the whole of Being is his most distinctive capacity. By devoting itself to the entire course of becoming -leaving out no shred of evidence and no level of development-psychology can add progressively to man's self-knowledge. And, as man increases in self-knowledge he will be better able to bind himself wholesomely and wisely to the process of creation.
"The final truths of religion are unknown, but a psychology that impedes understanding of the religious potentialities of man scarcely deserves to be called a logos of the human psyche at all."37CONCLUSION:
This paper sponsors the view that the pursuit of knowledge transcends the methodological presuppositions of natural science. It has no quarrel with these presuppositions except as the insistence is made that all knowledge be validated by these formulations. Insofar as psychology has adopted logical positivism as its criterion of truth for an understanding of man, it has had to exclude data that invalidates, by reification, any real comprehension of the nature of man. At this point, phenomenology has offered a resolution of this deadlock by focusing on the phenomena via descriptive analysis. But, even here, a more comprehensive apprGach seems necessary. An approach that can bind the several elements into a meaningful whole as existentialism attempts to do. Now, from our Christian perspectives, God as seen in the face of Jesus Christ, is a most integral part of this meaningful whole. This is an assumption. This assumption has been validated through the centuries by innumerable case histories of conversion. This new approach to psychology anticipates doing research that will explore and understand the religious potentialities in man so that a psychology may emerge that deserves to be called a logos of the human psyche.REFERENCES
2. Journal of Existential Psychiatry #4, Winter SPRING, 1961, p. 402.3. Ibid., p. 402.