Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Winch on Philosophy as Experience Without Reservation or Arrest

"The embarrassment in which [Pareto] is thus placed illustrates what I wanted to emphasize in maintaining that the type of problem with which he is here concerned belongs more properly to philosophy than it does to science. This has to do with the peculiar sense in which philosophy is uncommitted enquiry. I noted in the first chapter how philosophy is concerned with elucidating and comparing the ways in which the world is made intelligible in different intellectual disciplines; and how this leads on to the elucidation and comparison of different forms of life. The uncommittedness of philosophy comes out here in the fact that it is equally concerned to elucidate its own account of things; the concern of philosophy with its own being is thus not an unhealthy Narcissistic aberration, but an essential part of what it is trying to do. In performing this task the philosopher will in particular be alert to deflate the pretensions of any form of enquiry to enshrine the essence of intelligibility as such, to possess the key to reality. For connected with the realization that intelligibility takes many and varied forms is the realization that reality has no key. But Pareto is committing just this mistake: his way of discussing the distinction between logical and non-logical conduct involves setting up scientific intelligibility (or rather, his own misconception of it) as the norm for intelligibility in general; he is claiming that science possesses the key to reality." -- (The Idea of a Social Science, pp. 95-96)

Of course, I am characterizing Winch's position here in Oakeshottian (or, more broadly, idealist) terms, but what I am working on is a comparative thought paper, so please forgive me! But I think he is groping towards Oakeshott's essential insight here: science, practice, history, and other modal forms of experience are committed: committed to a particular abstraction from the whole of experience. Only philosophy is experience without arrest or reservation.

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