Monday, May 10, 2010

Hayek and scientism

My recent two-part essay on scientism for Public Discourse has just been reprinted as “Hayek and Scientism” in the Spring 2010 issue of The City. If you missed it the first time around, here’s your chance to catch up. And if you did read it before and didn’t like it, see what you think now that it’s got a new title and has been laid out all pretty, magazine-style. Or at least check out the rest of the issue.


  1. Thank you, Dr. Feser, for this article. I recently read, and loved, your book The Last Superstition. Then I ordered your books Philosophy of Mind and Aquinas. I am currently working my way through them.

    As an intellectual light-weight, I appreciate how you take very complicated subjects and make them easier to understand. I didn't say "easy" but "easier." You are definitely stretching my thinking cap!

    Thanks again, and keep up the excellent work. I wish I lived closer, I would enroll at your college so that I could learn philosophy under your tutelage.

  2. Note Ed that your definition of "scientism" is closer to Voegelin's use of the word than it is Hayek's use of the word.

    Hayek talked about "scientism" as the imposition of a _false_ understanding of the hard sciences in simple cases upon other more complex domains of phenomena.

    Hayek was a sort of non-reductive spontaneous order / human order theorist in the tradition of Smith, Darwin and Wittgenstein, but for all that he was a non-reductive _naturalist_ of a kind.

    Sure there was everyday understanding and categories, which were "primary" and non-reducible (the primacy of the abstract and the primacy of imitated "traditional" ways of going on together, even in language).

    But for Hayek this was not incompatible or in competition with a non-reductive scientific naturalism, in the _non-false_, non-scientistic, _genuine_ science sense.

  3. Thank you, Charles!

    Hi Greg, yes, we might say that Hayek's anti-scientism was more epistemological than metaphysical, though I suppose that would require qualification too.