Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/67

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61
THE VALUE OF SCIENCE

Now what is science? I have explained in the preceding article, it is before all a classification, a manner of bringing together facts which appearances separate, though they were bound together by some natural and hidden kinship. Science, in other words, is a system of relations. Now we have Just said, it is in the relations alone that objectivity must be sought; it would be vain to seek it in beings considered as isolated from one another.

To say that science can not have objective value since it teaches us only relations, this is to reason backwards, since, precisely, it is relations alone which can be regarded as objective.

External objects, for instance, for which the word object was invented, are really objects and not fleeting and fugitive appearances, because they are not only groups of sensations, but groups cemented by a constant bond. It is this bond, and this bond alone, which is the object in itself, and this bond is a relation.

Therefore, when we ask what is the objective value of science, that does not mean: Does science teach us the true nature of things? but it means: Does it teach us the true relations of things?

To the first question, no one would hesitate to reply, no; but I think we may go farther: not only science can not teach us the nature of things; but nothing is capable of teaching it to us and if any god knew it, he could not find words to express it. Not only can we not divine the response, but if it were given to us, we could understand nothing of it; I ask myself even whether we really understand the question.

When, therefore, a scientific theory pretends to teach us what heat is, or what is electricity, or life, it is condemned beforehand; all it can give us is only a crude image. It is, therefore, provisional and crumbling.

The first question being out of reason, the second remains. Can science teach us the true relations of things? What it joins together should that be put asunder, what it puts asunder should that be joined together?

To understand the meaning of this new question, it is needful to refer to what was said above on the conditions of objectivity. Have these relations an objective value? That means: Are these relations the same for all? Will they still be the same for those who shall come after us?

It is clear that they are not the same for the scientist and the ignorant person. But that is unimportant, because if the ignorant person does not see them all at once, the scientist may succeed in making him see them by a series of experiments and reasonings. The thing essential is that there are points on which all those acquainted with the experiments made can reach accord.