Varieties of Scientific Experience
Emotive Aims in Scientific Hypotheses
In a remarkable summing up of more than forty years of work in the sociology and philosophy of science, Lewis Feuer provides his readers with both exciting essays on major people and landmarks in the evolution of modern science, and a sense of the human drama involved in the creative process. He shows that the gestation of the hypotheses of original-minded scientists, such as Darwin, Einstein, or Bohr, is in large part a subconscious process. Scientists try to project upon the world structural laws that, beside fitting the given physical realities, will also realize their own emotional longings among alternative worldviews.
Repeatedly, too, in examining the standpoints of philosophical figures ranging from Spinoza, Descartes, Kant, and Mill to contemporary figures such as Einstein, Lovejoy, and Hook, Feuer illumines how sociological antipathies project themselves into scientific divergences. This is no dry-as-dust exercise. Rather, Feuer delves into the bearing of emotive beliefs such as pacifism, socialism, anti-Semitism, upon the formation of concurrent worldviews, often fixations of scientific belief, held with the same passion in science as in religion.
Written with a verve and style that befit the significance of the contents, Feuer conveys his own sense of the torments no less than the triumphs of science; even the crucial verification in 1919 of Einstein's theorizing took place on an island where once unspeakable cruelties had been visited upon thousands of small Jewish children. The volume suggests how somber backgrounds of scientific discovery may have been omitted in the more usual view of science and scientists as imbued only with a liberal spirit.