12 Pages

Introduction: Science, Scientism, and Psychology

WithRichard N. Williams, Edwin E. Gantt

This brief introduction defines the contemporary phenomenon of scientism and locates it within an intellectual tradition. Scientism represents a contemporary avatar of what began as the Crisis of the sciences in Europe during the inter-war period when it became apparent that the sciences, as the capstone of the Enlightenment, had little to offer in terms of understanding human beings and the meanings, morality, and purposes that define our humanity. After World War II, the same crisis has been described the “malaise of modernity.” Scientism is a response to the issues of the Crisis and the malaise via a hardening of commitment to the same categories of Enlightenment thought and understanding that had previously been inadequate and irrelevant to understanding the truly human. The hope of scientism seems to be to demonstrate the utility of science in answering all questions of our humanity by insisting on the reality of a metaphysic that, by fiat, brings human problems into the realm of science and by hijacking science in the service of validating that metaphysical doctrine. However, no substantive question related to what it means to be a human being is ever satisfied by defining it out of existence.