Romantic science--romantic anything


"Grey is every theory, ever green the tree of life"
Goethe: Faust

I was listening to my surfeit of radio this day when an interview with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg was broadcast. If you are like me you have never heard of Dr Elkhonon Goldberg so I was ready to shut down my acoutistical apparatus when the good doctor mentioned the magic words: A.L.Luria. Suddenly I was interested.
Luria (pictured left)was a Soviet scientist who with Lev Vygotsky established the sociohistorical school of psychology.
I recommend the sociohistorical school if you are looking for a theory about how we think. I am an enthusiast for said school. I am, in my occasional moments, a Vygotskian (and a Lurian too).
Among Luria’s many works is a gem of an autobiography called The Making of Mind:A Personal Account of Soviet Psychology. I recommend it for its particular outlook which Luria called "Romantic Science".
Romantic science seeks neither to split living reality into elementary components nor to represent the width of life's concrete events in abstract models that lose the properties of the living whole. It aspires instead to a science that preserves the complexity and richness of natural phenomena. As the poet Goethe wrote, "Grey is every theory, but ever green is the tree of life".
Luria was a tireless advocate of romantic science. "Scientific observation is not merely pure description of separate facts", he insisted. "Its main goal is to view an event from as many perspectives as possible. The eye of science does not probe `a thing', an event isolated from other things or events. Its real object is to see and understand the way a thing or event relates to other things or events."
He pointed out that a glass, as an object of science, can be understood only when it is viewed from many perspectives. With respect to the material of which it is made, it becomes an object of physics; with respect to its value, an object of economics; with respect to its form, an object of aesthetics. The more we single out important relations during our description, the closer we come to the essence of the object, to an understanding of its qualities and the rules of its existence.

In The Making of Mind, Luria discusses at some length the distinction between classical and romantic science: a classical approach reduces phenomena to its elementary components and achieves understanding by means of abstract models, whereas a romantic approach will preserve the fullness of human reality, achieving understanding by means of an empathic identification with the patient's experience. This distinction is itself a reformulation of the two methodological approaches to science--the nomothetic and the idiographic. A nomothetic approach studies events and persons as examples of some general law: its aim is explanatory and its language is that of physiology and anatomy; the idiographic, on the other hand, studies events and persons as unique cases: its aim is understanding and its language is subjective or phenomenological. Anne Hunsaker Hawkins

So put that in your pipe an smoke it. "Romantic" science -- how do you like them apples? Here at Life of Riley enterprises we aren't always as silly as we seem. If it seems all a lot of mumbo jumbo to you go read more Faust.
And so philosophers step in
To weave a proof that things begin,
Past question, with an origin.
With first and second well rehearsed,
Our third and forth can be deduced.
And if no second were or first,
No third or fourth could be produced.
As weavers though, they don't amount to much.
To docket living things past any doubt
You cancel first The living spirit out;
The parts lie in The hollow of your hand,
You only lack the living link you banned.
Goethe: Faust

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