Nonempirical Criteria in the Development of Science

  • Ervin Laszlo


One of the disturbing consequences of contemporary theory of science is the haze which surrounds its notion of progress. As long as science was held to converge on “truth” or “objective reality” in its path of evolution, successive theories could be defined as constituting progress by being more true, or more conformant to reality, than their predecessors. When the essentially constructed character of all knowledge came to be realized, however, it became clear that we do not see reality independently of our conceptions of it. Observation, to quote Hanson,(1) is theory laden. We do not see “what is there” otherwise than by interpreting the stimuli emerging into our consciousness as sensation in terms of some preestablished conceptual or gestalt scheme.(2) Our gestalts and concepts guide our perception of reality, and there are no ways whereby we could compare our conceptions of reality with reality itself. There are no checks on scientific veridicality through direct inspection of the world “out there.” And if we cannot compare our scientific theories to objective reality, we cannot tell which of them is truly conformant to it. Hence we cannot give meaning to a concept of progress in reference to reality.


Scientific Theory Objective Reality Scientific Progress Scientific Revolution Successive Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    N. R. Hanson. Patterns of Discovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1955), Chap. I: “Observation.”Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ervin Laszlo. System, Structure and Experience: Toward a Scientific Theory of Mind. New York: Gordon and Breach (1970).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sir Karl Popper. Conjectures and Refutations. New York: Basic Books (1963).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    J. Bronowski. Humanism and the growth of knowledge. In P. Schillp (ed.). The Philosophy of Karl Popper. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court (1974).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    T. S. Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1970), 2nd ed.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    D. Shapere. The structure of scientific revolutions. Phil. Rev. 73, 383–394 (1964).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    J. J. Kockelmans. On the meaning of scientific revolutions. In R. Gotesky and E. Laszlo (eds.). Evolution-Revolution: Patterns of Development in Nature, Society, Man and Knowledge. New York: Gordon and Breach (1971).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    A. Einstein. The World as I See It (a volume of collected papers). New York: Covici-Friede (1934).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Henry Margenau. The Nature of Physical Reality. New York: McGraw-Hill (1950).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Henry Margenau. Open Vistas: Philosophical Perspectives of Modern Science. New Haven: Yale University Press (1961).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ervin Laszlo and Henry Margenau. The emergence of integrative concepts in contemporary science. XIIIth International Congress of the History of Science, Moscow (1971).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ervin Laszlo. Introduction to Systems Philosophy: Toward a New Paradigm of Contemporary Thought. New York: Gordon and Breach (1972), Part One.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    F. S. C. Northrop. The problem of integrating knowledge and the method of its solution. In The Nature of Concepts, Their Inter-Relation and Role in Social Structure. Proceedings of the Stillwater Conference, Stillwater, Okla. (1950), p. 30.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Henry Margenau, personal communication.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    F. S. C. Northrop. Einstein’s conception of science. In P. Schillp (ed.). Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist. New York: Harper Torchbooks (1959).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ervin Laszlo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyState University of New YorkGeneseoUSA

Personalised recommendations