This comment thread wandered into a discussion of science, of considerable intricacy and originality. The post in question is focused upon Heidegger, who has very definite ideas about natural science, but these ideas — dominated by his conception of ‘regional ontologies’ — are not especially noteworthy, either for an understanding of Heidegger’s principal pre-occupation, or for a realistic grasp of the scientific enterprise. For that reason, it seems sensible to recommence the discussion elsewhere (here).
The first crucial thesis about natural science — or autonomous ‘natural philosophy’ — is that it is an exclusively capitalist phenomenon. The existence of science, as an actual social reality, is strictly limited to times and places in which certain elementary structures of capitalistic organization prevail. It depends, centrally and definitionally, upon a modern form of competition. That is to say, there cannot be science without an effective social mechanism for the elimination of failure, based on extra-rational criteria, inaccessible to cultural capture.
Whether a business or scientific theory has failed cannot — ultimately — be a matter of agreement. No possible political decision, based on persuasion and consensus, can settle the issue. Of course, much that goes by the name of science and capitalist business enterprise is subject to exactly these forms of resolution, but in such cases neither capitalism nor science is any longer in effective operation. If an appeal to power can ensure viability, the criterion of competition is disabled, and real discovery has ceased to take place.
Under conditions of unleashed capitalistic social process, both enterprises and theories involve a double aspect. Their semiotic expression is mathematized, and their operation is reality-tested (or non-politically performative). Mathematics eliminates rhetoric at the level of signs, communicating the experimental outcomes — independent of any requirement for agreement — which determine competitive force. It is no coincidence that capitalist enterprises and theories, when unsupported by compliant institutions, revert to the complicity with war, and military decision, which accompanied them at their birth in the European Renaissance. There can be no ‘argument’ with military defeat. It is only when the demand for argument is set aside — when capitalism begins — that military reality-compulsion becomes unnecessary.
Capitalism is in operation when there is nothing to discuss. An enterprise, or theory, is simply busted (or not). If — given the facts — the sums don’t work, it’s over. Political rhetoric has no place. ‘Politicized science’ is quite simply not science, just as politicized business activity is anti-capitalism. Nothing has been understood about either, until this is.
Insofar as there is anything like a ‘social contract’ at the origin of capitalism — enterprise and science alike — it is this: if you insist upon an argument, then we have to fight. Real performance is the only credible criterion, for which no political structure of disputation can be a substitute. War only becomes unnecessary when (and where) argument is suspended, enabling the modern processes of entrepreneurial and scientific reality discovery to advance. When argument re-imposes itself, politicizing economics and science, war re-emerges, tacitly but inevitably. The old, forgotten contract resurfaces. “If you insist upon an argument, then we have to fight.” (That is the way of Gnon.)
It is quite natural, therefore, for ‘technology’ to be considered an adequate summary of the capitalist culture of discovery. Machines — social machines no less than technical machines — cannot be rhetorically persuaded to work. When science really works, it’s robot wars, in which decision is settled on the outside, beyond all appeal to reason. Well-designed experiments anticipate what a war would tell, so that neither an argument, nor a fight, is necessary. This is Popperian falsificationism, re-embedded in socio-historical reality. Experiments that cannot cull are imperfect recollections of the primordial battlefield.
It is intrinsic to the Cathedral that it wins all the arguments, as it succumbs — through sheer will-to-power — to the re-imposition of argumentative sociology. By doing so it destroys capitalism, enterprise, and science. At the end of this trajectory, it excavates the forgotten social contract of modernity. Its final discovery is war.