The Source of the Scientistic Hubris: <i>L̓Ecole Polytechnique</i>

Edited by Bruce Caldwell

in Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780226321097
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226321127 | DOI:
The Source of the Scientistic Hubris: L̓Ecole Polytechnique

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Never will man penetrate deeper into error than when he is continuing on a road that has led him to great success. And never can pride in the achievements of the natural sciences and confidence in the omnipotence of their methods have been more justified than at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and nowhere more so than at Paris, where almost all the great scientists of the age congregated. If it is true, therefore, that the new attitude of man toward social affairs in the nineteenth century was due to the new mental habits acquired in the intellectual and material conquest of nature, we should expect it to appear where modern science celebrated its greatest triumphs. This chapter analyzes how these great intellectual forces that in the course of the nineteenth century transformed social thought—modern socialism and that species of modern positivism, which the authors prefer to call scientism—spring directly from this body of professional scientists and engineers that grew up in Paris, and more particularly from the new institution which embodied the new spirit as no other, the Ecole polytechnique.

Keywords: scientistic hubris; Ecole Polytechnique; natural science; modern socialism; positivism

Chapter.  9949 words. 

Subjects: History of Economic Thought

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