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2022年3月25日 (金)

Knowledge and Evolution: 'Neurath's Ship' and 'Evolution as Bricolage'

 I believe that the simplest, yet most comprehensive explanation of "Neuraths Schiff / Neurath's Ship" in Japanese is given by Keiichi Noe in the Iwanami Jiten of Philosophy and Thought (1998). Here is how it is introduced/summarized,

We are like sailors who, once their ship is in dock, cannot dismantle it and build a new one with the best parts, but must refit it on the open sea."
Iwanami Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Thought (1998), p.1250 "Neurath's Ship"

 From Noke's description, we can see two of Neurath's own first publications: A: the monograph "Anti-Spengler" (1921), and B: the article "Protocol Propositions" (1932). Let's cite them as sources. However, this is an English translation, not the German original.

Quote A.
We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction.
Otto Neurath, Empiricism and Sociology, Edited by Marie Neurath and Roert S. Cohen D.Reidl Publishing company(Dordrecht-Holland), 1973
Chapter 6. Anti-Spengler(1921), p.199

Quote B.
There is no weay to establish fully secured, neat protocol statements as starting points of the sciences. There in no tabula rasa. We are like sailors who have to rebuild their ship on the open sea, without ever being able to dismantle it in dry-dock and reconstruct it from the best components. Only metaphysics can disappeaer without trace. Imprecise 'verbal clusters' ['Ballungen'] are somehow always part of the ship. If imprecision is diminished at one place. it may well re-appear at another place to a stronger degree.
Otto Neurath, Philosophical Papers 1913-1946, edited by Roert S. Cohen and Marie Neurath D.Reidl Publishing company(Dordrecht-Holland), 1983
Chapter 7 Protocol Statements(1932), p.92

 On the other hand, the molecular biologist Francois Jacob (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1965) stated,

Quote C.
In contrast to the engineer, evolution does not produce innovations from scratch. It works on what already exists, either transforming a system to give it a new function or combining several systems to produce a more complex one. [p.34]

In each case, natural selection did what it could with the materials an its disposal. [p.36]

Finally, in cnstrast with the engineer, the tinkerer who wants to refine his work will often add new structures to the old ones rather than replacee them. [p.36]

All of the above are from
Francois Jacob, Possible and the Actual, 1982, University of Washington Press,
chapter, "Evolutionary tinkering"

 Neurath discusses the possibility of revising the system of knowledge, while Jacob talks about the process of biological evolution. What they describe in common is that "nothing arises from nothing. Something arises only from what came before it." This is what Jacob means. In other words, everything that exists bears the stamp of history.

 Keiichi Noe, in the section on Neurath's ship in the Iwanami Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Thought, writes, "Thus Neurath's ship, in a proliferation of variations, plays the role of a central metaphor in contemporary philosophy." He concludes. If the emergent phenomenon of "biological evolution," not to mention the revision of knowledge systems, is regarded as the creation of "new knowledge," the former is the "evolution of knowledge" and the latter is the "revision of biological species. In philosophy, "Neurath's ship" is a metaphor, but in biology, the "evolutionary" process is a reality. The mechanism of "evolution" can be said to implement the contents of "Neurath's ship.

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« 《知識の進化》と《進化の知識》:「ノイラートの船」と「進化のブリコラージュ」 | トップページ | カテゴリー「Otto Neurath」「選択的親和関係(Elective Affinities / Wahlverwandtschaften)」を新設しました »