Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Shakespeare, Society And Science

In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Shakespeare was not a great dramatist but the Great Historian because Lear, Hamlet, Caesar, Macbeth, Oberon, Ariel etc really existed. (I know that Caesar and Macbeth really existed but I am here referring to the dramatic characters, not to the historical figures!)

In Is There Life On Other Worlds? (New York, 1963), Anderson suggests that Shakespeare might "...have been a great pioneer in the science of man..." (p. 148) except that:

"...the success of physics and chemistry has smothered those 'human' sciences [psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics...], partly by attracting talent from them and partly by imposing false canons on them." (p. 147)


"...there is no obvious reason why the 'human' sciences...could not be highly developed on a world with a very backward physical science." (ibid.)


"If the methods appropriate to the study of the atom are not well suited to the study of man (which seems plausible), then the physical-science orientation of the modern world has forced 'human' sciences into an unnatural imitative mold, and its disappointing results can be understood." (pp. 147-148)

I quote these passages in detail in order to contrast them with Anderson's Psychotechnic History and Planet Of No Return, in both of which a science of society, modeled on the physical sciences and complete with equations, is made to work so that experts are able to predict and manipulate social developments. As with AI and several other issues, Anderson yet again gives the impression of covering every alternative.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

In this case, the "alternative" Poul Andersons seems to have had in the back of his mind as he wrote IS THERE LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS? is skepticism that a science of man/society could be developed using the methods of the physical sciences. And I have to agree such a science seems unlikely to ever be developed.

About the closest we are ever likely to approach such a "science" might be anthropology and possibly, xenology (for the study of non human intelligent races).