The Forgotten Science

Recently, the question of how philosophy and the empirical sciences relate to each other has once again become hotly contested.  As one example, David Z. Albert and Lawrence M. Krauss have engaged in a rather impolite exchange of words over Krauss’s book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.  A second example is the recent debate over whether and how philosophy and the cognitive sciences relate to each other.  In this essay, I show that architectonics—the science of classifying the sciences that philosophers and scientists in the 19th century ardently studied but which has since been neglected—is a helpful resource for clarifying and engaging this issue.

In the first part of the essay, I characterize architectonics as a science of the sciences and then survey some issues in architectonics.  One issue is how the classification of the sciences is to be designed.  I distinguish between the extrinsic and intrinsic conceptions.  According to the former, an area is defined and then a science is assigned to the area.  According to the latter, the sciences are ordered according to some intrinsic unity among the sciences.  A second issue is whether the sciences are to be classified in their present condition or according to the sciences that ought to be.  A third issue is where architectonics itself stands among the sciences to be classified.

In the second part of the essay, I argue for the importance of architectonics.  In particular, architectonics can serve as an aid to correct the vices of overspecialization, to identify new areas of research, to divide intellectual labor, to develop new pedagogies, and to resist the submission of theoretical interests to practical pursuits.