Kant’s greatest contribution to philosophy was to draw our attention to intuition as a faculty of the mind as basic, indeed more basic, as observation, analysis and logical reasoning. Once you accept 2+2 = 4 you can proceed to establish, in Euclidean style, chains of certain reasoning. But you can’t prove 2+2 = 4 (though Bertrand Russell had an immensely interesting go). You just know intuitively that it does.
Observation of data, analysis, deduction and experimental proof leading to what you might call certain certainty has proved immensely successful in English science. Intuition never gives you that kind of certainty. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a moral certainty of its own. To the person who says ‘the earth’s flat mate, look out of the window’, you can prove he is wrong. But to the person who says “Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata beautiful? Roll over does nothing for me mate’ you can’t prove he is wrong. But he is.
If logical truth is the province of science, intuitive truth is that of art. But the two are not so separate from each other as we might think. There is a whole different kind of science, much closer to art, which cannot begin to compete with classical English science in success in establishing certainty, emanating from Kant and developed by Goethe. English science, so complacent in its immense success, generally knows little of it, and, to my great distress, generally dismisses it with ignorance and contempt. But morally certain science has its own truth, though of a much less certain kind, just as certainly certain science does, and indeed fulfils and completes it. If intuition precedes logic it also succeeds it. Thus Holst could never have written the deeply mysterious passage about Neptune in The Planets if cosmological scientists had never discovered that such a planet existed. Nor can you prove that this music is encompassingly wonderful as you can prove that Neptune is a lump of rock orbiting the sun. But Holst’s music in no way diminishes the certainty that cosmology has established. On the contrary, it greatly enriches our appreciation of the discovery the scientists had made. That the order of the planets excites our wonder is as important as the fact that they are so many miles from the sun.
So it is with Goethean science, despite Goethe’s own polemical blindness and mistakes so grave it is small wonder he is dismissed with such contempt. It can never establish the cast iron certain certainties that analytic science can. But it can often draw not unreasonable deductions from the discoveries science makes, and indeed throw into relief the often totally unreasonable deductions that devotees of analytic science, trapped in its own methodology, often make themselves. Analytic science by definition examines material reality, so if by any chance there were an immaterial dimension to reality it would not locate it. It is therefore totally unreasonable to argue ‘well science hasn’t found an immaterial dimension to reality, therefore it doesn’t exist’. But it might point you towards it and one might well think that that is just want quantum physics is doing, or at least beginning to do. Has science found God? No, therefore no God.
Consider the development of the human embryo. Here we have one of the greatest, and perhaps the very greatest, wonders of nature. In miracles of organized complexity, the multitudes of different and delicate features of this tiny human creature, dependent on each other and developing in terms of each other, proceed in perfect tandem. They can only do so because crucial genes whose only function is to direct other genes tell them where to go. But is there a director of the directors? Science hasn’t found one. But is it unreasonable to think that there must surely be an overall principle of direction? And if there is no material overall director to be found, is it not as reasonable to think that perhaps there is an immaterial one, as to say ‘oh well at that stage it’s just a bunch of cells’ as if it were a bunch of grapes? You can no more prove that it is only a bunch of cells as you cannot prove that there is an immaterial principle – or the soul as we used to call it – of direction. Science hasn’t detected the soul, therefore no soul. A black and white camera hasn’t detected colour, therefore no colour.