Kolakowski on metaphysics and technology

From The Presence of Myth:

The labor of the analytical mind which produces science is the organ in human culture which tames the physical environment. Science is the extension of civilization’s technological core. In the scientific sense, “true” means that which has the chance of being employed in effective technological procedures. This is not to say that the criteria we employ in settling scientific questions always depend on the likely possibilities of a practical application of the acquired solution. In their general shape, however, these criteria are so constructed that they enable us to reject from the area of valid knowledge whatever has no chance of technological application. Popular thought and scientific thought, as well as language, are correlated, in the overriding evolutionary strategy, with the physical survival of the species.

Metaphysical questions and beliefs are technologically barren and are therefore neither part of the analytical effort nor an element of science. [...]

Metaphysical questions and beliefs reveal an aspect of human existence not revealed by scientific questions and beliefs, namely, that aspect that refers intentionally to nonempirical unconditioned reality. The presence of this intention does not guarantee the existence of the referents. It is only evidence of a need, alive in culture, that that to which the intention refers should be present. But this presence cannot in principle be the object of proof, because the proof-making ability is itself a power of the analytical mind, technologically oriented, which does not extend beyond its tasks. The idea of proof, introduced into metaphysics, arises from a confusion of two different sources of energy active in man’s conscious relation to the world: the technological and the mythical.



last updated march 2017