Social Mission of Science


    THE “Social Mission of Science”, which formed the subject of a leading article in NATURE of October 24, has no more important objective, according to Prof. John Dewey, the veteran philosopher of Columbia University, than to elucidate the relation between authority and freedom. In his address at the Harvard Tercentenary Conference of Arts and Sciences on September 4 on “Authority and Resistance to Social Change” (School and Society, October 10), he exposed two fallacies underlying much of the philosophy that has gone by the name of liberalism, namely, that authority and freedom have separate and independent spheres of activity and no form of authority is justifiable that is not the product of, and sanctioned by, the conscious wants, efforts and satisfactions of individuals in their private capacity. While decrying the principle of authority, this philosophy, in fact, erected the wants and endeavours of private individuals seeking personal gain to the place of supreme authority in social life. Its failure to produce the conditions of a generally shared individual freedom is largely responsible for the recrudescence of the principle of authority in its most extreme and primitive form—the rise of dictatorships.

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    Social Mission of Science. Nature 138, 915 (1936).

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