Felix qui potuit cognoscere causas rerum.which is (roughly)
[Virgil, Georgics II:490]
Happy is he who is able to know the causes of things.I wondered if Jaki happened to quote this, but in a very brief hunt, could not come up with any direct reference. However, I found something else which is worth our consideration:
It is typical of scientism, however, to produce in its devotees a mental attitude that is incapacitated by its own nature to appreciate both sides of a coin. It was only natural that Comte's admirers could not avoid the same pitfall. Thus J. S. Mill found nothing wrong with Comte's claim that anybody who ever contributed anything to science did it in the genuine spirit of positive philosophy. According to J. S. Mill, Bacon, Descartes, and Galileo were the forerunners of positivism, which was first formulated and practiced in all clarity by Newton himself. Such a claim, however, is faulty on two counts. First, it ignores all that is simply fantastic in Comte's comments on science; second, it blatantly falsifies the historical record. Newton for one never once came close in his statements to the absurd one-sidedness of Comtean positivism as regards the search for causes. True, Newton argued against Leibniz that one can make progress in studying gravitation without knowing its cause. In so doing, however, he was far from emulating unknowingly the Comtean program. For Newton's was a mind searching for causes, as the General Scholium or the queries of the Opticks could have shown to either Comte or Mill. But where Newton merely distinguished two parts of the scientific procedure, Comte negated the one not to his liking. Unlike Comte, who dismissed hypotheses bearing on the way phenomena are produced, Newton clearly enjoyed constructing them and rejected only those that by definition could not be subjected to experimental tests.There is a footnote on the very last sentence which is relevant (no pun intended) to us:
[SLJ The Relevance of Physics 478]
81. One of the early critics of Comte's views on what science should and should not do was W. Whewell, who pointed out with direct reference to Newton that inquiring into the causes of things is inavoidable in scientific research See his Philosophy of the Inductive Science II (2d ed., London 1847), 320-25.This suggests a fundamental distinguo (I distinguish) as the Scholastics would say: that while science is not really "about" causes, it requires us to inquire into them.
A marvellous research topic - perhaps the keynote topic for a future Duhem Society conference. Think about it, bearing in mind the famous epigram SLJ loved to quote:
Those who devote themselves to the purpose of proving that there is no purpose constitute an interesting subject for study.
[A. N. Whitehead, The Function of Reason (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1929), p. 12.