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Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 55, Issue 3, 2018

Gennady E. Gorelik
Pages 153-171

Hessen’s Explanation and the Needham Question, or How Marxism Helped to Put an Important Question but Hindered Answering It

Boris Hessen’s Marxist attempt to explain the origin of modern science helped Joseph Needham to come to his Grand Question. To make this heuristic question historically answerable it is extended in cultural space and time: What hindered Greco-Roman and Medieval science from making the next major step after Archimedes, and hindered Easterners from contributing to modern physics after Galileo up to the 20th century? Tо answer this question the key distinction between modern physics and pre-Galilean science is suggested: the right to invent “illogical” fundamental concepts, verifiable by experiment. The epistemological context of the Needham question and my “biblical” answer to it is discussed.

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