A blog post

Objectivist or positivist science

Posted on the 23 June, 2021 at 3:18 pm Written by in All blog posts, Books

I am re-reading Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. As a fantasy of a totally «objective» science. A «psychohistorical» science, founded on human crowd behaviour, able to forecast the future. Down to the last decimals.

What you need, in this perspective, is a better mathematical solution, to different probabilities of human behavior.

Asimov’s trilogy would probably have been mainly forgotten, now, if it wasn’t for the fact that he also questioned this kind of thinking.

The trilogy is an excersize in «extreme objectivism» plus critique.

The problem is – how to avoid civilization breakdown.

Asimov first outlines a «first foundation», an engineering and natural sciences type of forecast, to avoid the breakdown. Later he proposes a «second foundation», relying more on psychologists and sociologists. Together, these will be able to restore civilization.

Asimov wrote in the 50ies. He had never read J. G. Ballard, Philip K Dick, or Ursula LeGuin – the «inner space» critical turn of science fiction in the 60ies and 70ies. along with feminist awakening. Or Foucault, and others, later. Asimov often often wrote like a conservative engineer, and his gender role portraits, in the Foundation triology, are often funny “pastiche” from the US in the 50ies.

What is remarkable is that his texts can be read, in more modern and postmodern  light, later on. For example, Asimov had not read Judith Buttler’s gender as performance theory. But this element is present in his texts. The actors “perform”, and this has consequences for the structural study of psychohistory.

At each step, in the Foundation trilogy, Asimov brings his objetivist science plan further. Yet he also stamps on his own feet. The plan doesn’t quite work out. This is what makes the trilogy entertaining – and challenging, today also.