Metaphysical Knowledge is Passive, Science Proactive
What science actually does is to show that any natural object we please may be treated in terms of relations upon which its occurrence depends, or as an event, and that by so treating it we are enabled to get behind, as it were, the immediate qualities the object of direct experience presents, and to regulate their happening, instead of having to wait for conditions beyond our control to bring it about. Reduction of experienced objects to the form of relations, which are neutral as respects qualitative traits, is a prerequisite of ability to regulate the course of change, so that it may terminate in the occurrence of an object having desired qualities.
As long, for example, as water is taken to be just the thing which we directly expedience it to be, we can put it to a few direct uses, such as drinking, washing, etc. Beyond heating it there was little that could be done purposefully to change its properties. When, however, water is treated not as the glistening, rippling object with the variety of qualities that delight the eye, ear, and palate, but as something symbolized by H20, something from which these qualities are completely absent, it becomes amenable to all sorts of other modes of control and adapted to other uses. Similarly, when steam and ice are no longer treated as what they are in their qualitative differences from one another in direct experience, but as homogeneous molecules moving at measured velocities through specified distances, differential qualities that were barriers to effective regulations, as long as they were taken as finalities, are done away with. A single way of acting with respect to them in spite of their differences is indicated. This mode of action is capable of extension to other bodies, in principle to any bodies irrespective of qualitative differences of solid, liquid and gaseous, provided they are given a like mathematical formulation. Thus all sorts of modes of expansion and contraction, of refrigeration and evaporation, of production and regulation of explosive power, become possible. From the practical standpoint, bodies become aggregates of energies to be used in all kinds of ways, involving all sorts of substitutions, transformations, combinations and separations. But the object of direct or perceptible experience remains the same qualitative object, enjoyable and usable, it always was. Water as an object of science, as H2O with all the other scientific propositions which can be made about it, is not a rival for position in real being with the water we see and use. It is, because of experimental operations, an added instrumentality of multiplied controls and uses of the real things of everyday experience.
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