Two Types of Nonlogical Theories

Commentators often have mistakenly assumed that in Pareto's scheme allnonlogical theories are viewed equally as only reflections or manifestations ofunderlying propensities. This, however, is not the case. He was careful to dis-tinguish between 1) pseudo-scientific theories and 2) "theories transcendingexperience."

In the first, Pareto argued, we deal with theories that pretend to scientificstatus but demonstrably fail to meet the test of scientific evidence. Such theories,he believed, are ultimately anchored in biological needs, drives, and propensitiesand are directly explainable in terms of the residues underlying them. Theyare, in fact, rationalizations. When it comes to "theories transcending experi-ence," religious theories, for example, Pareto argued differently. These do notpretend to have scientific status; it is pointless, therefore, to show that theydepart from scientific standards. Such theories represent, instead, culturalvalues and the cultural dimension in human action. They are value-attitudes.When Pareto says that residues are "manifested" in pseudo-scientific theories,he seems to mean that these indicate the presence of such residues, and testifyto their power of deception. But when he talks about the manifestation ofresidues, in theories transcending experience, he seems to mean that they are"manifested" or expressed in symbolic ritual behavior.

Pareto was well aware that scientific method could not in itself determinethe ends of human action. "A society determined exclusively by 'reason' doesnot and cannot exist . . . because the data of the problem that presumablyis to be solved by logico-experimental reasoning are entirely unknown."Hence, the ends, as distinct from the means, of human action find expressionin "theories transcending experience." To be sure, these can ultimately betraced to the operation of residues, and, in the last analysis, to basic humansentiments; yet Pareto seems to have recognized that the human quest for"meaning" as it manifests itself in "theories transcending experience" mustbe a basic datum for any analysis of social systems. He did have a power-ful tendency to "reduce" such quests to underlying factors, yet he was alsoeager to point to the indispensability of symbolic elements for maintaininga social system and for directing the goals of human action. Although histendency to "debunk" informs a good deal of his work, he was by no meansoblivious to the central importance of the normative sphere. This may be thereason he has been quoted to say that he hoped his Treatise would not be readtoo widely, since this would help undermine necessary moral values.

From Coser, 1977:394.


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