This posthumously published volume of Hookyaas Gifford Lectures, first delivered at the University of St Andrews in 1976 is not only a fascinating insight into the development of science throughout history, but also a magnum opus volume for a distinguished and insightful thinker in the history and philosophy of science. After delivering the lectures in 1976, Hookyaas worked on this volume extensively up until 1998, revising, sections, improving elements of argumentation, and with the help of colleagues, modifying content where necessary. What is collected here are eleven complete, or almost completed chapters, a loss of five on the number of lectures but still a significant and substantial amount of Hookyaas original thought has been conserved and presented to the reader.
The fundamental thesis of the book is the titular triad of fact, faith and fictions and how Hookyaas analyses the way these three constituent parts made up the idea of ‘science’ at any particular moment. Faith is not necessarily for Hookyaas to be equated with religion, but rather is applied to the broad a priori conceptions in operation at any particular moment. Faith is what leads the scientist into investigation and forms the conditions of knowledge for the investigation of a particular question at a particular moment. A suitable comparison may well be Foucault’s episteme, as historical moments bring new possibilities of knowledge to light. Facts are understood as not simply as immutable truths, but rather phenomena, things or events that are held to exist external to the individual subject. From these phenomena meaning can be extracted but facts are fundamentally things which must be interpreted (and may often be interpreted only in the light of whatever faith beliefs are historically present.) Fictions are for Hookyaas, speculative thought – intellectual tools applied creatively to certain scientific problems, or to simplify, fictions are Hookyaas, the theories of science rendered true or not through the scientific process.
It is these three concepts, deployed in a huge variety of ways, which Hookyaas credits with producing what we refer to as science. The book then is an attempt to articulate the variety of combinations that have occurred throughout centuries of intellectual thought. Perhaps somewhat confusingly, chapters do not necessarily progress, but rather provide case studies of Hookyaas overall point, either focusing on a concept throughout history, or specifying a historical figure and their achievements. Richly illustrated, and conveying a lifetimes thought and engagement with science, its history and philosophy this volume is a treasure house of knowledge and insight that provokes new understanding of the relationship between science and natural theology both of which share a deep commitment to the order of nature itself.