NEW KNOWLEDGE AND SOCIAL REFORM
Intellectuals have always sought to influence their societies. Priests, literati, and lawyers competed for centuries with warlords, princes, and noblemen for positions of prestige, authority, and decision. They also fought among themselves. The arrangements resulting from these disputes describe, in broad terms, the value content and orientations of past and present civilizations (Weber, 1968, is largely an attempt to look at civilizations from this standpoint). Modern times brought to this arena a new type of intellectual, who claims to have the definite credential for his power aspirations: the new knowledge, buttressed by the certitudes of science. In Western Europe, the new intellectuals were part of broad social movements that did away with much of the traditional order and brought about the modern world. Because of this association, the values of empirical knowledge, the use of reason, individual freedom, social justice, and the conquest of nature appeared to come together. They were all modern and progressive. (For the links between modern science and rising social sectors, see Ben-David, 1971.)
The proponents of the rationalist faith had to fight the intellectuals of the old type for the supremacy of their own natural philosophy and had to prove to power holders and emerging groups how valuable science could be to them. The powers of science have been traditionally argued for in two ways. The first belongs to the stream of thought of modern economic and political liberalism.