What is ‘knowing’? Tracing something alien back to something one is acquainted’ and familiar with. First principle: what we have got used to we no longer consider a riddle, a problem. The feeling of the new, of the discomfiting, is dulled: everything that happens regularly no longer seems questionable to us. This is why the knower’s first instinct is to look for the rule – whereas, of course, finding the rule doesn’t yet mean anything at all is ‘known’! – Hence the superstition of the physicists: where they can stand still, i.e., where the regularity of phenomena allows them to apply abbreviating formulas, they think knowing has taken place. They have a feeling of ‘security’, but behind this intellectual security is the soothing of their fearfulness: they want the rule because it strips the world of dreadfulness. Fear of the unpredictable as the hidden instinct of science. Regularity lulls to sleep the questioning (i.e., fearing) instinct: to ‘explain’ is to show a rule in what happens. Belief in the ‘law’ is belief in the dangerousness of the arbitrary. The good will to believe in laws has helped science to victory (particularly in democratic eras).
Notebook 5, summer 1886 – autumn 1887 paragraph 10