I think both mind/body are incommensurate descriptions that vie for the title of truth of ontology of objects. We aren’t finished with demythologizing our ideas, and by getting rid of the Cartesian self we are de-divinizing philosophy by disposing an underlying substantial metaphysical center that grounds existence. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Posts Tagged ‘epistemology’
I’m still here in Italy on vacation, but I’ve kept on reading PaMoN, and currently I am on Part II (Theory of Knowledge).
Before we get into the nitty gritty, i have something to admit. For years ive always admired Rorty, and ive read his later works (Consequences of Pragmatism, several essays from Philosophical Papers, the later collected works) in order to combat those blinkered Platonists and recalcitrant analytical philosophers on the internet. It was too much fun slapping them silly for clinging on to outdated and outworn models of philosophy, when the game has obviously passed them by! But I never read his magnus opus, PMoN, till now. Yeah, yeah. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
In the previous blog, I discussed the ontology presuppositions and the conditions of the theory of knowledge. Now, I will go over the limits of the theory of knowledge and the Bataillean concept of non-knowledge.
Limits of the theory of knowledge
The combination of classical empiricism, the platonic distinction and the natural sciences provided a fertile ground for the modern theory of knowledge (TK). This theory implies that knowledge is pre-structured and that it cannot be acquired independently of this structure. Kant implies as much in his critique of traditional metaphysics, with the categories and the synthetic a priori, and so does Husserl’s later phenomenology that was concerned with the transcendental conditions of knowledge. The same implication of knowledge is found in many other variants: paradigm, language games, lebenswelt, unconscious, hard core, and so on. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
The first part will cover the ontological implications and the necessary conditions of knowledge. The Limits of the Theory of Knowledge (ToK) is covered in here.
The ontology of the theory of knowledge
There is a schism, a fissure in philosophy that has been widening in the past 100 years between continental (French and German) philosophy and analytic (British-American) philosophy. Hopefully, I will explain how this gap, consisting of stylistic, temperamental, as well as methodological differences, owes much to the relationship between epistemology and ontology. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Why did Enlightenment fail? According to modern philosophy and modern academia the goals of Enlightenment was never realized – the foundation of god, religion, ethics, and especially, a political system, in reason. The idealist might insist that the Enlightenment isn’t without its virtues – that it freed civilization from the shackles of the church, and unleashed a new age of man. However, the result is merely a new election, a new ideology. Instead of God as tyrant, we have the Rational Tyrant. The dogma changes its clothes, but the incantation retains the same syllables, and the stench of the absolutist lingers in propaganda: the “right way,” the “correct method.” Yet, during the baptism of reason at the Hanging Gardens, we also sacrificed subjectivity: the marginalization of the passions and the emotions and intuition.
A general understanding of this topic relies on the context of the times, which was the 19th century, the subsequent era after the Enlightenment (dating from the publication of Hobbes’ Leviathan in 1651 to Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man in 1792).
Ambivalent 19th century thinkers such as Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, Darwin and Dostoyevski abandoned the myth of the intellectual progressivism, because of the corrosive effects of rationalism, yet they retained faith in life.
The results of the 19th century thought was a composite of both the dominant optimism, the result of the growth of industry and democracy, and an emerging pessimism due to the failure of rationalism in social change, whether solutions to the problems of society was possible at all.
Although the next generation of thinkers such as Georg Simmel, Max Weber, Henri Bergson, Emile Durkheim, Samuel Alexander, Edmund Husserl, and Sigmund Freud shared in the Weberian “disenchantment of the world,” they also sought to save civilization from that fate.
Specific instances of this disenchantment: the decline of a stable justification for life, and the resulting dispersal of meaning and inspiring despair, in the fragmentation of social cohesion, and schisms from cultural variety and disunity. This generation, initially, belonged to the progressivist camp, and within the paradigm of Darwin, they purged the remaining traces of idealism through the rubric of naturalism, realism or empiricism. Soon enough, progress itself was questioned, and once the cat escaped from the bag when objective meanings were found wanting, they realized the all-too-grave consequences for society and the individual.
Of course there was a noble struggle to restore prominence and absolution to culture and society in order to return it to the Throne of Meaning. This effort ended in failure, and the result is the dispersed and specialized thought of the 20th century, where there is no longer any general discourse, but little and segregated discourses, tailor-made for the specialist. The criticism worked too well, making a reconstructive project impossible.
Moreover, the modern developments in science has led to the decline of optimism in rationalism. In physics and mathematics, two of the most advanced forms of western science, have themselves become paradoxical. In other words they are now at the state where paradoxes are generated according to reason. Kant already highlighted the “ineluctable limits” of reason, but thanks to those comfortably in the grip of enlightenment, the majority of intellectuals and the masses remained positivistic. That means such aforementioned limits of reasons were immaterial until they came from the sciences.
During the early 20th century paradigm shifts in science and mathematics finally caught up with Kant: Heisenberg in physics and Godel in mathematics. Heisenberg’s principle of interderminacy announced the limitations of our ability to know and predict the physical state of affairs at the quantum level of reality, where chaos is the name of the game. Godel’s conclusions have a greater impact, given the sacred cow status mathematics has enjoyed for the majority of the history of western philosophy. In each system of mathematics, there are statements/propositions that cannot be proven within the system, leaving us with the unacceptable flavor of incompleteness. Then our next step in thought ought lie with the recognition of the inherent paradoxial nature of reason.
In Latin that spells “nothing is without reason.” We often say “everything has a reason” when we are trying to explain something, an object or an event. The appropriate philosophical terminology is a bit more technical: the principle of sufficient reason, (PSR) which means all contingent facts have an explanation. Schopenhauer pointed out the PSR is the fundamental principle of all knowledge, as well as the foundation of science. Good philosophy consists of competent explanations, and generally, there are at least four explanations: causation, judgment, transcendental, and motivation.
In this blog I will focus on judgment, or how we explain with concepts. Concepts are a certain class of representations we often use in our language as abstract generalizations. We should be careful not to mistake concepts with “real” objects as in images or words, which are actually concrete. As generalizations, concepts subsume innumerable particulars under them. Concepts are dependent on the everyday world, as well as partially constitutive of it. They’re abstracted from perceptible particulars, and the faculty of reason that creates those abstractions is a function of the brain. Since the original objects from which they’re abstracted are already representations of perception, concepts are “representations of representations.”
Concepts and the faculty of reason are crucial because they enable people to make judgments, formulate propositions, plan the future, construct scientific theories, act purposively and cooperate with others. Yet, despite all that, reason does not provide any knowledge of reality. “All that is material in our knowledge – that is, all that cannot be reduced to subjective form – comes from without, and thus ultimately from the objective perception of the corporeal world, a perception that has its origin in sensation” (Fourfold Principle of Sufficient Reason, p. 170)
All primary knowledge of reality is gained by the understanding alone. The understanding is another brain function of the brain where the human nervous system processes and interprets the data from the senses. With the assistance of perception, the understanding renders “real” objects (representations) and produces experiential knowledge. All apprehensions of causality and all great discoveries belong to the understanding, without the use of concepts. Thus, reason functions by creating concepts and provides secondary knowledge; a second-order knowledge of truths through concepts and words. “Every simpleton has the faculty of reason, give him the premises, and he will draw the conclusion. But the understanding supplies primary and therefore intuitive knowledge.” (Fourfold, p. 113)
This explains Schopenhauer’s contempt of the other philosophers when they claim reason does transcend experience and is capable of intuiting things in themselves. All metaphysicians who grant reason an intuitive role are mistaken, which means all ontological arguments are fallacious. They attempt to move from concept to concept in order to arrive at reality by the inferences of reason alone.
Concepts are useless in isolation, but when they are combined to make true judgments, they do express knowledge. Judgments themselves cannot provide any knowledge, for no judgment is intrinsically true. Truth is a relational property. If a judgment is true, it is based on something other than itself, an external ground. Therefore, every true judgment has a ground that is external to it and constitutes its reason. If this reason is a sufficient one, then necessarily, the truth of the judgment follows.
There are certain judgments that are transcendental, where the truth of a judgment depends on the necessary presuppositions of experience. Judgments about space, time, mathematics and causation are all transcendental truths. Time and space are grounds of being, for they are the presuppositions of experience. Transcendental truths are “prior” to experience, because they are the conditions that make experience possible, allowing for an “inner” temporal sense, and an “outer” spatial sense. Time makes arithmetic possible, while space does the same for geometry. They are particulars, not concepts. As particulars, time and space make up parts and the systematic interrelatedness of these parts constitute the root of the third form of the principle of sufficient reason. Time is made up an infinite number of ordered moments, and each moment has a determinate position in relation to and dependent upon the others. Likewise, space is made up of an infinite number of ordered points (which form lines, angles, areas and volumes). The geometric properties of any part of space have another part or parts of space as their sufficient reason, which is neither causal nor conceptual, but ontological. If we ask why any part of space is as it is, we find the answer in terms of how the other parts of space are as they are. I.e., the angles of a given triangle are as they are because the sides of the triangle are as they are. The combination of time and space makes perception possible for a subject.
The existence of numbers (and arithmetic) depend on the possibility of counting in time, and this proves that arithmetic is an intuitive and systematic grasp of temporal relations, just as much spatial relations are attained in geometry. Geometry, for Schopenhauer, is a direct non-empirical perception of the parts of space and their relations. Euclid’s proofs are not what geometry ought to be, for they are mere conceptual exercises that relate judgments to judgments, a mere exercise of reason. Schopenhauer dismisses the proofs as “a brilliant piece of perversity,” (World as Will and Representation I p. 70) for they do not offer an insight into the reality of space and its properties. The judgments of Euclid’s conclusions are true, but this truth is logical, which depends on the truth of its premises, and consequently these proofs are concerned with concepts, rather than space.
So much for rationalism, and so much for mathematics!
The irony of the Enlightenment: Immanuel Kant, the late 18th century thinker, was indisputably the greatest philosopher of Enlightenment. But it is also interesting to note that his critical philosophy project resulted in a devastating blow to the foundation of Enlightenment itself- our trust in reason. The faculty of reason is essentially an impulse for the unconditioned condition, and constantly urges our understanding on. Kant made it clear that man will never know the true nature of reality, and is limited to mere appearances. Despite being championed as the great icon of Enlightenment, with his transcendentalism he set the ball rolling down the mountain of truth and shattered the ideals of the gilded age at the bottom, in the gulch of the 20th century.
We are picking among the remnants for whatever remains salvageable. The consequences of such absurd praise of reason or rationalism in Enlightenment resulted in two great wars in the 20th century, which were committed at the source of naturalistic humanism. Reason and rationalism, secular reasoning especially never achieved its vast promise of transforming a superstitious culture into a rational utopia. At least some of us realize that within this massive failure, liberation is never of the human, but always and only in a negatory manner: from the human. Where does that leave us? The ghost of a lost innocence haunts the age in the form of postmodernist reflections.