epistomological discussion

 
silenus
 
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silenus
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04 January 2008 20:14
 

I am opening this thread with the intent of starting a dialogue to improve my understanding of epistemology. I want to propose a skeleton of how I view the subject. I am trying to sharpen my thoughts, so I welcome criticism or supporting elaboration of what I say. However, if you are going to criticize, I would like you not only to describe the problem, but proscribe a solution, an alternative view. My chief goal here is to learn.

Of all the epistemological theories out there, I’ve found myself unable to ascribe to one view. Do I go with rationalism, empiricism, fideism, pragmatism, combinationalism, etc? As far as the various views of epistemology go and their conflicts (such as rationalism vs. empiricism, et all.), I think it is best to use rationalistic reasoning as the truth tester for premises and scientific inductive reasoning, existential intuitions, and relevant authorities as the source of the data used to form premises. Basically, I advocate some sort of conglomeration of the major schools together to determine the truth and falsehood of things rather than choosing only one approach. One would use the empirical methods of science and would use some intersubjective methodology to value and judge intuition. From these things, along with axiomatic a priori considerations, deduction would help sort out falsehood. However, these methods can not be used absent of a noetic structure or worldview. For instance, say I see someone raised from the dead. If I am a naturalist, I’m going to assume that I missed something, that there are some unexplained phenomena that explain what appeared to be a miraculous event. Someone with a supernaturist worldview would allow for the possibility that there is no empirical, caused based explanation for this event. Facts cannot be interpreted absent a noetic structure. So, to determine truth within a world view, the scientific method interprets facts, deductive reasoning helps prevent falsehood in speculation, and intuitions and other existential considerations would also count as data.

Because of the reality that context determines how facts are seen, these methods could not determine between worldviews. However, to determine between worldviews, one must look for things that cannot be denied and things that cannot be affirmed.

An example of something that is undeniable is logic; you must use it to defeat it.

An example of something that is unaffirmable is logical positivism, because once its foundational epistemological principles are affirmed, they are also denied.

As one determines various data and worldviews, it would be advantageous to also see how different phenomena would be handled in different worldviews; therefore, one must consider facts within various worldviews to gain assurance of belief, looking for those instances where unaffirmable or undeniable things may occur.

I guess some simple questions I would have from this are:

1) Has anyone encountered any interesting intersubjective (I’m borrowing from Searle here) methodologies for appraising intuitions?
2) Has anyone encountered any interesting methodologies for appraising a source of authority in a given field?
3) How do you respond to the assertion I made above that facts cannot be interpreted outside of a noetic structure or worldview?
4) And a simpler one, how do you draw lines between what you call knowledge and what you call opinion?

 
burt
 
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burt
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04 January 2008 22:04
 

For a quick response, you might be interested in the book Simulations of God by John C. Lilly (ca. 1975).  There is also a quote from Einstein to the effect that while philosophers look for perfect epistemic systems, scientists can’t afford to do that and need to be epistemically opportunists. 

As for your questions: (1) Intuitions are appraised by first communicating them in linguistic or symbolic form and then subjecting them to rational and empirical tests.  (2) The psychologist Joseph Royce proposed a 3-fold epistemic system that he called rationalism, empiricism, and metaphorism.  The validity criteria for the last of these was something he called universalism—that is, general agreement not necessarily supported by rational or empirical means (e.g., there is universal agreement that Hamlet is one of the worlds greatest plays, rational arguments about the play are in the form of elaboration and interpretation). (3) I agree with that, the question is to determine what structure is required (this is the essential question of a long time research project I have going)—the conceptual framework tells us what facts are relevent and what can be ignored. (4) This is not so simple as you might think.  Some would say that knowledge is what can be established on the basis of empirical evidence and rational argument while opinion is only a matter of…opinion.  Given the importance of conceptual frameworks, however, I think that things are more complex (Charles Tart published a book back in the 70s where he discussed “state specific sciences” based on the idea that there are certain things that can only be known within certain states of consciousness.

 
frankr
 
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04 January 2008 22:04
 

I think your problem is that you’re question is a modern one. It assumes a Cartesian reality. We are embodied minds therefore epistemological questions reign. You are under the influence of Descartes’ metaphysical worldview and are unaware. The question of what is? is far more important than how we know? Escape the modern world view or you will never escape your own mind. You are far more than a thinking thing. Go medieval! Go ancient! To know we must first be.

I say start with Being and some philosphers by Gilson. It will change everything and get you out of the mind and into being. Although I enjoy John Searle he comes to some conclusions that just seem silly. Consciousnees is a biological function like digestion being the one that I just can’t buy.

 
Traces Elk
 
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05 January 2008 06:37
 
frankr - 05 January 2008 03:04 AM

You are far more than a thinking thing.

...Consciousnees is a biological function like digestion being the one that I just can’t buy.

This moves epistemology into new, unexplored territory. The territory of epesiotomy.

The reason you cannot buy it, Frank, is that you are intellectually bankrupt.

[ Edited: 05 January 2008 06:41 by Traces Elk]
 
 
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05 January 2008 06:40
 
Salt Creek - 05 January 2008 11:37 AM

...Consciousnees is a biological function like digestion being the one that I just can’t buy.

Consciousnees? Conscious knees? Use them, during prayer! Don’t get a concussion!

 

 
 
frankr
 
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05 January 2008 07:26
 

Salt creek,
Your posts make the comparison between consciousness and digestion an easy one.

 
silenus
 
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silenus
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05 January 2008 12:32
 

To burt first:

Thanks for the reply.  Here are some follow up questions.

Intuitions are appraised by first communicating them in linguistic or symbolic form and then subjecting them to rational and empirical tests.

What are these rational and empirical tests?  How does one use the scientific method to test intuition, and how does rational provide a test for intuitions?  The way I can think of using reason to test intuitions is as a way to discount or affirm them in comparison to an already existent noetic structure, an internal consistency test.  Is this what you mean?  Or do you mean something more ambitious.

universalism—that is, general agreement not necessarily supported by rational or empirical means (e.g., there is universal agreement that Hamlet is one of the worlds greatest plays, rational arguments about the play are in the form of elaboration and interpretation).

I take it you mean that the authority is almost universally accepted, kinda like searle’s concept of epistemological objectivity being based in an intersubjective consensus.  But universally accepted by whom?  Everyone or people in a given field.  For a certain authority in history, for example, do I need the “universal” acceptance of people or historians?

I agree with that, the question is to determine what structure is required

Do you have any ideas on how to determine this?

 
silenus
 
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silenus
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05 January 2008 13:08
 

to frankr:

think your problem is that you’re question is a modern one. It assumes a Cartesian reality. We are embodied minds therefore epistemological questions reign. You are under the influence of Descartes’ metaphysical worldview and are unaware. The question of what is? is far more important than how we know? Escape the modern world view or you will never escape your own mind. You are far more than a thinking thing. Go medieval! Go ancient! To know we must first be.

I can accept this critique.  I was, after all, raised a middle class American, the enlightenment clutches go deep.  However, how would a scholastic view affect the way I view epistemology.  Are you telling me to start with metaphysics . . . what questions should I be starting with, to speculate on epistemology, if not the four I just posed.  How do I determine truth and falsehood, for instance, without the Cartesian monkey on my back?  You’d like me to go medieval . . . send me the road map.

 
Traces Elk
 
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05 January 2008 16:28
 
silenus - 05 January 2008 06:08 PM

You’d like me to go medieval . . . send me the road map.

There will be no road map. Here’s why:

Frank wants you to turn the headlights off and siphon all the gasoline out of the tank. Be sure not to swallow any of the gasoline; it’s poisonous. Spit the gasoline into a bowl and dissolve the plastic from the steering wheel in it. Mix and allow the volatiles to evaporate, until you have a waxy paste that you can roll into a flat sheet. Roll up the road map and fashion a wick out of it, then roll the sheet of plastic goo around it tightly to make a candle.  Light the candle. Say your prayers and blow out the candle.

Curse the darkness.

 
 
silenus
 
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05 January 2008 17:25
 

Salt Creek:

Light the candle. Say your prayers and blow out the candle.

Curse the darkness.

You sound like a straight up empiricist, but I don’t like to label people and I don’t like to assume how you determine truth or falsehood.  The epistemological basics, so to speak.  maybe this whole batch doesn’t interest you, but

Perhaps you’d deign condescend and bring your flashlight into this darkness . . .

 
burt
 
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05 January 2008 19:04
 
silenus - 05 January 2008 05:32 PM

To burt first:

Thanks for the reply.  Here are some follow up questions.

Intuitions are appraised by first communicating them in linguistic or symbolic form and then subjecting them to rational and empirical tests.

What are these rational and empirical tests?  How does one use the scientific method to test intuition, and how does rational provide a test for intuitions?  The way I can think of using reason to test intuitions is as a way to discount or affirm them in comparison to an already existent noetic structure, an internal consistency test.  Is this what you mean?  Or do you mean something more ambitious.

The rational test is consistency—the idea has to be non-contradictory within the framework involved.  In math and science that’s pretty easy.  But I would say it applies in other areas as well, for example in music composition does some intuitive idea produce harmony or dissonance (assuming that the composer is looking for harmony).  The empirical test is whether or not it can be verified in repeatable experiences.

silenus - 05 January 2008 05:32 PM

To burt first:

universalism—that is, general agreement not necessarily supported by rational or empirical means (e.g., there is universal agreement that Hamlet is one of the worlds greatest plays, rational arguments about the play are in the form of elaboration and interpretation).

I take it you mean that the authority is almost universally accepted, kinda like searle’s concept of epistemological objectivity being based in an intersubjective consensus.  But universally accepted by whom?  Everyone or people in a given field.  For a certain authority in history, for example, do I need the “universal” acceptance of people or historians?

I agree with that, the question is to determine what structure is required

Do you have any ideas on how to determine this?

It isn’t just authority, it’s more like: anybody who can be taught the English language, introduced to English literature, and provided with a modicum of experience will agree that Hamlet is a masterwork.

I don’t have any idea about determining, in a convincing way, what structures are required.

 
Traces Elk
 
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05 January 2008 20:27
 
silenus - 05 January 2008 10:25 PM

Perhaps you’d deign condescend and bring your flashlight into this darkness . . .

You should get out more, Silenus. I’ve read your contributions to the Absurd Atheists and Theologians thread.

burt - 28 December 2007 02:38 PM
Salt Creek - 28 December 2007 01:48 AM
burt - 28 December 2007 12:58 AM

And of course, you can’t see the coherence between them.  If we can’t come to consensus on a theoretical explanation then we don’t think we understand.  Of course, you can ask what it means to understand something scientifically—I would say that it means that we can explain it within a theoretical framework.  That doesn’t mean we have the “truth” about nature, only that we’ve found a description that fits as best we are able to tell.

When one feels capable of designing a suitable experiment to test a theoretical prediction, one feels a kind of “understanding”. If the result of the experiment does not meet with the theoretical prediction, one of two conclusions is possible: The experiment was in error, or the theoretical framework is inadequate. It is a delicate dance to assess when the framework is inadequate, but I believe it has to do with interlaboratory comparison when executing the same protocols. Any use of the word “consensus” beyond this is rather ludicrous. The “lone wolf” researcher who succeeds never remains solitary for long, and does not ever have to cajole others to achieve consensus.

The closest I can come to agreeing with you is to propose that we are satisfied with a theoretical framework that permits us to proceed with further investigation using said framework. When that framework fails, a new one must be devised, but that is far as I will go in saying how we can use the word “understanding” in such a context. The consensus will be that a new theoretical framework must be devised.

If you try to stretch scientific methodology and “consensus” beyond this degree of flexibility, you are most likely attempting to cajole people into abandoning the discipline of interlaboratory comparison.

Amazingly enough, I think we do agree, but from opposite ends of the spectrum.  grin  I’m not sure where the “lone wolf” researcher comes from though.  You’re right, there is a delicate dance that goes on.  I get your comment that from an experimental point of view we are satisfied with a theoretical framework that permits further investigation, and that “When one feels capable of designing a suitable experiment to test a theoretical prediction, one feels a kind of ‘understanding’”.  Indeed, that gives me insight into the experimental attitude (something along the lines of “I have some understanding of the nuts and bolts of this because I built the experiment that can test it”).  Thanks, that sentence will show up in one form or another in the next revision of my scientific reasoning course.  The theoretical point of view is both similar and different: I have some understand of this because I have investigated the nuts and bolts (and boiler plate) of the theoretical constructs.  Where the rubber meets the road, of course, is whether or not the theoretical predictions stand up to tests.

 
 
M is for Malapert
 
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05 January 2008 22:56
 
Salt Creek - 06 January 2008 01:27 AM

quoting

burt - 28 December 2007 02:38 PM

Thanks, that sentence will show up in one form or another in the next revision of my scientific reasoning course.

“My next scientific reasoning course”?  Aiyee!

I can’t help wondering why you quoted this…

 
 
silenus
 
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11 January 2008 17:20
 

Well, Burt and Salt Creek, I have no problem with this in regards to sense data, but can the scientific method deal with intuitions, emotions, etc, and how do we epistemologically deal with the fact that the scientific method does “sit” inside a metaphysical system or noetic structure which it does not justify?  It doesn’t justify itself.

Burt

The empirical test is whether or not it can be verified in repeatable experiences.

How does one test and verify intuition in repeated experiences and what constitutes verification?

Salt Creek

This sounds like something I could agree with, possibly, but

If the result of the experiment does not meet with the theoretical prediction, one of two conclusions is possible: The experiment was in error, or the theoretical framework is inadequate. It is a delicate dance to assess when the framework is inadequate, but I believe it has to do with interlaboratory comparison when executing the same protocols. Any use of the word “consensus” beyond this is rather ludicrous. The “lone wolf” researcher who succeeds never remains solitary for long, and does not ever have to cajole others to achieve consensus.

The closest I can come to agreeing with you is to propose that we are satisfied with a theoretical framework that permits us to proceed with further investigation using said framework. When that framework fails, a new one must be devised, but that is far as I will go in saying how we can use the word “understanding” in such a context. The consensus will be that a new theoretical framework must be devised.

Wouldn’t you need a framework to pronounce the failure of a framework and to provide the process by which one devises a new one?  Or is all knowledge simply spring from the desire to predict outcomes?