Posts Tagged ‘theory of knowledge’


In skepticism, the ancient greeks on 16/08/2011 at 7:11 am

I turn everything inside out/ looking for new solutions/ to the problems of today,/ always critical, giving/ suggestions for gracious living/ and they come away from seeing a play/ in a questioning mood, with “where are we at?,”/ and “who’s got my this?,” and “who took my that?.” (Euripides, in Aristophanes, The Frogs, trans. Richmond Lattimore, Four Comedies, 1969, 62)

In Euripides’ Electra, Electra receives evidence of the secret arrival of Orestes, offering three signs that correspond to the three signs offered to Electra in Aeschylus’s earlier Libation Bearers. The ‘older’ Electra rejects the possibility that the hair could be anyone’s but Orestes’s (520 – 23), but Euripides’s Electra is unwilling to make such a leap of faith, methodically rejecting the very same arguments given by Aeschylus’s Electra. She rejects the possibility of her brother would return in secret, for she assumes that he would return openly (524-26) and then she goes on (527-29) to note the inherent differences between the lock of hair from a woman and a man and the irrelevance of foot-size in determining relatives. Many unrelated people also have, obviously, similar hair. This here is the new faith in the capabilities of reason, and yet this faith is repeatedly undermined, not just in literature, but in our everyday lives.

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The “Proper” Work of Philosophy

In wittgenstein on 19/07/2011 at 11:27 pm

That there can be no … superior tribunal has also been one theme of contemporary analytical philosophy in Britain, beginning in the late 1930s and gaining strength since the war. Philosophy as a kind of antropology of knowledge and belief is a conception revived in the later work of Wittgenstein. His suggestion was that we should turn our attention to the justification of belief, and of claims to knowledge, which are customarily accepted, and not look for a rationally satisfying justification altogether outside our established habits of thought: such a justification could never in principle be found. The proper work of philosophy is purely descriptive, to set out the linguistic facts that reveal our habits of thought … (Professor S. Hampshire, in David Hume: a Symposium, ed. D.F. Pears, London, Macmillan, 1963, p. 5)


The Crest of the Hill

In evolution, fallibilism on 09/07/2011 at 6:15 am

One must tear them away from the reality to which they have become accustomed to and cause them to see everything anew. … but one has to do everything, one has to create a situation that threatens them. … For knowledge, whatever it is worth, from the most precise mathematics to the darkest suggestions of art, is not to calm the soul but to create a state of vibration and tension in it. (Witold Gombrowicz, Diary)


If evolution can force a group of organisms into a local maximum determined by some path it went down long ago, if life evolved an inherently inefficient mechanism, it would be stuck with it — you can’t start over without scrapping the whole project. This, I think, can be made analogous to scientific theories:

If we assume that science is interested in the overarching goal of attaining interesting truths, but we cannot know when or if we have acquired these interesting truths, then we have to settle for eliminating interesting falsehoods. Imagine we have a graph with different labels for the x, y, and z, coordinates. What do they stand for? I don’t know. I’m not a mathematician. Perhaps we can have verisimilitude, logical content, and something else I can’t be bothered to think of right now. It might not be able to be expressed in three dimensions. More might be needed. It’s not something that bothers me — it’s for creating a mental image of the possible theories available. Something like this.

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