Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On Generative Epistemology - II (Teleognostic)

In the first part I went over two of the great approaches to epistemology: the ontological, and the sophistical. Both share a common underlying pairing of observations: that consciousness and existence, while obviously connected, do not flow logically from each other. While it is obvious that consciousness implies existence of some kind, and it is less obvious but still relatively inescapable that there is existence without consciousness, but no appreciation of existence without consciousness, how to join the two observations remains unsolved. The solution of the axiomicist is to join them in a small set of assertions about truth, and then attempt to construct a rigorous version in consciously apprehendable terms that proves itself to be a statement of truth.

The anatomy of one of these systems is modeled after Euclid's Elements: definitions, axioms, propositions. In Euclid there is a further pair of differences: constructions and theorums, however this is not in the earlier text. There is also an axiom which is not an axiom, or rather, this division is in the axioms. The first four axioms are construction, the last about the nature of space itself. The first four then represent what the conscious mind can do, and the last, existence's nature itself.

The sophist proceeds from the other end, assuming the perceptual universe, and the sensations that flow from it, and then begins to attempt to find rules which will convert the perceptions made in the present, to more desirable sensations. From what we feel, to what we want to feel, and therefore, on how we feel about what what we feel.

So the first point that both share is the consciousness-existence relationship, and its unwillingness to either degenerate into one entity, nor to separate into two orthogonal ones. It will neither become one obvious thing, nor become two different things.

The second point that both share, is that they are both teleological. That is, they both presume an end, a goal, and therefore one who has a goal. This is a point that will come up often: goal direction is something that human beings are very sensitive to, and which has both a moral and cognitive resonance.

These points of contact are enough for a co-optivtive equilibrium. Sophistical systems, reduce to axiomic systems, with the hole in the axiomic system fulfilled by a common knowledge understanding of the world. Note, I don't say a correct common knowledge understanding of the world. Axiomic systems generate a language game, which allows them to be used in sophistical play. Note, I don't say that the sophistical play actually mirrors the axiomic system or its results.

These will assuming systems lead to the inevitable problem of the watchmaker: an axiomic system seems so well designed, that it seems to exist before the process of scouring it even begins. Who created geometry? Kepler thought that God must be a geometer. Sophistical systems, because they avoid the problem of why the world exists, produce a obvious gap into which to sit a God, or gods, particularly if God or gods exist as part of the practical social game. God exists, because it is easier to sell soap to people who believe he exists.

This creates what can be called "teleognostic" understanding. An understanding of the world under pressure from a will, and therefore by analogy, a desire for a teleognostic entity. Note that that entity can be stripped of one or more of the qualities which an ontological proof of its existence might otherwise provide him with. He does not need to be he, or even a conscious entity at all. But he must act enough like one when every there is a hole to be filled. It is not a "God of the Gaps" but a God which is the gaps, and the spaces between them.

The two are, really then, two sides of the same coin: taking the consciousness/existence diune and attempting to meld it with the will/language diune. This gets us to Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation. The struggle between them is a constant critique and counter-critique, dumping those features most underattack, or reasserting the centrality of a particular doctrine. As I've noted, both schools must, in the end, submerge their pasts, in part to escape previous failures, but there is another part.

Many other kinds of epistemology can be seen as "teleognostic" without some aspect of it. Many forms of mysticism which abnegate the will, or forms of atheism which posit a god without a God. These still follow the same pattern, and are struggling with the same problem that existence and consciousness do not reduce to the other, but are not separable.

But not all epistemologies, by far, are teleognostic. Instead, coming into the 19th century, pure representationalism becomes visible. And what is pure representationalism? An example is found in Ernst Mach, but it latter flowers in the 20th century. In this view we have only the representation itself. For centuries, simply accepting the description of what we saw was a low idea, scorned by philosophers. The reason is simple: no matter how often we have seen something to be true, this is not, by itself, proof. What changed representationalism was statistics, and the birth of statistical proof.

Part III Statistical Neo-Platonism.