Wednesday 26 October 2022

Crystalline knowledge versus random relativism

One of the philosophical problems of which I am most aware is that (for most people) there are only two - opposed - models of knowledge: both of which strike me as obviously wrong. 

The mainstream modern view could be called random relativism; which assert that ultimately there can be no knowledge; because all knowledge is relative to the limited perspective and labile capacity of the knower; and that meaningless randomness (or chance) can explain all apparent structure to reality. 

Random relativism removes and purpose (thus meaning) from human life and the universe; and human morality is explained in terms of a by-product of natural selection leading to the innate desire of pleasure and to avoid suffering. 

Mainstream modern 'morality' (of all its many types) is therefore some variant of 'utilitarianism' - which regards (in some way, and there are many versions - perhaps as many as there are relativists) optimizing Man's psychological state, during his mortal lifetime, as the only coherent virtue.  

Logically considered; random relativism is incoherent; since nobody could know that it was true; due to a version of the 'Cretan Liar' paradox. A Man cannot coherently assert that he knows that knowledge is impossible. 

Yet random relativism persists anyway; presumably because of the conviction that it might be true, whether we know it or not. 

For instance: "I cannot know for sure that life is meaningless; but life might be meaningless nonetheless." 

This is, in turn, bolstered by psychological aversions to 'wishful thinking' (or being suspected of wishful thinking); such that the default assumption among those who regard themselves as hard-nosed, bold and rigorous has become established that life is without purpose and meaning, and nothing is really known. 

And, in practice, such avowed skepticism functions more as an affectation and (attempted) status marker than a functional ethic; because those who assert this kind of nihilism nonetheless have strongly held convictions on numerous subjects, which they regard as important and strive to persuade others to accept.

Against this species of mainstream nihilism in public discourse is a version of the religious perspective that previously dominated public discourse. 

This regards truth as absolute, fixed and knowable (by some means). 

Thus true knowledge of reality is regarded as having an unchanging and structured quality, of a nature analogous to crystal; so we could call the understanding of the truth or reality a kind of crystalline knowledge. 

Crystalline knowledge is understood in terms of a created reality whose structure ultimately does not change (although it may go through recurrent cycles).

In other words reality is total, eternal, timeless - reality is complete, cannot be added-to - its structure Just Is: therefore to know reality is also a thing unchanging. 

This type of understanding has been characteristic of almost all 'Western philosophy' - and also of the official theologies of  'Western' (which includes Middle Eastern/ Asia Minor) religions - and of the Eastern Religions when they are given metaphysical form. 

Of course, many of the actual adherents of religions do not share their 'official' theologies, and live in accordance with some sort of 'folk religion' of an unofficial kind, one that is not compatible with crystalline knowledge. 

Or else they hold a variety of internally-incoherent fundamental beliefs - each 'encapsulated', to some extent, from the whole. Indeed, perhaps most religious adherents do this. 

These two version of understanding are usually presented as the only possibilities - and it is assumed that all other proposals will reduce, upon analysis, to one of these two. 

If so, then - by my understanding - we would be left with a choice between two types of incoherence. Crystalline knowledge was comprehensively rejected by Western civilization as inadequate - while random relativism leads to a arbitrary assertions.   

These are two systems of metaphysics - that is, we are concerned with the primary assumptions we make about reality. And, at the level of metaphysics, nothing is proved or disproved by 'evidence' - because what counts as evidence and proof is dictated by prior metaphysical assumptions.

If neither of the above are regarded as satisfactory, then at least one other possibility might be discerned that may prove better - and perhaps even good enough to form a basis for explaining human knowing. 

I believe that I have found such a metaphysical system (that understanding which has been expounded many times on this blog since about 2014) - one that cannot be reduced to either of crystalline knowledge or random relativism; and which does a better job of explaining those things* that I regard as most needing explanation.

 However, although I regard metaphysics as vitally important for me, and for others who are trapped by the false dichotomy of two systems neither of which they regard as satisfactory; nonetheless, metaphysics is not reality itself - but only the most fundamental description of reality. 

It is therefore vital to recognize that no finite description can capture the unboundedness and mutuality of reality; therefore no system of metaphysics can ever be wholly satisfactory - but will always have limits, contradictions and defects. 

*Things such as the primacy of love, free agency, the reality of evil in the creation of a Good and loving God; and the reality of truly generative and open-ended creation that Men can participate-in. 

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