Monday 15 May 2017

Where do true hypotheses come from?

It is a justifiable demand of science that we should limit ourselves to experience.

But it is a no less justifiable demand that we should seek for the inner law of experience.

Therefore this “inner” must itself appear at some place in experience.

Experience is thus deepened by the help of experience itself. Our theory of knowledge makes the demand for experience in the very highest form; it repels every attempt to introduce something into experience from without.

This theory finds even thought-characterizations within experience. The form in which thought enters into manifestation is the same as that of the rest of the world of experience.

From Rudolf Steiner's The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception. (1886). C. THOUGHT: VIII: Thinking as a Higher Experience within Experience.

Since there are an 'infinite' number of false hypotheses - but only one true; how is it that true theories can sometimes be discovered?

(If the 'search space' is essentially infinite, how could we ever find the truth? It would be harder than finding a needle in a haystack - indeed it would be impossible.)

The answer is that the concepts of science (hypotheses and theories) are given by experience itself - when science is being done properly. They are not invented, nor are they arbitrary - they are found in thinking, in the same thought-world where we are aware of perceptions.

Theories are not derived from facts; nor are facts controlled by theories - but both are found together in the process of thinking.

This happens and is possible and objective (the same always and for everybody, regardless of their mental makeup) because the world of thinking is single, unified - and therefore thinking is not inside each individual mind, but is a universal realm.

We discover true hypotheses by attaining to a clear knowing, by achieving a transparency of thinking. (Such transparency must, in practice, be achieved actively - not least by rejecting false assumptions.)

Truth is then seen - but it is not imposed on us; it is possible to know and to deny (that is a consequence of human agency, or free will).

The proper conduct of science involves attaining this clear seeing - which is a question of attitude, which is dependent on motivation: on wanting, more than anything, to know.

The way in which thought-content 'meets us' is the guarantee of its essential truth. In other words intuition.

Error in science is therefore essentially a matter of dishonesty - (usually) failure to await the attainment of transparency and the occurrence of clear seeing and its intuitive validation - and instead dishonestly to 'invent' an hypothesis; or else (more rarely) dishonest denial of what has been clearly seen and known.

1 comment:

Nicholas Fulford said...

I agree - mostly.

Science is a method, but it requires human cogitation over the problems of existing theories that are incomplete. Genius is when a spark of inspiration brings about a new way of looking at the problem and seeing that a pathway exists out of the current limitations. Continuing to both think and test the new ideas may meet with failure, but the process itself leads to a movement beyond the current limits. Now, I do find myself in agreement with Kurt Godel about the inherent limits to define symbolically and with total consistency a theory that accounts for all things in any non-trivial system. And so, there will always be limits to the truth of any particular theory, but we can get closer and close more of the exceptions and gaps by bringing our formidable intelligence - including imagination - to bear upon complex expressions in the natural universe.