Thursday 31 August 2017

Consequences of the perspectival nature of knowledge (including: why science is always wrong)

Man is a limited being:

1. He is a being among other beings.

2. He is located in space and time.

Therefore, only a limited part of the total universe can be given to man at any time - understanding is serial.

In sum, Man's knowledge is constrained by perspective of time, place and persons.

This may sound like a limitation, but every specific thing is linked with the other parts in all directions - so there is no limit to the possibility of knowledge.


Perspective is necessary to freedom; because if our existence were linked to all of reality, and all persons, simultaneously - then there would be no distinction between our-selves and everything else. Anything that happened would pass instantly into everything else - the cosmos would be an undifferentiated unity,

It is due to the specificity of our perspective that things appear single and separate, when in reality nothing is wholly single and separable. And it is this which creates the possibility of free agency by introducing distinctions within the totality.

Thus reality is a polarity: there are real distinctions within the unity; but that which is distinguished cannot ever be separated from the totality.


Because the primary basic reality is a unity, communications are not 'a problem'. Cohesion is not a problem. Knowledge is not a problem.

The only 'problems' arise because we can grasp only a corner of reality at one moment - and because we then try to detach this part-of-unity in order to do something with it. For example, if we personally, here-and-now, want to use some grasped-fragment of knowledge to achieve a specific purpose... then this really is a problem.

This is the problem of making a valid distinction into an arbitrary division. All possible divisions are ultimately false - since they are fragments of unity that ignore unity.

But there may be ways of using such false divisions pragmatically, for specific purposes constrained by person, place and time...

All of science (and all applications of mathematics) are working in this arena. All science is perspectival, all science operates with divisions treated asif they were separable.

Therefore all science (all possible science) is false; and all science will - sooner or later, in some place or another, some individual or another - break-down and fail in its specific, intended usages.

Note: The above is my paraphrase of a passage in Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom

1 comment:

Ben L said...

I'm reading the Ball and the Cross by GK Chesterton (after enjoying the Father Brown series) and came across this:

"It is a characteristic of all things now called 'efficient', which means mechanical and calculated, that if they go wrong at all they go entirely wrong. There is no power of retrieving a defeat, as in simpler and more living organisms."

I liked this one a lot:

"It may be easier to get chocolate for nothing out of a shopkeeper than out of an automatic machine. But if you did manage to steal the chocolate, the automatic machine would be much less likely to run after you."