Thursday 24 January 2019

Why can't anything be known with certainty?

Since philosophy took its (disastrous) turn into epistemology with Descartes, reinforced by Kant; intelligent people have become 'hung-up' on the fact that they cannot know with certainty that any-thing is absolutely true.

In its most modern form, this is a self-mistrust; the mind experiences that it is its-self too labile and unreliable to know, and stick to, any truth - even if it stumbled upon such a thing.

This mainstream belief is not quite relativism - which asserts explicitly that truth cannot be known, and doing-so falls into the Cretan Liar paradox of asserting as truth that there is no truth. No - the modern relativism is experiential; more like self-doubt, self-mistrust - based on the experienced lability of thinking; an ineradicable subjective uncertainty about the truth of any-thing (whether general or specific).

This 'existenatial doubt' is partly due to the problem of, the impossibility, of communication - as communication is conceptualised by materialistic science; since any such communication involves multiple steps (expression, transmission, reception, decoding, interpreting etc.), and at any stage there is possibility/ near-certainty of a failure of intent to match-up that which is intended with that which eventuates.

Existential doubt is also partly due to our inner knowledge of a change in capacity, as happens during development - the change from child to adult, or alert and fatigued, between healthy and ill - which encompasses our ability to know anything, and how much we can know.

But ultimately, existential doubt is correct but wrongly understood. Correct because knowing is not the primary reality of existence - and that is why the turn to epistemology was an error (because it tries to make knowing the ultimate metaphysical reality)

Existentialism tried to replace knowing with Being as the ultimate reality; but this did not work, because Being is inarticulate - it can only be discussed indirectly, by communications, so that it falls into the same problem.

The correct conception of reality is the Christian one (the Romantic Christian one, specifically; which detaches Christianity from its distorting and paradox-inducing roots in classical philosophy).

The Romantic Christian metaphysically (by assumption) roots reality in love, and understands love to be creative - hence 'dynamic'. Indeed, setting aside these abstractions; it regards created reality as the loving relations between Beings through time.

Not as knowledge, not as Beings in detached, static abstraction - but as a moving, purposive, meaning-full web of relationships.

Within such a world picture it does not make sense to want, or to mourn the absence of, detached abstract chunks of certainty expressible in words or symbols.


manfred arcane said...

Interesting, especially in conjunction with your recent post on dreams and synchronicity.I feel that I've gotten myself pushed back into this Cartesian self prison of sorts, and that I cannot help it. Recently, I went trough Hans Sluga's book on Wittgenstein, and few days ago I've started reading Scruton survey of modern philosophy. Two days ago, I went trough his brief overview of the private language argument. Both Sluga and Scruton are impressed by it and believe that can shatter the epistemological trap. Both present it in this loopy manner that fails to make their case clear tho. So, I went looking for a better explanations of that argument online, and indeed I found much clearer ones. Only, they made it sound trite and unconvincing. At one moment, while thinking about it, I realized that after years of not even considering this subject I am being pushed back, with my mind being turned into this pot of slowass molasses with what clarity and conviction I've had on the subject being lost for the moment. Last night, I've dreamt of falling unconscious and dreaming. I dreamt of dreaming that is. ("On the other hand, even if there is a criterion for distinguishing waking from dreaming, could I not merely dream that I have applied it? And how did I learn about the existence of this criterion? Maybe I merely dreamed of its existence.")
And now these posts of yours.
Anyway, feel free not to approve this post, as I am not sure if I am at all able to discuss this any further right now. I just wanted to notify you of this.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Manfred - Ive been in that situation - you need to know that this kind of philosophy is superficial, and takes its fundamental assumptions for granted. You need to examine those assumptions (i.e. do metaphysics).