Category Archives: epistemology

Stances Towards Truth

What are the different stances towards truth? I can think of four: relativism, pluralism, dogmatism, and skepticism.

In Relativism, truths are relative to the individual, and may be associated with their personal perspective. Truths are necessarily different as individuals are different and cannot be ranked as to their correctness between individuals.

In Pluralism, truths are separate and may be combined but usually cannot be unified under one overarching truth. Truths are pragmatically different and are true in principle or function.

In Dogmatism or Absolutism, there is one truth, whether we have access to it or not. Truth is absolute and necessarily consistent with itself.

In Skepticism, there may be no absolute truths. Truth is always in doubt and there is no certainty.

I believe that few if any of us are purists with respect to any of these stances towards truth. Each of us combines these four stances into a filter that we use to adopt and maintain our personal ensemble of truths. Some of us may be highly skeptical, with a little dogmatism about our skepticism, plus a bit of relativism and pluralism thrown in for good measure. And so on. Our filter will change depending on how we perceive the current truth of those stances.

Similarly, social organizations may also operate the same way as individuals in constructing a filter towards truth. Whether the organization’s filter arises as an average of the individual’s filters, or from some inherent property of the organization, remains open.

Whether there is one transcendent truth or possibly no absolute truths depends on your valuation of dogmatism and skepticism, respectively. And thus it doesn’t depend on what you or anyone thinks at all.

Notes:

Perhaps Absolutism would be a better choice than dogmatism in the diagram.

The post The One and the Many may be used to develop these stances better.

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Walter Watson and David Dilworth’s Archic Matrix

Throughout the history of philosophy, there have been many conflicting stances both towards claiming what exists (ontology), and how we can know our claims are valid (epistemology). There are the oppositions between idealism and realism, between rationalism and empiricism, between thinking all is change and all is changeless, between all is many and all is one, and so on. One approach to overcome these oppositions is to combine them to form their Hegelian synthesis. Another is to deconstruct them à la Derrida. Another pluralistic approach is to consider that there is a germ of truth on each side of the conflicting stance, an aspect of reality for which that stance is valid. Some might think that pluralism is the same as relativism, but it is not. Relativism and pluralism form yet another philosophical opposition like others mentioned above.

Regardless of the validity of pluralism, it can be very useful to analyze what philosophical stances are possible and how they relate to one another. The philosopher Richard McKeon created a rich schema for philosophical semantics that deserves greater recognition. This schema was both simplified and elaborated on by Walter Watson and David Dilworth in their books about the Archic Matrix. There are four main aspects, all exemplified by ancient philosophers: the Sophists, Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle. Everything else is a combination of these original aspects, or essentially a rehashing of them. The main aspects are perspective from the Sophists, reality from Democritus, method from Plato, and principle from Aristotle. These partition “what is”, however it is conceived, into four aspects, each of which can be interpreted in four different ways.

Considering Whitehead’s Criteria, note that perspective has consistency, method has coherency, reality has applicability, and principle has adequacy.

Walter Watson / The Architectonics of Meaning: foundations of the new pluralism

David A. Dilworth / Philosophy in World Perspective: a comparative hermeneutic of the major theories

http://nodnol.net/Watson/index.html

http://www.philosophicalprofile.org/test/index.php

http://wwwhistoricalthreads.blogspot.com/2010/07/walter-watson-architectonics-of-meaning.html

http://ir.lib.sfu.ca/bitstream/1892/9845/1/b31853754.pdf

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The Cynefin Framework

From Wikipedia:

The Cynefin framework is a model used to describe problems, situations and systems. The model provides a typology of contexts that guides what sort of explanations and/or solutions may apply.

There are actually five domains in the framework, with the fifth one being disorder. It is not shown here. The domains are different in how cause and effect relate to one another within them. They are in the order of light transmission through the four elements: bright, light, dim, and dark.

For each domain, there is a common approach, each containing sense and respond. Simple: Sense – Categorize – Respond. Complicated: Sense – Analyze – Respond. Complex: Probe – Sense – Respond. Chaos: Act – Sense – Respond. For Simple and Complicated, sense comes first, and for Complex and Chaos, sense comes second. Respond ends the approach for each domain. Can one say the Simple and Complicated are a priori, and Complex and Chaos are a posteriori? Or that Simple and Complicated are rational, and Complex and Chaos are empirical?

Interestingly, if we examine the element of the approach that is not sense or respond, they have a close approximation to the fourfold of the Scientific Method.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin

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John R. Searle’s Epistemological and Ontological Senses of Objective and Subjective

References:

John R. Searle / The Construction of Social Reality

http://lafavephilosophy.x10host.com/subjective_objective.html

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Kolb’s Learning Cycle

There seems to be many different so-called learning cycles, but I think Kolb’s matches my other double duals most closely.

David A. Kolb / Experiential Learning : experience as the source of learning and development

References:

http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm

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Richard McKeon’s Aspects of Knowing

Richard McKeon’s system of Philosophical Semantics arises from the sixteen pairwise and ordered relations between his four aspects of knowing or cognates: knower, knowledge, the known, and the knowable. These sixteen relations can be sorted in four groups of four elements each: methods, interpretations, principles, and selections.

Between knower and knowledge, and between the knowable and the known, arise the four methods of two each: the universal and the particular.

  • From knower to knowledge, the operational method.
  • From knowledge to knower, the dialectical method.
  • From the knowable to the known, the logistic method.
  • From the known to the knowable, the problematic method.

Between knower and the known, and between the knowable and knowledge, arise the four interpretations of two each: the phenomenal and the ontic.

  • From knower to the known, the existential interpretation.
  • From the known to knower, the essential interpretation.
  • From the knowable to knowledge, the entitative interpretation.
  • From knowledge to the knowable, the ontological interpretation.

Between knower and the knowable, and between knowledge and the known, arise the four principles of two each: the meroscopic and the holoscopic.

  • From knower to the knowable, the actional principle.
  • From the knowable to knower, the simple principle.
  • From knowledge to the known, the comprehensive principle.
  • From the known to knowledge, the reflexive principle.

Between each of the aspects of knowing with itself, arise the four selections.

  • From knower to itself, the perspectival selection.
  • From knowledge to itself, the transcendental selection.
  • From the knowable to itself, the reductive selection.
  • From the known to itself, the functional selection.

Each method can be associated with a discursive process: operational with debate, dialectical with dialogue, logistic with proof, and problematic with inquiry. Each method is also associated with a mode of thought which in turn has two moments and one dependency or assumption: the operational method is debate by discrimination and postulation dependent on chosen theses, the dialectical method is dialogue by assimilation and exemplification dependent on changeless models, the logistic method is proof by construction and decomposition dependent on indivisible constituents, and the problematic method is inquiry by resolution and question dependent on discoverable causes.

References:

Richard McKeon / On Knowing–The Natural Sciences

Richard McKeon / Freedom and History and Other Essays: an introduction to the thought of Richard McKeon

Sadly, the following pages are no longer available:

http://net-prophet.net/mckeon/mckeon.htm

http://forums.abrahadabra.com/showthread.php?2331-Unifying-Astrology-and-I-Ching

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Aristotle’s Four Causes

Material: That from which something is made.

Efficient: That by which something is made.

Formal: That into which something is made.

Final: That for the sake of which something is made.

— from Aristotle for Everybody by Mortimer Adler

“Happy is he who can recognize the causes of things.”

Virgil

Aristotle’s Four Causes is likely the most familiar of all the double duals that I will present. The causes are closer to being “becauses” since they are usually thought of as the reasons or explanations for things. Why not call them the four prepositions?

The standard example of the four causes is what is needed for the building of a house. A house is built by the craftsmen, from the raw materials, into the form shown on blueprints, for the homeowner to live in. This and other usual examples are concerned with the making of something.

Formal and final causes have gotten the short shift since the beginning of the scientific revolution. Francis Bacon stated that the only scientific reasons for things were the efficient and material causes. For those critical of materialism this is often termed mere “matter in motion”. Matter can be thought to exist in space, and motion in time. Where does form or finality exist? I will say in space and time as well.

References:

Max Hocutt / Aristotle’s Four Becauses, in Philosophy, Vol. 49, No. 190. (Oct., 1974), pp. 385-399.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_causes

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-causality/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_purpose_of_a_system_is_what_it_does

Notes:

John Sowa’s Thematic Roles: initiator, resource, essence, goal.

http://www.jfsowa.com/ontology/thematic.htm

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