There are, of course, a number of epistemological questions, some of which lie more in the province of the philosopher than they do the economist or the social scientist. The one with which I am particularly concerned here is that of the role of knowledge in social systems, both as a product of the past and as a determinant of the future.
Kenneth E. Boulding
But the myth of power is, of course, a very powerful myth, and probably most people in this world more or less believe in it. It is a myth, which, if everybody believes in it, becomes to that extent self-validating. But it is still epistemological lunacy and leads inevitably to various sorts of disaster.
Pamela Smith and Benjamin Schmidt have gathered together a wide-ranging and provocative set of original essays that successfully demonstrate how contingent the process of making knowledge was during a period of fundamental epistemological change. This is a finely crafted and conceptualized collection.
I do not have it in for relativism. In many respects I find it a fascinating, even attractive, alternative. It engenders epistemological humility, defeats an arrogant pomposity in belief, even promotes a sort of democratic ideal in matters of knowledge. Perhaps its most comforting feature is that it requires no hard work at all in the matter of justifying beliefs.
David L. Wolfe
A majority vote is not an epistemological validation of an idea. Voting is merely a proper political device--within a strictly, constitutionall y delimited sphere of action--for choosing the practical means of implementing a society's basic principles. But those principles are not determined by vote.
The material which a scientist actually has at his disposal, his laws, his experimental results, his mathematical techniques, his epistemological prejudices, his attitude towards the absurd consequences of the theories which he accepts, is indeterminate in many ways, ambiguous, and never fully separated from the historical background . This material is always contaminated by principles which he does not know and which, if known, would be extremely hard to test.
The relation to the other is not epistemological, but ethical, and the whole attempt to accomodate or account for the other within the confines of my experience already constitutes a breach of this fundamental ethical relation. The other is precisely that which cannot be the object of my experience in the sense of being completely manifest within it, and so cannot be construed as a phenomenon at all.
David R. Cerbone
Unless the structure of the nucleus has a surprise in store for us, the conclusion seems plain-there is nothing in the whole system if laws of physics that cannot be deduced unambiguously from epistemological considerations. An intelligence, unacquainted with our universe, but acquainted with the system of thought by which the human mind interprets to itself the contents of its sensory experience, and should be able to attain all the knowledge of physics that we have attained by experiment.
This is an important distinction, because most of the modern philosophies that deny that we can know reality, and ultimately truth, make the mistake of constructing epistemological systems to explain how we know reality without first acknowledging the fact that we do know reality. After they begin within the mind and find they can't construct a bridge to reality, they then declare that we can't know reality. It is like drawing a faulty road map before looking at the roads, then declaring that we can't know how to get from Chicago to New York!
We cannot fight against collectivism, unless we fight against its moral base: altruism. We cannot fight against altruism, unless we fight against its epistemological base: irrationalism. We cannot fight against anything, unless we fight for something--and what we must fight for is the supremacy of reason and a view of man as a rational being.
The goal of the 'liberals' - as it emerges from the record of the past decades - was to smuggle this country into welfare statism by means of single, concrete, specific measures, enlarging the power of the government a step at a time, never permitting these steps to be summed up into principles, never permitting their direction to be identified or the basic issue to be named. Thus, statism was to come, not by vote or by violence, but by slow rot - by a long process of evasion and epistemological corruption, leading to a fait accompli.
Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer . . . For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits.
Willard Van Orman Quine
Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer... For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits.
Willard Van Orman Quine
We are beginning to play with ideas of ecology, and although we immediately trivialize these into commerce or politics, there is at least an impulse still in the human breast to unify and thereby sanctify the total natural world, of which we are... There have been, and still are, in the world many different and even contrasting epistemologies which have been alike in stressing an ultimate unity, and, although this is less sure, which have also stressed the notion that ultimate unity is aesthetic. The uniformity of these views gives hope that perhaps the great authority of quantitative science may be insufficient to deny an ultimate unifying beauty. I hold to the presupposition that our loss of the sense of aesthetic unity was, quite simply, an epistemological mistake.
There is much: recognition of the fact that human beings live indeterminate and incomplete lives; recognition of the power exerted over and upon us by our own habits and memories; recognition of the ways in which the world presses in on all of us, for it is an intractable place where many things go awry and go astray, where one may all-too-easily lose one's very self. The epistemological argument is framed by faith, but it stands on its own as an account of willing, nilling, memory, language, signs, affections, delight, the power and the limits of minds and bodies. To the extent that a prideful philosophy refuses to accept these, Augustine would argue, to that extent philosophy hates the human condition itself.
Jean Bethke Elshtain
In his 1923 review of James Joyce Ulysses, T. S. Eliot focused on one of his generation's recurrent anxieties-the idea that art might be impossible in the twentieth century. The reasons that art seemed impossible are many and complex, but they were all related to the collapse of ways of knowing that had served the Western mind at least since the Renaissance and that had received canonical formulation in the seventeenth century in the science of Newton and the philosophy of Descartes. In both science and philosophy, the crisis was essentially epistemological; that is, it was related to radical uncertainty about how we know what we know about the real world. This crisis, disorienting even to specialists, was at once a cause of despair and an incentive for innovation in the arts.
Jewel Spears Brooker
Eliot's own reflections on the primitive mind as a model for nondualistic thinking and on the nature and consequences of different modes of consciousness were informed by an excellent education in the social sciences and philosophy. As a prelude to our guided tour of the text of The Waste Land, we now turn to a brief survey of some of his intellectual preoccupations in the decade before he wrote it, preoccupations which in our view are enormously helpful in understanding the form of the poem. Eliot entered Harvard as a freshman in 1906 and finished his doctoral dissertation in 1916, with one of the academic years spent at the Sorbonne and one at Oxford. At Harvard and Oxford, he had as teachers some of modern philosophy's most distinguished individuals, including George Santayana, Josiah Royce, Bertrand Russell, and Harold Joachim; and while at the Sorbonne, he attended the lectures of Henri Bergson, a philosophic star in Paris in 1910-11. Under the supervision of Royce, Eliot wrote his dissertation on the epistemology of F. H. Bradley, a major voice in the late-nineteenth-, early-twentieth-century crisis in philosophy. Eliot extended this period of concentration on philosophical problems by devoting much of his time between 1915 and the early twenties to book reviewing. His education and early book reviewing occurred during the period of epistemological disorientation described in our first chapter, the period of "betweenness" described by Heidegger and Ortega y Gasset, the period of the revolt against dualism described by Lovejoy. 2 Eliot's personal awareness of the contemporary epistemological crisis was intensified by the fact that while he was writing his dissertation on Bradley he and his new wife were actually living with Bertrand Russell. Russell as the representative of neorealism and Bradley as the representative of neoidealism were perhaps the leading expositors of opposite responses to the crisis discussed in our first chapter. Eliot's situation was extraordinary. He was a close student of both Bradley and Russell; he had studied with Bradley's friend and disciple Harold Joachim and with Russell himself. And in 1915-16, while writing a dissertation explaining and in general defending Bradley against Russell, Eliot found himself face to face with Russell across the breakfast table. Moreover, as the husband of a fragile wife to whom both men (each in his own way) were devoted, Eliot must have found life to be a kaleidoscope of brilliant and fluctuating patterns.
Jewel Spears Brooker
As an empiricist I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries-not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer. For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conception only as cultural posits. The myth of physical objects is epistemologically superior to most in that it has proved more efficacious than other myths as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience.
Willard Van Orman Quine
I knew, ' said Orwell in 1946 about his early youth, 'that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts.' For Orwell, this meant an ability to face not only that which troubles or disturbs us, but that which directly challenges our deepest convictions and assumptions: thus a power of facing. It is often the case, therefore, that to be 'in denial' is not only to commit an epistemological error, but also a moral one: a refusal or unwillingness to critically examine one's own beliefs and value-judgments. "What the left needs, quite clearly, I think, is just such a 'power of facing.' Not only must it summon the nerve and courage to reconsider the idea that terrorism is a natural consequence of inequality and injustice; it must also acknowledge the equally disorienting fact that militant Islam is a foe with which compromise is not only undesirable, but axiomatically impossible. Even more decisively, it must attempt to fashion a less reductive and more dialectical understanding of American power and the world within which it operates. What it must materialize, in other words, is the antithesis of the fundamentalist world-view: a firm sense of reality and a certain openness of mind to face that which is deeply troubling.
There is nothing wrong with entertainment. As some psychiatrist once put it, we all build castles in the air. The problems come when we try to live in them. The communications media of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with telegraphy and photography at their center, called the peek-a-boo world into existence, but we did not come to live there until television. Television gave the epistemological biases of the telegraph and the photograph their most potent expression, raising the interplay of image and instancy to an exquisite and dangerous perfection. And it brought them into the home. We are by now well into a second generation of children for whom television has been their first and most accessible teacher and, for many, their most reliable companion and friend. To put it plainly, television is the command center of the new epistemology. There is no audience so young that it is barred from television. There is no poverty so abject that it must forgo television. There is no education so exalted that it is not modified by television. And most important of all, there is no subject of public interest-politics, news, education, religion, science, sports-that does not find its way to television. Which means that all public understanding of these subjects is shaped by the biases of television.
[Professor Greene's] reaction to GAMAY, as published in the Yale Daily News, fairly took one's breath away. He fondled the word "fascist" as though he had come up with a Dead Sea Scroll vouchsafing the key word to the understanding of God and Man at Yale. In a few sentences he used the term thrice. "Mr. Buckley has done Yale a great service" (how I would tire of this pedestrian rhetorical device), "and he may well do the cause of liberal education in America an even greater service, by stating the fascist alternative to liberalism. This fascist thesis... This... pure fascism... What more could Hitler, Mussolini, or Stalin ask for... ?" (They asked for, and got, a great deal more.) What survives, from such stuff as this, is ne-plus-ultra relativism, idiot nihlism. "What is required, " Professor Greene spoke, "is more, not less tolerance-not the tolerance of indifference, but the tolerance of honest respect for divergent convictions and the determination of all that such divergent opinions be heard without administrative censorship. I try my best in the classroom to expound and defend my faith, when it is relevant, as honestly and persuasively as I can. But I can do so only because many of my colleagues are expounding and defending their contrasting faiths, or skepticisms, as openly and honestly as I am mine." A professor of philosophy! Question: What is the 1) ethical, 2) philosophical, or 3) epistemological argument for requiring continued tolerance of ideas whose discrediting it is the purpose of education to effect? What ethical code (in the Bible? in Plato? Kant? Hume?) requires "honest respect" for any divergent conviction?
William F. Buckley Jr.
Empirically, things are poignant, tragic, beautiful, humorous, settled, disturbed, comfortable, annoying, barren, harsh, consoling, splendid, fearful; are such immediately and in their own right and behalf... These traits stand in themselves on precisely the same level as colours, sounds, qualities of contact, taste and smell. Any criterion that finds the latter to be ultimate and "hard" data will, impartially applied, come to the same conclusion about the former. -Any- quality as such is final; it is at once initial and terminal; just what it is as it exists. it may be referred to other things, it may be treated as an effect or a sign. But this involves an extraneous extension and use. It takes us beyond quality in its immediate qualitativeness... The surrender of immediate qualities, sensory and significant, as objects of science, and as proper forms of classification and understanding, left in reality these immediate qualities just as they were; since they are -had- there is no need to -know- them. But... the traditional view that the object of knowledge is reality par excellence led to the conclusion that the object of science was preeminently metaphysically real. Hence, immediate qualities, being extended from the object of science, were left thereby hanging loose from the "real" object. Since their -existence- could not be denied, they were gathered together into a psychic realm of being, set over against the object of physics. Given this premise, all the problems regarding the relation of mind and matter, the psychic and the bodily, necessarily follow. Change the metaphysical premise; restore, that is to say, immediate qualities to their rightful position as qualities of inclusive situations, and the problems in question cease to be epistemological problems. They become specifiable scientific problems; questions, that is to say, of how such and such an event having such and such qualities actually occurs.
Each religion makes scores of purportedly factual assertions about everything from the creation of the universe to the afterlife. But on what grounds can believers presume to know that these assertions are true? The reasons they give are various, but the ultimate justification for most religious people's beliefs is a simple one: we believe what we believe because our holy scriptures say so. But how, then, do we know that our holy scriptures are factually accurate? Because the scriptures themselves say so. Theologians specialize in weaving elaborate webs of verbiage to avoid saying anything quite so bluntly, but this gem of circular reasoning really is the epistemological bottom line on which all 'faith' is grounded. In the words of Pope John Paul II: 'By the authority of his absolute transcendence, God who makes himself known is also the source of the credibility of what he reveals.' It goes without saying that this begs the question of whether the texts at issue really were authored or inspired by God, and on what grounds one knows this. 'Faith' is not in fact a rejection of reason, but simply a lazy acceptance of bad reasons. 'Faith' is the pseudo-justification that some people trot out when they want to make claims without the necessary evidence. But of course we never apply these lax standards of evidence to the claims made in the other fellow's holy scriptures: when it comes to religions other than one's own, religious people are as rational as everyone else. Only our own religion, whatever it may be, seems to merit some special dispensation from the general standards of evidence. And here, it seems to me, is the crux of the conflict between religion and science. Not the religious rejection of specific scientific theories (be it heliocentrism in the 17th century or evolutionary biology today); over time most religions do find some way to make peace with well-established science. Rather, the scientific worldview and the religious worldview come into conflict over a far more fundamental question: namely, what constitutes evidence. Science relies on publicly reproducible sense experience (that is, experiments and observations) combined with rational reflection on those empirical observations. Religious people acknowledge the validity of that method, but then claim to be in the possession of additional methods for obtaining reliable knowledge of factual matters - methods that go beyond the mere assessment of empirical evidence - such as intuition, revelation, or the reliance on sacred texts. But the trouble is this: What good reason do we have to believe that such methods work, in the sense of steering us systematically (even if not invariably) towards true beliefs rather than towards false ones? At least in the domains where we have been able to test these methods - astronomy, geology and history, for instance - they have not proven terribly reliable. Why should we expect them to work any better when we apply them to problems that are even more difficult, such as the fundamental nature of the universe? Last but not least, these non-empirical methods suffer from an insuperable logical problem: What should we do when different people's intuitions or revelations conflict? How can we know which of the many purportedly sacred texts - whose assertions frequently contradict one another - are in fact sacred?