Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

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Kuznetzova
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Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by Kuznetzova » Sat Oct 19, 2013 11:48 pm

Epistemology is an exercise which attempts to expose the underlying assumptions we make about claims to knowledge.

Despite epistemology's attempts to ground the validity of knowledge claims, the exercise itself is overflowing with a large background of assumed, unquestioned axioms. These axioms are simultaneously bizarre, archaic, and solipsistic. The axioms have a deteriorating, that is, self-defeating aspect on the exercise itself. From the outset, what epistemology is attempting to solve is already aborted by its own assumed premises. Its own foundations later come to destroy its goals.

First and foremost, Epistemology is an exercise performed in Humanities departments on campus. It is not a science. It is therefore a form of rhetorical writing. Just in a tentative list, I can give an incomplete survey of the assumed axioms of epistemology that exist prior to anyone actually writing anything down:
  1. Assume there exists "minds" which are containers of "knowledge"
  2. Assume this knowledge is communicated in the form of English sentences.
  3. Assume English sentences are pure claims unadulterated by grammar or culture
  4. Assume there is a group of people who will make "propositions" in written format.
  5. Assume that "minds" exist transcendentally.
  6. Assume "sense perceptions" exist transcendentally.
  7. Assume "propositions" exist independently of their instantiations in language or by human mouths or human writing tools (pens, pencils, chalk).
  8. Assume the "mind" is a tabula rasa, upon which the transcendent sense perceptions act.
So far, the background upon which epistemology will play out is beginning to crystallize. We have a collection of disembodied minds floating in an void with no stated properties. These mind-things passively receive these things called "sense perceptions", which somehow enter the "mind" and stay there in a storage format called "knowledge". Any participating minds who make claims about the nature of the outside void, its objects, or the way in which sense perceptions are instantiated, will immediately be challenged in these propositions.

Epistemology can only thrive in the presence of the ignorance of the participants regarding the instantiation and substrate of the english language. Epistemology can only thrive in the presence of the ignorance of the participants regarding the instantiation and substrate of minds in biological tissue within the heads of the participants. Only given this background of woo-woo-I-dont-understand-this-stuff-I-see can epistemology thrive.

These solipsistic axioms which form the stage of epistemological writing, are now under direct factual attack from modern science and modern biology. If thoughts are the biological actions of neurons, then we cannot assume the existence of transcendental minds. If perception is caused by radiation transfer between molecules, then we cannot assume that "sense perceptions" exist transcendentally. If English is an inherited cultural artifact, then its grammar, its semantics, and its metaphors will not allow English sentences to be the format in which unadulterated, pure claims can form. English is simply too intertwined with its own cultural baggage to be the tool used to communicate unadulterated propositions.

Any discipline, whether scientific or rhetorical writing, if that discipline assumes magical phenomena better fit for the medieval worldview, that discipline should be highly suspect to any reader.

These allegedly transcendentally-existing objects called "minds" are themselves now understood to be macroscopic phenomena instantiated in macroscopic organs called brains. That is to say, we have the tools today to demonstrate that minds are reducible to a set of underlying parts interacting. This has serious repercussions for anyone claiming the existence of "mind" is transcendental.

These allegedly transcendentally-existing objects called "sense perceptions" are themselves now understood to be macroscopic phenomena instantiated within macroscopic objects. That is to say, we have the tools today to demonstrate that Sense Perceptions are reducible to a set of underlying parts interacting. This has serious repercussions for anyone claiming the existence of "sense perception" as transcendental.

The idea that the mind contains pieces of things called knowledge (as if it mind were a wooden bucket holding apples) is under factual attack. The brain itself has no such containers, and most of its operation involves cells sending a quick succession of ticks to each other through connecting fibers. (The "ticks" are called action potentials. The "fibers" connecting the cells are called axons.) The axons connect to other cells on little binding sites called dendrites. The memories of the brain are instantiated by the buildup and accumulation of ions on the insides of these binding sites (called the pre-synaptic cleft). These are often calcium ions. Buildup has a microscopic effect of changing the concentration of the fluids in the neuron, which profoundly affects the neuron's ability to conduct electrical signals. Concentrations in liquids are affected because the differences in scale between cells and atoms is extreme. In any case, the "storage" of memory in the brain takes place through a widely-distributed collection of ion buildup on millions of synapses. The cells of the brain that are involved in the process of perception are the exact pathways involved in the act of recall.

The above paragraph should invoke severe doubt on any premises or assumed axioms that depict the mind as a bucket holding little knowledge apples. The substrate does matter. The manner in which "thoughts", "propositions", and "beliefs" are instantiated in that substrate matters to a discussion of knowledge.

As our knowledge of information, of the body, and the brain increases, the discipline of epistemology will become more and more marginalized. The historical roots of epistemology lie with 16th and 17th century European empiricists, who assumed (and who had to assume at the time) that humans were blank slates upon which sense perceptions act innocently and purely. The way in which this was happening mattered not to those writers. However, today we know the underlying mechanisms are the central issue. We know these macroscopic phenomena and their associated objects are reducible to microscopic interactions. We could even, presumably assert that fact as an axiom, and then operate from there as our adopted Epistemological framework.

Ultimately, in a final assessment -- knowledge itself will be reduced to constituent parts, and it will be seen as a phenomena in nature instantiated upon a substrate of microscopic interactions.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by The Voice of Time » Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:22 pm

Kuznetzova wrote:Epistemology is an exercise which attempts to expose the underlying assumptions we make about claims to knowledge.
No.

It's a set of explanations for how we attain knowledge. The "expose the underlying assumptions" part is a hobby side-kick of epistemology and not its primary purpose.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by MGL » Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:05 pm

Kuznetzova wrote:
knowledge itself will be reduced to constituent parts, and it will be seen as a phenomena in nature instantiated upon a substrate of microscopic interactions.
I understand epistemology as simply asking the question: what is the most reliable way of acquiring knowledge?

The only pre-conditions required to consider this question are:

1) There are purposive beings\minds entities with goals that determine their behaviour and have the power to change their environment.
2) A necessary goal for any purposive entity will be the acquisition of knowledge about the environment it wants to shape.

Other assumptions are perhaps not necessary to epistemology itself, but only necessary to specific epistemological theories. An epistemological theory is quite capable of being consistent with the discoveries of science. The scientific method itself is an epistemological theory and it would be surprising if knowledge were not a macroscopic phenomena reducible to a substrate of constituent parts. However, I do wonder if conscious purposive behaviour can be reducible to non-purposive behaviour. Of course we can demonstrate that programmed machines can pursue goals and that this pursuit can be reduced to non-purposive interactions of binary switches etc. I might answer this by suggesting that machines are not conscious and only imitate purposive behaviour because they have been programmed by purposive beings. However, the last point does not allow for the possibility of frozen accidents that explain evolutionary progression, so I cannot take it seriously. What still mystifies me, however, is how I could acquire the concept of purpose if I cannot reduce it to fundamental and non-purposive features of my conscious behaviour. I don't dispute that my purposive behaviour could be reducible to non-purposive brain processes, but simply wonder how these could explain my sense of pursuing a goal.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by Kuznetzova » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:37 am

MGL wrote: I understand epistemology as simply asking the question: what is the most reliable way of acquiring knowledge?

The only pre-conditions required to consider this question are:

1) There are purposive beings\minds entities with goals that determine their behaviour and have the power to change their environment.
2) A necessary goal for any purposive entity will be the acquisition of knowledge about the environment it wants to shape.
In this bullet list you are merely proposing your own home-made epistemic framework. And this is not a bad thing (see below).

MGL wrote: Other assumptions are perhaps not necessary to epistemology itself, but only necessary to specific epistemological theories. An epistemological theory is quite capable of being consistent with the discoveries of science.
The definition of epistemology would make it impossible for anyone to completely avoid it -- that is to say, a given person is forced to replace an existing epistemic framework with a new epistemic framework. I am both capable and ready of presenting such a framework, in precisely the same manner that you did above.

I think your axiom goes something like: "Assume there exist purposive entities." And then their existence is transcendent. I cannot see any reasonable way to disagree with this axiom being true. However, your attempt to act like you have a rational basis for this framework is suspect to me. And I will get to that now.
MGL wrote: However, the last point does not allow for the possibility of frozen accidents that explain evolutionary progression, so I cannot take it seriously.

Elaborate on this a little bit more. Are you making a strong claim about randomness in the world here?

MGL wrote: What still mystifies me, however, is how I could acquire the concept of purpose if I cannot reduce it to fundamental and non-purposive features of my conscious behaviour. I don't dispute that my purposive behaviour could be reducible to non-purposive brain processes, but simply wonder how these could explain my sense of pursuing a goal.
I would suggest there are better frameworks which address all of these issues.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by Kuznetzova » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:49 am

I expect some replies below in this thread... but before we continue, I would also mention another way in which Epistemology is a self-defeating enterprise by academics.

We first realize that philosophy is a form of writing that is relegated to the Humanities Departments on campus. It is not a science. It is not an exercise that is engaged in by the military sector nor the industrial sectors of society. One of the primary motivations for philosophical writing, and in particular for epistemology is to really get down to the truth of the matter of reality. I would strongly propose here that really acting in a manner that is this focused on revealing the underlying basis of assumptions -- that if you take this seriously, and you don't play a circular semantic game on yourself and those around you -- eventually this exercise leads in a single direction. It eventually leads to de-humanization. A raw, directed form of epistemology in general has a de-humanizing effect on the philosopher.

And that is the rub. You have engaged with a humanities subject in a university which itself de-humanizes people. Depending on how long this discussion goes on in this thread, this issue will eventually have to be faced. In really deep corners of this subject, human values themselves have to be dissected. And in doing so, the very sacredness and worth of human life is brought under attack.

But I will stop there and wait and see where the replies go in this thread first.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by Impenitent » Mon Oct 21, 2013 10:33 am

Kuznetzova wrote:I expect some replies below in this thread... but before we continue, I would also mention another way in which Epistemology is a self-defeating enterprise by academics.

We first realize that philosophy is a form of writing that is relegated to the Humanities Departments on campus. It is not a science. It is not an exercise that is engaged in by the military sector nor the industrial sectors of society. One of the primary motivations for philosophical writing, and in particular for epistemology is to really get down to the truth of the matter of reality. I would strongly propose here that really acting in a manner that is this focused on revealing the underlying basis of assumptions -- that if you take this seriously, and you don't play a circular semantic game on yourself and those around you -- eventually this exercise leads in a single direction. It eventually leads to de-humanization. A raw, directed form of epistemology in general has a de-humanizing effect on the philosopher.

And that is the rub. You have engaged with a humanities subject in a university which itself de-humanizes people. Depending on how long this discussion goes on in this thread, this issue will eventually have to be faced. In really deep corners of this subject, human values themselves have to be dissected. And in doing so, the very sacredness and worth of human life is brought under attack.

But I will stop there and wait and see where the replies go in this thread first.
ever hear of Alexander the Great?

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by Kuznetzova » Tue Oct 22, 2013 4:04 am

Yes. He was very tall all his life.
As a young man he was in the military and served in artillery units.
He tried to write letters in French, and never really got the language down well.
It is believed he may have scratched some graffiti on a window of a palace, and that is still there today.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by Impenitent » Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:30 am

who was Alexander's teacher?

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by The Voice of Time » Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:01 pm

Kuznetzova wrote:Yes. He was very tall all his life.
As a young man he was in the military and served in artillery units.
He tried to write letters in French, and never really got the language down well.
It is believed he may have scratched some graffiti on a window of a palace, and that is still there today.
uhm... whaaaaat?

As a young man he did not enter the military simply because he was born into the military, this was a time when warlords ruled most of the world and not politicians like today. He was born into a monarchy, son of a king of Macedonia. French wasn't invented when he lived, not even the French people "existed", they didn't migrate before more than half a thousand years later across Europe from Asia, the such-called "Frankish" people.

Graffiti existed but I have my doubts Alexander had much interest in it, among being lectured by Aristotle, joining his father in wars and building the greatest empire the ancient world would ever see, and which would shape the future of the world for ever.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by MGL » Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:34 am

Kuznetzova wrote: I think your axiom goes something like: "Assume there exist purposive entities." And then their existence is transcendent. I cannot see any reasonable way to disagree with this axiom being true. However, your attempt to act like you have a rational basis for this framework is suspect to me.
I don't think I am trying to provide a RATIONAL justification for epistemology, but rather a rational justification of the assumptions we make GIVEN that we want to find a reliable way of acquiring knowledge. What compels me to think this is a worthwhile pursuit is my feeling that reason and empirical induction are better methods than religious revelation or wishful thinking.
MGL: However, the last point does not allow for the possibility of frozen accidents that explain evolutionary progression, so I cannot take it seriously.
Kuznetzova: Elaborate on this a little bit more. Are you making a strong claim about randomness in the world here?
Sorry, I was merely trying to point out that purposive-like behaviour does not require an ultimate purposive cause. To presume it does it to make the same mistake of creationist in thinking that life must have been the result of intelligent design, rather than the accumulation of mutations. By frozen accident, I merely meant that purposive like behaviour could in principle be the result of the chance co-incidence of multiple events with long term consequences, deterministic or otherwise.
MGL: What still mystifies me, however, is how I could acquire the concept of purpose if I cannot reduce it to fundamental and non-purposive features of my conscious behaviour. I don't dispute that my purposive behaviour could be reducible to non-purposive brain processes, but simply wonder how these could explain my sense of pursuing a goal.
Kuznetzova: I would suggest there are better frameworks which address all of these issues.
If there are, could you enlighten me further?
Kuznetzova wrote: We first realize that philosophy is a form of writing that is relegated to the Humanities Departments on campus. It is not a science. It is not an exercise that is engaged in by the military sector nor the industrial sectors of society. One of the primary motivations for philosophical writing, and in particular for epistemology is to really get down to the truth of the matter of reality. I would strongly propose here that really acting in a manner that is this focused on revealing the underlying basis of assumptions -- that if you take this seriously, and you don't play a circular semantic game on yourself and those around you -- eventually this exercise leads in a single direction. It eventually leads to de-humanization. A raw, directed form of epistemology in general has a de-humanizing effect on the philosopher.

And that is the rub. You have engaged with a humanities subject in a university which itself de-humanizes people. Depending on how long this discussion goes on in this thread, this issue will eventually have to be faced. In really deep corners of this subject, human values themselves have to be dissected. And in doing so, the very sacredness and worth of human life is brought under attack.
When you say a primary motive for philosophy is to really get down to the truth of the matter of reality, are you claiming that science does not have this motive?
Why should a focus on the underlying basis of assumptions ( about reality?) lead to de-humanization?
Why should the dissection (analysis?) of human values be considered an attack on the sacredness and worth of human life? Certainly philosophy questions our beliefs and values, but this does not necessarily lead to dismissing all beliefs and values. Why could it not result in the acquisition of better ones?

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by Kuznetzova » Wed Oct 23, 2013 11:20 pm

The Voice of Time wrote: uhm... whaaaaat?

As a young man he did not enter the military simply because he was born into the military, this was a time when warlords ruled most of the world and not politicians like today. He was born into a monarchy, son of a king of Macedonia. French wasn't invented when he lived, not even the French people "existed", they didn't migrate before more than half a thousand years later across Europe from Asia, the such-called "Frankish" people.

Graffiti existed but I have my doubts Alexander had much interest in it, among being lectured by Aristotle, joining his father in wars and building the greatest empire the ancient world would ever see, and which would shape the future of the world for ever.
Woops. I was thinking of Peter the Great.
Sorry for the mixup.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by The Voice of Time » Wed Oct 23, 2013 11:59 pm

Kuznetzova wrote:Woops. I was thinking of Peter the Great.
Sorry for the mixup.
Peter the Great was neither much knowledgeable in French as far as I know, and I have a hard time imagining he would be the kind to do graffiti. Peter the Great was Russian, the father of modern Russia I believe, if I don't remember wrong. I remember several things in reading about Russian history, and on the go I think I recall him being somewhat of a drunkard of a less civilized kind looking side-ways to peasants for company and shying away from the western European aristocracy of his court.

If I also don't remember wrong, he made several great achievements throughout his life. He founded or at least started the process of building the first science university in Russia (which was a real great achievement, the German mathematician Euler for instance moved there and was hugely productive throughout his life, he's considered one of the greatest mathematicians in history, I've been reading about him in a work on a prime number theory), he built the first mighty Russian navy and he defeated the Swedish Empire in the battle of Poltava effectively marking the slow decline of the Swedish Empire back into mainland Sweden (and later also the loss of Finland). I think also it was the battle of Poltava which gave him the tittle "Great" although I'm quite unsure about that, great because the Swedish king was seen as unbeatable on the battlefield, Sweden at its prime was a huge powerhouse in Europe, fielding a peasant army well endowed in weaponry and skill and with his own genius had been taking victory after victory.

Let me correct all the confusion, I think you are referring the Napoleon Bonaparte, the French revolutionary who turned Emperor and pretty much was close to taking all of mainland Europe and building the greatest empire the world would ever had known, had his campaign not been stopped at the battle of Waterloo.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by Kuznetzova » Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:09 am

MGL wrote:When you say a primary motive for philosophy is to really get down to the truth of the matter of reality, are you claiming that science does not have this motive?
Science has a motive to produce a theory that explains a body of evidence. Recently the science of molecular biochemistry is being folded into the theory of evolution by Natural Selection. The data from neuroscience is compounding by the decade. The facts from these sciences are both answering questions that only philosophers normally asked. Simultaneously this data is eroding the very foundation of the canon of western philosophy.
MGL wrote: Why should a focus on the underlying basis of assumptions ( about reality?) lead to de-humanization?
Why should the dissection (analysis?) of human values be considered an attack on the sacredness and worth of human life? Certainly philosophy questions our beliefs and values, but this does not necessarily lead to dismissing all beliefs and values. Why could it not result in the acquisition of better ones?
You are primarily drawn to philosophy because of a number of institutional assumptions and a collection of personality traits. You have a concern for human suffering. You believe the world can be made better through literacy and education. You feel like you can help people. You feel drawn to profess truths to those around you. The presumptions doing such will make them better people who would act more peaceably and generously towards one another. Real, raw truth of the human condition is not conducive to the underlying values of universities. These values are multiculturalism , praising Democracy, Affirming Life, Loving Peace, enhancing prosperity. Empowering others. Teaching. Professing truth to students, and reinforcing cultural values.

A professor holding a chair in a philosophy department would lose his job immediately if he began to promote violence as a means to achieve certain ends in the world. When faced with the gears of police and courts in his society he is to put a compliant face forward: "To save the world through reading books and grounding our knowledge!".

He could also lose his job in a slower manner if he adopted this framework: "I seek knowledge to keep to myself so that I can have power over other people. What pieces of knowledge I gain I will keep them secrets for my own aggrandizement. I train in the methods of lies and manipulation to dis-empower all those around me to weaken them and more easily defeat them." (Both forms of praxis above would be smiled upon by the military sector.)

A dissection of human values -- particular their neuronal, biological, and ultimately evolutionary basis shows them as provincial and related to the propagation of the person's genetic material. There are a number of lies perpetuated by the local culture in which the philosophy professor lives. He is not allowed to publish material that attacks or questions these underlying social values. One example already is the promotion of violence as a means to achieve ends and solve problems. Another example would be questioning the validity of democracy. The ultimate picture is not humanistic. Humans are a mammal migrated from eastern Africa that despite all the importance heaped upon themselves, are mere specks in relation to the size of the local galaxy in which the solar system is found. The universe has nothing to do with human beings at all, and we will have our time and eventually go extinct.

But in particular, the philosopher cannot question the very foundations of praxis that brought him to philosophy in the fist place. So he learns through the punishments and rewards of the institution how to play a well-spoken game of dishonesty.

Historically, philosophy itself used to be a central pillar in universities. (prior to "science" , there was "Natural Philosophy"). In contemporary times, it is very quickly becoming marginalized. They have already moved it to the humanities side of campus. It is in the humanities department, making it almost a form of rhetorical writing. The foundations lying at the bottom of this "form of writing" are born out of Descartes, and a cluster of europeans right after him (Berkeley, Hume, Locke). Those wigged men set down some rules of this "game" : We presume there is a floating disembodied mind that passively and innocently receives sense perceptions. These "sense perceptions" then form all the knowledge through rational deduction. Because of facts we have collected from the modern sciences, we know that this picture is completely wrong. And yet -- and yet! -- to engage in "philosophy" (in the academic sense) requires you un-waveringly pledge yourself to this "inerrant" axiomatic system. As that system begins to disagree and clash with the facts we measure from biology and neuroscience, "philosophy" gets pushed farther and farther into a marginal pocket on campus.

What is essentially happening here is the universities are housing and feeding a person on campus whose work would (dangerously) undercut the foundational reasons for having universities in the first place. Real, raw truth of the human condition is not conducive to the underlying values of universities. These values are multiculturalism , praising Democracy, Affirming Life, Loving Peace, enhancing prosperity. Empowering others. Teaching. Professing truth to students, and reinforcing cultural values.

I will expand on a more realistic epistemology below.
Last edited by Kuznetzova on Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by Kuznetzova » Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:11 am

The Voice of Time wrote: Let me correct all the confusion, I think you are referring the Napoleon Bonaparte, the French revolutionary who turned Emperor and pretty much was close to taking all of mainland Europe and building the greatest empire the world would ever had known, had his campaign not been stopped at the battle of Waterloo.
No. I'm talking about Peter the Great, the Tsar of Russia who began the imperial line.
He was russian, yes. He tried to write letters in French, but his French was mangled grammatically.
And yes, as a kid, he wrote something on a window-pane of a palace, which is still there today.

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Re: Epistemology defeats itself with its own premisese

Post by QMan » Thu Oct 24, 2013 5:36 am

Would you consider knowledge to be distinct from intellect? Is it possible to have a lot of knowledge but mediocre intellect or vice versa? What are the consequences?

Isn't knowledge simply rote learning of the 3 Rs until it finally sticks, the little apples, and they have to be there. But if you can't juggle them (intellect) what good is it? And do I care at all about the mechanics of the substrate by which this all happens. After all, when I get a job I will mostly get paid more for better juggling.

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