Saturday, February 4, 2012

A few basic philosophical assertions that I hold...

I take it to be the case that:

1) There are absolutes (epistemological, ethical, or otherwise) which can be believed to be true.

However, 2) these beliefs cannot be determined to be true by any rational, empirical, common-sense, or practical argument.

3) At best, we can only have pragmatically agreed upon beliefs, or beliefs which seem factually consistent enough to count as knowledge, or existentially grounded beliefs which supersede the means of analyzation mentioned above in 2.

Thus, 4) I am not a relativist. I can perhaps be called a skeptic, at least in epistemological terms. But I am not a relativist in any sense other than a weak form of cultural relativism, to which I assume everyone would adhere: different groups of people develop different views of the world, and it is not always clear which of those views is the most consistent and counts as knowledge.

However, 5) I would say that no human knowledge can be properly called 'Truth' (with a capital T), inasmuch as human beings are not in a position to make such claims, due to our limitations. This, however, does not impinge upon our ability to make statements about a great deal of the world, and what takes place in it, that count as knowledge, and are therefore called 'facts'.

But, 6) I would hesitate to say, as some philosophers do, that such a view is banal or unhelpful. I think that there is a great deal of importance and interest in recognizing our limitations —- epistemological and otherwise -— since it is only by clarifying our abilities and intentions as human beings that we can properly relate to the world. For how can one be certain that one is acting rationally, or ethically, if one has not taken into account one's own limitations and how that might impact the view one has of the world?

Finally, 7) it is within this recognition of human limitation that I believe a connection to the transcendent or supernatural may best be discovered. This is certainly not a proof, but it seems reasonable to suggest that it is only when we are most fully cognizant of what we do not know that we are also most open to that which supersedes knowledge. This is not a claim about how God may or may not interact with the world; it is a claim about a posture of human beings that is best suited to recognizing God.

Perhaps these are unsatisfactory assumptions... if you think that, keep in mind they are still being formulated. But I welcome your responses.


RC said...

Hey, Geoff, interesting words. If we are concerned about what we know and how we know it, it would seem to make sense that we have to recognize, as you do in this piece, the limitations of our capabilities. Certainly, many folks make absolute claims (unsurprisingly, these folks often have books to sell or seats to fill) but I think/hope the vast majority of us understand that our knowledge and the tools we use to mine it are limited. I suppose where I deviate from you is in the way you plug in the transcendent or supernatural. Why does it make sense that we could discover something supernatural when we can't full understand our natural world? I follow you and agree that our limitations should lead us to a posture of humility but I'm just not following you regarding the supernatural.

Geoff said...

Hey Roy, if you notice what I said was that a 'posture of humility', to use your words, is the appropriate way to be receptive to the transcendent. It's not a proof that there is a God. But it seems reasonable to conclude that if there is a God, coming to God with an attitude of 'the forms of knowledge that I have are sufficient for me to figure this out' is probably not the best starting point. That's what I'm trying to say.