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Re: [ontolog-forum] what is a proposition?

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 26 May 2007 09:28:28 -0400
Message-id: <465835FC.1030804@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ingvar and Kathy,    (01)

I have some sympathy with both of you, but I'd like to restate
the issues in a somewhat different way.    (02)

The branches of philosophy labeled 'ontology', 'epistemology',
and 'philosophy of science' are respectable academic fields,
in which a lot of good work has been published.  There are
newer, but still respectable fields, such as philosophy of
language, philosophy of logic, philosophy of law, etc.    (03)

Academic boundaries are useful in promoting methodologies for
analyzing a subject.  That can be very productive -- at the
beginning.  But after a few decades, the methodologies tend to
create barriers that can become counterproductive.    (04)

IJ> You seem to be using the term "study epistemology" in quite
 > another sense than I am.  To me it means to study a certain
 > part of philosophy, but to you it seems to mean what empirical
 > scientists have been doing throughout the ages.    (05)

That's an example of what I believe is a terrible barrier --
a separation of science from the methods by which ordinary
people come to know and believe anything.  On this issue
I agree with Peirce, who considered the methods of science
to be a disciplined extension of ordinary common sense.    (06)

IJ> However, in my opinion, "the quest for truth" should remain
 > as living a goal as it was in the times when it was linked
 > to the view that knowledge can be certain.    (07)

I agree.  The view that knowledge can be certain was a horrible
innovation.  It was not present in Socrates, but Plato tried to
save mathematics.  Aristotle was more empirical, but the cynics
and skeptics of antiquity were extremely critical of both P. and A.
whenever they tried to make positive claims.    (08)

I blame Descartes for some of the worst sins of philosophy, but
he was trying to save philosophy from a wave of skepticism caused
by a Latin translation of Sextus Empiricus, which was popularized
by Montaigne.  But in the process, Descartes introduced his even
more corrosive methodology of universal doubt.  Then Hume came
along to bring everything into doubt.    (09)

Kant tried to rescue science from Hume, but his goal of absolute
certainty inspired many people who rejected his methods and his
claims.  Much of epistemology still suffers from Descartes's
polarization between absolute certainty and absolute doubt.
As late as 1981, Michael Dummet criticized "vagueness" as
"an unmitigated defect of natural language."    (010)

One of my favorite quotations is from Whitehead's _Adventures of Ideas_:    (011)

    Systems, scientific and philosophic, come and go.  Each method
    of limited understanding is at length exhausted.  In its prime
    each system is a triumphant success:  in its decay it is an
    obstructive nuisance.    (012)

One reason why I like cognitive science is that it breaks down all
the boundaries (although many of its practitioners have built new
ones, which are already becoming obstructive nuisances).    (013)

John    (014)

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