Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Bruce Project: Epistemologic Background (and Foreground)

You could call the Project "The Grand and Unified Theory of Bruce" Which is to say that it is about everything while in the bigger scheme of things about nothing. I mean 'Who is Bruce'? Well Bruce is a guy who has been reading and thinking about certain topics in philosophy and history starting from particular places and authors which latter include Wittgenstein, Whorf, Popper, Kuhn and Searle combined with some ideas on History as a discipline gained while I was preparing to be an academic historian from the mid 70's to the early 90's. I thought and think that all of this was interesting and also thought and think that my contributions to all of it were or could be interesting. If not necessary original. So if what follows seems derivative well then fine, because in my view all knowledge is derivative. Or in more high-falutin' terms: socially constructed. To the point that you could call the Bruce Project "The Social Construction of Reality: Linguistic, Political and Economic". But first let me start at the beginning:

Field and Ground
The basic problems of Epistemology can be stated as "How do we know what we know" or perhaps "Can we logically know anything". And the basic problem with this basic problem is that we (to the extent that we are justified in assuming any 'we') are launched into an infinite regress. "What do you mean by 'know'?" "For that matter what do you mean by 'mean'?" and "How do I know that there is any 'you' to start with? Maybe I am just wired up in a tank orbiting Jupiter. Or dreaming." And boom we (if that is 'meaningful') are off to the solipcistic races and trying to out-Cogito Descartes. Because stated like this we are like Archimedes with a potentially all powerful Lever but with no firm place to Stand.

And no I don't read or speak Greek. More below the fold.
So how do we find a starting point, a place to stand? We posit one. And in my case I am going to posit a starting point in fairly bog-standard Anglo-American high school science terms. As always feels free to elaborate - or mock - in Comments.

We start with an Object. An object is characterized as having Extension and Duration. Or in other words it exists in Four Dimensions. This object is not alone in four-dimensional space, there are other objects and also Forces. Which forces have names: Gravity, Momentum, Charge. There is also something called Radiation which has attributes called Frequency and Amplitude. As these forces operate we have other names that come into play like Heat and Pressure which can be depicted as either primary or secondary.

I am going to label this entirety of four dimensional space external to our Object as being the Field or Ground. And by invoking the concept of 'external' have also posited that our Object has a Boundary which is just another way of saying that its extensions have defined Limits.

What then is the relation between Object and Field? Well here is where certain difficulties creep in. Because in English at least we typically express this relation in terms of  'action' and derivatives thereof, that is we speak of objects and forces 'acting' or 'reacting' or 'interacting'. Which in turn introduces the underlying concept of Agent who or which is the Subject acting on our Object. This may be (and I will argue later that it IS) a byproduct of the fact that 'act' is not in origin an English noun but instead derived from the Latin 'ago, agere, egi, actum' whose root meaning is stated to be 'lead, drive, do' and so bring in the concept of  'Intentionality' which in this context doesn't necessarily invoke Consciousness but instead Direction and Outcome. In turn accomplished by an Agent/Subject acting on an Object. But what we have to (somewhat ironically) keep in mind is that our Agent/Subject in Acting on our Object with a resulting Outcome in an often predictable Direction doesn't necessarily involve any mental component. And the most obvious example of this is the language of Chemistry where acids act on metal objects and metal objects interact to acids in a chemical reaction without any necessary implication of a conscious agent at all. No one would think it odd to use the language of  'agent' 'action' in a lab as applied to unattended processes.

Alright so backing out of this linguistic maze we have our Object interacting with a Field of Forces that in turn are acting on or reacting to other Objects. And all at this point without invoking concepts of Mind or Knowledge. That is we have our Object, our Lever and our Place to Stand but as yet no Archimedes or even need for Archimedes. (Or the Hand of God either). Enough for this post.

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