Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Judge, May I Approach the Truth?

First of all, let me apologize for yesterday's title. It was an act of desperation. It was, in my opinion, my second-worst title. The worst was No Fair, N'est Pas? which was way too obscure. It should have been "No Fairness, Pa?", leaving the bilingual version as the hidden meaning. And even then, it was not that good. I

Second, I hope I have not been too dense in trying to understand Ernie. I believe that after reading Brothers, Can Youse Paradigm? earlier today that we are making some progress. Tonight I will try to summarize what I think Ernie is saying, and hopefully that will set the stage for continuing.

My concerns have been focused around two major areas. First, that including Community as a critical element of knowledge might lay the groundwork for self-deception, wherein someone can claim to know something because some community has validated it. Second, that the relationship between epistemology and ethics seemed tangled, such that we could claim knowledge that something is true if that "knowledge" would lead to morally virtuous actions.

I suggested that we should split epistemic virtues from other virtues, and let the epistemic virtues shape our epistemology, and let our epistemology and subsequent knowledge constrain our other ethics. While Ernie did not say it quite the same way, I think, perhaps, that he agrees with this.

Ernie described his belief-justifying paradigm this way:

II. Knowledge approaches truth via honest, collaborative inquiry

This statement helps me understand the role that he has for community. First, the statement implicitly affirms a single truth (set of truths), so that we avoid the epistemic relativism that Levitt was complaining about. Second, the involvement of community is in the context of honest inquiry. Honest inquiry more or less requires critical examination of our claims to knowledge. Involving communities that are critical of our claims helps us to do that.

Another way of looking at this is to stress the term "approaches". Since we never arrive, we need to continue to inquire collaboratively with larger and more inclusive communities in order to continue to make progress.

In theory, I still have some vague misgivings about the criticality of community to an epistemology. In practice, I agree that the role community plays is effectively necessary, given our other limitations. So if the understanding that I have just demonstrated accurately reflects Ernie's intent, I am comfortable moving forward.


Dr. Ernie said...

Yes, Truth is Absolute, Knowledge is Relative. An important distinction, I agree. I also left out one point yesterday, which I added in an Update:

III. More accurate knowledge enables more accurate predictions

Hopefully that addresses the last open issue, so we can move forward.

Did you want to try to propose an alternate epistemology that does not rely on community?

Alan Lund said...

Thanks for the clarification, as we certainly needed to get back to that somewhere. As for an epistemology that does not rely on community, I think we can proceed. If something comes up later that I find troublesome, we can revisit it, but I do not see any practical problems, so long as it remains in the context of the rest of the framework.