Just a quick idea here–

Can one consider epistemology without inevitably arriving at some ontological conundrum, and/or vice-versa?

The two ‘branches’ of philosophy have their own characteristics, but it would seem that they are bound intellectually. To consider what we know, and how/why we know, we must consider the nature (being, existence, etc.) of what we believe to know. At the same time, in considering our nature, being, or existence, we must also consider what/how we know of that nature and why we consider that knowledge “truth”.

I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, are the two commonly considered kin-folk or do you think they need not overlap?

Can the two ‘branches’ be considered independent from one another? Should they be?

Or are epistemology and ontology totally gay for each other? :wink:

They’re not only gay for each other, but they’re both at this point aging queens of philosophy. They are protosciences. They become less relevant as science progresses. They still hang out at metaphysical bars and rationalist resorts, but who goes there any more? They’re hanging out in San Francisco while all the cool kids are in Austin and Asheville.

Haha, nice description of your conclusion Faust :wink:

Geez Faust, that’s just ageist, pure and simple! They’re certainly more experienced than the Science(s), and might for all that have some magic left in them yet…

In any case, I actually prefer Ontoepistemology (on-toe-pissed-`em-all-loggy), or the study of self-lubricating one’s lower digits. It at once keeps the Ground moist and allows one to aim True.

What can i tell you, Mags - I saw a metaphor and ran with it.

Oughtie - I hear it helps with athlete’s foot, as well.

I would actually say science progresses toward the crux of this distinction - now that the limits to ontology are seen to be bound to perspective. The observer influencing the observation, for whichever technical reasons physicists run into this problem, is epistemology coming to the doorstep of ontology.

Knowledge should be approached on both roads - one empirical (ontological) and the other (epistemology) questions the nature of empirical knowledge. Where these two roads meet is at the intersection of knowledge and knower - at a knowledge of the mind.

They are, but there is a master/slave dynamic at work.

Where is there a philosophy-free science? Even scientists have an ontology or epistemology. How could they judge something to be “knowledge” without agreeing on what counts as “knowledge”?

As scientists, scientists don’t have to get involved with ontological or epistemic problems any more than I have to know the axioms of mathematics in order to balance my checkbook.

You do have to know a number of mathematical axioms in order to balance your checkbook.

Similarly, a scientist, if pressed, will have to give some epistemological account of what it is that he is doing. That is why the epistemology of science so interested men like Karl Popper and Thomas Samuel Kuhn in the 20th century.

How nice, but you forget the fact that even mathematics still don’t have their foundations on solid ground. Axioms themselves by definition are not proven but taken for granted. And this begs the question.

You can’t just erase the problems.

One can always dissect A anything they like and have a formal philosophical discussion, but it all falls apart when we ask who’s knowledge ?, who’s truth ? from what perspective? We can agree generally, but never in any exactness and that is where the wheels fall off the ontological and epistemic wagon. Take either to their logical conclusion and you end up exactly where you started.

This is why we learned how to make alcohol and drugs. :unamused:

Ben -

We learn arithmetic by rote. I didn’t know the axioms of mathematics until I was in my 20’s. I did manage to balance my checkbook before that. Mysterious a priori knowledge?


IW -

Only if you think epistemology is important. The foundations of mathematics is as solid as they are going to get. Perhaps not so with science - but we are both being circular - the difference is that this doesn’t trouble me, and it does seem to trouble you. We can do science without certainty. It’s just science that lacks certainty, in that grand metaphysical sense. But so what? We’re talking about scientists, not gods.

Of course the rational people abandoned the belief in infalliable knowledge… but there is something called ‘scientific knowledge’ which by definition implies an epistemology. And I think all knowledge deserves rational criticism, which can come from philosophy.

I don’t agree with your claim that the foundations of math is as solid as it looks. They’re still looking into that.

And they always will be. It’s what we (some of us) do. But I can still balance my checkbook.

Well, I have looked into this, my whole life, and I have seen very little of this kind of criticism that proves useful. While epistemologists are trying to find out why science works, science keeps producing a bunch of useful technology. Hume didn’t change science, nor did Kant, Hegel, Popper or Kuhn.

Philosophers are good at describing - in a specific way - of describing the basic assumptions behind ideas. That’s what philosophers do. But nothing that a philosopher has “invented”, like an epistemology, has ever amounted to anything, scientifically. Politically, yes. Morally, yes. But not scientifically. There is a difference between applied science and the philosophy of science.

The one place where philosophy and science intersect is logic. But logic has nothing to do with epistemology - rationalists have been trying to make this connection for centuries, and everyone who continues to try to do so is not just rational, but a rationalist. There is a difference between those two, as well.

Haha! Excellent. I was hoping someone would run with it, well done my friend.

Do you think they become less relevant because science is picking up the slack and answering questions that we thought impossible before, or less relevant insofar as the practices are almost seen as futile?

Even still, I think I would consider the ‘branches’ in themselves an important distinction in philosophy and science, I suppose. Even if for no other reason than to lead us to conclusions regarding the limits of our knowledge.

This is along the lines of what I was thinking as well. We are learning more about the fundamentals of object reality, so we can theorize when a little perspective is mixed in. In theorizing as such, we discover how we go about knowing what we know, and how we determine what is known – development of a theory, or hypothesis, then essentially issuing a challenge to perspective (ex. What perspective reasoning can prove this wrong?).

Well said. Do you think knowledge of the mind can ever be realized in its totality? It seems that both ‘branches’ of philosophy can really only go so far before hitting a wall, beyond which exists only speculation.

In many places it would seem. There do exist scientists who consider these philosophic questions in their work and become heavily influenced by them. However, I think science has also become largely objective in that perspectives are considered absolute, even though they are almost certainly not, for the sake of experimentation and discovery. Some things have to be assumed in order to speculate and speculation needs experimentation to become knowledge.

So, for instance, you have scientists trying to build a bomb. They don’t need to know the nature of the materials, or reactions, that compose the bomb beyond the assertion that they do exist, or such reactions do take place under certain conditions. Knowledge of the physical being, or reality, of the bomb is assumed, as is knowledge that we “know” a bomb is a bomb.

Correct me if I’m on another tangent here Faust…

Statik -

I think that’s part of it. More broadly, there is much more separation between science, religion and philosophy than there was. In Classical times, science was just beginning to get a foundation. This started with mathematics, such as with Pythagoras. Aristotle, with his syllogistic logic, made strides. But even as late as the Enlightenment, science was thought to have religious goals. That’s not so much the case, anymore. There are no Renaissance men anymore, because scientists have to be much more specialised. Science has just grown that much. The economic importance of, say, the Catholic Church has waned, and secular Universities have gotten stronger. And in order to compete, even Catholic schools have begun to “look the other way” insofar as their science departments are concerned. And philosophy has largely abandoned epistemology as a basis for morality, since Nietzsche, Russell and Ayer. Rawls’ attempt tried to circumvent the most problematic Kantian elements in Social Contract Theory. He went half-assed, but it was “progress”.

Other trends have hastened this process. Attempts at showing induction to be something like a valid way to “infer” have been made - this is as much a reflection of trends in scientific thinking as it is an influence on them. In general, probability has gained in prominence. This is antithetical to a “religious” way of thinking, but even Creationists have tried to play this game.

In all, the game is the same, but the styles of play are subject to fashion.

Bottom line? To get to the bottom of any epistemology, look at the morality that it supports. As morality becomes less popular for philosophers, so does epistemology. And vice-versa.

The real action in epistemology now is in rationalism, not with a strictly “scientific” bent, but with a mathematical one. Ever since Frege and Russell, this has been the name of the game, epistemically. Frege, Rusell, Moore, Carnap - they have called this tune - some of these men are entirely underrated. Nietzsche is that nagging doubt about certainty in the background, but the logical analysts and their offspring have set the tone in many ways - and set down the latest Great Divide in philosophy. Which is why Wittgenstein is still so current - he’s a little like Russell, only a lot cooler. All this set the tone for philosophy from about the sixties until now - notably the “ordinary language” school. This movement has been no friend to epistemology, as it concentrates, as I do, not on saying what it is that we know, but on knowing what it is that we are saying.

Faust -

So you were able to solve multiplication problems only if you had previously memorized them on your times tables, and were unable to apply the principles to solve new problems?

What new problems?

But yes, as far as I know, everyone learns multiplication tables by rote. There are proofs for them, of course, but I didn’t even know what a proof was until algebra.

Meaning, if you had memorized 2 x 2 = 4, but not 3 x 3 = 9, and you were faced with that problem, would you not have been able to use procedural reasoning to arrive at the value of 9?

Meaning simply that I didn’t know the axioms of mathematics when I was in third grade.

Reasoning, “procedural” or otherwise, is not the axioms of mathematics.