Foundations.

What is primary or foundational in the project of human knowledge - what is its ground? Is it experience? Is it reason? Is it something else?

It seems to me that reason is subject always to the content of experience in order to motivate it, supply it with data, verify it, and so on.
But experience is itself, in turn, subject always to the verification of either reason, or the conjecture (that is, either the reason or the experience) of others.

Modifying Kant, we can say that reason without experience is empty and experience without reason is blind.

So how do we get the project of human knowing off the ground? Is it just by fiat?

This may not be helpful but my first reaction to the OP is that our Foundation is in the muddled middle. By the time we are mulling over epistemological issues we have already had a lot of experiences, many of them not by choice - as Children certainly - and been subjected to (or kindly informed if you like) various ways of reasoning and also told what is good reasoning, and generally been encouraged or forced to affirm that we know these are in fact examples of good reasoning and correct conclusions. Our minds are full. So the ground is what to do from this full mind. It is never an option to begin from nothing with pure empiricism, whatever that would be. Or pure rationalism, whatever that would be. How do we Clean house, get the new furniture we want, learn how to reject salesmen whose household Products and more importantly services we do not want are the Foundation. I realize I may not be disagreeing with anything even implicit in the OP, but I find that many discussions give the impression we can choose to be pure empiricists who are not in any way rationalists and less often members of the counter-pure Group. And also that one can rather easily decide to choose one’s Foundation- and generally people act like they did this already in some binary choice way and the others are kooky.

To me the Foundation is a muddled mix of a whole lot of different methodologies on top of an unconscious that is also muddled and has the Power to make one experience the Surface muddle as organized and consistent when it is not, and to not notice when one is using the methodologies of the enemies, pardon me, of those one disagrees with philosophically.

If it seems like this is a counterproductive post for your purposes, just let me know and I’ll follow your line and respond more precisely to that, whatever it turns out to be.

One must sometimes start off the ground to be off the ground. This is one of those situations. An empty mind is naught but a rock – and no matter what you try to teach a rock, it will stay on the ground. Your mind must start out (or be forcibly made) not_empty in order to ever be not_empty.

We are born with pre-installed wiring to analyse sensory data and, using that data, create models that make sense for predicting future sensory data. We don’t start out from scratch - we start out off the ground, in terms of knowledge, for that is the only way we could ever be off the ground.

Oh, I’m glad you said this. I meant to include it explicitly. We are already in motion with óur assumptions, not standing to the side choosing epistemologies/methodologies from a menu. Not just full, but in motion.

Ah, a partial rationalist. And I agree. We are born with what could be called a set of primate assumptions about how to learn, how to form gestalts, to focus on mom’s face, to copy her…as a couple of important examples a stage more complex than what our senses already know or assume when we are born.

Yeah, I’m with you two. Thanks for the responses. Admittedly, I was trying to be sort of provocative. I thought this sort of thread might spark an interesting argument between realists and idealists, or between hardcore rationalists and hardcore empiricists. I think, to be clear, that all we can have is a sort of constructive realism, and not an actual correspondence of knowledge to world. By constructive realism, I mean that we’re not just speculating freely; the world is there to constrain us. Try treating a watermelon like a car and this should be clear enough. And yet, the way we learn to cope with the world is still defined by the strictures of the sorts of animals we are, with the sort of evolutionary trajectory that we have. So we build an image of the world that, while wholly ours, seems to map at least somewhat usefully onto the world itself. We construct a realism.

And yes, we do start always somewhere in the middle. One can never really begin, as it were, at the beginning. But we can still ask after the foundations of our practices, the conditions of their possibility. Which isn’t to suggest that those foundations are themselves starting points, only that they, in some sense, underwrite the practices in which we’re enmeshed.

As for the question of the ground, it seems like you’re both quite content to say either that we operate on a groundless ground, from a middle point without a foundation, or that the question is not itself worth asking to begin with. Is that right?

I don’t think we can operate on groundless ground. Maybe if you sit in a cave for 20 years meditating on your breathing, but even then, I doubt it. If you 'had it I am not sure you would then operate. I mean, why? I think the middle point is our foundation, though the term means something a little different. I do think that the question is worth asking. And I think there may be some use in mulling over the issue, as seems fairly common to me, as if we are not embodied and in the middle of a life, but frankly I am a bit skeptical. So for me the most useful discussion is how to deal with epistemologically waking up to being in the middle of a life with a bunch of tools (methodologies, beliefs). What does one do? MOstly likely of course one will think that one of the tools is the best one - perhaps even not noticing one forms, and continues to form even after waking, beliefs using other tools. In any case it seems like people choose their best tool - which raises a kind of meta-epistemological issue or meta process issue - how does one choose well. IOW, for example, a lot of empiricists might choose some form of empiricism as their best tool on their gut sense that this is best tool. And ironic as that might be, I think we are a bit trapped in such inconsistancies. And starting somewhere is a start and you have to start. (if you want to or think there is a need to)

Is it ok to be eclectic?
Does it work or is it consistant to start with some gut feeling apriori - some kind of rationalist or intuitivist beginning
and then use these assumptions as a first run testing of the mush of beliefs and tools?
Is it possible to be a purist?
What are the implications of the different answers to these questions?

For me the actual concrete struggle is more interesting then ‘testing epistemologies in verbal arguments or in mental films’ which is a tool and a potentially useful one, but I think wresting these issues out of my focus - the single mind dealing with his or her situation right now and how to improve - it is less grounded.

It begins with the concept of “that which has affect”, Affectance.
Why bother with anything that knowingly has no affect?

From there, it is largely just logic and mathematics.

It seems like you’re just begging the question. Do you determine “affectance” (perhaps what Spinoza, Bergson, Deleuze, and now a veritable factory of cultural studies after them already call “affectivity,” or do you distinguish your concept from this well known one in some other way?) experientially, or do you do it by means of reason? Of course, the answer is probably: both. But, surely, you can see why that’s troubling, at least given the question of foundations.

Well, the claim that “the middle point is our foundation” sounds to me like “our foundation is a foundationless one,” or, in other words: a groundless ground—which is all just to say that claiming an entangled middle is well and good, but it does not a primordial ground make (the way, say, the primacy of experience does for the classical phenomenologists, or the way rationality does for someone like Hegel). I’m with you, by the way, but let’s call a spade a spade: starting in the middle with a devil’s brew of cognitive capacities, perceptual tools, nervous systemic receptivity, a language that is not ours, a history of thought that precedes us, and so on, without reducing this entanglement down to a fundamental starting point (the way, for instance, Descartes does with his cogito) makes us thinkers of the groundless ground; which is, again, just to say that taking as a ground a middle-point that is itself ungrounded, that does not itself “touch the world” in any veritably concretizable way, does not suffice to found the human endeavour, or, if it does, it only does so to the extent that it is unfounded.

No. I don’t see it as “troubling”.
If anything has affect (meaning that it can change anything), then it exists and thus might be of interest.
It is a rational declaration of definition for existence.

If you are going to have a foundation for your understanding (your ontology), then don’t you think it wise to at least define what it means “to exist”? What better foundation could one have?

Right, but affect is divined experientially, by means of a bodily encounter. The definition or declaration that “to exist is to affect” is a rational one meant to map onto the experience. That experience is, however, corroborated, in turn, by reason—one typically doubts that a creak in a floorboard represents an intruder without further proof, unless the induction is a rational one (perhaps there’ve been numerous break-ins in the neighbourhood, and perhaps your floorboards have never before creaked without the presence of a person). That’s the circle: you want to found the rational point of origin for your ontology experientially (by means of a declaration or description or theory of what does and doesn’t affect), but experience is itself legitimated by the rationality it is supposed to found! And so too if one wishes to start the other way around, laying down a foundation of reason in order to build upon it an edifice whose materials are garnered from experience.

I’m not sure you’re taking my point. I’ll try a little thought experiment. Do you see what is wrong with defining what it means “to exist” as “to speak English”? What is it that makes it a bad starting point? Hopefully you’re able to figure my point out from there on your own.

Did you forget the “…and then it is logic and mathematics”?
No mind can function at all void of logic. But logic must be applied to something. Affectance is a something that is relevant to the mind and body. What else is there to think about? Things that have no affect whatsoever?

I suspect that you are misunderstanding what I am saying.

One doesn’t say, “I felt an affect", therefore something exists”.
One says, “the definition of to exist is to have affect and it seemed that something had an affect, thus it is worth investigating to see if it really exists (really has affect or was merely imagined)”.

Sorry for being too stupid, but I am certainly not seeing your point, although I suspect it to be a common invalid point to be making.

Do you mean “logic” in the colloquial, or in the normative reasoning sense of the term?

Well, that’s certainly a definition; the question, of course, is why you’d found an epistemology on that definition. The answer brings us back to my original post: it seems to make experiential sense. And, surely, you don’t need me to reiterate again the speciousness of founding reason with experience.

It’s okay. I’ll take things slowly. Why don’t you spell out your answer to my thought experiment. Tedious as it may be, I think it may help us move forward.

I meant it in the strict philosophical sense of “A is A”, “whatever is, is whatever is”, the “Law of Identity”.
The other laws are merely correlatives to that one.

I thought that would have been clear enough, but;

The real point is number 4; why bother with anything else?

I do think the term has shifted meaning. I shifted it, that is. But I’ll quibble even here and say that it is not foundationless but rather complex. I find a variety of things going on. And I seem to validate them at different times, though sometimes in seeming the same situations. To be Whitmanesque: I am multitudes. Though, to grant the correctness of what you are saying more specifically, it is more like a starting Point than a Foundation.

(if you are using groundless ground in a technical sense let me know. I keep thinking of Western interpretations of Eastern religions and I would guess it is a term from Western phil. I have forgotten or never knew). OK, but to me Descartes ended up treating grammar as a Foundation without saying that. And that’s a devil’s brew if I ever thought of one. He was certainly claiming to have gone down to the Foundation and I am not claiming that, really. And that is a difference. We can criticize him for not doing it or say he managed to. I am putting us in a more ad hoc situation as a starting Point. Though I would say to do anything else is to hallucinate. Do I justify that on empirical grounds or rationalist ones? a combination? Kind of a gut feeling.

I would not say it does not touch the World. In fact I Think I woke up, in the sense I used this Before, in touch with the World, and also out of touch.

Is it experienced affect, thus some form of empiricism (and which one)?
Deduced affect, possibly some form of rationalism or combination, and which one?
Where is the individual in this ground? How are they determining affectance? And how do they know when they are right?
What are the steps?
You mention logic and math, after it has been determined something affects and therefore is. This seems late in the game
or perhaps it is an extreme rationalism.

No. It “starts” by defining what it means to exist, not by choosing what does or doesn’t exist.
And the rational definition for “Existing” is “having affect”.

I certainly see something useless about defining existence in that way, yes. What would be the point in such a definition.

So this is Before experiencing things affecting things. One comes up with the definition first.
Not that this was my Point exactly, but it’s a related one.

Isn’t it kind of pointless to think about what exists, if you don’t even know what it means to exist?
Yes, you define what it means to exist, before you start claiming that things exist.

And that is your foundation for what is to be later decided to exist.

I don’t Think you responded to what I wrote here.
You are saying that your first step is to define what it is to exist.
I asked you if this step was Before experiencing things affecting things.
I am presuming that you made that definition in later childhood, at the earliest. I could be wrong, let me know.
But if I am correct, you made this definition after many experiences. Experiences that were considered things affecting other things.
So Before that first step we have you, growing up, being told about causation, taking in ideas - some you consider true now, quite likely, others you consider not true, and also a lot of experience.
At a certain stage you decided to begin something, one could say ‘more formally’, and began working out things that became your current system.
I would guess that this process entailed working with certain assumptions you already had about what you had experienced - and what logic is, also - and using some kind of though experiments, even if these were at a rather abstract level. Also something led you decide to tackle the issue. Another step. Could have been a feeling, a conclusion, a search for a tool for something specific, etc.
In all this we definitely have empirical elements (steps) and it is also possible there are rationalist ones.
That’s what I was getting at. My other posts in this thread, not directed at you, might fill in more of the context of where I am coming from.

You aren’t getting it.
It doesn’t matter WHY I think that such is a foundational starting point unless you have some reason for deducing that there is a better one. Your notion that the only things that a person can think came from something else and thus are irrelevant, is a bit silly.

The idea could have been spoken 10,000 years ago or perhaps not again for another 1000 years. The truth of it doesn’t change. A concept is a concept. You can call it anything you like. You can be an alien from outer space. You can be an artificial life form. It doesn’t matter. Concepts do not care about what anyone was thinking before the concept came along, how old they are, what language they spoke, what religion their parents were. The concept either fits its use, or it doesn’t. End of story.