an obession with first principles

Models of Knowing

Posted: Wednesday Jan 12th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Dialogue, Epistemology | View Comments

Over at Maxistentialism Max writes about the epistemological problem of observations, and our own models of the world. He doesn’t have comments, so I decided to respond here (Hi, Max). How do you know if what you believe about what you observe is actually true? We build up models of the world and map data onto them. Only when enough data (and we are conscious of it) doesn’t match are we free to redraw our model of the world we observe.

I claim that the only escape from this epistemological trap is science

I think he takes it as a blow to his claim that Stephen Hawking doesn’t think this is accomplishable. I don’t think it is either (Max, take a read of Personal Knowledge by Michael Polanyi, a chemist and philosopher who also doesn’t think it is possible). But what I find really funny is that St. Augustine in the 4th century pretty much came to the same conclusions regarding epistemology (I’d recommend St. Augustine’s Theory of Epistemology by Bubacz – you’re likely to only be able to find that in a good library.)


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