Friday, August 31, 2012

The Meaning to Finding Meaning

I finished up my essay on Objectivism this past week, so I should have more time to blog. While finishing that essay, I took some time to reflect on what could have been Rand's point in writing dozens of books dedicated to portraying the "ideal man."

Theists constantly make the point that secularism implies purposelessness, but modern culture seems to sweep this away with the reply that individuals make their own meanings for living. I think this backfires on secularism.

Think about it. If men make their own reasons for living, what a sorry choice secularists have made. If Rand's worldview was correct, she has nothing to show for defending it. Most importantly, if secularism were true, truth itself would be overrated; I would have no non-arbitrary reason for accepting truth. Or, at least, I could have my own reasons, purposes, or created meanings for the selective acceptance of truth. I would only accept what I would want to be true - in other words, not secularism.

Maybe this selectivity would be self-defeating, but if secularism is true, so what? Does secularism imply some sort of obligation to defending truth? No.

So when you mention this to a secularist and the reply is condescension, just point out that his condescension follows from his and only his reason[s] for living. Since that secularist would agree - at least, he would if he were as "logical" as his condescension would imply - with the more fundamental principle that his reason for living is no less subjective than mine, he has no basis for refusing me my reasons for rejecting certain truths.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Knowledge and Metaphysics

It seems to me Scripturalists can sometimes be too quick to subordinate metaphysics to epistemology when they actually are interdependent disciplines. For instance, in Clark and His Critics (pg. 28), Clark wrote, "...before any type of metaphysics can be accepted, another and far more crucial question must be asked and answered... How do you know?"

But doesn't Clark's statement beg the question regarding the ontological nature of knowledge? What is knowledge? Of course, I could then ask how one "knows" what knowledge is, but this question too entails a certain view of knowledge on the part of the questioner.

I have written posts on preconditions for knowledge: logic, language, an omniscient and self-authenticating source, etc. But they are preconditions for a certain kind of knowledge, knowledge as propositional belief in which the possibility of error is precluded. But suppose someone says they reject that anyone can know in that sense. In fact, most people I discuss with say something like, "In the sense of your extreme, radical, Cartesian notion of knowledge, we can't know anything." And then they go on to provide a different definition of knowledge, not realizing that their denial of and substitute for knowledge as I have defined it both presuppose knowledge as I have defined it.

So you could say that I think philosophical knowledge is a precondition both for philosophical knowledge and a more colloquial understanding of knowledge. That is, in part, how I know what knowledge is. But again, I can explain how I know what knowledge is if and only if I also know what knowledge is. Knowing what knowledge is, though, requires that I have a metaphysical as well as epistemological position. It doesn't appear to be meaningful to say that one discipline is logically prior to another when at least some metaphysical questions and assertions regarding knowledge are as much preconditions for knowledge as are [some] epistemic questions and assertions.

This doesn't take away from the primacy of epistemology in philosophy, it simply adds metaphysics. Both are necessary; we must still explain how we know, but we also must explain what it is to know. One can't have an epistemic position without a metaphysical one nor a metaphysical position without an epistemic one.