Sunday, April 12, 2015

Is Empiricism Self-Refuting

Bill Vallicella thinks that Bertrand Russell has a good argument to this effect.


John Moore said...

There's a difference between self-refuting and non-self-justifying.

Are there any self-justifying systems? Maybe every theory ultimately depends on some basic foundational assumption. And maybe that's perfectly OK.

im-skeptical said...

Thank you Victor, for posting something that is worth discussing.

Actually, Vallicella disagrees that empiricism is self-refuting. (That's what his article says.) Russell has rightly pointed out a philosophical problem with the epistemology of empiricism. But as we all know, he was a staunch empiricist. I don't think he believed that it was wrong to be an empiricist. In fact, all kinds of epistemology have their problems, and empiricism is the least problematic.

oozzielionel said...

*All knowledge derives from sense experience.*

"All" knowledge requires qualification. There are categories of knowledge that derive from mechanisms such as intuition, retrospection, logic, etc.

"Knowledge" requires definition. Sensory experience results in sensory information. There is a process that converts this into what we commonly perceive as knowledge. There is a complex process that converts sensory information into useful information. Knowledge connotes accuracy, but sensory experience is notoriously inaccurate. The types and sources of knowledge derive from different sources.

"Derives from" gives too much wiggle room. It could be used to include all non-empirical processes by virtue of the information being included in auditory or visual communication. However, this is secondary dissemination, not source.

"Experience" seems purposely undefined. You would expect "perception" here to identify information coming through the five senses. "Experience" could be used to add emotive, relational, and even mental processes that actually remove the source from the strictly empirical.

im-skeptical said...

Intuition. This is nothing more than thinking at a subconscious level. It can be a powerful means of processing the information we have available to us, or it can lead us down the wrong path. See this.

Retrospection. This is just reviewing what we have already experienced. We can think about something from our past and derive new insights, but without the past experience, there's nothing to be retrospective about.

Logic. This is the process of manipulating information to arrive at new conclusions about it. Logic does not create new information. A computer can perform flawless logical calculations, but as they say, "Garbage in - garbage out."

What serves as the input to our logical processes? The things we already know. What do we have to be retrospective about? The things we have experienced in the past. What forms the basis of our intuition? Information that already exists in our brains. And where do all these bits of knowledge and information come from? From what we have experienced through out senses.