It is already readily apparent that the academic philosophy and science of my adulthood bears an increasingly untenable resemblance to the myths, fables, and religion that fueled my childhood experiences. So why not choose a new lens for making sense of all this non sense as well?

2011.12.21

“The main difference between science and religion, we were told in school, is that religion is founded on a dogma that is absolute and immutable because it stems from divine revelation, whereas science is tentative because it develops theories that are always open to refutation by new findings or novel experiments. Scientists, therefore, are supposed to be open-minded and to welcome the solution of stubborn problems, even if the new solutions entail a change of thinking and the demise of concepts that seemed well established in the past.

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A look at the history of scientific ideas, quickly shows that scientists do not always live up to this ideal open-mindedness. The concepts and methods they grew up with frequently seem to be as unshakable as any matter of religious faith, and the perpetrators of innovation tend to be treated as heretics. This happened to Darwin and his theory of evolution, to Einstein when he first published the theory of relativity, and it happened to Alfred Wegener when he suggested the idea of continental drift. In these spectacular instances the break with tradition advocated by the new theory was unmistakable and, consequently, triggered violent indignation on the part of those who were anxious to maintain the familiar established dogma. The new theories won out eventually, because they enabled scientists to do things they had not been able to do before and to cover a larger area of experience with fewer assumptions.

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In philosophy, the pattern has been different, especially with regard to the problems of epistemology, i.e. those concerning knowledge, its origin and its “truth”. These problems remain unchanged and unsolved, and they have troubled Western philosophy for more than 2500 years. It is an historical fact that some of the pre-Socratics, the philosophers who wrote before Plato’s reports of the Socratic dialogues, had already seen the basic epistemological cruz. It source can be found in two presuppositions that have always seemed natural and inevitable:

a) that a fully structured world exists independently of any experiencing or knowing human subject;

b) that the human subject has the task of finding out what the “real” world and its structure are like.

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These assumptions inevitably lead to a paradox. Whatever a human subject perceives or conceives is necessarily the result of that human subject’s ways and means of perceiving and conceiving.”

-Ernst Von Glaserfeld, Aspects of Radical Constructivism: 1996.

Related Reading:

http://www.vonglasersfeld.com/132

http://www.vonglasersfeld.com/191

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