Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Exact Ignorance: What We Can't Know and What We Must UnKnow

For example, we can't know everything. That's a... well, we can't say "fact," because what's a fact? We're talking about a much deeper, a priori principle. Awareness of our epistemological lack -- the hole in our soul -- is something we must know. If we fail to know it, then catastrophes follow, every time. All of socialism, for example, is based on a delusional belief that one possesses knowledge which is literally impossible for any finite being to know.

Hayek was a "social scientist," and social science is thought to be -- and usually is -- softer and far less rigorous than science per se.

No one, for example, would say that something as malleable and flabby as psychology is more rigorous than neurology or neurobiology. As a psychologist, I always want to know what's going on medically before I begin speculating about psychological causes. There are levels of truth. As there are levels of ignorance; and there are healthy and pathological forms of ignorance.

However, there's another way of looking at it -- a meta-way -- in which social science can trump science. Such a meta-view isn't so much "exact" as ineluctable, or foundational, or truistic. For this reason, we can say that the highest wisdom always -- and by definition -- surpasses the highest knowledge (we'll leave unknowing to the side, but we'll return to it later).

Our house aphorist captures this perfectly: Properly speaking, the social sciences are not inexact sciences, but sciences of the inexact. Yes. But this doesn't mean there aren't bad and stupid sciences of the inexact! For example, most psychological theories aren't even worth the trouble it takes to refute them. 57 genders? Shrug.

As to wisdom transcending knowledge, Dávila understands exactly (heh) what we're talking about: that Without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know.

Boom. This applies now and forever. It is a home truth that we must know in order to avoid stupendous absurdities, collapses, and other adamantine fallies. Come to think of it, to not know this is to immediately lapse into epistemological fall-acy. The moment you imagine you know what can't by definition be known, that is what we might call a lower form of stupidity (just as non-knowing can be a higher form of knowledge).

Hayek emphasizes the principle that reason is bounded. When it proceeds as if it is unbounded, then it becomes irrational, precisely (heh heh).

“Irrationalist” is shouted at the reason that does not keep quiet about the vices of rationalism. But the Raccoon shouts "irrationalist!" at the reason that is ignorant of its limits.

While searching for the exact aphorism several paragraphs above (about science failing to know what it doesn't know), I bumped into so many other relevant ones that they may well hijack this post. But don't worry. I promise you'll leave the Cosmos wiser and more ignorant than when you entered it.

I want to revert to one of our oldest and most foundational gags, which is to say, that quality can never be reduced to quantity; nor, for the same reason, can subject be reduced to object, semantics to syntax, exterior to interior. Conversely,

To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions. Do you see why? You had better see why, at least if you care about knowledge and about our cosmic situation more generally. For The doctrines that explain the higher by means of the lower are appendices of a magician’s rule book.

Also, as understood by anyone with a rudimentary acquaintance with philosophy of science, Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current. Such theses are indeed current, but current does not mean forever.

Forever knowledge is found only in revelation, metaphysics, theology, intellection, and infused contemplation, or it is not found. Or, you can pretend to have found it. Thus, to be exact, A fool is he who thinks that what he knows is without mystery.

However, Whoever has understood a notion from the natural sciences has understood what everyone can understand; whoever has understood a notion from the social sciences has understood what only he can understand.

There are certain "qualifications" for understanding a science. There are other qualifications for the scientist to understand the nature of science. The science of science is not a science, just as the philosophy of mathematics is not a number. Unless the number is One, which transcends and undergirds the very concept of number, or unity. At any rate, unity is a prerequisite of math, not a conclusion.

Here's a curious and seemingly paradoxical one, but this entire post goes to why it is Forever True: In order to perceive the stupidity of someone who deals with a subject, it is not always necessary to know the subject.

The average biologist, for example, might well know more about natural selection than I do. But the moment he imagines natural selection is a sufficient explanation for the human person is the moment I know more than he does about the subject.

Not the details, of course, only the whole freaking point of the details. If you imagine the details suffice, that's like the part trying to account for the whole. It is wholly irrational. It is what I call a lunar O-clipse, which is to say, the obscuring of reality by idiots. For He who understands the least is he who insists on understanding more than what can be understood.

Again, levels of knowledge, levels of ignorance:

The senile sclerosis of intelligence does not consist in the inability to change ideas, but in the inability to change the level for those that we have.

And

Erudition has three grades: the erudition of him who knows what an encyclopedia says, the erudition of him who writes what an encyclopedia says, and the erudition of him who knows what an encyclopedia does not know how to say.

Finally,

It is enough to know nothing more than that certain beings have adopted an idea to know that it is false. From CNN to The View to the Creepy Porn Lawyer.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Despite all the warnings, neoliberism did at the end of the day, ship millions of jobs and technology overseas with no hope of ever returning. Despite all the warnings, neoconservatism did at the end of the day, create highly expensive and destructive wars with no hope of ever ending. Yet their supplicants still feud "the other side".

Obama ran as “hope and change” yet takes in serious cash from Wall Street. John Boehner ran as antidrug family values yet takes in serious cash from marijuana companies.

Van’s best conservative buddy Jim Hoft is openly gay and Jesus does his best earthly work through obviously rotten people. With so much confusion around, maybe the way to figure out who the bad guys really are is to just follow the money, and the power.

But oh noes lookit over there! Liberals want gay gulags! Conservatives want Pottersville! I doubt those who instigate this mindless citizenry feuding care the slightest about either side, any of you, as long as they get theirs. Keep on wasting energy fighting “the other side”. Your children will love you for it.

Van Harvey said...

"As to wisdom transcending knowledge, Dávila understands exactly (heh) what we're talking about: that Without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know.

Boom."

That is One nice Boom!

Gagdad Bob said...

They don't know what they know, let alone what they do not and cannot know!

These expressions sound cute, and maybe they are, but they're also true.

Gagdad Bob said...

Exactly true.

Olden Ears said...

It is enough to know nothing more than that certain beings have adopted an idea to know that it is false. From CNN to The View to the Creepy Porn Lawyer.

Kind of like why I ultimately decided to vote for Trump: he upset the right people.

Gagdad Bob said...

Exactly. If it reduces satan to frenzied wailing, you might be on to something.

julie said...

They don't know what they know, let alone what they do not and cannot know!

To grasp that requires a degree of humility they refuse to accept.