Paradigmatic Base

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 244)


We now turn to some examples of the quest for simple and immediate ideas, judgements, or what have you, that would be secure in themselves while providing enough to support a system of knowledge. It is necessary to remember that such a paradigm will work only if some strict conditions are satisfied: (a) The basic item as conceived must be totally independent. Should the awareness of its actuality presuppose knowledge of some other actuality it could not produce the base of the possibility of knowledge since it would require support itself. (b) The idea in question must be epistemically simple, but something e.g. ontologically simple may well fail this test. (c) The idea must be immediately graspable, that is it must be possible for it to be grasped in the absence of anything else. In principle the idea should be capable of being the only idea in existence. I am talking here of the epistemic paradigm, while what we might call the linguistic paradigm might be less demanding, it cannot replace the epistemic one.


Common Sense Sense Data Epistemic Situation Paradigmatic Base Empirical Object 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Clearly knowledge differs in this respect from e.g. motivation. Motivation would be intelligibly a motivation even were it to operate entirely in the subconscious, for it still could be directing our actions.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    H.D. Lewis named a book after his objection here “Clarity Is Not Enough” (Lewis, 1963). The lead article in it by H.H. Price (1945) also bears that very title.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Perhaps this is harsh on Moore, but e.g. Russell (1914) in “Our Knowledge Of The External World” held such a view unmistakably.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For Moore we need to identify a truth that we know and understand with complete clarity. I mention truth advisedly, for his position is perhaps most plausible construed in this way. A true fact cannot be misleading in itself. But if we have such a paradigm how can that immediately known fact stand in a misleading relation to the very and only way in which we can express it immediately?Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Legniewski, I suspect, based his logic on some similar insight. He held that antinomies cannot arise if we simply identify objects their sets, and collections. To abandon this parameter is, according to him, to invite: abstractions, generalisations, analytic questions, etc., that results in a host of difficulties. It is of course utopian to believe that we can do this easily.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Moore himself talks of typical unproblematic expressions that we all understand, the language seems to fit my alternative perspective, but whilst his examples are of fully articulate judgements (and a bit complex to boot), this takes the theory out of the very basic level to the next one of simplest articulation, where, if I am right, we cannot find any appropriate paradigms. Our contact with the world is via impressions, whole perceptions are complexes of impressions, and can be described by listing the impression-elements that compose them. Yet the moment we start doing this we leave the realm of immediately presented epistemic wholes, and attempt something more sophisticated. Sense data are the creation of this more sophisticated search. But it has to be remembered that this search presupposes the less sophisticated awareness of objects. In forgetting this Moore falsifies his quest for “the very type of unambiguous expression that we all understand”. Not all of us understand the results of the analytic procedure, and none of us understands it with immediacy. This is the realm of metaphysics where the search for the relation between perception and its object is at home. Moore’s cannot legitimately go there since he is searching for the fulcrum that would make this very enterprise possible.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Formerly the fashion was reductionism; we strove for instance to replace all statements about states with statements about individuals; statements about love were translated without residue into statement about people loving other people, etc. Ayer and Ryle do not replace faulty expressions with strings of acceptable expressions, they eliminate them altogether — the idea is similar but it has been radicalised. The original analyst noticed that his “translations” are inadequate. Vide e.g. sense-data, there is a dimension gap between objects and sensations that thwarts attempts at saying that objects are logical constructs out of sense-data. Yet the radical ’Elimination Reduction’ does not avoid stormy waters, and again the requirements of a paradigm are the basic stumbling block.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    This whole question will be taken up at greater length in Chapter 8.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ryle denies this because of the difficulties of the analysis of expressions concerned with the mind. Analysis means here an attempt at providing ourselves with a completely clear and unambiguous picture of the epistemic situation, and one free of paradoxes, contradictions, and unjustified propositions. The main difficulty seems to relate to the fact that we do not at all perceive our mind. Yet it should be noted that this situation exists vis à vis any putative substance. should we assume that only direct `perception’ of something is a correct reason for accepting its viability we would direct ourselves to denying the existence of the mind, and of the other `substances’. By rights if we deny one of them on such grounds we should deny all — a result to gladden the heart of any sceptic. This attitude fosters other attempts e.g.: Reductionism, ordinary and eliminating; Verification Principle; Materialism; Idealism; etc. Basically the move consists in ascribing real sense only to expressions of the type that we select. All other expressions appear then as logical constructs out of that set of privileged expressions, or as nothing.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Spinoza (1951) not only noticed this fact but made it the basis of his system. But Spinoza tended to understand the point ontologically. It is true that the perspective of “is understood through itself” looks epistemological, but this is misleading, the “is in itself” ontological perspective dominates the system. The epistemic parameter would actually fit best his idea of an attribute, but is less apt vis à vis substance. At any rate, since these parameters are seen as equivalent, and actuality is the key note, the inference is clear.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations