Pre-Conditions of Knowledge 2

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


In the last chapter we said that ‘object’ or, ‘subject-matter’ cannot be conceived of in the absence of the objective/subjective distinction. We clearly need objectivity, and then objects to be able to move beyond the parameter of the mere relative qualitative richness of the present moment of consciousness. Restricted to that dimension our universum would be too impoverished to allow articulation and thought. Should we then try to think of some paradigmatic idea we would need to understand how this is possible. Our early attempts at specifying the austerity of genuine pre-conditions of knowledge might now appear not to have been radical enough. This might seem surprising, for the natural reaction to what was then suggested might easily have been that it went too far in the other direction.


Infinite Regress Epistemic Situation Epistemic System Logical Potentiality Vicious Regress 
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  1. 1.
    I have some suspicion that Kant developed his regulative limits vis à vis these concepts, and this distinction in their relation to the concept of object (in general). There is a Leitmotiff in the Critique that could be interpreted as selecting those principles as regulative that make the working of the concept of object possible. Whether I am right about Kant or not it is clearly possible to pursue such a line of thought.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    That is a favourite of F.H. Bradley’s in Appearance and Reality Chapters I—III (1897). Bradley says, and it would appear aptly, that we cannot make sense of the possibility of knowledge unless we make sense of the nature of relations, Our specific problem is that neither the relation, nor its termini can appear as paradigmatic ideas, for in view of their essential interdependence neither can be sufficiently self-guaranteeing. This stresses that we could not accept a package deal as a paradigmatic idea. A fortiori we are debarred from seeing: the awareness of the relation, both termini, and the principle of interdependence, as paradigmatically basic. So even if we could leave the question of immediacy alone we still reach an impasse.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    su stands here for subject, R for relation, and ob for object. They represent the relation between subject and object rather than merely the distinction between them, a relation we should say is more than just a distinction for any relation involves a distinction, but a distinction as such does not imply any particular relation, unless one were to talk of a relation of difference, but this is infelicitous.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    When Heidegger talks of ‘Dasein’ (Heidegger, 1962/78) he specifies the subject’s own existence as immediately present where the subject is concerned. It then becomes clear why the acceptance of one’s own existence is ostensibly indefeasible.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    This is hardly intelligible, how do we broach the gap between ontological and epistemic? D.M. Armstrong tried this rather strenuously, but not very convincingly ( Armstrong, 1968 ). It would be tedious to enter that debate, fortunately we have another proposal to consider.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    I admit that words such as ‘know’ and ‘aware’ are somewhat atavistic in this use, but their use does avoid unsavoury linguistic contortions.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Let me say carefully that the points being raised here will apply as long as categories such as ‘simple’ are applicable. When we descend into the incomplete the situation changes radically in ways indicated above.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Kant’s schemata very implausibly echo categories. This creates a clear dissonance in the system, and provides an unconvincing account of what was characterised as a “blind, but necessary power”. The dissonance is between two incompatible roles categories are forced into, one as a type of sensitivity, the other as epistemic processing. Such a dissonance must be avoided for it aborts the functional intelligibility of schemata (cousins of paradigmatic idea-matrices). These paradigms are functionally related only on the articulate side. In order to avoid arguing, or supposing from ignorance that is where we had to start. We are again brought to our method of paring articulate ideas down to non-individual incomplete idea-matrices. This has the great merit that the relation between the paradigmatic matrix, and the resultant full idea is specified even if indirectly, thus supplying understanding.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    I can just about make that attempt. But then only by putting the termini out of my mind, which involves a much wider, and more complex overall situation. Still once that is done the contrast itself is almost thinkable in its own right. But then to what extent is this the product of abstraction? An extremely foxing question but I would state that abstraction is unavoidable as the base of such a move, and therefore the move prima facie loses legitimacy. I am not trying to find some articulate awareness of e.g. ‘contrast’ that is not the product of abstraction, I am forced to admit that it depends on abstraction. I am but trying to identify a state of consciousness that might contain an awareness of `contrast’ without the awareness of the possible termini. But this alas is not a possible paradigm, for we are not concerned with what we are aware of as a part of the situation, but with what is a part of the situation.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    This is significant, and philosophers were not always sufficiently clear on this point. For instance Hume (1738) thought that the relation of causality was what made reasoning possible. In that he did identify an important point; we do need a dynamic relation in order to think processes. According to him static relations like co-existence permit no movement of thought, ergo no reasoning. But Hume’s picture is either too flat or too incomplete. It is too flat if it assumes that thought, and articulation are tantamount to dynamic “reasoning”. Can’t we think of something as static? We can envisage something static of course, but our thought is nevertheless a process. Hume is right that we must pay attention to the fact that we need to operate a dynamic relation in order to think. We are involved in a process of thinking whenever we think of anything, but this is not to say we ipso facto need to think a dynamic relation, simply because our process of thought is not as such the object of that thought. That process may very well be subject to law-like regularities, but these are out of cadenza, vividly meta. This is enough to enable us to think, and possibly think something static without utilising dynamic ideas. Hume misses this subtlety, it is apparent on our present interpretation. His account would be incomplete if he simply gave an account of how we can think in processes, and disregarded the whole area of thinking static situations. It is a pleasure to leave the textual problem to Hume scholars. But it is well to comment about the status of causality as a relation. We suggested above that the ontological organisation is not ordered in terms of relations, and that the relations are mental functors, perhaps necessarily so. It could be thought that when we think about the world some of these encode some ontological interdependencies, that we then tend to name after epistemic relations. If so Hume is unaware of it, and is prey to what Kant would regard as pre-critical thinking regarding a concept operating in different parameters, as if there was only one parameter to consider.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    John Locke (1924), Chapters 2–4 wrestles with innate ideas in a sophisticated yet simplistic way. Typically, for him nothing is an innate idea because nothing is present in our mind at the required level. Little reflection will show that the problem is created by his refusal to admit that potentialities, qua potentialities, inclusive of logical potentialities can be efficacious while not being part of our awareness. Should we emulate him our present problems too become insoluble. The opposition between ostensive immediacy and complexity aborts all attempts at rescue. We have seen that this problem can be taken a step below articulate awareness as well. Now when we abandon this type of Lockean embargo and adopt our latest result the problem disappears.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    This is quite a significant result, for if we try to define the differences between: Empiricism; Rationalism; Relativism; etc. on the other levels, they assume spuriously direct importance, and significance. Kant pointed out the difficulties with that on the articulate level, for him the level of phenomena, but it is clear by now that there are serious difficulties on the paradigmatic level as well.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MelbourneAustralia

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