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on critical epistemology

© Wim van den Dungen

"... science is apparently increasingly able to construct and reconstruct itself in response to problem challenges by providing solutions to the problem ..."
Knorr-Cetina : The Manifacture of Knowledge, 1981, p.11.

this text forms a triad with :

Behaviours : On Critical Ethics
Sensations : On Critical Esthetics



I : Transcendental Logic :

A. The dyad of formal thought.
B. The fact of reason.
C. The groundless ground of knowledge.

II : Theoretical Epistemology :

01. The normative solution.
02. The object of knowledge.
03. The subject of knowledge.
04. Categories (mind) & ideas (reason).
05. Idealistic & realistic transgressions.
06. Regulations towards unity & expansion.
07. Correspondence versus consensus.
08. The coherency-theory of truth.
09. On methodology.
10. The fundamental norms of knowledge.
11. The scientific status of a theory.
12. Metaphysics and science.
13. Language and the criteria of discourse.

III : Applied Epistemology :

14. The practice of knowledge.
15. Methodological "as if"-thinking.
16. Practical communication.
17. Judgments a posteriori.
18. Optimalisations.
19. Producing facts.
20. The opportunistic logic of knowledge-production.

Suggested Reading


The various parts of the equiaeon-system* are assisted by a critical epistemology. Earlier, its tenets were extensively published in Dutch (Prolegomena, 1994 & Kennis, 1995), whereas an English summary was proposed as a set of Rules of the Game of True Knowing (1999). An application of these rules in the field of hermeneutics also saw the light (Kennis en Minne-mystiek, 1994).

In order to develop an ontology, a more rigorous explicitation of this theory and practice of knowledge is necessary. This is the aim of the present text, which recapitulates and develops the epistemological distinctions recently proposed in Does the Divine exist ? (2005), a prolegomena to a natural religious philosophy.

The foundational approach of knowledge (stating that "true" knowledge is rooted in a sufficient ground) is relinquished. True knowledge is terministic, fallible and probabilistic. No ontology is able to ground knowledge outside itself. This does not necessarily lead to universal relativism or skepticism, both avoided.

Indeed, to produce knowledge which we, for the time being, may consider paradigmatic, two perspectives are used simultaneously : correspondence with objective reality (experimentation) and an overall consensus between all sign-interpreters (discourse). Scientific knowledge is the product of both. They are the "natural" result of the
concordia discors of thought, the armed truce between subject and object of all possible thought and the groundless ground of all possible knowledge. The two possible reductions of this "essential tension" (Kuhn), to wit : metaphysical realism & metaphysical idealism, are curtailed.

Metaphysics is deemed a discipline accommodating a total, arguable picture of the world, assisted by the facts produced by science. Its nature is not scientific but speculative, its results are not factual but heuristic, its method is not experimental but argumentative.

These critical ideas, establishing new borders, are "clearings" in the muddy, confused and dark epistemo-ontological forests of the past and aim to avoid the recurrent infestation of epistemology by contemporary materialism and various ideologies (like humanism and spiritualism). They make the mind aware of its limitations and of its longing after the unconditional and the eternalizing.

For preliminaries read : Prolegomena (1994), Kennis (1995), Rules (1999)


§ 1

This introduction serves to highlight a few remarkable historical landmarks in the field of epistemology, the philosophical study of knowledge, its possibility and expansion.

Briefly discussing these examples paves the way for the critical approach (not skeptical, nor dogmatic) fostered in the main body of this work piece, called in as an epistemological preamble to a possible ontology.

The choice of what is an outstanding achievement in this domain is subjective insofar the author was touched by the exemplaric excellence made present by certain texts. But, these options also cover objective ground, because at each station, our understanding of knowledge grows.

This effort is flanked by an essay on the existence of the Divine, concluding in favour of an immanent, conserving cause of the universe (as in Late Stoic materialist "logos" metaphysics).

On the one hand, strong reliance on a critical epistemology brings the natural limitations of knowledge to the fore and so delimits the scope of what there is to be known. The outcome will be an immanent stance, one staying within the borders of a possible knowledge. So immanence will be at the core of this natural philosophy, however not without reference to the transcendent, both as a regulative limit-concept (a construct) and an objective infinity (or absolute absoluteness).

On the other hand, making the onto-categorial scheme explicit, shows how the proposed naturalism is in accord with a view on consciousness, information and matter, and this based on contemporary sciences like physics, biology and psychology. The options demanded by the scheme give shape to a metaphysical research program at work in the background. By making its tenets clear beforehand, our naturalism operates without implicit untestable propositions. Being conscious of them in an explicit way, may avoid their subreptive infiltration in the domain of science proper (i.e. as part of empirico-formal propositions, which are arguable and testable).

Both investigations prepare the philosophical study of nature. Calling this effort "ecstatic" implies (a) the discovery of traces of the transcendent within the immanent order and (b) the acknowledgment of the creativity of nature, the urge of all things to become and develop into greater complexities and this while introducing novelty. This disclosure will not be prompted by any metaphysical axiomatics (incorporating such ecstasy a priori, either out of choice or by adherence to a creed), nor by a theory of knowledge accommodating ontology (endorsing realism or idealism as the constitutive ideas of the possibility of knowledge). These unsuccessful strategies proved to be vain, leading to "perversa ratio", to quote Kant. Indeed, the critical instrument sought, will be indebted to nominalism and critical thought. However, although largely constructivist, it thinks thought as an unfolding process, of which formal thought is not a priori in conflict with ante-rationality and meta-rationality, nor does it denies the importance of both in a multi-dimensional concept of rationality. The latter is in accord with the author's definition of philosophy.

Philosophy or love of wisdom, is a multi-dimensional, comprehensive, cognitive answer to this call rooted in our bio-psychological & spiritual evolution, to knowingly push limits, transcend limitations, producing more complex, refined & subtle states of consciousness, information and matter. This answer is rational, dialogal, open, critical, personal and seeks the unconditional. Philosophy allows recurrent & multiple transferences between, on the one hand, reason and intuition or meta-reason, and, on the other hand, reason and instinct or ante-reason. It is open to the wonderous, ineffable, luminous, spontaneous & meaningful.

In the course of this intro, salient epistemological perspectives put forward by the examples, are highlighted in tables.

§ 2

Thinking is of all cultures, as are imagination and speculation. But the solidification of the philosophical approach of thought by thought in well-formed glyphs or signs (like signals, icons and symbols) is rather rare. Oral traditions exist, but their historical authenticity cannot be ascertained, except by testimony. Without signs, imposing a definitive form upon matter and so leaving a meaningful trace, thought does not in effect leave the mythical, neither does it initiate history, a traceable community of sign-interpreters. Even if a scribal tradition is installed, one needs strong media to ensure historical continuity. If texts are carved into stone, they are likely to survive better than when recorded on very perishable materials, like wood or clay. Although the latter have the advantage of facilitating the speed with which signs can be recorded, they nevertheless are less sustainable over long periods of time. To keep them for posterity, they need to be copied again and again ...

Philosophical cultures become possible when a society has reached the stage of a leisure-economy, implying that a small elite, close to the ruling powers, no longer has to work for a living. This upper class is made free to exclusively perform an intellectual task. Moreover, to accommodate the formation of schools of thought, an explicit desire to transmit speculative information must be present in the cultures at large. This implies a classical language, a scribal tradition, an educational method, specific buildings, copyists, etc. And these are costly investments for any society, let be those of Antiquity. In a historical sense, these philosophical schools become "real" insofar original texts or reliable testimony are extant.

In Antiquity, speculative thought was never divorced from religious and ceremonial considerations. In the East, the Vedas (ca. 1900 BCE) and their commentaries, the Upanishads (starting ca. 700 BCE), record the musings of the enlightened seers of India, as well as their Brahmin rituals. But these texts were recorded on lasting media much later, and their originals are lost. Were did the first speculative scribal tradition make solid history ?

"Along with the Sumerians, the Egyptians deliver our earliest -though by no means primitive- evidence of human thought. It is thus appropriate to characterize Egyptian thought as the beginning of philosophy. As far back as the third millennium B.C., the Egyptians were concerned with questions that return in later European philosophy and that remain unanswered even today - questions about being and nonbeing, about the meaning of death, about the nature of the cosmos and man, about the essence of time, about the basis of human society and the legitimation of power."
Hornung, 1992, p.13, my italics.

Indeed, in the Middle East, Ancient Egyptian culture, because of its long and outstanding scribal tradition, brought together a number of remarkable
characteristics. The latter influenced Western civilization, notably the pre-Socratic Greeks, a fact our history books have yet to come to grips with :

  • the words of god and the love of writing : it should be emphasized, that in Ancient Egypt, both spoken and written words were deemed very important : hieroglyphs were "divine words", a gift of the god Thoth, endowed with magical properties, "set apart" and distinguished from everyday language and writing (namely Hieratic and later Demotic). They were protected against decay, either by underground tombs, exceptional climatic conditions or by carving them into hard stone. Pharaoh Unis (ca. 2378 - 2348 BCE), to assure his ascension and subsequent arrival in heaven, was the first to decorated his tomb with hieroglyphs, the so-called Pyramid Texts. So even if the offerings to his double (or "ka") would end, the hieroglyphs -hidden in the total obscurity of the tomb- contained enough "inner" power (or "sekhem") to assure Wenis' felicity ad perpetuam ... In its iconicity, Egyptian civilization was quite unique in the Mediterranean. But, although producing a vast literary corpus, Egyptian culture never acquired the rational mode of cognition. Its attachment to the contextual and the local (provincial), as well as the special pictorial nature of the "sacred script", all point to highly iconic, rather "African" ante-rational mentality ;

  • accomplished discourse : the fundamental categories of Egyptian wisdom were "heart/tongue/heart" insofar as theo-cosmology, logoism and magic were at hand and "hearing/listening/hearing" in moral, anthropological, didactical and political matters. The first category reflected the excellence of the active and outer (the father), the second the perfection of the passive and inner (the son). The active polarity was linked with Pharaoh's "Great Speech", which was an "authoritative utterance" ("Hu") and a "creative command" based on "understanding" ("Sia"), which no counter-force could stop ("Heka").

    "The tongue of this Pharaoh is the pilot in charge of the Bark of Righteousness and Truth !"
    Pyramid Texts, utterance 539 (§ 1306).

    The passive polarity was nursed by the intimacy of the teacher/pupil relationship, based on the subtle and far-reaching encounters of excellent discourse with a perfected hearing, i.e. true listening. The "locus" of Egyptian wisdom was this intimacy. Although Pharaoh was also called "wise", the sapiental discourses alone name their (possible) author and restrict their reference to the Divine by using the expression "the god" ("ntr") in the singular. Wisdom ("saa") was always linked with a "niche" defined by the vignettes of life the sage wished to impart as good examples to confer his wisdom to posterity.

    "No one is born wise."
    Maxims of Ptahhotep - line 33

    The wisdom teachings are parables helpful to understand how, in all circumstances, the wise balanced Maat and made the social order endure by serving "the great house" ("pr aA" or Pharaoh), being at peace with himself and "the god".
    This sapiental tradition is not a fixed canon, and undergoes several transformations ;

  • truth and the plummet of the balance : in Middle Egyptian, the word "maat" ("mAat") is used for "truth" and "justice" (in Arabic, "Al-Haq", is both "truth" and "real").

    Truth is an equilibrium (a bringing together hand in hand with a keeping apart), measurable as the state of affairs given by the image, form or representation of the balance :

    "Pay attention to the decision of truth and the plummet of the balance, according to its stance."

    Papyrus of Ani
    18th Dynasty
    Chapter 30B - plate 3

    This exhortation by Anubis, the Opener of the Ways, summarizes the Egyptian practice of wisdom and pursuit of justice & truth. By it, their "practical method of truth" springs to the fore : serenity, concentration, observation, quantification (analysis, spatiotemporal flow, measurements) & recording (fixating), with the sole purpose of rebalancing, reequilibrating & correcting concrete states of affairs, using the plumb-line of the various equilibria in which these actual aggregates of events are dynamically -scale-wise- involved.

    This causes (a) Maat to be done for them and their environments and (b) the proper "Ka", or vital energy, at peace with itself, to flow between all parts of creation (truth and justice are personified as the daughter of Re, equivalent with the Greek Themis, daughter of Zeus - cf. "maati" as the Greek "dike").

    The "logic" behind the operation of the balance involves four rules : 

    1. inversion : when a concept is introduced, its opposite is also invoked (the two scale of the balance) ;

    2. asymmetry : flow is the outcome of inequality (the feather-scale of the balance is a priori correct) ;

    3. reciprocity : the two sides of everything interact and are interdependent (the beam of the balance) ;

    4. multiplicity-in-oneness : the possibilities between every pair are measured by one standard (the plummet).

Although these speculations were embedded in religious thought, an independent sapiental tradition existed. In the Old Kingdom (ca. 2670 - 2205 BCE), the scribes were talented individuals around the divine king and his family. By the Middle Kingdom (ca. 1938 - 1759 BCE), a scribal class emerged. These exceptional thinkers produced the masterpieces of classical Egyptian literature. They were attached to a special building in the temple precinct, the so-called "per ankh" or "House of Life" (in El Amarna, the "House of Life" abuts upon "the place of the correspondence of Pharaoh" - Gardiner, 1938).

§ 3

In the Early New Kingdom (ca. 1539 - 1292 BCE), Late Ramesside Memphite theology and philosophy (ca. 1188 - 1075 BCE), was dedicated to Ptah, the god of craftsmen and the patron deity of Memphis. This theological move balanced the Theban hegemony of the "king of the gods", Amun-Re. Memphis was allegedly founded by a divine king, who, for the first time around ca. 3000 BCE, if not a little earlier, united the Two Lands, i.e. Upper (South) and Lower (North) Egypt.

These first kings were the "shemsu Hor", the "followers of Horus" ("Hor" means "he upon high"). Their names were written within a rectangular frame, at the bottom of which is a recessed paneling (like on false doors). On top of this "serekh" or palace facade, was perched the falcon of Horus, hence the appellation "Horus-name".

The Horus-falcon symbolized the overseeing qualities of the king present in his palace, representing a transcendent and uniting principle. This bird of prey glides high up in the sky on the hot air and with a watchful eye overlooks its large territory, soaring down on its prey at a 100 miles per hour, combining speed with endurance ...

In the Old Kingdom, Memphis had been the capital of Egypt and throughout Egypt's long Pharaonic history (ca. 3000 - 30 BCE), it remained the city where the divine king was crowned. In the Late Period (664 - 30 BCE), the priests of Memphis were renowned for their scholarship and wisdom (in his Timaeus, Plato lauds the nearby priests of Sais, worshipping the goddess Neith). Indeed, Egypt's sapiental tradition was born in the milieu of scribes and priests.

In Memphis, these thinkers envisioned the process of acquiring knowledge as follows :

"The sight of the eyes, the hearing of the ears, and the breathing of air through the nose, these transmit to the mind, which brings forth every decision. Indeed, the tongue thence repeats what is in front of the mind. Thus was given birth to all the gods. His (Ptah's) Ennead was completed. Lo, every word of the god (Ptah) came into being through the thoughts in the mind & the command by the tongue."
Memphis Theology, lines 56-57.

ante-rational reflection, by the intellectual elite of Memphis, on the origin of knowledge, is part of the Memphis Theology, a text carved ca. 700 BCE on the Shabaka Stone exhibited at the British Museum. It goes back to a lost original composed between ca. 1291 and 1075 BCE, if not earlier.

We read how the events recorded by the sense of hearing and the sense of sight in the living, breathing body are brought up to the mind (or "heart" = ). The notion of moving upwards is suggested by the determinative of the double stairway ( / 041), leading to a high place. This elevated place is nothing less than the realm of the divine mind of Ptah, to which all possible impressions ascend.

The two phases of the empirico-noetic process (registering and deciding) are put forward. This happens in the context of an affirmation of the theo-noetic origin of everything. Indeed, the passage is part of a cosmogony, explaining how every thing came into being by the divine words uttered by Ptah. Every law of nature (the "netjeru" or deities) and everything these laws operate, is conceived in the divine mind and spoken by the divine tongue. Nothing comes into existence without them.

Although the Aristotelian distinction between the passive and the active intellect is absent as such (for no formal, abstract concept has yet been established), it is clear our authors are aware of the registering faculty of the mind and know that after registering, the mind produces "every decision", i.e. works to solve problems. These ideas stand before rationality (ante-rational), because, as is general in Egyptian thought, they do not fix the mind in terms of categorial, formal rationality (initiated by the Greeks). As will be explained later, ante-rational thought covers the first three stages of human cognition, namely mythical, pre-rational and proto-rational thought.

The activity of Ptah's divine mind is all-comprehensive. His law (thought and spoken) is also moral :

"Thus all the witnessing faculties were made and all qualities determined, they that make all foods and all provisions, through this word. {Justice} is done to him who does what is loved, {and punishment} to him who does what is hated. Thus life is given to the peaceful and death is given to the criminal. Thus all labor, all crafts, the action of the arms, the motion of the legs, the movements of all the limbs, according to this command which is devised by the mind and comes forth by the tongue and creates the performance of everything."
Memphis Theology, lines 57-58.

This remarkable theology does not contemplate a realm of "pure" thought outside of the operations, contextual limitations, conditionings or determinations of physical reality (a world of ideas, a Greek "nous"). Instead of working with a clear-cut division between object and subject, both are understood as emerging and co-existing with (not transcending) the context in which they happen. No formal distinction between facts and so no decontextualized "theoria" (or contemplation) of events.

The description thus necessarily lacks formal abstraction. So there is no Greek Being, Logos, idea of the Good, First Intellect or Divine mind ("logos"), considered to be radically independent from and different than the world of the senses and action (in logic, "formal" means independent of contents). In Egyptian thought, the "word" only exists when it is spoken ! Like idea and reality, mind and speech are simultaneous.

In Memphite thought, the impact of mind and speech on both ontology and epistemology is made clear in ante-rational terms. On the one hand, this is an idealism avant la lettre, i.e. a proposal in which the creative and constructivist power of thought and its articulation are put forward. To conceive something, is to create structures which determine reality. This ontological idealism is pre-Platonic and cosmogonic, but exemplifies the importance of (divine) cogitation, both in terms of understanding (Sia) and authoritative utterance (Hu). On the other hand, it also underlines, in realistic fashion, the importance of perception, for the senses bring their information before the mind and the latter decides. As usual in Egyptian thought, a multiplicity of approaches is summoned. Hence, the concordia discors of thought is already made explicit, albeit in a proto-rational discourse.

§ 4

The Greek miracle did not fall out of the sky. By the end of the Dark Age (ca. 1100 - 750 BCE), the Greek cultural form had already acquired persistent "Aryan", Indo-European characteristics of its own. Although mythical, they were outstanding enough to leave their archeological traces.

The Greek mentality had been around before the collapse of the Pax Minoica (in ca. 1530 BCE, the Thera volcano on Santorini erupted), and at least emerged at the beginning of the Mycenæan Age (ca. 1600 - 1100 BCE). These Mycenæans were Helladic warlords entertaining an active commercial economy (based on indirect consumption) and a high level of mostly imported craftsmanship. They had "tholos" burials, with their dome shaped burial-chambers. Their palaces followed the architectural style of Crete, although their structure was more straightforward and simple.

Their Linear B texts reveal the names of certain gods of the later Greek pantheon : Hera, Poseidon, Zeus, Ares & perhaps Dionysius. There are no extant theological treatises, hymns or short texts on ritual objects (as was the case in Crete). Their impressive tombs indicate their funerary cult was more developed than the Minoan, and in the course of their history, outstanding features ensued. Despite the Dorian devastations and their obliterating and repressing effects, these persisted :

  • linearization : "Mycenæan megaron", "geometrical designs", mathematical form, peripteros ;

  • anthropocentrism : warrior leaders, individual aristocrats, poets, "sophoi" and teachers ;

  • fixed vowels : the categories of the "real" sound are written down & transmitted ;

  • dialogal mentality : the Archaic Greeks enjoyed talking, writing & discussing ;

  • undogmatic religion : the Archaic Greeks had no sacred books and hence no dogmatic orthodoxy ;

  • cultural affirmation : the Archaic Greeks were a "young" people who needed to affirm their identity ;

  • cultural approbation & improvement : the Archaic Greeks accepted to be taught and were eager to learn.

The Egyptian sage never relinquished the religious. The divine was a given and speculative thought at all times an expression of the deity. Although deep, remarkable and vitalizing, Egyptian philosophy remained contextualized and defined by a "milieu" it could not escape. Exceptional individuals, like Akhenaten, may have had access to formal thought. The Ramesside Hymns to Amun and the Memphis Theology also testify to this. Although more than one aspect of Egyptian thought, like the virtual adverb clause and its pan-en-theist henotheism, may assists speculative naturalism, no systematic approach of wisdom ever gained ground.

The Indo-European mentality of the Archaic Greeks differed from the African tradition (of which Egyptian thought was the best example). Between ca. 750 and 600 BCE, we find the crystallization of their city-states and the rise in power of the non-aristocrats, allying themselves with frustrated noble families and putting the hereditary principle under pressure. The two main leitmotivs of this age are discovery (literal and figural) and the process of settlement & codification. In some towns, a leisure-economy ensued, and with it, the free time to speculate.

The influence of Egyptian thought on Thales of Milete (ca. 652 - 545 BCE) and Pythagoras of Samos (ca. 580 BCE - 500) has been studied elsewhere.

Despite these and many other influences, the Greeks developed their own systematic, linearizing approach. They focused on :

  • Milesian "arche", "phusis" & "apeiron" : the elemental laws of the cosmos are rooted in substance, which is all ;

  • Pythagorean "tetraktys" : the elemental cosmos is rooted in numbers forming man, gods & demons ;

  • Heraclitean "psyche" & "logos" : becoming and a quasi-reflective self-consciousness, symbolical & psychological, prevail ;

  • Parmenidian "aletheia" : the moment of truth is a decision away from opinion ("doxa") entering "being" ;

  • Protagorian "anthropos" : man is the measure of all things and the relative reigns.

From the start, ontological questions dominated Greek thought. What is the "physis" or fundamental stuff of nature (Ionic branch) ? How to know the truth as "being" (Eleatic branch) ? Can indeed anything truly be known (Sophists) ? Why is there something rather than nothing (Plato, Aristotle) ?

§ 5

Parmenides of Elea (ca. 515 - 440 BCE), inspired by Pythagoras and pupil of Xenophanes (ca. 580/577 - 485/480 BCE), was the first Greek to develop, in poetical form, his philosophical insights about truth ("aletheia"). Thanks to the neo-Platonist Simplicius (490 - 560), 111 lines about the Way of Truth are extant. In it, the conviction dominates that human beings can attain knowledge of reality or understanding ("noos"). But to know the truth, only two ways are open : the Way of Truth and the Way of Opinion. These are defined in terms of the expressions "is" and "is not".

The first is the authentic way, leading to the unity and uniqueness of "being". When using the copula "is", Parmenides points to the perfect identity of substantial "being", ascribed in a single sense. Hence, what is other than "being" itself has no being at all ... This is the second way, that of mere opinion ("doxa").

To develop his argument, Parmenides uses a three-tiered disjunction. To answer the question : "Is a thing or is it not ?", three answers are possible : (a) it is or (b) it is not or (c) it is and it is not.

By using the necessities of logic, the formal conditions of knowledge become apparent. Two ways of inquiry are alone conceivable. The first, the journey of persuasion, attends on reality, on the fact a thing is, while the second, is without report and deals with that a thing is not and must not be. As one can neither know what is not (deemed impossible), nor tell of it, the second way is pointless. Only one story of the way is left : "being" is ungenerated, imperishable, entire, unique, unmoved and perfect. It never was nor will be, since it is now all together, one, indivisible. It has no parentage.

Let us consider the three answers. If a thing is and is not, then this either means that there is a difference due to circumstance or that "being" and "nonbeing" are different and identical at the same time. This answer is relative (circumstantial) or contradictory. If a thing is not, then it cannot be an object of a proposition. If not, not-being exists ! This answer is pointless. As the last two answers are clearly false, and only three answers are possible, so the first answer must, by this reductio ad absurdum, be true, namely : the object of thought "is" and equal to itself from every point of view.

With Parmenides, pre-Socratic thought reached the formal stage of cognition. Before the Eleatics, the difference between object and subject of thought was not clearly established (cf. the object as psychomorph). The formal laws of logic were not yet brought forward and used as tools to back an argument. The strong necessity implied by the laws of thought had not yet become clear. Ontologically, the proto-rational concept of change of Heraclitus (540 – 475 BCE) is indeed opposed to the static, single being of Parmenides, but epistemologically, the latter was the first to underline the importance of the formal characteristics a priori of all thought. The mediating role of the metaphor is replaced by an emphasis on the distinction between the thinking subject (and its thoughts) and the reality of what is known.

"... remaining the same and in the same state, it lies by itself and remains thus where it is perpetually, for strong necessity holds it in the bondage of a limit, which keeps it apart, because it is not lawful that Being should be incomplete, for it is not defective, whereas Not-being would lack everything. The same thing is for conceiving as is cause of the thought conceived ; for not without Being, when one thing has been said of another, will You find conceiving. And time is not nor will be another thing alongside Being, since this was bound fast by fate to be entire and changeless."
Parmenides, fragment 8, 29-35.

§ 6

Ironically (or by force of apory ?), the idealism of Parmenides, thinking the necessity of the object of thought, confuses between a substantialist and a predicative use of the verb "to be" or the copula "is". That something "is" (or "Dasein") is not identical with what something "is" (or "Sosein"). Properties (accidents) do exist apart from the "being" of the substances they describe.

From the substantialist point of view, not-being is pointless. Only an all-comprehensive "Being" can be posited. We know Parmenides asserted further predicates of the verb "to be", namely by introducing the noun-expression "Being". The latter is ungenerated, imperishable, complete, unique, unvarying and non-physical ...

He did not conceive the absence of certain properties as not-being, nor could he attribute different forms of "being" to objects. What Parmenides calls "Being", is an all-comprehensive being-there standing as being-qua-being, as "Dasein" in all the entities of the natural world (and their "Sosein"). In that sense, namely in his mysticism, he is closer to Heraclitus as one would suspect.

If Parmenides core interest was formal, then he mainly wanted to show what sense attaches to the verb "to be" in asserting and thinking. But modern exegesis attributes to his thought an existential understanding of the verb, or worse, an archaic failure to distinguish between both uses.

The difference between object and subject of thought, at the core of formal rationality, allows for two radical reductions : an object without a subject and a subject without an object.

Without object, thought cannot say anything about the world and its propositions are all tautologies and analytical. None of the accidents refer to anything outside thought, to an entity, so must we think, which is kickable and which kicks back. In an all-comprehensive subjectivism, the sole laws are the formal rules themselves, pointing to a set of ideas. Lack of object is an outstanding characteristic of idealism.

Without subject, observation is impossible. For there can be no observation without an observer and no two observers occupy the same space-time. Moreover, there is no observation without interpretation. The thinking subject is an integral part of the act of observation. Theoretical connotations co-determine what is observed (even in the brain, various levels of sensoric interpretation are at work). In an all-comprehensive objectivism, sense-data are the sole bedrock, pointing to a real world out there. Inability to regard the constructed nature of reality is the outstanding feature of realism.

As soon as formal rationality envisaged the crucial difference between object and subject of thought, the apory resulting from radical reductions became possible. As a result of the continuous complexification of thought, these extreme positions were and are still advocated. Grosso modo, realism in materialism and the natural sciences, idealism in humanism and the sciences of man. It is one of the tasks of epistemology to elucidate this concordia discors and make it operational in terms of the growth of knowledge.

§ 7

"All thinkers then agree in making the contraries principles, both those who describe the All as one and unmoved (for even Parmenides treats hot and cold as principles under the names of Fire and Earth) and those too who use the rare and the dense. The same is true of Democritus also, with his plenum and void, both of which exist, he says, the one as being, the other as not-being. Again he speaks of differences in position, shape, and order, and these are genera of which the species are contraries, namely, of position, above and below, before and behind ; of shape, angular and angleless, straight and round."
Aristotle : Physics, book 1, part 5.

Democritus of Abdera (ca. 460 - 380/370 BCE), geometer and known for his atomic theory, developed the first mechanistic model. His system represents, in a way more fitting than the difficult aphorisms of Heraclitus, a current radically opposing Eleatic thought.

The evidence of perception cannot be denied. The Eleatics are obviously wrong. Instead of relying on the formal conditions of thought only, the origin of knowledge is given with the undeniable evidence put forward by the senses. Becoming, movement and change are fundamental. Hence, not-being exists. It is empty space, a void. If so, then being is occupied space, a plenum. The latter is not a closed unity or continuum, a Being, but an infinite variety of indivisible particles called "atoms".

The atoms are all composed of the same kind of matter and only differ from each other in terms of their quantitative properties, like extension, weight, form and order. They never change and cannot be divided. For all of eternity, they cross empty space in straight lines. Because these atoms collided by deviating ("clinamen") from their paths, the world of objects came into existence (why they moved away from their linear trajectories remains unexplained). Hence, the universe is composed of a multiplicity of atoms moving and colliding in empty space ... Each time this occurs, they form a vortex separated from the rest of the universe, thus forming a world on its own. Hence, an infinite number of simultaneous and successive worlds are in existence.

Objects emerge by the random aggregation of atoms. Things do not have an "inner" coherence or "substance" (essence). Everything is impermanent and will eventually fall apart under the pressure of new collisions. Atoms are characterized by quantitative features only. Thus, all spiritual, psychological and mental processes can be reduced to conglomerates of atoms moving without inner principle of unity. Thoughts, feelings, volitions and the like, are nothing more than mechanical activities between atoms. Qualities are subjective interpretations of quantities. Hence, the universe is material, quantitative, deterministic and without finality.

Regarding knowledge, Democritus conjectures the senses are all derived from the sense of touch. The atoms bombard the senses and give a picture of the object emitting them. As a function of their speed, form etc. we can speak of sweet, blue etc. These names are only conventional and do not convey any real characteristic of the object in question. But, we are able to discover the true, real features of a thing behind the dark veil of the senses. This is intellectual knowledge. Indeed, without the latter, it would not be possible to develop the mechanistic model !

The logical difficulty facing this model is clear : if all things are atoms, then how can rational knowledge be more reliable than perception ? Moreover, how can atomism describe atoms without in some way transcending them ? In epistemological terms : how can the subject of knowledge be eclipsed hand in hand with a description of this "fact" ? There is a contradictio in actu exercito : although refusing the subject of knowledge any independence from the object of knowledge, the former is implied in the refusal.

The problems facing Democritus are those of realism (materialism) in general. They mirror those of Eleatic idealism (spiritualism). In pre-Socratic philosophy, both represent the two poles of the essential tension characterizing thought.

The pendulum-swing between realism and idealism, or, in other words, the exorcism of respectively either subject or object of knowledge, can be identified in pre-Socratic thought as the apory between Parmenides & Democritus. Both exemplify a movement of thought allowing it to exceed and thus reduce (repress) its natural anti-pode. Idealism rejects the object of perception, realism the constructive activity of the subject of thought. Instead of harmonizing both, by introducing a principle of complementarity, thought is crippled by a contradiction. In each case, the necessities lay bare by this forced monism (either of mind or of matter), bring the structure of both poles to the fore : Parmenides thinks the logical conditions a priori, leading to oneness, universality and qualitative uniqueness, Democritus observes the empirical conditions a posteriori, bringing in an infinite series of singular atoms and quantitative multiplicity.

§ 8

The Eleatic effort to posit the necessity of logic & unity was turned into rhetoric by the wandering Sophists. By so introducing the relativity of thought (skepticism and humanism), they prompted a new quest for a comprehensive system. In it, the various facets developed since Thales would have to be brought together in such a way that true knowledge would remain certain and eternal (and not circumstantial and probable).

"Nothing exists. If anything existed, it could not be known. If anything did exit, and could be known, it could not be communicated."
Gorgias of Leontini : On What is Not, or On Nature, 66 - 86.

Greek concept-realism, in tune with the  tendency of thought to fossilize and substantialize, developed two radical answers and two major epistemologies. These were foremost intended to serve ontology, the study of "real" beings and being, as does the logic that underpins them. Indeed, neither Plato or Aristotle developed the quantitative view of the world as proposed by Democritus. Their systems are devoid of mathematical physics.

In concept-realism, concepts must refer to something "real". Our thoughts are always about some thing. The "real" is a sufficient ground guaranteeing the identity of every thing. For the Greeks, the "real" had to be universal ("ta katholou", or applicable everywhere and all the time). Either these universals exist by themselves outside the sensoric world (the real is ideal) or they only exist as the form of things in each individual thing (the ideal is real). In the former, a cleavage occurs and dualism emerges (between being and becoming), in the latter, a monism ensues. Again two reductions of the ongoing, crucial tension of thought, i.e. the continuous, shocking confrontations between object and subject of knowledge : the concordia discors.

For Plato (428 - 347 BCE), strongly influenced by Pythagoras and the Eleatics, there is a real, Divine world of ideas "out there" or, as in neo-Platonism, "in here", a transcendent realm of Being, in which the things of this fluctuating world participate. Ideas are those aspects of a thing which do not change.

Obviously then, truth is the remembrance (anamnesis) of (or return to) this eternally good state of affairs, conceived as the limit of limits of Being or even beyond that. These Platonic ideas, like particularia of a higher order, are no longer the truth of this world of becoming but of another, better world of Being, leaving us with the cleaving impasse of idealism : Where is the object ?

The Platonic ideas exist objectively in a reality outside the thinker. Hence, the empirical has a derivative status. The world of forms is outside the permanent flux characteristic of the former, and also external to the thinking mind and its passing whims. A trans-empirical, Platonic idea is a paradigm for the singular things which participate in it ("methexis"). Becoming participates in Being, and only Being, as Parmenides taught, has reality. The physical world is not substantial (without sufficient ground) and posited as a mere reflection. If so, it has no true existence of its own (for its essence is trans-empirical). Plato projects the world of ideas outside the human mind. He therefore represents the transcendent pole of Greek concept-realism, for the "real" moves beyond our senses as well as our minds. To eternalize truth, nothing less will do.

Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) rejects the separate, Platonic world of real proto-types, but not the "ta katholou", the generalities ("les généralités", "die Allgemeinen"), conceived, as concept-realism demands, in terms of the "real", essential and sufficient ground of knowledge, the foundation of thought. So general, universal ideas do exist, but they are always immanent in the singular things of this world. There is no world of ideas "out there". There is no cleavage in what "is" and there is only one world, namely the actual world present here and now. The indwelling formal and final causes of things are known by abstracting what is gathered by the passive intellect, fed by the senses, witnessing material and efficient causes. The actual process of abstraction is performed by the intellectus agens, a kind of Peripatetic "Deus ex machina", reflective of the impasse of realism : Where is the subject ?

"The faculty of thinking then thinks the forms in the images, and as what is to be pursued or avoided is already marked out for it in these forms, the faculty can, by being engaged upon the images, be moved, and this also in a way independent from perception."
Aristotle : De Anima, III.7.

How is this first intellect able to derive by abstraction the universal on the basis of the particular ? How does it recognize the forms in the images without (Platonic) proto-types ? Even a very large number of particulars does not logically justify a universal proposition, as Aristotle knew. Induction has no final clause, for all past causes can never be known. How does this active intellect then recognize the similarities between properties offered by the passive intellect, if not by virtue of a measure which is independent from perception (and so again introducing a world of ideas) ?

Aristotle posits the objective forms in the actual world. In the latter, both being and becoming operate. This was a major step forward, for ontological dualism is explicitly avoided, although implicitly reintroduced within psychology. The forms are realized in singulars, but known by accident of a universal intellect he does not study. For him, the "real" is known through the senses and the curious abstracting abilities of the mind. The workings of the intellectus agens remain dark. This concept-realism is immanent. All things are explained in terms of four causes : causa materialis, causa efficiens, causa formalis and causa finalis. Experience of the first two causes, triggers the process of cognition and knowledge of material bodies. Abstracting the last two causes, allows one to understand the "form" or essence of things.

In Platonic concept-realism, one cannot avoid asking the question : How can another world be the truth of this world ? The ontological cleavage is unacceptable. Peripatetic thought summons a psychological critique, for how can the human soul possibly know anything if not by virtue of this remarkable active intellect ? Both reductions are problematic. Because they try to escape, in vain, the Factum Rationis, and so represent the two extreme poles of the concordia discors of thought, they form an apory. Plato, being an idealist, lost grip on reality. Aristotle, the realist, did not fully probe his own mind. Composite forms of both systems do not avoid the conflict, although they may conceal it better. The crucial tension of thought was not solved by Greek concept-realism. How to evolve formal rationality ?

The two major philosophical systems of Greek philosophy are examples of foundational thinking. Truth is eternalized and static. Concept-realism will always ground our concepts in a reality outside knowledge. Plato cuts reality in two qualitatively different worlds. True knowledge is remembering the world of ideas. Aristotle divides the mind in two functionally different intellects. To draw out and abstract the common element, an intellectus agens is needed. But, both positions reveal new insights : knowledge is impossible without innate forms (Plato) versus knowledge starts with perception (Aristotle). Greek thought is unable to reconcile the extremes and so no armed truce ensued. One tried to avoid the concordia discors by eliminating the other side of the equation. These tensions, like open wires, short-circuited Medieval logic, preparing thought for its emancipation from fideism and fundamental theology.

§ 9

In Late Hellenism, and particularly in Stoicism, language became an independent area of study. Logic was not longer embedded in metaphysics, but part of the new science of language (linguistics). The technical apparatus developed by the Platonic and Peripatetic schools, as well as the mechanics of logic had been fully mastered. An overview of knowledge was sought, and concept-realism still prevailed. Concepts were either rooted in universal ideas or in immanent forms. Both ideas and forms were "real", i.e. agents working "outside" the mind and delivering the foundation of thought and true knowledge. Throughout the Mediterranean, the Egyptian school of Alexandria was renowned. In 529, under the Christian emperor Justinianus, who commissioned the Hagia Sophia, the Platonic Academy at Athens was closed.

Physics studies things ("pragmata" or "res"'), whereas dialectica and grammatica study words ("phonai" or "voces"). This is the approach of the first scholastic and the last Roman, Boethius (480 - 524 or 525). He created the term "universalia" (the Latin of "ta katholou") to denote the logical concepts genus and species. The apory between Plato's world of ideas and Aristotle's immanent forms, is no longer part of the Stoic context. A simplification took place which brought logic and linguistics to the fore.

In his Isagoge, a work translated by Boethius, Porphyry (232/3 - ca. 305) had written :

I shall not say anything about whether genera and species exist as substances, or are confined to mere conceptions ; and if they are substances, whether they are material or immaterial ; and whether they exist separately from sensible objects, or in them immanently."
Porphyry : Isagoge, 1, introduction.

For Boethius, considering these matters to be "very deep", the answer is Aristotelian : the universals have an objective existence in particular physical things, but the mind is able to conceive genera and species independent of these bodies.

For Isidore of Sevilla, who died in 636, etymology was the crucial science, for to know the name ("nomen") of an object gave insight into its essential nature. Hence, there exists an implicate adualism between the name (or word) and its reality or "res". This symbolic adualism does not differentiate between an "inner" subjective state of consciousness and an "outer" objective reality, which is a typical characteristic of ante-rationality (cf. psychomorphism). This view was a return to Plato and the Eleatic cleavage between "is" and "is not". And indeed, this Platonism accommodated the Augustinian interpretation of Christianity. Here, symbolical adualism walks hand in hand with ontological dualism : the true name of a thing reveals its unchanging, transcendent essence intuitively, precisely because there is a radical division between the perfect, true world of Being and the incomplete, false world of becoming.

Thanks to the Carolingian Renaissance, and the organization of the Palatine School, a remote ancestor of the Renaissance "university" ("turned towards unity") was created. Europe, under the political will of Charlemagne, was awakened to its "rational" inheritance and embraced the importance of education and learning (for the upper classes). Although short-lived, its influence would not completely vanish.

Clearly the problem of universals touched the foundation of fideist thought, which tried to identify general names (like "God") in the mind with universal objects in reality. On the one hand, there was the ultra-realistic position, or "exaggerated realism", found in the De Divisione Naturae of John Scotus Eriugena (ca. 810 - 877) and the work of Remigius of Auxerre (ca. 841 - 908), who taught that the species is a "partitio substantialis" of the genus. The species is also the substantial unity of many individuals. Thus, individuals only differ accidentally from one another. All beings are thus modifications of one Being. A new child is not a new substance, but a new property of the already existing substance called "humanity" (a kind of monopsychism avant la lettre may be noted).

On the other hand, very soon heretics in dialectic rose. For Eric (Heiricus) of Auxerre (841 - 876), general names had no universal objects corresponding to them. Universals concepts arise because the mind gathers together ("coarctatio") the multitude of individuals and forms the idea of species. This variety is again gathered together to form the genus. Only individuals exist. By the process of "coarctatio", many genera form the extensive concept of "ousia" ("substantia"). In the same line, Roscelin (ca. 1050 - 1120) held that a universal is only a word ("flatus vocis") and so "nihil esse praeter individua" ...

§ 10

In the Middle Ages, this apory between exaggerated realists ("reales") and nominalists ("nominales"), itself a logico-linguistic transposition of the ontological apory between Plato and Aristotle, is best illustrated by the confrontation between William of Champeaux (1070 - 1120), and Abelard (1079 - 1142). The latter was a rigorist dialectic arguing against the "antiqua doctrina", and, according to the famous Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 - 1153), an agent of Satan !

Abelard argued, that according to William of Champeaux, only ten different substances or "essences" exist (namely the 10 categories of Aristotle). Hence, all living beings, subsumed under "substance", are substantially identical, and so Socrates and the donkey Brunellus are the same. In his early days, William of Champeaux taught, against his teacher Roscelin, that the individual members of a species only differ accidentally from one another. But this identity-theory came under severe attack and so he changed it. Some say as a subterfuge, William later replied to Abelard with his indifference thesis, according to which two members of the same species are the same thing, not "essentialiter" but "indifferenter". Peter and Paul are "indifferently" men (they thus possess humanity "secundum indifferentiam"), because as Peter is rational, so is Paul, whereas their humanity is not the same, i.e. their nature is not numerically the same, but like ("similis"). In fact, he is saying the universal substances of both are alike, applying indifferently to both or any other man. This position was also part of Abelard's polemical interpretations.

Abelard's "nominalism" is a denial of ultra-realism in epistemology, i.e. against the adualism between "vox" and "res". He does not refute Platonic "ideae" preexisting in the mind of God, but understands these as the metaphysical foundation of the real similarities in status between objects of the same species, and not of the objects (as Platonism insists). So the ideas explain how two things may be alike, but objects do not participate in ideas, nor are these ideas the "ousia" or "substantia" of objects.

Abelard's analysis states the distinction between the logical and the real orders, but without the denial of the objective foundation of the universals. This early nominalism is a moderate realism. He demonstrated how one could deny exaggerated realism without being obliged to reject the objectivity of genera and species.

For Abelard, universals were by nature inclined to be ascribed to several objects. They are only words, not things (against the "reales"). When identified with words, universals are not reduced to mere "sound" (which is also a "res"), but to the signifying power of words (against the "nominales"). This "significatio" of words is not a concept accompanying the word (a mere contents of mind, i.e. exclusively subjective), but gives expression or meaning to the objective status of the word (semantics). This status is a human convention based on real similarities between the particulars, but these real "convenientia" are not a "res", not "nihil" but a "quasi res" : it is not the substance "homo" that makes human beings similar, but the "esse hominem".

For Abelard, objectivity, found in universal propositions, is a human convention based on real similarities between particulars. The latter exist on their own. Ideas are the metaphysical foundation of the similarities between objects. They are not the "ousia", "eidos", essence or substance of things. These conventions have a special status, for they stand between being and nothing.

The extraordinary contribution of Abelard to epistemology is that he was able to avoid the apory of the concordia discors by introducing a third option :

  1. universale ante rem : the universals exist before the realities they subsume : Platonism ;

  2. universale in re : the universals only exist in the realities ("quidditas rei") of which they are abstractions : Aristotelism ;

  3. universale post rem : universals are words, abstract universal concepts with a meaning, given to them by human convention, in which real similarities between particulars are expressed. The latter are not "essentia" and not "nihil", but "quasi res".

This juggling may conceal the larger issue at hand : if extra-mental objects are particulars and mental concepts universals, then how to think their relationship ? Does an extra-mental foundation of universals exist ? The Greeks as well as the Scholastics answered affirmatively. The idea of a foundation of knowledge was still present.

For the Scholastics, given their preoccupation with God, the problem was to know whether an objective, extra-mental reality corresponded to the universals in the mind ? If so, then the mere concept of "God" might entail Divine existence, as the a priori proof tries to argue. If not, rational knowledge resulted in skepticism and Divine existence might be argued a posteriori only. Greek rationalism was conceptual and ontological, whereas Medieval dialectics was foundational and logico-linguistic (psychological).

Abelard's solution involves a crucial distinction : universals are not real, but they are words (real sounds) with a significance referring to real similarities between real particulars. Because of their meaning, they are more than "nothing". The foundation of his nominalism is "the real" as evidenced by similarities between objects, whereas the "reales" supposed an ante-rational symbiosis between "verbum" and "res", between Platonic ideas and material objects ("methexis").

A similar Abelardian line of argumentation is found in David Hume (1711 - 1776), ending in a skepticism preventing Kant (1724 - 1804) from sleeping (indeed, Hume rejected rationalist intuitionism and so could not back the observed similarity between objects). When Aristotle was finally translated into Latin, Abelard could and was recuperated by High Scholasticism.

§ 11

"Although it is clear to many that a universal is not a substance existing outside the mind in individuals and really distinct from them, still some are of the opinion that a universal does in some manner exist outside the mind in individuals, although not really but only formally distinct from them. (...) However, this opinion appears to me wholly untenable."
Ockham : Summa totius logicae, I, c.xvi.

With the Franciscan monk William of Ockham (1290 - 1350), theologian & philosopher, the "via moderna" received its most logical of defenders. Thomists, Scotists and Augustinians formed the "via antiqua". It is their realism, Platonic (the essence is transcendent) as well as Aristotelic (the essence is immanent), which was firmly rejected. Instead, nominalism was promoted, but one without objective universals. It was hence more radical than Abelard's. No reality ("quid rei") is ever attained, but only a nominal representation ("quid nominis").

For Ockham, the metaphysics of essences was introduced into Christian theology and philosophy from Greek sources. So, contrary to Abelard's moderate nominalism, his strict nominalism did not incorporate them. There are no universal subsistent forms, for otherwise God would be limited in His creative act by these eternal ideas. Indeed, every idea is limited by its own individuality. This non-Christian invention has no place in Christian thought. Universals are only "termini concepti", final terms signifying individual things which stand for them in propositions.

It was Peter of Spain (thirteenth century), who's exact identity is unknown, who had distinguished between probable reasoning (dialectic), demonstrative science & sophistical reasoning. Ockham was influenced by this emphasis placed on syllogistic reasoning leading to probable conclusions. Hence, arguments in philosophy (as distinct from logic) are probable (terministic) rather than demonstrative. Formal logic is demonstrative, whereas terministic logic is probable.

For Ockham, who took the equipment to develop this terminist logic from his predecessors, empirical data were primordial and exclusive to establish the existence of a thing. The validity of inferring from the existence of one thing to the existence of another things was questioned. He distinguished between the spoken word ("terminus prolatus"), the written word ("terminus scriptus") and the concept ("terminus conceptus" or "intentio animæ"). The latter is a natural sign, the natural reaction to the stimuli of a direct empirical apprehension. Only individual things exist. By the fact a thing exists, it is individual. There cannot be existent universals, for if a universal exists, it must be an individual, which is a contradictio in terminis (for universals are supposed to subsume individuals).

This focus on the objects which are immediately known, goes hand in hand with the principle of economy to get rid of the abstracting "species intelligibiles". What is known as "Ockham's Razor" was a common principle in Medieval philosophy. Because of his frequent usage of the principle (cf. the Franciscan vow of poverty), his name has become indelibly attached to it. In Ockham's version it reads : "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate." (plurality should not be posited without necessity). In general terms, this principle of simplicity or parsimony is to always prefer the least complicated explanation for an observation.

Radical nominalists, like Nicolas of Autrecourt (ca. 1300 - ca. 1350), who belonged to the Faculty of Arts, would say no inference from the existence of one thing to the existence of another thing could be demonstrative or cogent, but only probable. Hence, necessity and certainty, idolized by the foregoing metaphysical systems, were gone. No demonstration of God's existence was possible. Such matters have to be relegated to the order of adherence to revealed knowledge or faith. At this point, theology and philosophy separate and the latter becomes a "lay" activity. This is not yet apparent in Ockham, who remains a theologian seeking to find a way to rethink the "proof" of God's existence in merely a posteriori terms.

Against his predecessors, Ockham accepts "being" as a concept common to creatures and God, meaning "being" is predicable in a univocal sense to all existent things. Without such a concept, the existence of God could not be conceived. But, this does not mean this concept acts as a bridge between empirical observation of creatures and the existence of God. It is univocal in the sense it is common to a plurality of things, neither accidentally or substantially alike (thus avoiding pantheism).

These thought bring the distinction between "scientia realis" and "scientia rationalis" to the fore. The former is concerned with real, individual things. He agrees with Aristotle that only individuals exist, but rejects the doctrine that science is of the universal. The latter are not forms realized in individuals (realities existing extra-mentally). Real science is only concerned with universal propositions, i.e. with their truth or falsity (for example : "Man is capable of laughter."). To say a universal proposition in science is "true", is to say that it is verified in all individual things of which the "terms" of the proposition are the natural signs. The terms known by real science stand for individual things, whereas the terms of the propositions of rational science (like logic) stand for other terms.

Ockham's contribution is remarkable, although his terminology is still scholastic and he considered revelation as a source of certain knowledge.

With Ockham, concept-realism is finally relinquished. The foundational approach is also left behind. The nominal representations arrived at in real science are only terministic, i.e. probable. They concern individuals, never extra-mental "universals". Real science deals with true or false propositions referring to individual things. These empirical data are primordial and exclusive to establish the existence of a thing. The concept ("terminus conceptus" or "intentio animæ") is a natural sign, the natural reaction to the stimuli of a direct empirical apprehension. Rational science is possible, but it does not concern natural signs but other terms.

§ 12

"Il y a déjà quelque temps que je me suis aperçu que, dès mes premières années, j'ai reçu quantité de fausses opinions pour véritables, et que ce que j'ai depuis fondé sur des principes si mal assurés ne saurait être que fort douteux et incertain ; et dès lors j'ai bien jugé qu'il me fallait entreprendre sérieusement une fois dans ma vie de me défaire de toutes les opinions que j'avais reçues auparavant en ma créance, et commencer tout de nouveau dès les fondements, si je voulais établir quelque chose de ferme et de constant dans les sciences."
Descartes, R. : Meditations, 1, § 1a.

To seek indubitable truth, René Descartes (1596 - 1650) turned to methodological doubt. He left the Jesuit college of La Flèche and was ashamed of the amalgam of doubts and errors he had learned there. Traditional philosophy consisted of various contradicting opinions, grosso modo Platonic or Peripatetic. History was a series of moral lessons (cf. Livius) and philosophy was still restricted to logic. The experimental method was absent, and various authorities ("auctoritates") were studied (Galenus, Aristotle, Avicenna, etc.). Aim was to harmonize the magisterial contradictions (cf. the "sic et non" method). In the interpretation of these sources, a certain creativity was at work. However, in the mind of Cartesius, the only constructive point of his education, so the Discourse on Method (1637) tells us, was the discovery of his own ignorance.

This prompted him to reject all prejudices and seek out certain knowledge. Nine years he raises doubts about various conjectures and opinions covering the whole range of human activities. Eventually, doubt is raised regarding three sources of knowledge :

  1. authority : as contradictions always arise between authorities a higher criterion is needed ;

  2. senses : maybe waking experience is just a "dream" or a "hallucination" ? Can this be or not ? Also : the senses give confused information, so a still higher criterion is needed ;

  3. reason : how can we be certain some "malin génie" has not created us such, that we accept self-evident reasoning although we are in reality mislead and in fatal error ?

However far doubt is systematically applied, it does not extend to my own existence. Doubt reveals my existence. If, as maintained in the Principles of Philosophy, the word "thought" is defined as all which we are conscious of as operating in us, then understanding, willing, imagining and feeling are included. I can doubt all objects of these activities of consciousness, but that such an activity of consciousness exists, is beyond doubt.

Thus, the "res cogitans", "ego cogitans" or "l'être conscient" is the crucial factor in Cartesian philosophy. Its indubitable, intuitively grasped truth ? Cogito ergo sum : I think, therefore I am. That I doubt certain things may be the case, but the fact that I doubt them, i.e. am engaged in a certain conscious activity, is certain. To say : "I doubt whether I exist." is a contradictio in actu exercito, or a statement refuted by the mere act of stating it.

The certainty of Cogito ergo sum is not inferred but immediate and intuitive. It is not a conclusion, but a certain premiss. It is not first & most certain in the "ordo essendi", but as far as regards the "ordo cognoscendi". It is true each time I think, and when I stop thinking there is no reason for me to think that I ever existed. I intuit in a concrete case the impossibility of thinking without existing. In the second Meditation, Cogito ergo sum is true each time I pronounce or mentally conceive it ...

Having intuited a true and certain proposition, Descartes seeks the general criterion of certainty implied. Cogito ergo sum is true and certain, because he clearly and distinctly sees what is affirmed. As a general rule, all things which I conceive clearly and distinctly are true. In the Principles of Philosophy, we are told "clear" means that which is present and apparent to an attentive mind and "distinct" that which contains within itself nothing but what is clear.

Although he has arrived at a certain and clear proposition, he does not start to work with it without more ado. Indeed, suppose God gave me a nature which causes me to err even in matters which seem self-evident ? To eliminate this "very slight" doubt, Descartes needs to prove the existence of a God who is not a deceiver. Without this proof, it might be so that what I conceive as clear and distinct, is in reality not so.

Both in the Meditations and the Principles of Philosophy, substance is demonstrated after proving the existence of God. However, the "I" in Cogito ergo sum, is not a transcendental ego (a mere formal condition of knowledge), but "me thinking". Despite various contents of thought, the thing that cannot be doubted is not "a thinking" or "a thought", but a thinking ego conceived as a substance. This ego is not formal, nor the "I" of ordinary discourse, but a concrete existing "I". Descartes uncritically assumes the Scholastic notion of substance, while this doctrine is open to doubt. Thinking does not necessarily require a thinker, and the ego cogitans must not be a thing which thinks, but a mere transcendental ego accompanying every cogitation (cf. Kant).

At this point, the apory resulting from a mismanagement of the concordia discors which animates all possible thought, reappeared and entered modernism.

Transcendental logic makes both terms of the formal equation offered by the Factum Rationis necessary and irreducible. In terms of acquiring knowledge, this implies object and subject of knowledge have to be used simultaneously. But like Plato and the "reales" after him, Descartes eclipses the object of knowledge by inflating an ego cogitans in terms of a substantial ego, solely reflecting on itself, and as Leibnizean monad, without windows on the world and the alter ego. The Spinozist definition of God and freedom being the mature example of the substantializing (ontologizing) effect of this idealistic reduction of the discordant concord or armed truce of thought.

"By God, I mean the absolutely infinite Being - that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses for itself an eternal and infinite essentiality."
Spinoza : Ethics, Part I, definition VI.

"That thing is called 'free', which exists solely by the necessity of its own nature, and of which the action is determined by itself alone. That thing is inevitable, compelled, necessary, or rather constrained, which is determined by something external to itself to a fixed and definite method of existence or action."
Spinoza : Ethics, Part I, definition VII.

Because he did not rely on the object of knowledge (deemed doubtful), Descartes rooted his whole enterprise in an ideal ego constituting the possibility and expansion of knowledge. All idealists after him would do the same. The end result of this reduction is a Platonic theory of knowledge. At the end of the line, truth is identified with a consensus between sign-interpreters (cf. Habermas).

§ 13

In his Treatise of Human Nature (1739) and Enquiry concerning human Understanding (1748), David Hume (1711 - 1776) seeks to develop a science of man. As Locke (1632 - 1704), he envisages a critical and experimental foundation.

"Nature is always too strong for principle."

Hume, D. : Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, 12, 2, 128.

"Perceptions" are the contents of the mind in general, divided in impressions and ideas. The former strike the mind with vividness, force and liveliness, whereas the latter are faint images of these in thinking. Impressions are either of perception or of reflection. The latter are in great measure derived from ideas.

Like Ockham, Hume is a nominalist. Real or ideal universals are not the foundation to erect the science of man. Unlike Descartes, he is an empirist : the senses are the foundation of knowledge. Two kinds of propositions are possible :

  1. analytic : the predicate is part of the subject - these tautologies are universal and necessary, but restricted to geometry and arithmetic. All a priori propositions are analytic and have nothing to say about the world of fact ;

  2. synthetic : the predicate is not part of the subject and an extra-mental reality is implied. All synthetic propositions are a posteriori and have always something to say about the world.

The extra-mental reality sought can be no other than the one offered by direct or indirect empirical experience.

  1. direct synthetic propositions : the predicate is attached to the subject because of what is immediately empirically perceived here and now ;

  2. indirect synthetic propositions : the predicate is attached to the subject because we move from what be know to be a direct, given fact to a state of affairs which is not (yet) empirically given. These propositions are problematic because a necessary and objective connection between our idea of causality and real events cannot be demonstrated. Moreover, logically the move from a finite series of particular observations to an infinite, necessary law can never be warranted (cf. the problem of induction in naive realism).

Suppose the observed psychological connection between fact A and fact B is continuous. Is it necessary ? My (or our) witnessing the connection more than once, does not imply that it will work tomorrow. Skepticism results. The universal value of scientific laws cannot be demonstrated, neither can the reality of the world (within and without). Science is restricted to statements of probability.

The Achilles Heel of this position is the status of the sense-data and the formation of concepts. It is not clear how sense-data can be identified without some conceptual connotation, which is not a sense datum. Moreover, perception is introduced as a sufficient ground. "Adequatio intellectus ad rem" is presupposed (as in all forms of realism). Finally, how can similarities between sense-data be observed ? At the end of the line, empiricism identifies truth with the naive correspondence between concept and fact.

The ontologisms a priori & a posteriori (of Greek concept-realism and the Medieval universalia) gave way to the crucial distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions. On the one hand, Descartes, by introducing a substantial ego cogitans and its intuitive cogito ergo sum, reintroduced Platonism by backing his criterion of truth with a proof of God (making use of the criterion). On the other hand, Hume, by rejecting all but direct synthetic propositions, was unable to explain how we can draw out the common element without innate cognitive structures. Remember how Aristotle was forced to call in his intellectus agens ! Is rationalism not a return to the symbolical (Platonic) adualism and its "leges cogitandi sunt leges essendi" (the laws of thinking are the laws of reality) ? Is empirism not the modern equivalent of the system of Democritus and the subsequent "veritas est adequatio rei et intellectus" ("truth is the correspondence between the intellect and reality) ? These constant pendulum-movements were first identified by Kant and deemed a "scandal" ... How is knowledge possible ?

§ 14

"We thus see that all the wrangling about the nature of a thinking being, and its association with the material world, arises simply from our filling the gap, due to our ignorance, with paralogisms of reason, and by changing thoughts into things and hypostatizing them."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, A394-398.

With his "Copernican Revolution", Kant (1724 - 1804) completes the self-reflective movement initiated by Descartes, focusing on the subject of experience. Integrating the best of rationalism and empirism, he avoids the battle-field of the endless (metaphysical and ontological) controversies by (a) finding and (b) applying the conditions of possible knowledge. An armed truce between object and subject had to be realized. Inspired by Newton (1642 - 1727) and turning against Hume, Kant deems synthetic propositions a priori possible (Hume only accepted direct synthetic propositions a posteriori). There is a categorial system producing scientific statements of fact which are always valid and necessary (for Hume, scientific knowledge is not always valid and necessary). This system stipulates the conditions of valid knowledge and is therefore the transcendental foundation of all possible knowledge.

So Kant's aim was to find the conditions enabling statements of fact to be universal & necessary, i.e. as binding as the analytics of mathematics. Hence, a universal and necessary science is possible. Without apory, philosophy explained how the universal physical laws of Newton are what they are. The scandal is over ...

With Kant, rational thought matured. Unlike concept-realism (Platonic or Peripatetic) and nominalism (of Ockham or Hume), critical thought, inspired by Descartes, is rooted in the "I think", the transcendental condition of empirical self-consciousness without which nothing can be properly called "experience". This "I", the apex of the system of transcendental concepts, is "of all times" the idea of the connected of experiences. It is not a Cartesian substantial ego cogitans, nor an empirical datum, but the formal condition accompanying every experience of the empirical ego. Kant calls it the transcendental (conditional) unity of all possible experience (or apperception) a priori. Like the transcendental system of which it is the formal head, it is, by necessity, shared by all those who know.

"What can I know ?" is the first question asked. Which conditions make knowledge possible ? This special reflective activity was given a new word, namely "transcendental". This meta-knowledge is not occupied with outer objects, but with our manner of knowing these objects, so far as this is meant to be possible a priori (A11), i.e. always, everywhere and necessarily so. Kant's aim is to prepare for a true, immanent metaphysics, different from the transcendent, dogmatic ontologisms of the past, turning thoughts into things.

Let us summarize how this typically happened.

For Plato, the supreme thing is the idea of the Good. The ontology implied is dualistic, for the world to which this idea belongs represents the static, eternal truth in which all shifting temporal particulars participate. To know, it to remember the world of ideas. In short, Plato made his thoughts into an ideal thing separated from this world. The Peripatetics do the opposite ; they idealize the world of becoming, and attribute a final ground to it which is realized in every particular (cf. hylemorphism). This ontologism is realistic, for the "ousia" of a thing is real, but exists as an integral part of the individual things only (cf. the soul as the form of the body). Subsequently, with the division between "reales" and "nominales", nothing new was achieved. Abelard was the first to avoid the apory (cf. universale post rem), but he retained the ideas as metaphysical foundation for the similarities in status between objects of the same species. Although his mild nominalism avoids the trap of symbolical adualism, it fails to adequately explain these similarities.

The transcendental system of the conditions of possible knowledge (or transcendental logic) is a hierarchy of concepts defining the objective ground of all possible knowledge, both in terms of the synthetic propositions a priori of object-knowledge (transcendental analytic covering understanding), as well as regarding the greatest possible expansion under the unity of reason. These transcendental concepts are not empirical, but are the product of the transcendental method, bringing to consciousness principles which cannot be denied because they are part of every denial. They are "pure" because they are empty of empirical data and stand on their own, while rooted in (or suspended on) the transcendental "I think" and its Factum Rationis. For Kant, reason, the higher faculty of knowledge, is only occupied with understanding, while the latter is only processing the input from the senses. Reason has no intellect to inform it. There is no faculty higher than reason.

"All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds thence to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason for working up the material of intuition & comprehending it under the highest unity of thought."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B355.

The process of acquiring knowledge runs as follows :

  1. transcendental aesthetic : empirical knowledge : a variety of direct, multiple, unordered, nameless impressions (Hume), called "Empfindungen" (or perceptions) are synthesized by the forms of representation "space" (related to geometry) and "time" (related to arithmetics) and turned into "Erscheinungen" (or phenomena). These representations reflect the structure of our receptive apparatus. They are meant to structure perceptions into phenomena ;

  2. transcendental analytic : scientific knowledge : phenomena are objectified by thought, but do not constitute an object of knowledge, for this is realized in propositions. The phenomena need to be structured by the 12 categories of understanding, corresponding to 12 different types of propositions (quantity, quality, relation and modality, each viewed from three angels). This categorization of phenomena leads to object-knowledge (synthetic propositions a priori). The categories are meant to structure phenomena into object-knowledge ;

  3. transcendental dialectic : metaphysical knowledge : the variety of objects known is brought to a higher unity. A last, sufficient ground is sought and found in the ideas of reason : "ego", "world" and "God" (derived from the category of relation). These words are not things and only serve understanding, nothing more. While stimulating the mind's continuous expansion, these ideas regulate understanding and bring it to a more comprehensive, reasonable unity. They are meant to structure understanding into an immanent metaphysics.

The 2 forms of representation, 12 categories (brought to unity by 3 ideas) make the object possible, rather than vice versa. The human mind is the active originator of experience, rather than just a passive recipient of perception, as Hume thought. The mind can not be a tabula rasa, a "blank tablet", so Descartes is right. The whole transcendental system is innate. Even on the level of the transcendental aesthetics, perceptions, the only source of knowledge acknowledged, as Locke claimed, must always be processed to be recognized, or they would just be "less even than a dream" or "nothing to us". Both perceptions, representation and categorization are necessary to constitute an object of knowledge.

In his "transcendental dialectic", Kant works with the negative, deceptive meaning of the word "dialectic", namely as antinomy and paralogism. These scandals occur each time the barriers given by our  transcendental logic are not upheld and the ideas are changed into things, which is far worse than a mere mistaken use of the categories. Kant was fully aware of the unwholesome habit of thought to fixate itself or its objects into so-called realities, filling in the "gap" which, for Kant, cannot be crossed.

"I do not mean by this the transcendental use or abuse of the categories, which is a mere fault of the faculty of judgment, not being as yet sufficiently subdued by criticism nor sufficiently attentive to the limits of the sphere within which alone the pure understanding has full play, but real principles which call upon us to break down all those barriers, and to claim a perfectly new territory, which nowhere recognises any demarcation at all. Here transcendental and transcendent do not mean the same thing."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B350.

When the landmarks are removed, transcendental illusion ensues, or reason forgetful of its own, changing thoughts into things. This fundamental falsehood perverts the principles of reason itself. This natural "dialectic" of reason does not go away once realized, but requires to be removed again and again, for it "will never cease to fascinate our reason" (B354). Human reason has a natural inclination to grossly overstep these limits, to give in to the pull of the "unconditional" idea, to fill the gap between what we can know and what we fancy to know, thereby regarding the transcendental ideas as real things, whereas they are wholly subjective, only needed to organize understanding and have no meaning outside this regulative, non-subreptive way. This reveals a fundamental demarcation or difference in the use of the transcendental ideas : regulative (as it should) or constitutive (as hypostases). In the latter case, they step outside the barriers of transcendental logic.

With Kant, a totally new perspective unfolded : criticism highlights the limitations, demarcations, frontiers and borders of thought. It is not possible to step outside ourselves and witness the world. The subjective structure cannot be removed and so what is "objective" can never be identified with an observation without interpretation. The latter is impossible. There is no point of intersection between the lines created by our thoughts and reality-as-it-is. They bounce off on the mirror-surface of phenomena and do not allow us to probe into reality itself. A fundamental distinction is made : humans only know reality as it appears, not as it really is. Hence, the world is epistemologically divided between "phenomena" and "noumena", between what is processed by our understanding (by virtue of the categorial scheme) and the intellectual intuition of things as they are in themselves (an intuition Kant rejected). Needless to say that this new division is problematic. Has Kant, without knowing it, given in to the transcendental illusion he uncovered himself ?

§ 15

Kant wished to retain for science the certainty of the sufficient ground. To understand his epistemology properly, this aim is of paramount importance. He wished to do for philosophy what Newton had done for physics : a universal system allowing one to explain the movements of planets as well as those of apples. He could not accept skepticism and the relativism it engenders. Not finding this firm ground in the objective, outward reality (as a world of Platonic ideas or universal forms immanent in matter), his transcendental method cleared the foundations of the (universal) subjective apparatus of thought. By thus viewing the subject of experience as active after the reception of the perception (analytic object-knowledge after the aesthetic synthesis of phenomena), all possible knowledge was about the "thing-for-us" and never about the "thing-as-such" or reality-as-it-is.

Where did Kant miss out on his own Copernican revolution ?

The first to point to the major flaw was F.H.Jacobi (1743 - 1819), who -in 1787- asked : Were does the "matter" of the perception ("Empfindung") turned into phenomena ("Erscheinung") come from ? Kant supposed our perceptions were somehow caused by reality-as-such, the famous "Ding-an-sich". How can this be ? Causality cannot be invoked, for the nameless perceptions are pre-categorial. Neither can the world-as-such be thought as temporally first and the perceptions last, for the former is outside time. Hence, the way our senses receive information is obscured, compromising Kant's epistemology. If Kant needs the "noumenon" to start up the engine of the categories, then he clearly does not use the "thing-as-such" as a negative, formal and empty limit-concept, and the Copernican Revolution is incomplete. And if this is the case, and it is, then his attempt at justifying knowledge a priori fails. So far the idealists were correct : knowledge cannot find a sufficient ground in the transcendental apparatus, for the latter depends on the very thing it tries to avoid : a direct, unmediated contact with reality.

Kant's system, although transcendental, and thus devoid of any attempt to explain the possibility of knowledge by ontology, retains the postulate of foundation, by which true knowledge is certain, universal and necessary. Scientific knowledge is seen as a system of synthetic propositions a priori, and so indirect synthetic statements pass Kant's critical test (while for Hume only direct propositions were certain). Kant's philosophy is Newtonian, and so absolute principles are acknowledged both in understanding (forms, categories) as in reason (the ideas). At the same time, clear demarcations avoid their abuse and potential corruptive effect on thought.

For good reasons, the history of philosophy is divided in pre- and post-Kantian. For with the crucial Copernican Revolution, the activity of the subject of knowledge was finally fully acknowledged. The categorial scheme yields object-knowledge in the form of synthetical propositions a priori. A Newtonian science of absolute certainties is possible. The skepticism of Hume (also at work in Ockham) is overturned. Causality can be thought and so the connectivity of our knowledge guaranteed. The catch ? By pursuing his foundational course, Kant had to introduce a pseudo-causality before causality in order to explain (describe) how the motor of the categories is fuelled. Moreover, the cleavage between becoming and being was reintroduced as the abyss between phenomena & noumena. To avoid these problems, parts of the transcendental exercise of Die Kritik der Reinen Vernunft has to be redone.

§ 16

In the 20th century, neo-Kantianism reconstructed parts of Kant's system. What can I know ? is answered without presupposing that synthetic proposition a priori are possible. The science of certainties is replaced by the science of probabilities and approximations. Demonstrative intentions are replaced by a terminist logic. This means modernism, as the via moderna had before, took the next step by abolishing foundational thinking. To show this radical move does not automatically lead to relativism or skepticism, is one of the underlying motifs of the present exercise.

According to Sextus Empiricus, it was the skeptic Pyrrho of Elis (ca. 365 - 275 BCE) who taught conflicts between two (or more) criteria of truth automatically lead to an apory or an antinomy, i.e. a contradiction posed by a group of individually plausible but collectively inconsistent propositions. The truth of a given criterion can only be argued using true propositions. But, whenever a given criterion is justified, a petitio principii or circular argument is involved. Discussions about the criterion of truth are therefore unending and without solution.

Much later, the problems of foundational thinking were summarized by the Münchhausen-trilemma (Albert, 1976). Its logic proves how every possible kind of foundational strategy is necessarily flawed. The trilemma was named after the Baron von Münchhausen, who tried to pull himself out of a swamp by his own hair !

Every time a theory of knowledge accommodates the postulate of foundation, three equally unacceptable situations occur. A justification of proposition P implies a deductive chain A of arguments A', A", etc. with P as conclusion. How extended must A be in order to justify P ?

  1. regressus ad infinitum :
    there is no end to the justification, and so no foundation is found (A', A", etc. does not lead to P) ;

  2. petitio principii :
    the end P is implied by the beginning, for P is part of the deductive chain A. Circularity is a valid deduction but no justification of P, hence no foundation is found ;

  3. abrogation ad hoc :
    justification is ended ad hoc, the postulate of justification is abrogated, and the unjustified sufficient ground (A' or A" or ...) is accepted as certain because, seeming certain, it needs no more justification.

The Münchhausen-trilemma is avoided by stopping to seek an absolute, sufficient ground for science. This happens when one accepts genuine science is terministic. In mathematics and physics, major changes have happened since Newton, and who is able to disprove the revolutions of tomorrow ? Hence, the categorial system cannot be absolute, although some of its general features are necessary in a normative way (for we use them when we think).

On the level of transcendental logic and the theory of knowledge, object and subject of thought are fundamental critical concepts. On the level of the practice of knowledge, experiment & argumentation are crucial. Realism and idealism are the proposed transcendental ideas of reason (instead of ego, world & God, crucial for psychology, cosmology & religious philosophy).

The end result of the proper regulative use of the ideas of the real and the ideal (leading to experimentation and argumentation respectively), is not a synthetic proposition a priori, but object-knowledge which is considered, for the time being, as very likely true by the community of sign-interpreters. These empirico-formal propositions are always a posteriori, and may be direct (reality-for-me) or indirect (reality-for-us). Kant's critical epistemology is there to remind us of the natural tendency of reason to hypostatize its ideas.

If the idea of the real is turned into an object (like extra-mental, kickable and kicking things out there), then true knowledge is "adequatio intellectus ad rem". But, we do not know whether knowledge is made possible by a real world. Suppose the latter is the case, then how to reconcile this with the facts that (a) observation co-depends on theoretical connotation and (b) observation unfolds in a conceptual pattern which develops in the act of observing ? If the idea of the ideal is turned into an object, then true knowledge is given by the "consensus omnium" and "leges cogitandi sunt leges essendi" persists. But, knowledge is not made possible by an ideal theory or ideology. For if so, then we blind ourselves from the fact synthetic propositions are also statements about some thing extra-mental, escaping (inter) subjectivities. These two criteria of truth, although discordant, operate simultaneously, and regulate the development of thought.

In the domain of science, producing empirico-formal propositions, the idea of the real and the idea of the ideal are both necessary and operate together. Hence, scientific knowledge is the product of two vectors : objective observation (experiment, test) & intersubjective dialogue (argumentation). In the concrete research-unity, these a priori rules are complemented by a posteriori rules of thumb or practical, opportunistic hypothesis assisting the efficient functioning of the research community. On this level, the difference between what should and what is (between theoretical epistemology and the sociology of science) is felt most ... Indeed, like the rest of us, scientists are not perfect.

In accord with Ockham's terministic probabilism and the view of all knowledge as "approximative", contemporary criticism finds comfort that only probable, not certain empirico-formal knowledge is possible, and that no sufficient ground for the possibility of knowledge needs to be found.  This position is open and so free to investigate all possible expansions of knowledge. Dogmatic and ontological fossilizations are excluded from this secure but narrow point of view.

The major problem of criticism is avoided.

Facts are not monolithical. No pseudo-causality is needed to trigger knowledge. Facts are hybrids.

On the one hand, they are theory-dependent and as such determined by intersubjective languages, theories and their arguments. Of this a descriptive analysis is possible, for we can test ourselves to realize how extended the influence of subjective connotations on direct and indirect observation is. In quantum mechanics, the total experimental set-up, observer included, co-determines the outcome of the experiment.

On the other hand, so must we think, facts are theory-independent. If not, there is no object of knowledge, whereas the proposition in which this is affirmed ("There is no object of knowledge.") has as object the absence of the object of knowledge. The conviction (or belief) in the theory-independent face of facts is not descriptive for it cannot be observed (every observer has a unique set of space-time coordinates). Ergo, the theory-independence of facts is normative and belongs to what we must think in order to think properly. And this is precisely what thinkers thinking properly have been doing all the time.

§ 17

Also in science, the problems posed by skepticism had to be addressed. Especially since Kant, the question "What can I know ?" has been crucial. The apory between "realism" and "idealism" is also without final result. The foundational approach favored since Plato and Aristotle has caused a pendulum movement between two criteria of truth (consensus versus correspondence). To move beyond this, the antinomic problems of justificationism (i.e. the foundational, fundamentalist thinking within science) must be clear : if, on the one hand, real "sense data" are the only building-blocks of "true" knowing, as realism maintains, then why is the definition of the word "sense datum" not a sense datum ? Also : how can a "naked" or "raw" sense datum be observed if our mental framework co-constitutes our observation ? If, on the other hand, ideal linguistic symbols and speech-situations are the exclusive arena of truth, as idealism maintains, then how can knowledge be knowledge if it is in no way knowledge of something (i.e. a "res" and not only "flatus voci") ?

A focus of truth "behind the mirror" (as Kant put it) comes within reach if and only if both perspectives, experiment (correspondence, objectivity) and argumentation (consensus, intersubjectivity) are used together, and this in a regulative, non-constitutive (unfoundational) way. The criterion of truth is not justified by a sufficient ground outside knowledge, but by discovering the normative principles governing all possible knowledge. The latter are bi-polar but interactive and never exclusive, as 19th century, Newtonian scientific thinking claimed. Insofar as either realism or idealism are accepted, the logical merits of the truth claim of science do not exceed the religious criterion of truth. It cannot escape the apory as long as it identifies with objectivity at the expense of subjectivity and intersubjective symbolization (as in logical positivism, materialism, scientism, instrumentalism, reductionism and epiphenomenalism) or with subjectivity and intersubjective symbolic activities with disregard for entities independent of the human sphere (as in spiritualism, idealism and humanism).

Facts are not only experimental and not only theoretical. They are hybrids, composed of what we know (our theories) and, so must be think, the realities outside our minds. The latter cannot be isolated from the former, for the subjective conditions of knowledge cannot be removed without causing the perversity of reason. Empirico-formal object-knowledge is always the product of two vectors at work simultaneously. Not because of some ulterior reason, but because it must be so and has always been so. Epistemology is hence not descriptive, but normative.

Although the Copernican Revolution posits the subject and its constructivist activities, Kant's epistemology is a attempt to still adhere to the postulate of foundation, for synthetic judgments a priori are rooted in the cognitive, categorial apparatus of the subject of experience, without which no thinking is possible. In other worlds, the constructions of my mind are per definition those of other minds. These categories hold true for the object of experience insofar as this object is constituted in observation by our capacity of observation and knowledge. For Kant, scientific knowledge (empirico-formal propositions) does not deal with reality-as-such, but with reality-for-us. However, as contemporary mathematics, relativity & quantum mechanics disagree with the principles of Newtonian physics Kant thought to be anchored in our minds for ever, it becomes clear these categories are not absolutely certain and not a priori. Kant's attempt to anchor science failed, although his unearthing the active subject became a fundamental and irreversible asset of modern epistemology.

Science has no anchor and is for ever set adrift on the limitless ocean. We may throw out our nets, but will only catch those fish unable to slip through the mazes, and there are only a few nets on board. Scientists erect buildings on the edge of or in the swamp. Such flooded bottomland, saturated with water, is constantly shifting. Yet, despite its instability, science tries to build a platform above it that will hold out for a while. How long nobody knows. But not forever, that much we do know ... Then we need another net, another set of poles driven into the swamp. In view of the vastness of the material universe, this procedure is practically unending. Likewise for the expansion of knowledge. Scientists cannot play for God. They are sailors on a leaking ship lost in the vastness, finding no harbor to accost. To them to repair their vessel while aboard and navigating ...

It took more than a century before the antinomy between realism and idealism was critically superseded by a normative theory on the possibility and the production of knowledge. In contemporary scientific practice, scientific facts are the outcome of two vectors : on the one hand, objective experiments and their repetition, and, on the other hand, intersubjective communication between the community of sign-interpreters. Logic provides a few a priori conditions, related to the form, clarity and elegance of the symbols of a theory. Epistemology adds a few objective and intersubjective criteria and the local research-unit will foster a series of a posteriori rules of thumb. Nevertheless, despite all possible care, scientific knowledge cannot be absolutist or radical, but instead delicate, prudent & provisional. Indeed, divorced from the metaphysical aim to anchor knowledge, genuine science cannot be a new dogmatic religion, but a method to acquire fallible knowledge.

Indeed, empirico-formal knowledge, or knowledge of facts, is conditional, relative, hypothetical and historical, although a clear theory explaining a lot of phenomena will (provisionally) always be called "true", meaning "very probable", not "certain". A set of such theories will constitute a tenacious scientific paradigm, covering entities which "kick" and "kick back". But things may change, and usually they do ...

"It is an hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow : and this means that we do not know whether it will rise."
Wittgenstein, L. : Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.36311.

Regarding the justification of its truth claim, formal & critical rationality developed their arguments in three stages :

  1. uncritical & foundational : true knowledge corresponds with real, repeatably observable objects (naive realism under the guise of materialism) or true knowledge is the object of an ideal theory (naive idealism under the guise of spiritualism or ideology). Greek concept-realism developed both variants. In both strategies, the error consists in the implicate use of the contra-thesis. Real objects are also co-determined by the theoretical connotations of their observers. Ideal objects are always also referring to a "something" outside the grasp of a theoretical discourse. The foundation of science is objectified : the "real" world "out there" or the "ideal" theory of reason. For Kant, the apory empiricism versus rationalism was a scandal ;

  2. critical & foundational : asking for the limitations of human knowledge, Kant rooted cognition in the cognitive apparatus (cf. the Copernican Revolution). In this way, the foundation sought was interiorized and its a priori categorized. By making the ego cogito (the "I Think" of the Factum Rationis) the foundation of knowledge, Kant succeeded in making reality-as-such fall outside science ! Likewise, for Kant, meta-rational knowledge (intellectual perception) was denied to science, which, divorced from any direct contact with "das Ding an sich", seems trivial. The foundation of science is subjectified (not in an idealism but in a transcendentalism) ;

  3. critical & normative : in the previous century, the foundational approach was relinquished and in this way, the aporia threatening justification was avoided. Science produces terministic empirico-formal propositions. These are treated "as if" they represent a high probability, but never a certain truth. This likelihood is posited by repeatable tests and the intersubjective dialogues and argumentations of all involved sign-interpreters. The end result is fallible knowledge, although, for the time being, highly probable.

With the end of foundational thinking, the confrontation between incompatible foundations is over. Scientific knowledge is probable, historical and relative. Facts may change over time, and nobody is able to predict for certain what the future holds. Moreover, scientific investigations are always conducted against the background of untestable information. Insofar as the latter is arguable, metaphysics is possible. But the latter is never testable, only arguable. Finally, who decides who the "involved sign-interpreters" are and/or when a certain threshold is "critical" ? In order to define these and other matters, science evokes a series of a posteriori conditions representing the idiosyncrasies of the local research-unity, the "opportunistic logic" of their fact-factory and the style of their pursuit of scientific, factual knowledge. These conditions determine the practice of knowledge.

Philosophy and science should remain open and postpone their final judgments. Both must be totally recuperated from the hang-over of their shameful foundational history over the last two millennia. The only role of science is to confirm or deny probable fact. The task of philosophy is to uncover the laws ruling epistemology, esthetics & ethics as well as develop a theoretical picture of the whole (speculation or metaphysics).

Ontology no longer roots object and subject in a self-sufficient ground or eternal, certain foundation. The possibility of knowledge is grounded in knowledge itself. Critical thought raises the reflective to the reflexive. Epistemology is a normative discipline, bringing out the principles, norms and maxims of true knowledge. These must be used in every correct cogitation producing valid knowledge. The principles are given by transcendental logic, the norms by the theory of knowledge (and truth) and the maxims by the knowledge-factory or applied epistemology. Science deals with propositions arrived at by the joint efforts of experimentation and argumentation. The discordant concord of both vectors is necessary and their defences should never be put down, nor should their truce, which is essential to produce knowledge that works, be broken. Scientific knowledge is in the form of empirico-formal propositions which are terministic (probable) and fallible. They are formulated against the implicit or explicit background of untestable metaphysical speculations and always imply a "ceteris paribus" clause.

§ 18

"There is a science ("episteme tis") which studies being qua being, and the properties inherent in it by virtue of its own nature. This science is not the same as any of the so-called particular sciences, for none of the others contemplates being generally qua being ..."
Aristotle : Metaphysics, IV, I.1, 1003a

In chapter 1 of his Metaphysica Lambda (or twelfth book of his Metaphysics), shortly written after Plato died (347 BCE), Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) tries to demonstrate the existence of two physical beings and one unmoved being. These three beings, or meanings of the word "ousia", are : (a) physical and eternal (planets), (b) physical and moved (plants & animals) and (c) a "first" being beyond physics and eternal ("the God"). The first two beings are the objects of physics. The last is not and demands another approach coming "after" and/or next to physics, or metaphysics, a word Aristotle did not coin himself. "Metaphysics" appeared as a separate discipline only after the Aristotelian corpus was put together ca. 40 BCE by Andronicos of Rhodos. He used to place the books on metaphysics "next to" those dealing with physics.

"Then if there is not some other substance ("ousia") besides those which are naturally composed, physics will be the primary science ("proto episteme") ; but if there is a substance which is immutable, the science which studies this will be prior to physics, and will be primarily philosophy, and universal in this sense, that it is primary. And it will be the province of this science to study being qua being ; what it is, and what the attributes are which belong to it qua being ("eta on")."
Aristotle : Metaphysics, VI, I.12, 1026a.

Metaphysics does not seek to produce propositional statements of fact. It is not limited by what is actual, but by what is possible in thought. It has no research-cell in which knowledge is produced, sold (published) and exported. Because no actual, factual, contracted entity can be its object, it is not a science. The study of being qua being is not a "study" in the same way or in the same sense as this word is used in science. But, this inquiry into being is not devoid of organization or arguments.

For Aristotle, a unique science was possible before those singling out some actual entity. Only this speculative "science" (from "episteme", or "epi" + "histanai", to cause to stand) differed from all other sciences, and this because of the extension of its object and because it was deemed prior to all others. Aristotle tried to make this science stand, but because the object aimed at, namely the Being which makes all actual entities be, is a supreme generic concept, it can not be objectified. There is no standpoint outside this absolute, sheer Being, no subjective stance or possible vantage point "outside" the all-encompassing totality of all what is. Being cannot be equated with any object, and so Aristotle was in error when he viewed speculative philosophy as a science. Metaphysics is not. At best it is a metascience, depending on the data of science. As such, it is a forteriori immanent, but cannot be called a scientific metaphysics. It is never of the nature of a science, for it does not produce facts, but works on a meta-level next to them. Metaphysics is not a "scientia prima" nor a "scientia ultima". It is not science at all and, by its very nature, can never be one ...

In Ancient Greek, the "beyond" of something is expressed by "meta". To inquire into being qua being is "meta ta physika" and goes beyond entities. It transcends the limitations of science, which are the boundaries of the entities made public or unveiled by categories of thought focused on the being-what of the physical world. Accordingly, the investigation of being qua being is "peri physeo", concerns the being of the entity, not only its being-what or "Sosein", but in its being-there ("Dasein"), and moves beyond the pre-Socratic concept of "physis". However, as Aristotle identifies being with substance, and takes the latter as object of the first science, it is clear that already in his case the inquiry into being remained unalterably a study of entities, i.e. "physics". Aristotle missed the point, and had better isolated "ousia" from the categorial scheme.

In The Twilight of Idols, Nietzsche, identifying metaphysics with its Platonic incarnation, called such "highest concepts " as being, "the last cloudy streak of evaporating reality". For him, the study of being qua being is nothing less than the "error of being". As the reversal of Plato, Nietzsche heralded the end of classical, transcendent metaphysics. Can the question of Being be answered ?

"Pourquoi il y a plutôt quelque chose que rien ?"
Leibniz, GW : Principes de la nature et de la grâce, 1714.

Wittgenstein (1889 - 1951), Popper (1902 - 1994), Habermas (1929), Lakatos (1922 - 1974), Feyerabend (1924 - 1994) & Kuhn (1922) put into evidence the co-determining influence conceptual connotations (or subjective viewpoints) have on the macroscopic observation of the being-what of actual entities. In the subatomic realm, the Copenhagen interpretation of the wave-equation of Schrödinger takes this influence of the observer on the observed for granted. A particle is also a wave and subatomic entities become one or the other only at the moment of measurement. Indeed, look at a photon and it behaves like a particle, observe not and it is a wave ... Ergo, (inter)subjective constructions (like a particular experimental setup or metaphysical background knowledge) are always part of the formation of propositional statements of fact, and directly influence the outcome of any experiment ! Scientific knowledge of reality-as-such devoid of any theoretical connotation, i.e. observation without absolutely no interpretation, is therefore impossible.

In a Platonizing phenomenology, object-knowledge, the product of an inquiry into the What ? and Who ? of the entities, does not escape the duality between the reality-as-such of an actual entity (its contraction from Being) and reality-for-us (its appearance as fact). The being-what of entities, disclosed by scientific knowledge is, in this account, only a disclosure veiled by the limitations of the discovered "what-ness" (by the type of question posed) and by the form of the observer, his or her conceptual connotations. This approach does not understand the crucial importance of the hybrid nature of scientific facts : simultaneously theory-dependent (insofar they are right) and, so must we think, the messengers of reality-as-such (insofar they are wrong - cf. infra). As a result, an ultimate confusions arises, as the work of Heidegger (1889 - 1976) exemplifies.

"Gott ist, aber er existiert nicht."
Heidegger, M. : Was ist Metaphysic ?

How to define metaphysics or metascience in the context of the present critical epistemology ?

"... speculative philosophy (= metaphysics) is the endeavour to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of experience can be interpreted."
Whitehead : Process & Reality, p.4.

Hence, metaphysics is a speculative, non-factual, arguable inquiry with the following objects (Apostel, 2002, p.61) :

  1. the totality of all what exists in the world of facts and events, i.e. the universe ;

  2. the properties common to all existing things (= ontology) ;

  3. the architecture of the totality of things ;

  4. the global pattern, place or rank of all things.

Without scientific data, the enterprise of metaphysics is impossible. Moreover, once such a total picture emerges, its role is not to stand on its own, but to be a heuristic tool for science, offering new factual research vistas. Besides the logical consistency of its arguments, metaphysical systems can be judged as a function of their ability to cover more factual variety, realize a higher unification of knowledge and give more new research suggestions.

Consider the two-step program of metascience, of which only one can be completed within the boundaries of reason :

In an immanent metaphysics, rather Peripatetic of inspiration, staying within the limitations of possible experience, the world is all there is and existence is only instantiation. Science observes and argues a series of predicates ascribed to objects, and pours these connections in non-eternal, probable, approximative synthetic propositions a posteriori. No necessary Being can be inferred. Meta-reason is empty. The highest being to be inferred a posteriori remains proportionate to the world. Only an immanent natural theology is possible.

In a transcendent, Platonizing metaphysics, there is more than the world, for the latter, in phenomenological terms, i.e. as revealed by the things themselves, is the theophanic contraction of absolute Being. Hence, each fact reveals more than the series of predicates ascribed to it, for each fact is (also) an epiphany. To supersede the world, is to stand in one's own essential Being or being-there. The a priori arguments backing the proof of God aim to posit this transcendent Being as an existing Being analytically, thus including the finite world in infinite Being. They fail to deliver this. "The Divine exists." is hence not and analytical, self-evident statement.

As such, metaphysics is foremost immanent and thus a heuristic, speculative, suggestive, innovative and spiritualizing system of arguable statements about the world. The essence aimed at in a transcendent approach cannot be articulated, which does not preclude it can be shown as an object of art or given as the sacred or the holy (in mysticism and religion). It can not be object-knowledge, but shown in action. Hence, it is not an item of science but of art and ethics (cf. the existence of God as a postulate of practical reason).

Science and metaphysics do not exclude one another. The former is impossible without metaphysical background information in the form of a generalizing ontology (a total picture of reality and ideality). Often, the precise outline of this ontology is repressed, forcing it to work implicitly. But, only science is testable and its "game" the guardian of "true" knowledge. Metaphysics, lacking the objective side of the equation, can never be tested. Instead, it can only depend on logical criteria of formal well-formedness and the laws of correct argumentation. Insofar as it does not exceed the limitations imposed by the world, it stands next to science as a possible creative fount of its inventivity and novelty. Being an immanent heuristic tool, it may help the development of knowledge and trigger new research, both in terms of experimentation and argumentation. Insofar as metaphysics exceeds nature, it posits a world outside the world, and accommodates transcendent thought. The latter does not interact with science but with mysticism, religion and spirituality. Insofar as metaphysics is unarguable, it is irrational. As such, it must be rejected and avoided.

§ 19

In Jean Piaget's (1896 - 1980) theory on cognitive development, two general functional principles, rooted in biology, are postulated, namely organization & adaptation.

The former implies the tendency common to all forms of life to integrate structures (physical & psychological) into systems of a higher order. The latter (to be divided in assimilation & accommodation) shows how the individual not only modifies cognitive structures in reaction to demands (external) but also uses his own structures to incorporate elements of the environment (internal). 

Organisms tend toward equilibrium with their environments. Centration, decentration (crisis) & re-equilibration are the fundamental processes forcing the cognitive texture of humans to complexify.

Mental operators are the result of the interiorization of this cognitive evolution. An original, archaic sense of identity is shaped. After prolonged exposure to new types of action -challenging the established original centration and its equilibrium- a crisis ensues and decentration is the outcome. Eventually, a re-equilibration occurs because a higher-order equilibrium was found through auto-regulation (re-equilibration, autopoiesis).

Over time, various different strands, levels, layers or planes of cognitive texture unfold. The process is as follows :

  1. repeated confrontation with a novel action involving motor functions (original, initial coordinations of actions) ;

  2. action-reflection or the interiorization of this novel action by means of semiotic factors : this is the first level of permanency or pre-concepts which have no decontextualized use ;

  3. anticipation & retro-action using these pre-concepts, valid insofar as they symbolize the original action but always with reference to the initial context ;

  4. final level of permanency : formal concepts, valid independent of the context of the original action & the formation of permanent cognitive (abstract) operators.

In this way, and based on his experimental work with children worldwide, Piaget defined four layers of cognitive growth :

  1. sensori-motoric cognition, between birth & 2 years of age ;

  2. pre-operational cognition, between 2 and 6 ;

  3. concrete operatoric cognition, between 7 and 10 ;

  4. formal-operatoric cognition, between 10 & 13.

The first three levels correspond with "ante-rationality" (cf. supra), whereas formal-operatoric cognition is identical with formal rationality. In his Le Structuralisme (1970), he defines "structure" as a system of transformations which abides by certain laws and which sustains or enriches itself by a play of these transformations, which occur without the use of external factors. This auto-structuration of a complete whole is defined as "auto-regulation". In the individual, the latter is established by biological rhythms, biological & mental regulations and mental operations. These are theoretically formalized.

Piaget refuses to accept that "real" dialectical tensions between physical objects are the "true" foundations of thought and cognition (its possibility, genesis & progressive development), as in most other types of psychology and pedagogy attuned to realism. Piaget never fills in what reality is like. He maintains no ontological view on reality-as-such, considered to be the borderline of both the developing subject and its objective world, stage after stage.

The cognitive is approached as a process, for rationality grows in developmental steps, each calling for a particular cognitive structure on the side of the subject. What reality is, is left open. Why ? Every objective observation implies an observer bound by the limitations of a given stage of cognitive development, i.e. a subjective epistemic form, containing idiosyncratic, opportunistic and particularized information. These work like Kantian categories, but without their universal intention.

Neither did Piaget choose for a strictly transcendental approach. Conditions which exist before cognition itself (like in Foucault) are not introduced. What Popper called the "problem-solving" ability of man, may be associated with Piaget's notion on "re-equilibration". Popper introduced the triad : problem, theory (hypothesis, conjecture) & falsification (refutation). In his dynamical and actional anthropology and psychology Piaget introduced : activity, regulation, crisis & re-equilibration (auto-regulation).

This psychogenesis (based on the observation of children) shows how knowledge develops a relationship between a thinking subject and the objects around it. This relationship grows and becomes more complex. Stages of cognitive development are defined by means of their typical cognitive events and acquired mental forms. This development is not a priori (pre-conditions), a posteriori (empirical) but constructivist : the construction eventuates in its own process, in other words, the system has been, is and will always be (re)adapting and (re)creating new cognitive structures, causing novel behavior & different environmental responses, which may be interiorized, forming new internal cognitive forms, etc. 
The foundation of this process is action itself, the fact its movements are not random but coordinated. It is the form of this coordination, the order, logic or symbolization of the pattern of the movements which eventually may stabilize as a permanent mental operator.

Two main actions are distinguished :

  • sensori-motoric actions exist before language or any form of representational conceptualization ;

  • operational actions ensue as soon as the actor is conscious of the results & goals of actions and the mechanisms of actions, i.e. the translation of action into forms of conceptualized thought. These operations are either concrete (contextual) or formal (decontextualized). The latter are identified with rational thought.

The last decades have seen the many applications of these crucial insights in the functional, efficient (educative) side of the process of cognition. An example is schema theory, at work across the fields of linguistics, anthropology, psychology and artificial intelligence. Human cognition utilizes structures even more complex than prototypes called "frame", "scene", "scenario", "script" or "schema". In cognitive sciences and in ethnoscience they are used as a model for classification and generative grammar (syntax as evolutionary process). 

The schema is primarily a set of relationships, some of which amounts to a structure, generating pictorial, verbal and behavioral outputs. The schemata are also called mental structures and abstract representations of environmental regularities. Events activate schemata which allow us to comprehend ourselves & the world around us.

The term is thus used to define a structured set of generalizable characteristics of an action. Repetition, crisis & reformation yield strands of co-relative actions or stages of cognitive development. Knowledge begins in the coordination of movement. Ergo, in genetical sequence,
these consensual types of schemata emerge :

  • sensori-motoric, mythical thought : aduality implies only one relationship, namely with immediate physicality ; object & subject reflect perfectly ; earliest schemata are restricted to the internal structure of the actions (the coordination) as they exist in the actual moment and differentiate between the actions connecting the subjects and the actions connecting the objects. The action-scheme can not be manipulated by thought and is triggered when it practically materializes ;

  • pre-operatoric, pre-rational thought : object and subject are differentiated and interiorized ; the subject is liberated from its entanglement in the actual situation of the actions ; early psychomorph causality. The subjective is projected upon the objective and the objective is viewed as the mirror of the subjective. The emergence of pre-concepts and pre-conceptual schemata does not allow for permanency and logical control. The beginning of decentration occurs and eventually objectification ensues ... ;

  • concrete-operatoric, proto-rational thought : conceptual structures emerge which provide insight in the essential moments of the operational mental construction : 
    (a) constructive generalization ; 
    (b) the ability to understand each step and hence the total system (1 to 2 to 3 ...) and 
    (c) autoregulation enabling one to run through the system in two ways, causing conservation. The conceptual schemata are "concrete" because they only function in contexts and not yet in formal, abstract mental spaces ;

  • formal-operatoric, rational thought : abstract conceptual structures positioned in mental spaces which are independent of the concrete, local environment. Liberated from the substantialist approach but nevertheless rooting the conditions of knowledge outside the cognitive apparatus itself ;

  • transcendental thought : abstract concepts explaining how knowledge and its growth are possible, rooted in the "I think", the transcendental unity of apperception (or transcendental Self) ;

  • creative thought : the hypothesis of a possible (arguable), conceptual immanent metaphysics ;

  • nondual thought : the suggestion of a possible, non-conceptual but meta-rational transcendent metaphysics (or pataphysics).

The last mode of cognition is mentioned here ex hypothesi.

§ 20

These modes of thought contain two important demarcations : the lower threshold defines the border between ante-rational thought (mythical, pre-rational and proto-rational) and reason. The higher threshold declares the difference between reason (conceptual and transcendental) & immanent metaphysics (or creative thought).

Each time a threshold is crossed, the potential of the mind has been expanded, deepening the subtle complexity of the cognitive texture and enlarging its ability to communicate with its environment and to continue to grow.

Three important stages of cognition emerge :

  • prenominal : mythical, pre- & proto-rational (instinctual) ;

  • nominal : rational and transcendental (rational) ;

  • meta-nominal : creative and nondual (intuitional).

from action to ante-rational thought



First substage :

  1. adualism and only a virtual consciousness of identity ;

  2. primitive action testifies the existence of a quasi complete indifferentiation between the subjective and the objective ;

  3. actions are quasi not coordinated, i.e. random movements are frequent.

Second substage :

  1. first decentration of actions with regard to their material origin (the physical body) ;

  2. first objectification by a subject experiencing itself for the first time as the source of actions ;

  3. objectification of actions and the experience of spatiality ;

  4. objects are linked because of the growing coordination of actual actions ;

  5. links between actions in means/goals schemes, allowing the subject to experience itself as the source of action (initiative), moving beyond the dependence between the external object and the acting body ;

  6. spatial & temporal permanency and causal relationships are observed ;

  7. differentiation (between object and subject) leads to logico-mathematical structures, whereas the distinction between actions related to the subject and those related to the external objects becomes the startingpoint of causal relationships ;

  8. the putting together of schematics derived from external objects or from the forms of actions which have been applied to external objects.

Comments :

The earliest stage of mythical thought (first substage) is adual and non-verbal. The only "symbols" and "forms" are the material events themselves in all their immediacy and wholeness. It is this non-verbal core, which makes the mythopoetic mind analogical. In mythical thought, everything is immediate and the immediate is all. Ergo, myth goes against the differentiation which feeds the complexification of thought & cognition. The myth of myths is the "eternal return" to the primordial state.

Before the rise of language, mythical cognition is embedded in action and allows for the distinction between an object & a subject of experience by being conscious of the material, exteriorized schematics connecting both.

The first differentiation occurs when, on the level of material, actual, immediate actions, the object is placed before the subject of experience. This emergence of subjectivity implies the decentration of the movements of the physical executive agent (the body), which unveils the subject as source of action and prepares for the interiorizations of pre-rational thought. By this foundational difference between the body & the empirical subject, consciousness can be attributed to a focus of identity (ego). 

Mythical thought is non-verbal but actional. Nevertheless, actions are triggered by a subject conscious of a whole network of practical and material actualizations, although without any conceptual knowledge but only through immediate, exteriorized material schemes. Hence, ritual comes before narrative myth.

In terms of cognitive texture, mythical thought is the "irrational" foundation of ante-rationality. Indeed, the earliest layer of human cognitive activity is devoid of logical necessity, although patterns & schemes are present, but their flexibility and plasticity are a function of the direct environment and what happens there. There is no cognitive permanency. Action and its source are distinguished, but coordinations which suggest any reflection on the action itself (or on the actor) are absent. Hence, idiotic schemes are obsessively repeated. The "irrationality" being the total absence of means to communicate meaning in other ways than in immediate physical terms (offering something, going away, kicking the other, smiling, crying etc.). Nevertheless, the subject is conscious of being a source of action. There is a non-verbal sense of identity (the I-am-ness of the empirical ego).


  1. because of the introduction of semiotical factors (symbolical play, language, and the formation of mental images), the coordination of movements is no longer exclusively triggered by their practical and material actualizations without any knowledge of their existence as forms, i.e. the first layer of thought occurs : the difference between subject & object is a signal which gives rise to the sign ;

  2. upon the simple action, a new type of interiorized action is erected which is not conceptual because the interiorization itself is nothing more than a copy of the development of the actions using signs and imagination ;

  3. no object of thought is realized but only an internal structure of the actions in a pre-concept formed by imagination and language ;

  4. pre-verbal intelligence and interiorization of imitation in imaginal representations ;

  5. psychomorph view on causality : no distinction between objects and the actions of the subjects ;

  6. objects are living beings with qualities attributed to them as a result of interactions ;

  7. at first, no logical distinction is made between "all" and "few" and comparisons are comprehended in an absolute way, i.e. A < B is possible, but A < B < C is not ; 

  8. finally, the difference between class and individual is grasped, but transitivity and reversibility are not mastered ;

  9. the pre-concepts & pre-relations are dependent on the variations existing between the relational characteristics of objects & can not be reversed, making them rather impermanent and difficult to maintain. They stand between action-schema and concept.

Comments :

A tremendous leap forwards ensues. The formation of a subjective focus (at the end of the mythical phase of thought) is necessary to allow for the next step : interiorization, imagination and the actual articulation of pre-concepts, leading up to pre-relations between objects, but the latter remain psychomorph.

The reality of objects is always individualized or made subjective. Natural phenomena, stones, trees and animals "speak" just as do human subjects. Important objects are those with the strongest positive (attractive) subjective potential : family, teachers, ancestors, Divine kings, prophets, angels, Deities, God, etc. These "mediate" when pre-rationality fails to bridge the gap between what is stable (the architecture) & what constantly moves (the process).


  1. for the first time concepts and relations emerge and the interiorized actions receive the status of "operations", allowing for transformations. The latter make it possible to change the variable factors while keeping others invariant ;

  2. the increase of coordinations forms coordinating systems & structures which are capable of becoming closed systems by virtue of a play of anticipative and retrospective constructions of thought (imaginal thought-forms) ;

  3. these mental operations, instead of introducing corrections when the actions are finished, exist by the pre-correction of errors and this thanks to the double play of anticipation and retroaction or "perfect regulation" ;

  4. transitivity is mastered which causes the enclosedness of the formal system ;

  5. necessity is grasped ;

  6. constructive abstraction, new, unifying coordinations which allow for the emergence of a total system and auto-regulation (or the equilibration caused by perfect regulation) ;

  7. transitivity, conservation and reversibility are given ;

  8. the mental operations are "concrete", not "formal", implying that they (a) exclusively appear in immediate contexts and (b) deal with objects only (i.e. are not reflective) ;

  9. the concrete operatoric structures are not established through a system of combinations, but one step at a time ; 

  10. this stage is paradoxal : a balanced development of logico-mathematical operations versus the limitations imposed upon the concrete operations. This conflict triggers the next, final stage, which covers the formal operations.

Comments :

Thanks to transitivity, a formal system of concrete concepts arises. It is not combinatoric (but sequential) and not formal (abstract concept are not present). Concrete thoughts manipulate objects without reflecting upon the manipulation. The latter is stored as a function of its direct use, not in any overall, categorial, librarian or antiquarian fashion, although within a given manipulation a series may be present. The contextualism, pragmatism and use of the concrete concept is its stability.

Proto-rationality is always limited by a given context. Moreover, there is no reflection upon the conditions of subjectivity (just as in the pre-rational stage objects remained psychomorph). This contextualization leaves in place uncoordinated actions and concepts which are the expression of many serious (fundamental) contradictions.

As suggested earlier, Egyptian and pre-Socratic thought do not exceed ante-rationality. A more adequate understanding of the creative products of these civilizations becomes possible thanks to this Piagetian analysis of the early modes of cognition. Especially in Ancient Egypt, the power of proto-rational "closure" is exemplaric and makes clear how grand culture is not necessarily rational.

from ante-rational to rational thought



The formal operations leave contextual entanglements behind, and give a universal, a-temporal embedding to the cognitive process through abstraction, categorization & linearization. Cognition is liberated from the immediate events and able to conceptualize logical & mathematical truths (deduction) as well as physical causalities in abstract terms, without any consideration for their actual occurrence, if any (cf. the inner thought-experiment). Thought is able to combine propositions.

However, although object and subject of thought are differentiated, and grasped as abstract parts in an epistemological inquiry about the origin of human knowledge, continuity and stability in the becoming and fluctuating world is found by projecting these conditions outward (instead of inward, i.e. as particular conditions on the side of the subject of experience). The concordia discors of reason is approached with a reduction. Idealism (Plato and the tradition of a subject without an object) and realism (Aristotle and the tradition of an object without a subject) ensue. The antinomies caused by these major reductive set of explanations of the possibility of knowledge, have dominate pre-Kantian thought. Therefore, pre-critical rational thought is the first, somewhat primitive subphase of the mode of decontextualized conceptualization, as it were the infancy of reason.

The inventive, Greek adaptation of these strong direct influences, the linearization of the underlying ante-rational thoughts and eventually the rational universalization of ante-rationality itself, constituted the formalizing streak which characterized Hellas. Indeed, in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, a fair number of technical processes and decorative motive of Mycenæan Art reappeared in Greece. They are probably reintroductions from the East, where they had been adopted in the days of the Mycenæan empire and kept alive throughout the Dark Age. Mycenæan Linear B was however never used again, but parts of the "old" Greek cultural form had survived and was presently seeking its renewal by good, strong & enduring examples : Phoenicia, Egypt, Mesopotamia.

"Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Bronze Age to Classical Greece was something less tangible, but quite possibly inherited : an attitude of mind which could borrow the formal and hieratic arts of the East and transform them into something spontaneous and cheerful ; a divine discontent which led the Greek ever to develop and improve their inheritance."
Higgings, 1997, p.190 (my italics).


When reflection upon the conditions of object and subject of thought happens and the internal, transcendental pre-conditions of the cognitive apparatus are discovered, a new mental world is opened up. The "natural" approach is over, and a new "transcendental" (not "transcendent" !) layer becomes active. This marks the birth of critical rational thought.

With the completion of the rational mode, and as soon as the conditions of the process of thought become the object of thought, a new conflict arises. The transcendental approach aims to understand the reflection of the process of thought on itself, as it were unveiling the ongoing operations of thought without disturbing the flow of empirical consciousness and its continuous cognitive, affective and motoric activity circumambulating an empirical ego. However, the transcendental "I think", placed at the heart of the whole edifice of transcendental inquiry, is formal and devoid of intellectual perception of itself. It is not a substance, but a mere idea accompanying the cogitations of the empirical ego.

The intellect integrates and unifies the two ideas of critical reason : the real (correspondence) and the ideal (consensus). Fed by the senses, the categories produce empirical-formal propositions, or statements of fact. This manifold is brought into focus by reason by means of these two regulative (not constitutive) ideas, which define the "essential tension" (Kuhn) or armed truce of reason, and their various categorial schemes. These mechanisms are discovered by transcendental thought.

from scientific to metaphysical thought



According to Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274), metaphysics has its own mode of knowledge, ascribed to what he called the "intellectus". This mode captures one single truth, and implies a direct, immediate intake of knowledge which differs from the mediate ways to gather it. So "ratio" (related to science) and "intellect" were divided. Metaphysics offers a unique synthetical, intellectual insight regarding being-as-such. But Thomas (like Kant), denied reason its "terminus". A direct knowledge of what lies outside the "ratio" was deemed impossible. It was Nicolas of Cusa (1401 - 1464) who introduced the famous expression "intuitio intellectualis" to define the direct knowledge of an evident truth.

To experience the unity of apperception (Kant's formal "Ich Denke") as an active, dynamical and creative Self, is, ex hypothesi, a prehension of the unique, individual & creative ideas of the immanent Self of each person, i.e. the true observer or "soul". To witness these ideas is the origin of all creativity and also the fundamental completion of the individualizing cognitive process, for this wholeself is the intuitional stepping-stone to the non-verbal, unknowing, ineffable "special knowledge" of poets and mystics alike.

The Self-ideas witnessed in the creative mode of thought thirst for manifestation and succeed through intellectual flashes of insight to inspire, initiate & engage new, creative activities of reason. Immanent metaphysics works with arguable statements and in tune with the unification reason seeks (namely that of understanding). The own-form of creativity of every actual entity in general and of human beings in particular, i.e. their specific form of definiteness, escapes reason and belongs to the ontological, noumenal Self. Hence, insofar as immanent metaphysics tries to objectify man (in a possible speculative anthropology), it cannot eliminate the Self of every individual, the "soul" of consciousness. The realization of this (higher, more aware) Self is the conditio sine qua non of every truly creative act, whether occasional or sustained over long periods of time. The true observer, a noumenal Self different from the empirical, phenomenal ego and its wanderings, is more than "of all times". Here a hidden, invisible, intimate and inner ontological stratum is delved deeper into. Intuitional philosophers do accommodate the creative ideas of the Self and are thus able to witness, from the vantage point of the true observer, the latent possibilities of consciousness and its potency to expand its creative and inventive horizon.


This non-conceptual and non-propositional mode of thought allows us, so our living examples teach, to integrate knowledge beyond the point of scientific & speculative thought and relate the immanent whole achieved by immanent creative thought with the suggested transcendent totality, or absolute reality (ideality), the absolute Real-Ideal (or absolute coincidence of the order of reality and the order of ideality, of being and thought).

Transcendent metaphysics is ineffable.

Even the latter qualification is only poetical and suggestive. This mode of thought reveals the most subtle aspect of cognition, one most philosophers would not consider to be "thought" at all. This mode is put into evidence by the life of the great mystics. But such examples of grand sublimity know paradox & are incomprehensible to reason.

Indeed, it seems as if the pinnacle of thought (mysticism) and its startingpoint (namely non-verbal myth) touch. Mystical elocutions are works of art, not of science or philosophy. As such, they can be an object of faith, which at best, involve direct experience of the radical other (totaliter aliter).




1. Mythical
libidinal ego

 the irrational

2. Pre-rational
tribal ego


3. Proto-rational
imitative ego
barrier between ante-rationality and reason



4. Rational
formal ego


5. Critical
formal Self
barrier between rationality and intuition



6. Creative


7. Transcendent

§ 21

In the present genetico-epistemological discussion of a possible critical theory and practice of knowledge and its growth, human cognitive growth is not halted at the level of reason. The nature of things is the constant dynamism of mental forms, propensities and differences (energies, particles & forces). As long as conflicts remain, the process continues. All actual entities are dynamical. "Panta rhei !" (all things are in constant flux) is one of the more famous sayings of Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of Ephesus quoted by Plato. In his view, as in Whitehead's, the world is all there is and all of that is constantly changing. This ongoingness of the world-process or universal dynamism does not deny the presence of architecture and lawfulness (forms of definiteness). Without these (for example in the form of the constants of nature, the laws of physics or biology), all this movement would have no order or coordination. Hence, no forms would have come into actuality and nothing but the primordial soup would have continued to exist (given the question of the coming into being of this crucial primordial matrix is postponed, or worse, abrogated, for indeed, who or what "banged" at the Big Bang, i.e. at t ≤ 0 ?).

Thinking change and an evolving cognitive texture, leads to inquire after meta-rational states of cognition. Is a faculty of cognition exceeding reason possible ? This faculty of creativity, exerts its efforts either on the totality of the universe, lacking facts but arguing a totalizing intent (immanent metaphysics), or, as
suggested by the most sublime art and poetical harmony, tries to promote faith in the transcendent Being, encompassing -so do revelations tell- the complete contingent world-process.

Reason occupies the middle-ground between instinct and intuition, between, on the one hand, multi-layered thought (a variety of different approaches) and, on the other hand, at best, an arguable immanent metaphysics and/or the echoing suggestion or poetry of a non-conceptual, transcendent mode of thought (rooted in the nameless & nondual One). Reason, as the string of a violin, is stretched between instinct and sublimity.

The exercise is to understand thought as both instinctual, rational and intuitional, i.e. conjunctive rather than disjunctive. To properly think, the three stages of cognition need to be integrated and functional. Although science must limit itself to rational, formal structures, thought is not confined to these boundaries necessary to produce probable empirico-formal object-knowledge. Thanks to the modesty of science, instinct and intuition may be checked and curtailed. Exceeding its own possibilities, science delegates instinct to the realm of inferior tendencies (cf. the Greeks) and/or ridicules intuition (cf. the logical positivists). Without limits, it becomes dogmatic and a perversion of reason (cf. Kant). But staying within its domain, it exercises its crucial intersubjective and factual role and assists the development of thought beyond its own domain. Intuition is possible but not contrary to reason. In the tribunal of our cognition, mind is the defense (bringing in evidence), reason the prosecutor (putting data into given categories) and intellect the judge (unifies the two scales in one judgment). To separate them when they work together is essential to know and continue to know.

Even if reason is critically watchful and not deluded by ontological illusions, so that the ideas of reason (the "real" and the "ideal") are not seen as ontological hypostases, but as regulative principles holding a hypothetical (not an apodictic) claim, reason, in tune with the concordia discors, entertains a conflictual interest (cf. Kant's "widerstreitendes Interesse"). On the one hand, it seeks unity in the variety of natural phenomena (the multiple is reduced to a type). On the other hand, in order to guarantee the growth of knowledge, reason wants heterogeneity (the unique, not repeatable & singular). Kant could not reconcile the law of variety and the law of types (as there is no intellect, there is no "faculty" of cognition higher than reason, as it were working from behind the surface of the "mirror" of reason). The genetic process is stopped ad hoc and the "nominal" is made absolute. In Kant's court, the seat of the judge remains at best empty, or, worse, reason is the only player, leading to confusion, apathy or insanity.

Thought and cognition, fed by the coordination of movement, are psychobiological organs in constant development. In the course of their growth through action, various stages are run through and at each stratum new cognitive texture is acquired, allowing the subject to experience, understand and manipulate him/herself and the world better and better. Rational cogitation (problem-solving knowledge-manipulation) stands in-between the instinctual and the intuitive stages of the development of thought. The strata are not disconnected, but form a whole. One-dimensional reason rejects instinct (too primitive) and intuition (too unworkable). Seven stages persist, called : mythical, pre-rational, proto-rational (together ante-rational, instinctual thought), rational, transcendental, creative and transcendent. Only the last stage is hypothetical, whereas the last two are intuitional.

§ 22

If the organization of thought in general and of mind in particular may be characterized as "dual" (sensoric versus categorial), the overall logic behind reason, although layered, is "monadic". Reason is prepared & equipped for the immanence of the intellect, but has to give up its role of master and become a servant of the own-form of its own Higher Self. This ontological necessity, in particular its constant negation (not this, not that), reflects on the creative potential.

If variety & unity are active on the same level, reason is crippled. A schizoid fluctuation between variety & unity is accommodated. Judgment is constantly postponed and knowledge becomes anecdotal. Kant projected the inherent dualism of the mind on reason. Nothing can be its own tribunal except in madness. Reason needs intellect to replenish itself and acquire the intention of the beginner unhindered by the consequences of wrong thought, unbridled affects and immoral actions.

Distinguish between three factors :

  • mind ("Verstand") :  together with the senses, co-conditioning  facts tending towards differentiation (variety) ;

  • reason ("Vernunft") : regulating dualism with ideas converging on unity & the unconditional ;

  • intellect : faculty or stage of cognition allowing for the creative, intuitional manifestation of one's immanent own-Self and the intellectual perception, ex hypothesi, of its unconditional transcendent core.

The law of types is more fundamental to our prosecuting reason than the law of variety, which is fundamental to our mind, the advocate of the senses. By working with the law of types, reason invokes the intellect, who's role Kant tried to limit to the bare, formal minimum necessary to make the mind work properly "for all times"... He eliminated the notion of "own-Self", i.e. the specific, unique ontological form of actual definiteness characterizing each and every individual and crucial to promote creative thought.

The critical position defended here can thus be summarized as follows :

  1. in human cognition, rooted in action (coordinated movements), sensoric synthesis, affect, mind, reason & intellect prevail ;

  2. under the ægis of the transcendental unity of apperception (the formal, transcendental Self), the mind, hand in hand with -so must we think- sensoric and affective events, produces knowledge in the form of probable, fallible empirico-formal propositional statements of fact ;

  3. reason is meta-mind unifying & expanding mind ;

  4. intellect is meta-reason unifying reason ;

  5. the unification of mind by reason implies a transcendental Self, the capstone of the pyramidal structure of the spatio-temporality of the mind ;

  6. the unification of reason by intellect implies a Higher Self, the own-form of the individual and unique ontic definiteness (difference and thus energy). Immanent in the ontological sense (not exceeding nature as such), this Self is "transcendent" in the epistemic, creative sense (transgressing the possible experience of the empirical ego and its mental cogitations) ;

  7. "intellectual reason" is the ideal of a real harmony between ante-rationality, the science of facts, immanent metaphysics and transcendent pataphysics.

Fundamentally, cognitive activity is dualistic. The two sides of its equation, the object and subject of knowledge, cannot be reduced to one another. This dualism is complex. On the one hand, mind aims at concrete knowledge and is assisted in this by reason. On the other hand, intellect aims at intuitional knowledge, and assists reason to bring it and its mind under the highest unity. If reason converges on unity, then intellect is that unity. If the former is able to articulate its aim (namely the ideas of the real and the idea), intellect is ineffable and non-verbal. Intellectual perception is possible, but does not yield propositions.

§ 23

Scientific knowledge is a system of empico-formal propositions involving "facts" produced by an experimental set-up or set of instrumental actions and a chain of dialogal processes, both strategic (with asymmetrical dialogal structures based on the media money, propaganda & money) and communicative (devoid of the latter).

Besides scientific knowledge, metaphysics speculates to arrive at a global perspective on the world. Being no longer the foundation of science, it aims to understand the world and man as a whole, feeding its arguments with scientific facts, the condensation of the activity of objective and (inter)subjective principles, norms & maxims. Situated "next" to "physics" (or science), meta-physics is the inescapable background of all possible scientific knowledge. The demarcation between both is clear, for science is testable and arguable, whereas metaphysics is only subject to the laws of logic and argumentation. Metaphysics is speculative and demonstrative, but never experimental and factual. Hence is can never be a science nor acquire the nature of one (as in a "scientific metaphysics"). Precluded of arguability, metaphysics and irrationality cannot be distinguished.

We define "rationality" as the set of cogitationes uniting three subsets :

  1. normative philosophy :
    the normative disciplines delving up the principles governing thought (epistemology), affect (esthetics) & action (ethics) ;

  2. scientific knowledge :
    all empirico-formal propositions which are probably true in most tests (regulated by the idea of correspondentio) and for most concerned sign-interpreters (regulated by the ideal of a consensus omnium), but never absolutely true or certain ;

  3. metaphysics :
    all speculative propositions which have been the subject of a dialogal & argumentative process (argued plausibly, i.e. defended in argument).

To summarize : in the meta-nominal & meta-rational stage of cognition two modes are distinguished :

  • the contemplative, creative activity of the arguable but non-factual ideas of the transcendent, ontic Self (studied by immanent metaphysics) and 

  • the nondual activity suggested by the perception of the unconditional core of all what is.

Two types of rationality ensue :

  • the rational mind : is preoccupied with the growth of scientific knowledge gathered by the mind through synthesis, but unable to contemplate the transcendental Self as ontic and transcendent. It discovers the transcendental norms of reason which regulate the mental process of producing knowledge (one-dimensional reason) ;

  • intellectual reason : serves the purpose of the complete expression of the actual own-form of the unique Self of the individual (his or her "soul"), encompassing its creativity, inventivity and stepping-stone to the direct experience of the light of reason (the intellect). This light does not inform about the world but about ourselves as Selves. This Self-knowledge constitutes a creative dynamization of reason, mind & sensation (multi-dimensional reason). This intellectual reason is two-tiered :

    1. the intuition of the transcendent Self of creativity (evidenced in immanent metaphysics, creativity and art) ;

    2. the perception of absolute reality (suggested by mysticism, spirituality and the testimony of the religions).

Philosophy aims to dig out the laws of thought (truth), affect (beauty) and action (goodness). These laws, which we have been using all the time, give body to normative disciplines, defining epistemology, esthetics and ethics. Furthermore, once it is known what we must think, feel and do, philosophy tries to develop a total picture of the world, in which nature (physics, cosmology), life (biology) and man (anthropology) are brought together in a way able to explain everything. This theoretical (metaphysical) pursuit aims at answering the questions : What is nature ? What is life ? What is man ? These answers finally yield the most cherished quest of philosophy : What is the purpose of man's life on Earth (and in the universe) ?

Book Naught
Transcendental Logic

0. No rational thought without, on the one hand, a transcendental object, which appears as an object of knowledge (what ?), and, on the other hand, a transcendental subject, which -as a subject of knowledge (who ?)- is a member of a community of intersubjective sign-interpreters and hence co-exists with language.

A. The dyad of formal thought.

Thought is not monadic nor triune. The monad is the standard of standards, a onefold unity. Evidently, the absolutely transcendent exceeds the limitations imposed by the dyad. The triad is the standard of process, defining initial position, movement and final position. Unity and process do not constitute thought.

Transcendental logic formalizes thought as the necessary product of two irreducible factors constituting all possible thought :

  • the transcendental subject : the one thinking, as it were possessing the object ;

  • the transcendental object : what is thought, or what is placed before the subject.

Suppose a thought without a (thinking) subject. This implies there is no one thinking the thought. This is a contradiction in actu exercito. Thinking the subject away implies subjectivity. Likewise, a thought without something being thought involves objectifying the thought which has no object. Hence, all possible thought is a function of both transcendental subject and transcendental object.

Division, opposition and duality are expressions of the dyad of rational thought. This discordance is necessary and cannot be taken away without leaving the domain of concepts. The conflict does not intend to cause cleavage, schism or separation. Its aim is to maintain both sides together and apart and to engage communication, empathy and cooperation to achieve a common goal : correct thinking. The two sides of thought may move away from complementarity by reduction (subject to object or object to subject), or "split" into two quasi-independent parts (cf. nature versus culture). Clearly to no avail.

In the political arena, the
discordant concord or armed truce can only be realized if both sides have relinquished all intentions to eliminate or harm each other. Only if both show respect, can open communication (re)start. Likewise, before both sides of the function of conceptual thought are integrated in all cogitations, correct thinking is impossible.

The transcendental subject is not a closed, Cartesian substance. It is more than a mere Kantian "I Think" accompanying all cogitations. Intersubjectivity, language-games (cf. Wittgenstein), the use of signals, icons and symbols by persons and groups, enlarge the scope of the transcendental subject, appearing as a community of language users, both in terms of personal membership(s), the actual discourse, as well as their historical tradition (the magister of past, successful games).

The transcendental object is not a mere construct of mind, a shadow or a reflection of ideal realities. Although the direct evidence of the senses is co-determined by the observer, object knowledge is possible and (also) backed by, so must we think, an extra-mental reality, or reality-as-such. This is absolute reality, whereas thought is bound to produce fallible object-knowledge (reality-for-us).

B. The fact of reason.

Transcendental logic is a formal explicitation of the normative system of rational thought, discovered a posteriori and at work in each cognitive act. In this logic, the fundamental form of thought itself, the Factum Rationis (cf. Kant) is approached. This is the primitive (in the sense of first), undeniable given of thought which cannot be explained by anterior causes. These principles are the groundless ground of thought and knowledge. They form a set of unproven principles used in every cogitation. Ergo, they evoke the limitations of thought, in particular if all conceptual modes of cognition.

A hermeneutical circle emerges, showing that the foundation of the principles of thought cannot be found in anything outside these principles. The circle starts with the study of the cogitations produced by our cognitive apparatus, in other words, by investigating the mind. This brings us to principles which are presupposed and at work in every single cogitation. Afterwards, epistemologists "discover" how the abstract formulation of these principles is the necessary and irreducible condition of the conceptual self-reflection of thought. At the end of the exercise, they place its "transcendental logic" at the head of epistemology, while in fact it comes at the end of the circle.

C. The groundless ground of knowledge.

Being the support of the edifice of thought itself, and this for all times, this Factum Rationis cannot be grounded. All efforts to do so have failed and are bound to fail, for to ground thought outside thought entails the elimination of one of the conditions of thought, made explicit by transcendental logic. So in effect, they are only a perversity of thought.

   Book 1
Theoretical Epistemology

1. The solution to the problem of the foundation of knowledge is an epistemology giving a valid answer to the question how true knowledge & its development are possible ?

1. The normative solution.

In any theory of knowledge, the two vectors posited by transcendental logic are called to appear as the concrete subject and object of knowledge. Epistemology tries to explain the possibility of knowledge and to do so is backed by the universal form of thought itself.

In the precritical discourse, foundational approaches dominate epistemology. This implies a reduction of the discordant concord of thought (the vector-field defined by opposing interests) to either the subject of knowledge (idealism, spiritualism) or the object of knowledge (realism, materialism). The problem of how knowledge itself can be justified, i.e. given certain grounds, remains unsolved. The ontological epistemologies associated with these incomplete solutions (exclusively promoting human consciousness or physical reality) subreptively re-introduce the other vector (idealism needs a "something out there", realism implies a "someone in here"). Hence, they fail to answer Kant's first question of epistemology : "Was kann ich wissen ?" What can I know ?

Three questions dominate theoretical and applied epistemology :

  • How is knowledge possible ? What are the criteria or conditions of knowledge ?

  • How is true knowledge possible ? Which theory of truth is applicable in the game of "true" knowledge ?

  • How can true knowledge be developed ? If we know (a) how knowledge is possible and (b) to define true knowledge, then which method allows us to produce knowledge and so expand our knowledge-horizon ? This last question is the object of applied epistemology.

The échec of the ontological epistemologies was countered by Kant and his "Copernican Revolution", culminating in neo-Kantianism and its critical theory. The latter made a decisive step away from the foundational intent still present in Kant (namely his synthetic propositions a priori). Object-knowledge is relative, historical, fallible and a posteriori. This does not lead to the skeptic "anything goes", for the principles of transcendental logic, the norms of theoretical epistemology and the maxims of the practice of knowledge must be accepted if the game of "true" knowledge is to be played well.

Instead of a description of how knowledge is possible, critical theory offers the principles, norms and maxims by which "true" knowledge must be possible and productive.

2. An epistemology articulating a valid answer is necessarily free from (outrageous) internal contradictions.

Epistemology must apply the principles of thought. This is a transcendental condition overlooked in onto-epistemologies. In principle, the architecture of the answer to the question How knowledge is possible ? should reflect both vectors of thought, namely the Who ? and What ? of all possible thought.

In practical thinking, these transcendental considerations are postponed. Epistemology does not have that luxury. It must explain how knowledge is possible. Without a valid answer, science cannot be certified, and everything remains in doubt. So let the transcendental principles of all thought become the theoretical norms of all knowledge : the Who ? of thought appearing as the subject of knowledge, the What ? of thought as the object of knowledge.

These norms of knowledge are necessary and a priori.

3. All previous attempts to build-up epistemology from a sufficient ground outside knowledge are rejected by logic.

As the transcendental structure of all thought is a dyad, all foundational attempts reduce :

  • the object of knowledge to the subject : idealism will eventually disregard the facts, in particular their, so must we think, extra-mental reality. Its logic is rejected not only because it tries to undo what cannot be undone (namely to think without an object), but because it needs to subreptively reintroduce the excommunicated. In order for "objectivity" to have meaning, idealist theory of truth (consensus) must refer to something extra-mental. This is nothing less than the object of knowledge it banished (in vain) from its mental arena ;

  • the subject of knowledge to the object : realism will epiphenomenalize and eventually deny the existence of the subject, in particular the first person perspective, giving birth to intimate, personal worlds (reality-for-me), and co-creating the world by the constant use of signals, icons & symbols. Its logic is rejected not only because it tries to think without a subject, but because the latter is necessarily reintroduced. Logically, realism cannot escape the first person perspective, for no two observers share the same spatial coordinates. Moreover, as every observation is dependent of both theoretical connotations and fact, realist theory of truth (correspondence) cannot eliminate the role of intersubjectivity. Hence, also realism reintroduces the eliminated, and so fails to deliver.

4. Each attempt to ground epistemology leads to unacceptable logical difficulties. For this gives or an infinite regress, or a logical circle or a dogmatic break with the attempt of justification (the trilemma of foundation).

Accommodating the postulate of foundation, three logical impasses occur. A justification of proposition P is a deduction with P as conclusion. How extended must this deductive chain be in order to justify P ?

  1. regressus ad infinitum :
    There is no end to the justification, and so no foundation is found. The presence of an infinite series begs the question of the status of infinity, whether or not it is objective ? In general terms, logicians and mathematicians try to avoid this kind of endless succession and dislike attributing reality to infinity (and so renormalize their equations to fit their finite parameters). The regressus ad infinitum is pointless, leads nowhere and can never deliver solid, decontextualized principles ;

  2. petitio principii :
    The end is implied by the beginning, for P is part of the deduction ; circularity is a valid deduction but no justification of P, hence no foundation is found. Transcendental logic involves such a circle. Thought can only be rooted in thought itself. Normative epistemology is based on the groundless ground of thought. Normative philosophy articulates the principles, norms & maxims of correct thinking (epistemology), correct judgment (esthetics) and correct action (ethics). These are discovered while having used them and using them. Insofar as this circle is "hermeneutic", normative disciplines are more than formal and contribute to understand the fundamentals of thought, in particular truth, beauty and goodness. The petitio percipii is limited and of little use outside the normative sphere, where it equals the tautology. But, although tautologies, offering perfect identifications (A = A), do not add to the contents of thought, they do add structure, associations, correspondences & internal harmonizations of large associated blocks of information ;

  3. abrogation ad hoc :
    Justification is ended ad hoc, the postulate of justification is abrogated, and the unjustified sufficient ground is accepted because, being certain, it needs no more justification. This has been the strategy of all ontological epistemologies, i.e. descriptions (not laws) of how knowledge is possible in terms of a theory of real or ideal being (viz. the Peripatetic and Platonic schools). When the subject is eliminated, knowledge is rooted in an hypostasis of the object of knowledge. This is the real, absolute, extra-mental reality of the thing-as-such, considered as the cause of the sense-data feeding the mind in order for it to know. When the object is eliminated, knowledge is grounded in the hypostasis of the subject of knowledge : the ideality of the thing-as-such, as in Plato and his variants. The abrogation ad hoc is dogmatic and one-sided.

The trilemma is avoided by stopping to seek an absolute, sufficient ground for knowledge outside knowledge. The ground of knowledge is the groundless principle of thought itself. This is the simple fact conceptual thought is impossible without the discordant concord of transcendental subject and transcendental object.

5. Only a normative approach to the problem of the foundation of knowledge makes it possible -through reflection- to discover the necessary basic system. These are the principles & norms we have always been using and hence which we can not deny without using them in the denial.

Transcendental logic dictates the principle of rational thought. This is the concordia discors of the Factum Rationis. Duality is its architecture. On the one hand, thought has a contents, an object of knowledge, on the other hand, cogitation implies a thinker. Both are necessary and form a system. In epistemology, these logical conditions are translated by the simultaneity of two vectors : the vector of the subject of knowledge, its languages, theories and theoretical connotations and the vector of the object of knowledge, its physical apparatus, tenacity, inertia and, so must we think, factuality & actuality.

The normative status of the system of epistemology is given by the necessity of the principles & norms implied. Each time we deny one of them, we use them in the process of the denial. A stronger case cannot be made. They represent what has been, what is and what shall be the game of "true" knowing, based on correct thinking (logic) and epistemology, both theoretical (the possibility and truth-value of knowledge) and applied (the production of knowledge).

6. On the one hand, a valid epistemology makes it possible to delimit factual, true knowledge from only arguable, speculative knowledge. On the other hand and based on the basic system, it becomes clear which cogitations we rather call rational than irrational (and vice versa). In this way, a model of rationality ensues which joins the sought epistemology.

Logic and epistemology do not stand alone. They are part of a larger positioning of rationality as open at two ends of its cognitive texture, for rationality is ante-rational or instinctive in its genesis or historical origination (arche), and trans-rational or intuitive in its goal (telos). Rooted in the mythical (non-verbal), pre-rational (semiotics) and proto-rational (concrete concept and mental closure) layers of thought, reason must learn to (a) operate itself, (b) be aware of its relationship with instinctual thought-patterns and (c) not abrogate its higher aim, to wit : lead thought to unity, creativity and intuitive insight (nondual gnosis).

On the one hand, instincts force thought to root itself in a sufficient ground outside thought itself. The idea of such a ground, satisfies our human longing for security, stability and the guarantee things stay the same (tenacity). These stem from our emotional constitution, are intertwined with ante-rationality, and dominate our life from pre-natal conditions to early puberty, when formal thought enters the arena. On the other hand, intuition tends to root thought in a transcendent ground, and reduce the products of knowledge to illusions and "lower" states of consciousness. Although rationality must remain open at both ends, it should not loose itself in either instinct or intuition, but neither should it block the latter out. Hence, to be reasonable is a rather difficult exercise ...

A critical epistemology draws the lines. In terms of possible knowledge, the most important border holds speculative and factual knowledge apart. The latter is knowledge we, for the time being, may consider as "true", constituting the paradigmatic core of the edifice of scientific knowledge. This object-knowledge is science proper, and is cast in synthetic, empirico-formal propositions a posteriori. They are called "synthetic" because they operate the domain of direct observation, "empirico-formal" because observation is the product of both theory and, so must we think, extra-mental reality, and "a posteriori" because their contents is not a given and largely unknown beforehand.

Speculative knowledge is clearly metaphysical. When pursued, metaphysics is indicated and (dialogal) logic inevitable. As no crucial experiment is possible, only argumentation prevails. So to erect a solid speculative system is a gigantic enterprise, even if deconstruction is allowed to unmask the transcendent terms and the idea of a system is asterixed (cf. equiaeon-system*). Given these difficulties, speculative knowledge remains problematic.

7. Every cognitive act presupposes an object of knowledge which has to be thought of as unsurmountable. If not, we commit a contradiction "in actu exercito".

2 The object of knowledge.

The object of knowledge is always placed before the subject of knowledge. This is either another thought (mental object) or a fact (sensate object). In both cases, the presence of the object is a given.

It is not always possible to cause change just by thinking it. Even while we reflect, an internal object is present. Besides mental cogitations, we must posit an object which has intrinsic power of tenacity in opposition, as objects confront subjects. Together with our mental constructions, this reality-as-such must co-define the contents of our cognition. Only by eliminating the architecture of thought itself, rejecting its transcendental logic, can the mind regress into believing in the confounded one-sidedness of the real or the ideal.

The object of knowledge is particularly dear to science. Without it, no empiricism is possible. However, to integrate perception into epistemology, does not license the return of ontological realism to ground knowledge, although the temptation is strong. Materialism, epiphenomenalism, scientism, logico-positivism, instrumentalism take a bridge too far. Unavoidably, epistemology is perverted and so the ante-rational longings for the correspondence of ideas with an eternalized reality are attached to "pure" principles & norms.

If one says : "There is no object of knowledge.", then this statement itself is the object of knowledge to those who hear what is said. Denial of the object of knowledge entails the use of the object of knowledge. Hence, it is unsurmountable and never eclipsed. If repressed, it re-emerges subreptively, for nothing can be thought, said or written without its constant use. This is the case in idealist onto-epistemologies, were the object of knowledge is driven out at the profit of an intersubjective, object-constituting consensus about the coherence between propositions and/or theories.

For cogitations to be possible, the object of knowledge has to be conceived as a "Gegenstand", and this a forteriori.

8. The unsurmountability of the object of knowledge does not imply it grounds the possibility of knowledge absolutely & a-historically (as tried out in a model of knowledge devoid of subject of knowledge). It does mean  -so must we think- our knowledge always tells us "something" about reality-as-such. We have to think reality as knowable.

The foundational approach seeks certain knowledge. Critical theory aims to produce probable knowledge. Realism, exorcising the subject, aims to ground the possibility of knowledge in a reality outside the cognitive act, thereby introducing a passive subject, invoked to accept and register stimuli. In its simple form, induction and verification by correspondence with sense-data are called in to explain the development of knowledge. The fact these mental arrangements exceed the sense-data eludes the realist.

There is no absolute, a-historical ground of knowledge outside knowledge itself. The normative discipline works in a circular way. On the basis of a hermeneutical circle it argues a logical deduction but offers no new contents. It makes evident what thought has, is and will be been doing all the time. The groundless ground of knowledge is the irreducibility of the discordant concord, forbidding the reduction of object to subject or vice versa.

By rejecting ontological realism as a sufficient ground, one does not necessarily reject the necessity of thinking the object of knowledge. If one seeks "true" knowledge, one must think this object, and so accept that, while thinking, there is no other option than to conceive the "other" facing the subject. Cogitations aside, this is an extra-mental reality which cannot be divorced from the act of "true" knowing.

9. Justificationism (the justification of knowledge by intuitional, rational or empirical foundational attempts) has to be rejected on logical grounds.

Onto-epistemologies need to justify how knowledge can be true and certain. They seek a sufficient ground outside knowledge. Historically, justificationism worked along two lines : either mind or reality were put forward as the rock-bottom of certainty. Insofar as interests were dominated by the mind, true knowledge adequately reflected reality-as-such, and a symbolical adualism (Platonism) was indicated (intuitionism, rationalism). Insofar reality was pushed forward, true knowledge was deemed the direct, immediate correspondence of theory and reality-as-such (empirism, materialism). In terms of the possibility of knowledge, avoiding the trilemma, both positions are deemed outdated. Knowledge is not called "true" because everybody says so or because we think reality triggered it.

To avoid the transcendental contradiction caused by banishing either mind or reality from the logic of thought itself, the two vectors of knowledge have, in every cognitive act, to be used simultaneously. Empirical justification as it were hopes to bracket the subject, directly observe reality-as-such without interpretation, and finally remove the brackets to talk and write about the acquired knowledge. Will at some point, repeating this successful process, the justificationist be allowed to make the crucial logical jump from a finite number of observations to a universal statement of fact (encompassing an infinite number of observations) ? Clearly not. Can one eliminate the subject of knowledge and observe without interpretation ? If so, can this still be called rational knowledge ?

The problem of induction is not the crucial logical ground to refute justificationism, nor is its subreptive use of the Factum Rationis (realism calling in the subject, idealism the object). The position itself is untenable for it invokes what it intends to banish. It is impossible to directly observe reality-as-such without there being someone observing. This may be a formal transcendental subject, but this makes the point. Likewise, it is impossible to realize a consensus about a state of affairs without there being something to which this consensus refers to. Knowledge cannot be without object. Knowledge cannot be without subject.

10. Refined falsificationism, coherence, pluralism & interdisciplinary dialogue are crucial in a model of knowledge which joins the critical tradition and this without (extra-epistemologically) grounding the possibility of knowledge in the object of knowledge.

Critical theory is not realist or idealist. Its aim is to discover, make explicit and maintain the principles, norms and maxims of thought and knowledge. These are not rooted in anything outside the latter.

Dogmatic falsificationism avoids the problem of induction by turning things upside down. Instead of starting with a number of individual propositions from which to derive a general law, they begin with a universal statement and try to find exceptions. If one is found, then the general statement is refuted or falsified. This variant of empirical justificationism accepts a theory can never be completely justified. Hence, the more it is corroborated, i.e. withstands attempts at falsification, the more trustworthy the theory becomes. But the naturalistic, onto-epistemological presence of a given empirical ground is not yet left behind.

Refined falsificationism no longer accepts any "ontological" confrontation between theory and fact. Coherence replaces correspondence. Only theories clash. This answers the question of how to translate sense-data in propositions. Only propositions clash. Critical theory adds the hybrid nature of facts. Janus-faced, they are two-faceted : one, turned towards the subject of knowledge, is theory-dependent and intra-mental and the other, turned -so must we think- toward the reality of the object of knowledge, is theory-independent and extra-mental. We recognize something as a fact because our theories allow us to do so AND because it acquired, so we believe, the guarantees of reality-as-such (the Real).

11. To consider the object of knowledge as an "existing thing" to be divorced from the cognitive act and with which our knowledge does or does not correspond (cf. Popper's critical rationalism), leads to an ontological theory of knowledge which is in conflict with the strict nominalism necessary for normative theory (in which knowledge can only be justified through knowledge).

In science, the object of knowledge is fact X placed before the subject of knowledge. On the one hand, a theory makes it possible for the observers to witness fact X, on the other hand, we must think the tenacity with which fact X kicks in terms of the letters of belief it holds. Facts exist "out there", but they are not divorced from the cognitive act. This is the skeptic streak of theoretical epistemology. It could be possible rational thought is sheer illusion. The subject of knowledge cannot rationally know reality-as-such precisely because it cannot escape its own active mind. The latter is highly symbolical and constructivist. The co-authorship of the mind in what is observed and symbolized is therefore considerable.

The "nugget of gold" found in realist onto-epistemology is the idea of the real, the conviction knowledge has to be about some thing. When considering the status of facts, in particular their extra-mental, theory-independent, kicking tenacity and inertia, critical epistemology retains this conviction as an imperative of thought, but not as an ontological description of the theory-independent side of facts (which, given the dyad of thought, is impossible).

12. Every cognitive act presupposes a subject of knowledge which has to be thought off as unsurmountable. If not, we commit a contradiction in actu exercito.

The subject of knowledge.

A parallel argument is developed, but this time focused on the subject of knowledge. Realist onto-epistemology need to think it as wholly passive, unable to add substance to what is observed. The stimuli are deemed to be caused by the outside, extra-mental world. They are the fuel of the "motor" of the formal categories, and make the system work. In the even simpler view of empirism, the mind is considered a tabula rasa at birth. Subjectivity is "necessarily" (sic) eliminated by those playing the game of science and using, so is assumed, its extraordinary language and method of objectification.

On the one hand, observational psychology has shown an absence of priority between the conceptual frame and the so-called "data of observation". On the other hand, if the constructivist powers of an active mind cannot be refuted, then a severe logical problem haunts any epistemology without a subject. Indeed, if one says : "There is no subject of knowledge.", then,
to those who hear what is said, this statement itself is made by a subject of knowledge. Denial of the subject of knowledge entails the use of the subject of knowledge. Hence, it is unsurmountable.

13.  The unsurmountability of the subject of knowledge does not imply it grounds the possibility of knowledge absolutely & a-historically (as tried out in a model of knowledge devoid of object of knowledge). It does mean the subject of knowledge has to be thought off as active, open and theoretizing.

Again, the subject of knowledge is not introduced to ground the possibility of knowledge. The subject is not divorced from the cognitive act, for this cannot be without resorting to a transcendental contradiction pushing epistemology to accept the ontological illusion stating the object exclusively constitutes knowledge or, instead, the subject does so. Knowledge is constituted by knowledge, not by the idea of "the real" or the idea of "the ideal".

To organize the experience of itself and the world, the subject of knowledge produces signals (movement), icons (affects) & symbols (cogitations). This is an activity, not a mere passive reception. The subject creates structure, form, architecture and fills in the holes with expectations. This makes it the opposite of a passive registrar. But, this obvious activity cannot be invoked to move to the extreme of positing truth-bearing subjects. Although the mindset of the subject co-determines what is observed, the facts also, so must we think, refer to the absolute, extra-mental Real-Ideal, although the latter escapes any direct confrontation with a subject of knowledge. Indeed, subjectivity cannot remove its own coloration.

14. The observations made by a subject of knowledge are always theoretically connotated, i.e. they happen in a pattern of expectation developing in the observation itself. Such a pattern of expectation structures and co-determines the facts observed. Between this conceptual frame and the data of observation no priority exists. The notion of a "pure, objective observation" is part of a realistic metaphysics.

Showing the impossibility of attributing logical precedence to an observation over the pattern of expectation allowing it to happen, is to make an end to the naturalism of empiricism and its passive subject (as in realism). It also marks the frontiers of the opposite intention : to make the expectation precede the observation (as in idealism). Staying within the limitations imposed on rational knowledge, there are no objective observations devoid of subjectivity and no subjective creation of things observed. The former is impossible, because the activity of the subject cannot be eclipsed. The latter is impossible, because knowledge is always about some thing escaping subjectivities and transcending, so must we think, the theory-dependent facet of facts.

There are many levels of expectation. In its simplest form, recall the famous cube of Wittgenstein published in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (5.5423). Whether it is observed as standing or lying down is independent of the objective drawing, but is caused by the expectation of the observer (focusing either on this or another angle of the cube). Escherian paradoxes are of the same type, and are linked with the problems arising when three dimensions are projected upon a plane. Optical illusions, which do not go away when discovered, are yet another level of expectation. They are intertwined with our observational apparatus and its natural defects.  Hallucinations (to be distinguished from visions in trance-states) are exceptional examples of subjective pathological fabrications, and show how subjective states may directly affect the auditory and visual pathways of the central nervous system.

15. The community of subjects of knowledge talk about theories. Differences of opinion ensue (the ruling consensus breaks). The ideal speech-situation is necessary to regain consensus. In every factual speech-situation the ideal is presupposed and anticipated. This does not mean the truth of statements can be determined by excluding the object of knowledge.

The subject of knowledge is not posited in isolation. In a closed, substantialist approach of the subject, subjectivity is rooted in an ontology. Likewise, truth is also subjectified as a super-subject (cf. the Platonic idea of the Good). In the present critical approach, the subject of knowledge is always communal and so cannot be divorced from the community of subjects to which it belongs. A solipsist subject is an illusion and a misconception of subjectivity. A variety of communities emerge around the subject and in each, by way of interaction, the subject as it were shows another profile. Hence, the solitary subject, its family, relationships and professional vocation are to be set apart as the pivotal areas of subjective functioning. Each time, otherness cannot be bracketed. As one's inner dialogue testify, even the solitary subject defines itself in terms of others, albeit imaginal. The empirical ego calls itself an "I" only, because some "non-I" identifies it as such (cf. Lacan and the mirror-stage). And between subjects, the use of languages to signal, represent or symbolize thought is outstanding.

In the advocated model of rationality, the linguistic capacity of the subject of knowledge is (a) either turned towards goals projected outside the speech-act, or (b) aiming to realize the ideal speech-situation. In the former case, the discourse is instumental or strategic, in the latter it is communicational, for in harmony with the norms of discourse. A strategic discourse does not satisfy the ideal of communication, but, because of its a-symmetry, is able to top-down imperative knowledge to manifest a target. Because of the inequality in speech and the lack of freedom to speak, a "military" strategy is at work and the success of the operation is forthcoming in a linear way.

To share propositions, theoretical connotations and theories, open subjects of knowledge communicate with one another. This discourse is communicational and has no outer targets. The issue at hand is a thought, a concept, a proposition, a theory ... The invoked words intend to bring into evidence coherent novel contents and architectures between other words. The aim being consensus between all involved subjects. To realize this consensus, the concrete speech-situation must be symmetrical. No coercion rules. Although this ideal speech-situation is the limit-concept of the logic of communication, and thus never actual, it is presupposed and anticipated in every actual communication. It is presupposed, because otherwise external coercion would be allowed to enter the picture, perverting the possibility of communication itself (namely the ideal speech-situation). It is anticipated, because in order to communicate, all parties must accept the normative status of the ideal. If not, then their intention before starting to communicate was not to communicate at all (cf. culpa in contrahendo or culpable conduct before contract negotiations).

The ideal speech-situation or logic of communication is at work between subjects of knowledge, ruling their communicational discourses. As it does not refer to the theory-independent facet of facts or to the extra-mental objects of knowledge, but only to the speech-acts of other subjects of knowledge appearing as objects of knowledge, it cannot be a used to judge the truth of propositions. Intersubjectively valid insofar subjects, to seek consensus, communicate in non-strategic ways, the ideal speech-situation is not a truth-criterion. It is not because everybody thinks the same thought, that this thought should be considered "true", for they could all be wrong. Thoughts do no constitute things.

16. To think the subject of knowledge as constitutive of an object (independent of the cognitive act, as in Habermas' transcendental philosophy) leads to an unacceptable ontological theory of knowledge which idealistically deobjectifies the basic system.

Starting with Fichte, idealism ontologised Kant's transcendentalism. For Kant, the transcendental system is not a thing among things, nor is it a (higher) reality of ideas. The Copernican Revolution roots the system of thought in the Thinker, and in nothing else. For Kant, the transcendental "I Think" or transcendental unity accompanying every cogitation of the empirical ego, must be kept totally empty. The "I Think" is "of all times", but not above time. Transcendental and transcendent have to be sharply distinguished.

The transcendental ego can be made historical as a series of essences in constant transformation. This historical, hypostatic Self-reality is epistemologized as the ideal consensus between all possible language-users. Like the leaders of Plato's ideal state, this consensus catholicus is the guardian of truth and hence the sole power to define falsehood. In contemporary transcendental philosophy, and the philosophy of Habermas in particular, the intersubjectivity of knowledge eventually constitutes the object of knowledge, i.e. defines the What ? or contents of knowledge. This is like taking away objectivity from thought.

17. Knowledge can be divided into mental knowledge (aiming at an object or object-knowledge) and rational knowledge (aiming at the mind). The former is related to the categorial scheme, the latter to the ideas.

4 The categories (mind) & ideas (reason).

When reflecting upon the cognitive act, cogitations have the mind itself as object of knowledge. This is rational knowledge, for the mind is its object, and reason is the meta-faculty ruling the mind. The ideas of reason are those concepts which are necessary to guarantee the coherence and development of the mind. As contents of mind are addressed, mental knowledge ensues when the functional product of the two vectors of mind is at hand. This knowledge is called "scientific" because it is backed by both sides of the equation of knowledge and its categorial scheme. The latter is an explicitation of both vectors, introducing the notions of "test" (experiment) and "dialogue" (argumentation). This happens in the context of the proposed theory of truth.

The categorial scheme works for the mind and its mental knowledge. The ideas of reason work to organize the two vectors, regulating, on the one hand, the object of knowledge and its experimental definition with the idea of the real, and, on the other hand, the subject of knowledge and its discourses with the idea of the ideal.

18. The ideas guarantee the order (unity) and the expansion (totality) of our mental knowledge. They aim at the unconditional. If we use reason in the same way as we use the mind (i.e. if we use the ideas in the same way as we use the categories to acquire object-knowledge) then and only then does the transcendental illusion ensue.

A transcendental contradiction happens when thought allows the dyad to become a monad, and this by reducing the transcendental subject to the object or vice versa. A transcendental illusion does not belong to transcendental logic, but to theoretical epistemology. There it happens when the ideas regulating the process of cognition are made to constitute it. When a "real" object of knowledge is said to stimulate a passive mind, or when an "ideal" subject of knowledge is said to constitute the object of knowledge. The ideas of reality and ideality serve the mind, but not the senses.

In neurophysiology, the primary information gathered by the senses is filtered by secondary & tertiary sensoric systems. Observation happens in a pattern of expectation which develops in the observation itself. The field of connotation defined by the expectation cannot be removed from the observation.

The two ideas of reason dominating epistemology aim at the unconditional. The idea of the real pushes reason to seek the ultimate correspondence between theory and fact. The idea of the ideal stimulates the notion of the consensus omnium between all sign-interpreters of signals, icons and symbols. This optimalization is like a receding horizon. How could it be realized ? In terms of applied epistemology, the expansion of knowledge has no end, for the totality of all possible experience is never given.

19. This illusion (which cannot be taken away but only unmasked by way of criticism positing limitations so it can no longer deceive us) shows the borders of our possible mental knowledge have been transgressed, making the mind slow & perverse. In this way, ideas become objects, i.e. things amongst things. Hence, this illusion is also an ontological illusion.

The transcendental illusion (using the ideas of reason to constitute the possibility of knowledge) is an ontological illusion, making the object of knowledge appear as reality-as-such or the subject of knowledge appear as ideality-as-such. But absolute reality (reality-as-such and ideality-as-such or the Real-Ideal) cannot be an object of knowledge, for how to eliminate the theory-dependent facet of facts ?

Caught in the net of illusion, the mind either makes the idea of the real into a real world "out there", or the idea of the ideal into a truth-bearing ideality "in here". When the mind thinks it faces the Real-Ideal, it not longer needs to push the limits of possible knowledge (i.e. develop it), for everything is known to everybody. Hence, because of this mirage, our mental knowledge receives a wrong sense of completion, for totality duly belongs to reason and not to the mind. This sense of completion halts the development of knowledge, whereas the one-sided reliance on a sufficient ground (either of the real or of the ideal) makes the cognitive apparatus function in a debilitating way, as it were sucking the strength out of our capacity to know.

20. Realistic answers to the problem of the foundation of knowledge step beyond the boundaries of all possible mental knowledge because the idea of a "reality devoid of the subject of knowledge" (i.e. reality-as-such or Kant's "Ding-an-sich") becomes the foundation of epistemology (so facts coincide with this reality and the subject of knowledge becomes secondary) .
21. Idealistic answers ground the possibility of knowledge in the idea of an "ideal, object-constituting subject" (reality becomes secondary). Both are in conflict with the necessary conditions of the possibility of knowledge.

5 Idealistic & realistic transgressions.

Both foundational approaches have to be explicitly ruled out. Scientific knowledge, as a particular type of mental knowledge, must not eclipse the subject of knowledge, nor is the object of knowledge manufactured by the subject. Realism and idealism represent metaphysical answers to the problem of knowledge and although arguable, the decisive role of the ideas of the real and the ideal in epistemology is restricted to assist (mental) knowledge in its unity and expansion. As such, they belong to reason and their knowledge is reflective.

The ideas of reason have the categorial scheme of the mind as their object, not its fuel, i.e. the contents of the mind given by the facts. Because of the rules of logic and the workings of the active mind, the reality aimed at by the idea of the real (namely, that this-or-that fact is absolutely real) is not an object of the mind. Likewise, the ideality aimed at by the idea of the ideal is never before the mind, for the ideal speech-situations is never the actual discourse (indeed, this-or-that discourse is never absolutely ideal).

22. By shaping the unconditionality of the object of knowledge, the idea "reality" (the real-as-such) guarantees the unity & the expansion of the monologous object-oriented conceptual knowledge .
23. By shaping the unconditionality of the intersubjectivity of knowledge, the idea "ideality" (the ideal-as-such) guarantees the unity & the expansion of the dialogal subject-oriented conceptual knowledge.

6 Idealistic & realistic regulations towards unity & expansion.

To observe and experiment involves the study of regulation, determination and lawfulness, among which that of efficient causes. The asymptotic "ultimate determination" of reason lies beyond the finite borders of possible mental knowledge. Being no longer conditioned, it belongs to the idea of the real-as-such, i.e. the absolute, unconditioned reality-as-such. Communication aims to establish a consensus between all involved subjects of knowledge, but the ideal speech-situation is an ideal beyond the reach of any actual discourse. Being no longer conditioned, it belongs to the idea of the ideal-as-such, i.e. the absolute, unconditioned ideality-as-such.

In every observation of fact, both regulations are simultaneously at work. The idea of the real pushes the mind to pursue sensate adventures, whereas the idea of the ideal brings its constructions in the larger arena of the community of interpreters of signals, icons & symbols, seeking consensus and approval. Experimentation concentrates on the real. Discourse, dissensus, argumentation and consensus on the ideal. They are special cases of observation of fact, intended to articulate empirico-formal propositions or statements of fact, in casu scientific knowledge.

Experimentation, regulated by the idea of the real, involves a one-to-one relationship with the object of knowledge, at the maximal exclusion of intersubjective dialogue and discussion. It is always instrumental. This is the image of "objective" science as the monologue of Nature with herself (as in realism). The highest art of dialogue, regulated by the idea of the ideal, involves the constant dialogue with & between other subjects of knowledge about ideas, concepts, theoretical connotations, conjectures or theories. Here we have the image of a community of people seeking the truth about something and communicating to find out what it is (as in the more contemporary forms of idealism and social theory).

24. Both ideas converge towards an imaginal point which, as a postponed horizon, is a complete, universal consensus on the adequate correspondence between our knowledge and reality-as-such. This is a heuristic fiction, suggesting a position "beyond the mirror surface", a "world behind" regulating the possibility of knowledge without grounding the latter or serving as its foundation.

Epistemology, esthetics and ethics are the three normative disciplines defining the formal conditions of rationality. They draw the lines between "correct" (valid) and "outlawed" (invalid) and also define the borders of the inner architecture of cognition. In epistemology, empirico-formal propositions are at hand, as is their truth-value and method of corroboration. In esthetics, judgments of beauty prevail, and in ethics moral valuations are made. Propositions involve object-knowledge and probable truth. Judgments of beauty imply subjective keys to harmony and escaping sublimity. Moral valuations are imperative and intend the good.

The absolute mind is visualized by our faculty of imagination as an adequate correspondence. Both ideas are optimalized and projected outside the limitations of rationality, for neither science (mental knowledge), nor transcendental philosophy (rational knowledge) is equipped to know in an absolute way. The "
adequatio intellectus ad rem" or "veritas est adequatio rei et intellectus" of the realist is coupled with the "leges cogitandi sunt leges essendi" of the idealist. Both ideas are pushed beyond any possible limit. Unconditional, they represent what transcends rational thought ; a perfect unity between thought and fact, as it were the dwindling away of the theory-dependent facet of facts, a fiction brought about by the faculty of imagination and reason.

25. These ideas of contemporary epistemology characterize the "essential tension" (cf. Kuhn) typical for thinking and knowledge itself. In this way, it voices the fundamental property of scientific thinking, i.e. the continuous & permanent confrontation between "testing" (object of knowledge) and "language" (subjects of knowledge).

Both in thought, theoretical & applied epistemology, the concordia discors is what has been going on since the Homo Sapiens sapiens emerged as the result of his pre-frontal lobes and angular gyrus starting to compute or process consciousness thinking.

In science, especially interested in object-knowledge, this armed truce makes both parties persue their proper vector. During experiments, discussions are, for the time being, stopped. This separation is followed by confrontation. Test-results are discussed and face competitive explanations and interpretations. Dissensus may arise and at this point argumentation comes in to decide who is right and to foster consensus. Conclusions are formulated and new experiments are made ... In theory this circle is unending.

26. On the side of the object of knowledge, we must think "reality-as-such" as knowable (without being conceptually equipped to know whether this is the case). Facts are both intra-linguistic (are co-determined by the theories of the subject of knowledge) and -so must we think- extra-linguistic, i.e. the messengers of "reality-as-such". Hence, they correspond with reality-for-us.
27. On the side of the subject of knowledge, we have to think the "consensus omnium" as possible (without us ever reaching it in fact). In this way, the distinction between "my" consensus (with myself), "our" consensus here & now (i.e. the agreement between the users of the same language) and the "consensus omnium", the regulative idea on the side of the subject of knowledge, ensues.

7 Correspondence versus consensus.

For the philosophers of old, true knowledge was certain knowledge. And certain knowledge was perennial. Truth was eternalized. Pre-critical epistemology, seeking to make this postulate of foundation explicit, sought a sufficient ground outside knowledge, either as a Real World "out there" or an Ideal Idea "in here". In Greek metaphysics, concept-realism dominated and rooted the possibility of knowledge in an ideal world (Plato) or in the abstraction of the essence of things by observing them (Aristotle). In Scholastic thought, the crucial difference between (Platonic & Peripatetic) realism and (moderate & strict) nominalism emerged, replaced in modern thought by empirism and rationalism. All these efforts were pointless. Reason cannot find the sufficient ground of thought outside thought and this a priori (cf. transcendental logic). We are unable to escape the necessity of the Factum Rationis. Pre-critical modern thought was termed "scandalous" precisely because of this prevailing antinomy. Both rationalism and empirism could be argued relatively successfully, but, taken together, constituted a contradiction. This meant philosophy, if it were for example to compete with the universality of the G-force expressed by Newton's law of gravity, could not endure in this format.

With the Critique of Pure Reason, the first step was taken to formalize (or empty of its ontology) the Cartesian cogito and integrate both sides of the equation of possible thought. But Kant retained the senses as "quasi-causes" and hoped synthetic propositions a priori could be found. He was still a foundationalist. Because of these problems, German idealism rejected the transcendental method itself and did not try to reconstruct Kant (or read him properly). A return to brontosauric ontology emerged, both idealist (cf. Hegel) as realist (cf. Marx). Worse, protest philosophy (cf. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson) rejected the necessities of rationality, and plunged Western thought in the nightmare of irrationalism, spawning the horrors of the 20th century (communism, fascism, militarism, blind global capitalism). The development of knowledge itself deemed too Platonic in a world supposed to have killed God. Serious epistemology is absent here.

The more radical forms of postmodernism are the successors of these illicit and vain attempts at denying thought with thought. In fact, they are the contemporary forms (cf. Feyerabend) of a radical skepticism already known to the Greeks (cf. Gorgias, Protagoras). The échec of foundationalism multiplied with epistemological irrationalism, heralds the end of any rational investigation of the possibility, expansion & production of knowledge in general and "true" knowing in particular. Must be avoided : (a) a radical denial of the ongoing complexification of the cognitive texture of human beings, (b) all foundational onto-epistemologies (metaphysical realism or metaphysical idealism) and (c) radical scepticism & relativism.

The second step was made by neo-Kantianism,
a general term to designate the adoption of Kantian views in a partial or limited way. In particular, the rejection of the postulate of foundation is another crucial move, which calls for a normative appreciation of the problem of knowledge. Avoiding radical skepticism by discovering principles & norms, critical epistemology accepts the terministic and probabilistic status of mental knowledge in general and scientific knowledge in particular. On the one hand, absolute certainty is lost, but, on the other hand, the real, so is discovered, must be at work in every proposition corroborated by facts, because this must be the case. The real is not a quasi-cause of perceptions, for, as explained by contemporary psychology, observation and patterns of expectation coincide in every fact.

The theory-dependent facet of facts is intra-linguistic. It belongs to a theory to form a pattern of expectation. But this pattern, although always rooted in my subjectivity, is inter-subjective and belongs to a community of communicators.

In the present critical theory of truth, seeking to find reasons to accept a theory as if true, the following categories emerge :

  • the subject of knowledge / the one thinking / intersubjective discourse (consensus, dissensus, argumentation, consensus, etc.) / consensus omnium / the idea of the ideal ;

  • the object of knowledge / what is thought / monologous testing (experimental setup, tests, observations) / adequatio intellectus ad rem / the idea of the real.

28. In this way, the idea "reality" regulates the objectivity of knowledge and the idea "ideality" its subjectivity.

Paradigmatic paralysis is the collective result of scientific knowledge perverted by an ontological illusion unchecked by transcendental criticism. If individual scientists do not have the discipline to regularly reconsider their position vis-à-vis the ideas of the real and the ideal, they will be bewitched by the identification of (a) their factual accounts with reality-as-such and (b) the results of their intersubjective discourses with the ideal idea of scientific dialogue. This creates a closed scientific community, an institution, cherishing the monolith of the paradigmatic core, the new desacralized idol of those who know how to speak the scientific language and claim a privilege over others in terms of their knowledge of reality and intersubjectivity (language), either in the name of an exclusive window on reality, or to accommodate the common good of an intellectual elite and its cherished fancies.

To notice the illusion on the side of "reality", the use of the idea of the real is to be restricted to three different contexts :

  • reality-for-me : the irreducible perspective of the first person, the whole area of covered by intentionality, intimacy, secrecy, privacy and the inner world of each and every single conscious observer or subject of knowledge ;

  • reality-for-us : factual, scientific object-knowledge produced, within a conventional framework discussed, agreed upon & given beforehand, by testing, experimentation, systematic observation, etc. ;

  • reality-as-such : limit-concept of formal & critical cognition, representing, so must we think, the extra-mental, extra-linguistic, theory-independent absolute, sheer absolute reality or the ultimate nature of all.

To notice the illusion on the side of "ideality", the use of the idea of the ideal is to be restricted likewise :

  • ideality-for-me : the irreducible inner language-game of the first person, the whole area of covered by conscious meaning, thoughts, imaginations and volitions, i.e. inner mental objects giving form to signs as signals, icons and symbols ;

  • ideality-for-us : the intersubjective object-knowledge produced by discourse and the art of argumentation about the interpretation of ourselves and reality-for-us ;

  • ideality-as-such : limit-concept of formal cognition representing the Ideal idea of an absolute system of concepts encompassing all possible (inter)subjectivity, the "ideal of ideals", the sheer absolute ideality or the ultimate mind knowing all.

The probable, historical but paradigmatic system we hold for true is possible if (a) subject and object of knowledge are always both implied, and (b) the ideas of the ideal and the real are used to regulate the process characterizing mental knowledge, not to constitute the latter.

29. Let us distinguish between :

A.on the side of the object of knowledge :
theory / fact-for-us / REALITY =
criterion of truth : correspondence
B.on the side of the subject of knowledge :
"my" opinion / "our" discourse / IDEALITY =
criterion of truth : consensus omnium

8 The coherency-theory of truth.

Successful experiments bring something to the fore. Creative thinking names the something. At the point where the stuff of tests is symbolized, a proposition is formulated. The extra-linguistic factor must not be exorcised and so "coherency" does not imply "truth" to be mainly an intersubjective decision. Likewise, the truth-value of the proposition must not solely depend on correspondence with reality, for facts are facts-for-us and, so must we think, the heralds of the real thing, which is not quite the same.

Coherency then points to the balance between the two vectors and the leading ideas of the critical theory of truth : language and consensus versus experiment and correspondence. A "true" theory is one corroborated by repeated testing and approved after elaborate discussions. It is "true" because the force-fields of both vectors have been allowed to play and contribute to object-knowledge and its empirico-formal propositions and theories.

The imaginal, heuristic point of intersection between the ideas reality & ideality is a knowledge-leading & knowledge-regulating fiction which guarantees the progress of knowledge without ever constituting knowledge itself. If it does, then it misleads knowledge, thus curtailing its unity & progress.

The progress of knowledge is guaranteed if we never allow its expanding movement to stop. The latter happens when, after having considered "truth" as eternal, we fixate our conceptual knowledge and replace its temporary status with a dogmatic closure, identifying facts with reality-as-such and/or theories with ideality-as-such. The knowledge-horizon is never attained and so knowledge is allowed to progress for ever. Practically, the actual horizon may be limited by the extension of the observable physical universe, but given its humungous size, millennia of discovery lie ahead.

To deeternalize truth in epistemology does not make eternal truth impossible. Like infinity, and the absolute Real-Ideal, truth, beauty and goodness are limit-concepts of transcendental thought, the ideas of reason. If we speculate about their being (as in metaphysics), and use these ideas heuristically (as in immanent metaphysics), then we use them to actualize truth, beauty & goodness. In transcendent metaphysics, a direct, ineffable radical experience of them is at hand (cf. mysticism).

31. One of the tasks of epistemology, is to reflectively reconstrue the basic normative system already used by scientists all the time.
32. Being part of epistemology, one of the tasks of methodology is to make the normative system more concrete in terms of testability (experiment) & linguistics (dialogue & argumentation).

9 On methodology.

Scientists are cognitive actors producing object-knowledge by way of corroborated empirico-formal propositions and theories. Everyday observation also involves experimentation & (inter) subjective naming, but, in the language-game of true knowing, a more solid, inert and tenacious objectification is at hand. Here, a series of more lasting connections between direct observable events is made, and categories of determination are put forward to organize these connections. The following irreducible types of lawfulness may be posited :

  • causal determination : effect by efficient, external cause (example : a ball kicking another ball) ;

  • interaction : reciprocal causation or functional interdependence (example : the force of gravity) ;

  • statistical determination : end result by the joint activity of independent objects (example : the long-run frequency of throwing two aces in succession is 1/36, the position or momentum of a particle) ;

  • teleological determination : of means by the ends (example : standardization) ;

  • holistic determination : of parts by the whole (example : needs of an organ determined by the organism).

Methodology transposes the necessities of experiment and communication to the local research-cell in general and to the practical logic of its specific scientific studies in particular. This causes a variety of local coordinations of scientific activity.

In physics, experiments will be at the core of research. But, unassisted by a constant dialogue enabling refinements, novel interpretations and alternative views, testing is rather futile, often off-mark and reduced to a standardized confirmation of established points of view.

In human sciences, methodology turns into hermeneutics and participant observation. But, if the interpretation of signals, icons and symbols is not balanced by a practical, open and honest experience of a variety of intersubjective communities, then a fossilization takes place, and the institutions of knowledge are an easy prey for the media money, propaganda and power. As such, they cannot guarantee free study and, as authorities ex cathedra, will eventually see their monolith crumble. The production of knowledge should be protected against extreme forms of subjectification & objectification.

33. All conceptual knowledge is fallible. According to its form, the normative system is necessary (universal & absolute), but according to its factual contents, it is historical (particular, local & relative).
34. We have to think reality-as-such (ideality-as-such) necessarily as knowable, without our minds ever being able to know whether we know this or not.

The fallibility of empirco-formal knowledge does not invite radical skepticism. Not everything is relative. Anything does not go (against Feyerabend). Some principles & norms still necessary and constitute the normative discipline of knowledge. This has truth as its aim, in the same way as taste has beauty and the justice has goodness as object.

The normative solution does not call thought & knowledge to find a sufficient ground outside thinking & science. The ideas of reason have been used and are used. Epistemology explains why this must be so. Rational (conceptual) thought cannot discover whether there actually exists an absolute Real-Ideal behind (beyond) the theory-dependent facet of object-knowledge. Facts remain "for us" and we must assume they reflect or mirror the Real-Ideal. But, insofar as normative science goes, this could as well be a universal illusion.

35. Two antinomian regulations are necessary to arrive at valid, i.e. true knowledge : on the one hand, a monological regulation (the path of experiment), on the other hand, a dialogal regulation (the path of discourse & discussion).
36. The imaginal point of intersection between the regulating norms is like the permanently postponed horizon of our mental knowledge, guaranteeing its order & expansion.

10 The fundamental norms of knowledge.

These compel science to walk the Two Ways, namely the paths of experiment and communication. Focus on the object of knowledge leads to a monological regulation of every experiment by the correspondence with the idea of the real. Likewise, every dialogue aims at consensus and presupposes the idea of the ideal (of communication). Not to use both norms in every cognitive act, is to move outside the domain of (formal) rationality.

37. A theory is "rational", when it (a) is logically well-fashioned, (b) does not exclude dialogal symmetry and (c) allows for dialogue & discussion. If so, it is an "arguable" theory.

11 The scientific status of a theory.

A theory is an arguable unity of propositions about ideality and/or reality. If a theory cannot be discussed, then an irrational, ante-rational or trans-rational factor is implied. These kind of theories are not rational, either because they reject the Factum Rationis, just prelude rationality or pertain to Unknowing. Rationality and arguability are intimately linked. In the adjacent theory of language, three criteria are fundamental : (a) rational theories have a certain logic and format, (b) they do not exclude the ideals of communication a priori and (c) they are open for discussions and confrontations with opposing views. Note that for a theory to be rational, it does not need to be testable. Scientific thought is rational and testable.

38. "Testability" & "arguability" are predicates which both must be ascribable to every scientific theory.

Insofar as arguable, rational theories are not put to the test, they cannot belong to science proper. A scientific theory X belongs to strict science if, and only if, X is corroborated and consensual. For a rational theory to be strict science, it needs to be factual and trigger the approval of all involved. Hence, strict science is the outcome of an application of both vectors and adjacent regulations.

39. As a function of the status of a theory, three subdomains of scientific endeavor ensue :
- proto-science : not tested and arguable ;
- strict science : corroborated and agreement ;
- semi-science : falsified and/or disagreement.

If a rational (arguable) theory does not refuse testing, it already belongs to the domain of science. As proto-science, it reflects the order book of science, its tasks ahead. In particular, the specific activities planned by each research-cell. If corroborated and approved by others, it becomes strict science. If falsified by new experiments or disagreement about it prevails or both, it becomes part of the large storehouse of outdated (semi-) scientific theories.

40. Formally speaking, a theory may at first be proto-scientific, become strictly scientific, and then semi-scientific. Finally, it is "metaphysical".

If a rational, semi-scientific theory can no longer be tested, it becomes metaphysical. Likewise, all rational theories refusing or somehow escaping testing are metaphysical. The only regulation left is arguability.

41. Two lines of demarcation stand out : on the one side, between the sciences (proto-, strict & semi-) & metaphysics, in other words as a function of the testability of done statements and, on the other side, between valid & invalid metaphysics, in other words, as a function of the arguability of done statements.

Science and metaphysics have arguability in common. Both can be checked using logic. But testability is the crucial demarcation between them. Metaphysics cannot be tested. Science is all about intelligent experimentation. Given the vast domain of metaphysics, covering all rational theories and all former scientific theories, a second demarcation is introduced.

Valid metaphysics is arguable. As an immanent metaphysics, it must be able to argue a comprehensive rational, arguable picture of the metaphysical horizon. Insofar as transcendent metaphysics, being nondual, cannot be verbalized, all efforts to stretch beyond immanence must be deemed futile and, at best, of exemplaric poetic value only. Can validation have meaning in nondual terms ? As authenticity perhaps ?

42. Metaphysics is speculative & theoretical knowledge on being (ontology), the cosmos (philosophical cosmology), life (philosophical biology), the human (philosophical anthropology) & the Divine (philosophical Divinity). Metaphysics may be divided into :
- valid metaphysics : arguable ;
- invalid metaphysics : unarguable.

12 Metaphysics and science.

Metaphysics is a rational theory dealing with the totality of possible relationships between seer and seen. Elaborating upon this, brings the seer in touch with him or herself, with other seers, with the world, and finally, with what transcends the world. If the first relationship is the neutral core of the experience of seership, then the second and the third bring to the fore the horizontal plane around this core. When the latter is transcended, the vertical plane emerges. These three represent the personal, intersubjective and absolute use of the ideas of reason (in particular, reality & ideality).

Let us, to format our proposed immanent metaphysics, devise a linguistic framework which is directly derived from the structure of the sphere of observation. This is a universal & necessary empirico-linguistic framework. Let us ponder this :

All empirico-formal statements of fact made by a seer about the seen are always & everywhere necessarily framed by the local sphere of observation of the seer, globally defined by a horizontal plane with four cardinal points of reference (East, South, West, North) and a vertical plane with two points of reference (Nadir, Zenith), i.e. six directions.

Consider the following :

  • horizon of observation = field of consciousness of the observer, defined by four possible divergent quarters and situated in the neutral origin of the sphere, O (0,0,0) and the divergent interconnectedness of all objects facing the seer ;

  • prime vertical = evolutionary field of the seer, from origin to final goal and the convergent evolution of each seer ;

  • P1, P2, ... = set of orientations given to the observer within the boundaries of the sphere ;

  • diurnal hemisphere = the realm of rational consciousness ;

  • nocturnal hemisphere = the realm of irrational and ante-rational consciousness ;

  • the sphere itself = the totality of all immanent realities and idealities of every observer ;

  • beyond the sphere = the trans-rational, the ineffable.

Although each observation is unique (using a exclusive local sphere), its constituents are universal (defining the global sphere). If each local sphere is linked with a particular "reality-for-me", the global sphere is related to the planetary "reality-for-us". The horizontal plane is associated with the diversity of beings, the way they interconnect (although divergent) and their respective "horizon" or limitations, whereas the vertical plane is used to construe the evolutionary process in which each is involved (moving from origin -Nadir- to final end -Zenith-), implying the dynamical convergence of each.

Metaphysics formulates an onto-categorial scheme. In it, the basic operators of being are described.

43. Distinguish normative philosophy from theoretical metaphysics using the coercive necessity of the rules of the game. These are fixed by the former by reflecting on the conditions of the possibility of the logical (correct), the epistemological (true), the esthetical (beautiful) & the ethical (good) conduct of humanity. Together, normative philosophy & valid metaphysics make out the field of philosophy.

Over time, the role of philosophy has been more and more narrowed down. Gradually, many of its pursuits were taken over by theology, psychology, physics, cosmology and others. In the late 20th century, the difference between academical philosophy and philosophy per se was made clear. The former focused on the logistics and the strategies of historical philosophy, whereas the latter is a novel synthesis of theoretical (as in writing and teaching) as well as practical aims (as in advising and assisting). The interaction between "theoria" & "praxis" is the corner-stone of the dialectical tension called in to uphold the effort and avoid fossilization (institutionalization, canonization, eternalization).

Critical philosophy is divided in normative & descriptive philosophy. The former is a formal discipline involving principles, norms & maxims, and subdivided in critical epistemology, critical esthetics and critical ethics. Its main task is to syntactically differentiate between valid & invalid empirico-formal propositions, esthetical judgments and ethical valuations. The standard used is rooted in the Factum Rationis. So transcendental logic, the rule of principles, is common to all three normative disciplines.

Valid metaphysics is a semantic discipline, seeking to understand things insofar as they are and this in a comprehensive way, involving expanding layers of relatedness between a person and him/herself, the others, the world and the absolute.

44. Metaphysics can never be completely driven out from the field of knowledge. This means the field of the paradigm of knowledge equals the sum of scientific statements and valid metaphysics.
45. Valid metaphysics inspires the sciences (heuristics & "ars inveniendi"), promotes openness & pluralism (it is better to think more possibilities than only a few) and hence stimulates a critical interdisciplinary dialogue.

Greek and Scholastic philosophy was foundational and ontological. Especially the realists (Platonic or Peripatetic) sought to subjugate the possibility of knowledge to a theory of being. Moreover, in the Middle Ages, revealed knowledge was deemed more superior than rational and empirical knowledge. The former originated from the Divine Mind, whereas the latter were reflections.

It was this metaphysics of transcendence gone wild, which critical philosophy, starting with Kant, tries to bridle.

By 1850, spawned by the industrial revolution and its technological wonders, a new materialist synthesis was reached. Taken beyond itself by hubris, metaphysics and religion were deemed to belong to an earlier stage of human knowledge. They had to be exorcised out of science, only based on sense-data. But with relativity, quantum and chaos, the picture changed, confirming the interdependence of object and subject. The latter is an open, problem-solving, intelligent producer of signals, icons & symbols. These evolve from notions, to concepts, ideas, propositions, conjectures and theories. As scientific theories are not fixed entities, but may become semi-scientific or metaphysical, the spectrum of knowledge is a dynamical totality, in which metaphysics cannot be eliminated. Moreover, in order to articulate a propositions and conduct an experiment, an irreducible metaphysical background knowledge is needed, without which words would remain silent and no test could be performed (cf. Popper). Hence, to make this implicit background explicit, is the crucial task of epistemology. This cannot be done without the study of metaphysical systems and the validity of their arguments.

To speculate is to imagine thoughts systematically. This comes very close to invention and improvisation. To build an immanent metaphysical system is a creative activity and escapes the transcendental rationality of formal reason. A creative thinking takes place. The difference with art is the rational necessities linked with trying to understand the totality of existence. To do so, the speculative activities of the metaphysician counterpoint the scientific paradigm.

46. An invalid metaphysics is characterised by :
(a) an incorrect, inefficient & contradictory formal language or syntax, and/or
(b) the unilateral hypertrophy of object and/or subject or semantics, and/or
(c) the impossibility to judge done statements (pragmatics).
47. These characteristics are also valid for our understanding of "irrationality". Hence, all invalid metaphysics are irrational.

A valid metaphysical system is discussed and approved. This means (a) internally, the system is without syntactic, semantic and pragmatic flaws, (b) the system per se is arguable and (c) externally, competing with other systems, it covers more ground in a better way.

Some metaphysical systems are invalid a priori. Without being discussed and found lacking strong arguments, these systems are rejected on logical grounds. Besides compliance with formal criteria, the presence of both object and subject of speculation is necessary, as is the possibility to argue statements derived from the system.

48. Rationality is the privilege of subjects of knowledge willing to communicate well, using a well-proportioned and correct language (semantics & syntax), allowing for discourse, i.e. argumentation & consensus (pragmatics).
49. Inconsistency is a failure of the syntactic conditions which are rationality's own and is a distinguishing mark of irrationality if and only if :
(a) the inconsistency attacks the axiomatic foundation of the theory ; and
(b) this absurdity can in no way be reduced to a determinable, efficient measure.

13 Language and the criteria of discourse.

Language is the outcome of the cognitive process of transforming experiences into signs or glyphs (signals, icons & symbols), intended to be used to communicate with other intelligent systems. Signs indicate parameters, icons representations and symbols conceptual content. The latter also refer to the three fundamental parts of the brain : reptilian, mammalian and human (cf. neurophilosophy). This broad definition includes the languages of the natural world, from crystalline structures and their geometrical qualities to the complex social structure of the mammal in its biotope, as well as the languages of science and art. 

A glyph (from the Greek "glyphe" or "carved work") is the physical presence of some distinguishing, differentiating material condition or activity, understood by way of its meaning (semantics), its order (syntax) and recurrent practice (pragmatics). Glyphs always trace a contrast with their environment, involving (single or a combination of) visual, auditive, olfactory, gustatory or tactile experiences. Glyphs are hence meaningful & well-formed states of matter. To understand this, consciousness is necessary. To measure its form, information is indispensable.

  • pragmatism or matter (hardware) : a glyph is an executive material aggregate, composed of matter ;

  • syntax or information (software) : by virtue of the laws of symmetry which describe its well-formed code and non-redundant information, a glyph is an ordered architecture ;

  • semantics or consciousness (userware) : a glyph is a source of meaning, develops a unique perspective or conscious outlook, suggestive of the ability to auto-redefine, auto-regulate and auto-reorganize as a function of the degree of intelligence (or freedom).

Language is not only an artifact of the human being. It is not restricted to the spoken or written word.  Art & body-language are good examples of non-verbal languages. Also in the natural world, signals and icons are used. Signals involve the protection of territory and show who is on top. Icons try to represent a complex network in a relatively simple image (like bees dancing the direction to food). So in this broad definition of language, all cultural forms are languages but not all languages are cultural forms. Culture always implies conservation and the transmission of meaning to the next generation (which is absent in most of the mineral, vegetal, and animal world).

Of course, the production of sounds (in music and through the spoken word) is an excellent way to trace the characteristic distinctions of a glyph. Sound is not noise. The latter is homogenous & chaotic, i.e. in noise, entropy and redundancy are always high. No distinct meanings are conveyed, no specific order or differentiation can be recorded and a long exposure to too much local noise even causes one to hear less (negative pragmatical result). Auditive pollution by noise has negative effects on health, both physical (deprivation of sleep) as psychological (stress).

On the one hand, sound-glyphs exist as distinguishable entities "carved" in air. These distinguishing features are clear and distinct when the level of noise is low and the articulation of the characteristic meaningful acoustic form is well performed (low redundancy). 20th century Classical and to a lesser extent Popular music have demonstrated the line between noise and sound is relative. However, the return of tonality, polytonality & the non-alleatoric show sounds cannot be produced with (educated) noise alone ...

On the other hand, sound-glyphs are volatile. Before the technical ability existed to record them, they were always lost. Hence, as soon as humans understood the advantages of recording these sounds for future reference and (re)transmission, history started. Oral traditions were slowly replaced by written testimony. Of course, prehistoric glyphs other than sounds existed (like artifacts, rituals, pictorial art etc.), but their meaning can not be established as distinctly and unambiguously, and the information derived from them is always prone to redundancy. 

The process of recording sound-glyphs implied the standardization of sounds, which came about either by drawing pictures of the object denoted by the sound-glyph (the logogram) or by isolating individual sounds, as it were reducing the spoken to its elements or "phonemes" (from the Greek "phonoma", or "speech sound" and "phonein", or "to sound"). The moment these spoken sound-glyphs are recorded as individual written glyphs, phonograms emerge (from the Greek "gramma", or "the written"). Phonograms are the foundation of all written languages, although in archaic languages, like early Sumerian, logography was predominant, suggesting phonography was derived from logography. In Ancient Middle Egyptian, the phonograms were represented by pictorial representations without vocalizations, causing a static "sacred" writing system to emerge, which differed from the spoken language.

The four actors in this cycle are the environment, the sender, the message and the receiver. Each actor is stimulated by a source and in turn becomes a source of stimuli :

  1. environment : collective, conventional information or code is stored in the collective data bank (or collective memory) which acts as a source of information concerning the cultural form at hand (education & socialization) ;

  2. sender : the stimuli of the environment are received by the info-receptor of an individual sender, who integrates the information and (tries to) author an original, individualized response, which is a variation on the theme of the collective code ;

  3. message : the actual response of the sender is a message which is a symptom of the response and the source of symbolic activity sent to a receiver ;

  4. receiver : the symbols received are integrated by the receiver who has access to the collective code and who integrates the received symbols in the repertoire of the data bank of the collective and communicates the integrated symbols of the message.

Each phase of the process may be flawed by possible errors in transmission : the information of the collective may be misunderstood by the sender and/or the latter may represent the info-source by means of an alienating symptom. The message itself may contain redundancy (due to noise), eclipsing the original intent of the sender. The receiver may misunderstand the symbol and integrate it inadequately, adding sullied information to the collective data bank. The more the cycle is corrupted, the less coherent a cultural form becomes.

50. Rationality implies a principle of symmetry (equality in speech and freedom of action), a language which is formally correct and a theory of argumentation.
Regarding the theory of argumentation, preference is given to a model of judgment built on game-theory, i.e. the definition of the logical system and rules of discussion are chosen beforehand by the discussers.

Strategic speech-acts are not communicational but efficient & utilitaristic. They create the iron cage of alienation, in which humans only exchange glyphs for the sake of some outer, material goal, like the production, exchange or acquisition of some thing. By making language an instrument of some extrinsic process, the essence of communication, namely to share truth, beauty and goodness, is lost.

The strategic use of language is the arena of the media power, propaganda and money. Top/bottom relationships, deception and the building up of capital for the sake of capital, are precisely devoid of the symmetry characterizing genuine communication. They depersonalize humans and turn them into objects to be manipulated and used for the sole benefit of those who have the power, the data and the money to take away a person's freedom or parts thereof. Hence, they are the language of the sadist. Those who willingly bow and comply because of the received painful benefits, those who put on the chains themselves and willingly crawl into the cage of their masters, are the masochists, as Nietzsche correctly observed. Both in philosophy and science this kind of discourse must be absent. It cannot help to attain truth and so is eliminated from the desktop of those who wish to truly communicate. In sado-masochistic contexts, equality in speech is abrogated. The slave can only speak if so allowed by his master. Freedom of action is also gone, for the movements of the slave are controlled by the master. As the slave exists for the sole benefit of the master, all communication between them is reduced to signals of obedience, icons of humiliation and strategic symbols (glyphs intending the satisfaction of the top only).

If we communicate, we do so on an equal basis. Everyone is free to say what they like and nobody is able to enforce their position upon another. Besides this symmetry, the value of statements must be checked. This implies a theory of argumentation. To make sure the latter is not an idealized canon, its rules must be discussed and approved beforehand. In this way, all concerned parties agree upon the way to handle dissensus and a clear-cut assessment of statements can be made. Strong arguments back a statement and make it more likely than those unable to provide such a warrant.

Book 2
Applied Epistemology

52. Consider the practice of knowledge as a dynamical interplay between, on the one hand, dialogue and the rules of argumentation and, on the other hand, participant observation and the rules of experimentation.

14.The practice of knowledge.

To ask : Quid juris ? is to foster the normative approach prevailing in theoretical epistemology. As such, validity and justification of knowledge rule over how it is produced. Here, the logic of discovery answers the question : Quid facti ? This is the difference between the idea of a stable and universal method and the constant revision of standards, procedures and criteria as one moves along and enters new research areas. The difference between the principles of transcendental logic, the norms of theoretical epistemology and the maxims of applied epistemology.

From the perspective of the history of science, most, but not all, rules are violated at some time or other. The community of science, as the sociology of science testifies, is not a set of ideal subjects, but a living group of learned people who evidence the oldest rule in the book : Errare humanum est ! In order not to be entrapped by ontological illusion, scientists need the basic normative system uncovered by theoretical epistemology. What scientists have been doing (diachronical) and what they do today (synchronical), is not identical with the norms of knowledge they are always using (and abusing). These makes knowledge possible and guarantee its unity and expansion.

Theoretical and applied epistemology are both necessary. The former may be compared to "statute-law", universal, imperative and normative, the latter to "casus-law", local, adaptive and descriptive. Contextualism and decontextualization are both necessary, and so emphasis on either "what must" or "what is", is lacking. Lakatos invoked a pluralistic system of authority between them.

In applied epistemology, the context of knowledge-production is studied, and so the norms of knowledge are not made explicit. In every concrete situation they are at work and are addressed. Theoretical epistemology is general & necessary (a priori), applied epistemology is contextual & situational (a posteriori). The latter affirms the laws of discovery to be context-specific and complex, far beyond the capacities of a simple formal logic.

The general structure of applied epistemology is derived from theoretical insights, for (a) the subject of knowledge and its norms becomes the subject of experience and (b) the object of knowledge and its norms, the object of experience. In physical science, the latter is given form as the rules of experimentation, whereas in the human sciences, the rules of participant observation are applied. Both make use of this-or-that actual discourse, with its non-strategic communication (dialogue, dissensus, argumentation, consensus).

The principles of transcendental logic (derived from the pre-critical arena of communication), give rise to the norms of theoretical epistemology. The latter are normative rules which assist the practice of knowledge as maxims organizing the opportunistic logic of discovery. These maxims are not like binding norms. Deviation from them is possible, but not advisable. Violating a maxim does not entail the end of the possibility, unity & expansion of knowledge, but slows down its manufacture. The process of production is not halted (and replaced by an illusion), but its efficiency drops. Hence, the research-cell at hand will suffer and become a less attractive competitor in the market of available facts.

53. Move against ontological rigidity by regularly investigating all possible deviations between the norms of the theory of knowledge (what must) and the maxims of the practice of knowledge (what is).
54. Try, as soon as a given production-process of knowledge demonstrably deviates from the a priori norms, to bridge the gap by provoking a discussion between the other actors of the production-process.

The maxims of applied epistemology try to operationalize the effort of maximalizing the production of knowledge. They are inspired by the norms of knowledge. In this case, ontological rigidity has to be identified and cancelled. In a research-cell, experiment and communication are both crucial. If too little discourse is taking place, or a one-sided experimental course is pursued, provocation is called in to stimulate pluralism and dissensus.

This could be summarized by saying free study is part of any intelligent research-cell.

55. Consider reality-as-such (and ideality-as-such) as knowable, although this might be a universal illusion.

Empirico-formal propositions, statements of fact or object-knowledge are the product of the vectors experimentation and discourse (dissensus, argumentation, consensus). By virtue of the theory-dependent facet of facts, in other words, their mental and linguistic co-determination, one cannot know whether our theories indeed coincide with the Real-Ideal (the point where all of reality is known to all concerned). On the one hand, object-knowledge, so theoretical epistemology worked out, is always "for us". This limits the scope of science and stops the foundational and outrageous pretence witnessed in science at the beginning of the last century, as there were : logical positivism, epiphenomenalism, materialism, instrumentalism, scientism, etc. On the other hand, one cannot think thought or knowledge without the necessity of accepting facts also, extra-mentally, extra-linguistically and theory-independently, carry the letters of belief of reality-as-such.

In the practice of knowledge, it is this last "face" of facts which is of particular importance. For here we temporarily suspend our criticism and so allow the limitations of our possibilities to be overtaken by our hubris and emotional need to think reality (ideality) in such a way both become transparant and tangible. We know this cannot be the case, but realize the question Quid facti ? impels us to do so. For in the latter case, we are no longer normative philosophers working out the possibility, unity & expansion of knowledge, as it were guaranteeing for ourselves we may think and know, but, as scientists, are thrown in the arena of direct observation and discourse. Both entail the need to think reality & ideality as open books in which we read the story-line of the real-ideal. Surely this is not the case, and we fool ourselves with an opaque, clouded version of the latter. However, if this concept, necessary in theory, would be constantly before the scientists in their laboratory or discourse, a constant bewilderment would ensue, for our emotional need of security would be in jeopardy and we would fixate this issue instead of what happens "on the field".

For this reason, this maxim is introduced to allow scientists to suspend this critical dimension and work as if reality-as-such & ideality-as-such are available in all their absolute glory ... It is clear this maxim is not based on theoretical epistemology, and rather conflicts with it. Indeed, the maxim can not be justified in any normative way (as in statutory norms), but only satisfies the a posteriori descriptions of what scientists do and need in practice, in this case a temporal satisfaction of an emotional need, which is particular and contextual (as in casus-law).

56. Act in the practice of knowledge as if facts (reality-for-us) coincide with reality-as-such.
57. Act in the practice of knowledge as if the factual agreements (the consensus-for-us) coincides with the universal consensus omnium.

15 Methodological "as if"-thinking.

In the practice of knowledge, scientists, supposed to be aware of the issues raised by theoretical epistemology, suspend the distinctions between test-results and reality-as-such, as well as between the actual consensus and the consensus omnium. The game is played as if it were possible to gaze the Real-Ideal in the face and directly derive true knowledge from this.

58. Realise this "as if"-thinking can not be legitimised by the theory of knowledge, but is rather linked up with the anthropological need for regularity.

The reasons why the above maxim is introduced are not normative, but descriptive, in particular psychological. Human beings, rooted in mammalian, limbic reflexes, need to experience repeated patterns.

As depth-psychology has shown, we often organize ourselves in such a way as to satisfy the need to have positive experiences confirmed and negative avoided. This lust-principle is not processed in the neocortex of the brain, and so cannot be based on symbols. Instead, the dynamics of lust is mediated by icons, representations, visualizations, images and fantasy. These trigger the deep-seated memories stored in the hippocampus, the archive-keeper of the brain. The hippocampus has regulatory effect on the thalamus, the gate through which all information carried by the sensoric axons enters the central nervous system. Here, these afferents are pre-processed to branch out to the relevant cortical areas. The hippocampus may block (with or without the thalamus) sensory input to the neocortex and regulate the autonomous nervous system by maintaining emotional equilibrium. As such, the hippocampus does not process the generation of emotional states, but memorizes them. The recognition of patterns is therefore a highly emotional affair.

There is no good reason why scientists should expect the same constantly, quite on the contrary. This need for regularity may lead to dogmatism and an irrational attachment to identical or quasi-identical frame-works. That this may lead to bad science, is amply shown when scientists are confronted with effects they do not understand and/or undermine the stability of their emotional expectations, as parapsychological research had made clear. Confronted with telekinesis, most of them reject the laboratory-experiences afterwards and because of this dissensus, no fact can be recorded. This unwillingness to discuss the possibility of facts contradicting the core of their paradigm, has done more harm to the science of parapsychology than the so-called impossibility to trigger and repeat extraordinary instances of remote viewing and the like. Let us call this the Bellarmine-effect, after
Robert Cardinal Bellarmine (1542 - 1621), who administered the controversial admonition to Galileo not to hold or defend the Copernican theory, in conflict with the geocentric theology of the Roman Catholic Church of his days ...

The same goes for other disciplines on the periphery of the paradigm, like homeopathy, astrology, magic, alchemy and other so-called "occult" and "irrational" statements. As correlation is not causality, and the latter needs theory (i.e. discourse), an irrational block has been put in place. Because of such an attitude, these irregular claims have not been properly dealt with, for scientists fear the ridicule of their peers and so prefer to kill the messenger instead of properly disproving the message.

In science, openness implies not to expect the same effect, but, on the contrary, inquire whether the repetition is not of our own making. A strict experimental setup, defined by a stringent protocol, points in that direction. We wish to trace our conditioned reflex, as well as our need to face the unknown. We want to make sure we are not fooling ourselves, and so experiments (and discussions) are repeated in different research-cells over the world. Confirmation by the duplication of results is the best guarantee we have against projecting expectation on test-results, i.e. fabricating pseudo-facts (as in pseudo-science). This works out well for theories staying within our common Newtonian perspective on things. But if a novel and undermining effect is recorded (like non-locality in physics), scientists tend to turn their backs, disregard the effect or together indulge in the wrong kind of silence, namely indifference.

Hence, this maxim may serve its purpose or backfire. Fear for the unknown, peer-pressure, irrational certainty, dogmatism and skepticism work to make it a dangerous tool in research. If these emotions can be bridled, the expectation of regularity will assist science in its discovery of patterns and laws.

59. Act as if objects of knowledge "exist" but leave room for a discussion about the experimental results (methodological realism) and act as if subjects of knowledge "think" but leave room for new experiments (methodological idealism). This is a game in which the final term (existence = thinking) is permanently suspended.

The two regulators (experiment and discourse) have to assist each other. If we consider, for the sake of methodology, our test-results as real, we need to discuss whether there are no alternative interpretations. If we consider our consensus as ideal, we need to test to observe whether novel facts emerge. Lack of this, will eventually slow down the manufacture of knowledge. The game is played without final terms, and so the ongoing production of knowledge is in no way halted.

60. The rules of dialogue and argumentation are grounded in communicative action. The latter is based on a common definition of context (negotiation) and a problem-solving behavior (execution), coordinated by consensus. It is crucial to avoid pseudo-communication (like in the case of the perlocution).
61. A valid dialogue-language has rules for :
(1) communicative quality (symmetry a priori & a posteriori) ;
(2) form : Fregean & non-Fregean ;
(3) meaning : different types of "discourses" ;
(4) argumentation : formal3 rules (cf. Lorenzen & Barth).

16. Practical communication.

"Locution" refers to the literal meaning of a given speech act. Hence, "illocution" refers to the effect the speaker intends to achieve in making the utterance, while "perlocution" refers to the actual effect the utterance has upon the audience. The "perlocution" of a speech act is thus the way it is received by an audience. It is affected by "extra-locutionary" factors, such as strategic intentions kept secret for the sake of some hidden agenda, asymmetry between speakers and/or coercive acts, all intolerable in the context of the practice of knowledge. For Habermas, perlocution always involves teleological acts aimed at success. It is strategic in all cases. In communicative action, the latter have to be put aside, for genuine communication has no other aim than to establish truth by way of speech acts.

The difference between instrumental action and strategic action helps to define communicative action.

Instrumental action Strategic action
object of experience subject of experience
actor - environment actor - actor
theory of decision game theory
things & events persons
objects & processes intersubjectivity
lack of information strategic uncertainty
technology strategy
behavioral modification social action

Communicative action turns strategic uncertaintly into symmetry, stategy into absence of coercion and social action into an intersubjective quest for consensus.

In daily speech acts, strategic communications, although rejected in the practice of knowledge, are very common. Constantly people communicate in order to get something done or influence others. Hence, strategic speech acts are far more common than genuine communicative action. Because of this, scientific communication is a rather rare and restricted language-game, played by a subset of possible sign-interpreters. So in science, intersubjectivity is defined as the community of all involved delineators of signals, icons & symbols.

The discourse needed in applied epistemology has to abide by certain rules :

  • the quality of such a communication is optimalized by making sure nobody is forced to speak or hindered to do so. A priori, all parties anticipate and presuppose the ideal speech-situation. A posteriori, in the actual discourse, they all work hard to realize this symmetry and lack of coercion. None of them has strategic intentions, and all done speech acts have intrinsic value and interest. Relative goals outside the immediate speech acts are not present ;

  • the form used to communicate has to be logically valid, implying all have to agree which kind of logic will be used to establish the truth-value of statements and their propositional reference to reality. In that respect, two broad categories of logic exist : the formal, classical, Fregean structures, devoid of semantic or the non-Fregean, non-formal logics, working with representations, analogies, metaphors and lateral methods (cf. De Bono, NLP and the techniques of brainstorming) ;

  • dialogal context is intimately related to form. The various branches of science are so many subsets of intersubjective activities manufacturing object-knowledge, working with a semantic in tune with their respective fields of experimentation. In publications, results are shared, allowing others to duplicate the latter through experimentation and communicative action within their own contexts ;

  • finally, the concrete rules of argumentation have to be discussed. They are the meta-rules of the meta-system of logic, or formal3 rules.

The division between Fregean & non-Fregean logics is recent. Indeed, traditionally, classical & non-classical logic are Fregean throughout. It was Aristotle who initiated Fregean deductive reasoning by eliminating the contents of the propositions and judging their validity exclusively on the basis of the truth-value of the logical operators "not", "and", "or" and "if-then". The importance of this kind of approach is unmistaken and has eventually developed into the imperative algorithms used by most of our computers. Every step of the argument can be checked using formal rules, devoid of semantics. Given the initial positions (the axioms), a series of hypothesis may be inferred which, when proven correct, turn into theorems. This formal calculus does not allow or has difficulty with stochastic variations (the element of probability & chance) or non-linear attractors (the element of chaos). This could be seen as the logic of formal representation, the way of the linear straight line (instead of the non-linear curve). Formal logic tries to develop closed, complete & consistent representations, in which no "bugs" or randomness occur. Moreover, although impossible (cf. Gödel), it also invokes completeness, i.e. the calculus foresees all possible logical situations beforehand.

Non-Fregean logics are non-formal representations in mini-worlds by analogy. Problems are isolated and transferred to such a representation or register. In this "small" world, the problem is solved and then reintroduced into the main frame of the argument. In this elliptic way, the argument do not follow an imperative course, but as the meandering river, adapts to the ever changing circumstances. There is no attempt to represent the whole or to seek complete solutions. Para-consistency (the fact paradoxes always remain present within the system) is not fought (but efficiently handled) and there is no absolute, but relative predictability.

The study of Artificial Intelligence has shown the importance of non-imperative algorithms, able to process novelty & randomness, as well as multiple userware inputs. Non-Fregean systems are therefore the way of the curve, not the line.

These two broad and general systems have three branches : syntax, semantics and pragmatics. The first rules the rules, the second contents and the third application.

Fregean systems tend to reduce contents to syntax. They inflate structure, and attribute truth exclusively to the form of the argument. Indeed, semantics is more than just the identification of certain symbols with certain meanings. In non-Fregean approaches, symbols "throw together" a wide array of meanings and fuse these together, so as to form a dense semantic core around which a variety of meanings circumambulate, defining a particular and unique semantic field.

In living systems, the use of natural symbols is common. Natural languages are able to convey a complex network of meanings with a relatively small number of symbols, as do art and non-verbal communication. In this synthetic, connotative area, formal logic is unable to penetrate and its analytics is completely off the mark. This shows both systems have to work complementary, but in "real life" formal logic proves to be the exception (the architecture or backbone), whereas elliptic systems are the rule (the evolution, the symmetry-breaks).

Regarding the adopted theory of argumentation, let us follow the distinctions introduced by Barth & Krabbe (1978) :

  1. formal rules : the classical formal logic of the language used, the logical constants ;

  2. formal2 rules : the rules of use of the logical constants ;

  3. formal3 rules : the rules of argumentation.

Whenever dissensus occurs, a new discourse is organized, preluded by a mutual agreement regarding the rules of the game of logic. These are the two meta rules, covering the measurement of truth and the validity of a given argumentation. Systems A can be called objectively better than system B, if there is at least 1 logical problem solved by A which is not by B while there is no logical problem solved by B which is not solved by A. The rules of argumentation cover the process by which validity is established.

62. Accept specific, empirical criteria of judgment a posteriori. They are the result of the particular way in which practical processes of learning are institutionally concretized in the given research-cell.
63. These criteria a posteriori are the tangible background of each real conversation. So the meaning of the notion "ideal speech-situation" may vary.

17 Judgments a posteriori.

Scientists organize themselves and in doing so institutionalize. They form groups, departments, schools, universities & research institutions. Besides the development and unity of knowledge, other social and psychological issues ensue. Judgments are not only based on strict experimental and dialogal evidence, but also on situational, local, contextual parameters.

A certain way of doing things raised to the height of a maxim, begs for the loss of free study. Nevertheless, in every research-cell, in every unity of knowledge-production, a series of rules of thumb emerge, a certain style is applied, and both directly influence decisions and the way the future of science is handled by that cell, department or institution. This is disturbing and brings in the psychology & sociology of science. This is not only a tale of randomness, of "anything goes", of outrageous discriminations, Bellarmine-effects, and strategies detrimental to the possibility of knowledge itself. Scientists, like everybody else, do more than try to pay their bills and keep up the esteem of their peers. Of course, they do need money and may be tempted by applause.

If institutions abuse of these maxims to mock the normative necessity to experiment & discuss issues, and let a posteriori whims negate a priori norms, then such institutions are no longer the places where knowledge is produced. The academia and the universities are called to turn all knowledge towards unity, as reason demands. They should be safe havens for free study and be open to all possibilities. They should not dependent on the markets and their strategic commerce. The normative ideals of truth, beauty and goodness must be their aim and work. If they fail, the true, operational value of academic degrees "in the field" will diminish and a whole generation will have been fooled.

64. The criteria a posteriori must be questionable. This should be made exclusively dependent of the communicative will of those concerned and aims to oppose the colonization of the discourse by money & power.

he present philosophical investigations are the fruit of a free study, unhindered by the media money, propaganda and power. The latter bring a posteriori rules into play, which disable the scientist to ascertain the facts in an open, multidisciplinary and honest way. Regrettably, many of our universities are no longer turned towards unity. Instead, they have become polyversities accommodating neoliberal market forces and the worship of the modernist monolith. In such a perspective, the periphery of science is kept abay, as are paradigmatic shifts.

65. Be aware function-optimalisation in intelligent systems happens among other things by representing problems in a non-Fregean way, for example in a mini-world, solving them there and then transferring the solution back to the original scale.
66. To optimalize the quality of the knowledge-practice of subjects, creative training-programmes must be executed, so elements which were not joined are put together and through analogy & metaphor new insights may ensue.

18 Optimalisations.

Besides the constant presence of an independent critical function, thinking the limitations of thought & knowledge, applying the norms of knowledge, identifying & restoring transgressions, etc. each research-cell, department or institution may optimalize the output of the production-unity by installing a creative function, allowing brainstorming, inventivity & non-linear (chaotic) movements & actions to happen. On a regular basis, both functions should be used to facilitate the production of knowledge and the subsequent valour of the research. Both functions are optimalisations countering the uncertainty & possible excess caused by judging a posteriori.

67. To produce knowledge, the maxims "test" & "talk" must, as soon as disagreement occurs, be divided from each other and be joined again as soon as consensus is reached. The knowledge concerned may be taken as true.

19 Producing facts.

The production of knowledge is a construction. So the products of science are not the result of researching that-what-is, but a selection carved out from whatever "is". Facticity is fabrication. Facts are, as the Latin root "facere" indicates, that which has been made. Not the vocabulary of Nature is at hand, but the constant conjunctions fabricated in the research-cell, fulfulling the "sense" of truth in terms of instrumental production & communicative action. Succes in making things and persons work is the bottom line of the application of the norms of knowledge.

The critical function of the research-cell, embodied by a single individual or a team, organizes the constant tension between the two formal parts of the undivided intersubjective research-community : the subject of experience or "theory" and the object of experience or "facts". The former is an intersubjective language-game regulated by consensus, a dialogue between the members of the research-cell, aiming to produce a concise and valid theory about some thing by means of communicative action. The latter is a monologous experimental procedure or set of instrumental actions regulated by correspondence, an immediate confrontation with facts as if with reality-as-such.

While routine investigations are happening, regular discourses are needed to test the solidity of the consensus. As soon as dissensus occurs, communicative action is suspended to focus on testing. Test-results are then discussed, leading to a better articulation of the theory at hand. When a new consensus dawns, regular discourse & experimentation recommence.

68. A flexible pulse between experimentation & language characterises the ideal practice of knowledge. Dialogandi & experimenters are conscious of the frontiers of their respective fields of action.

The critical function allows each members of the team to become aware of the alternative regulator. A redefinition of the proper field is possible, and this well beyond the limitations imposed by either experimentation or communicative action. The two sides of the equation of thought need to be connected but also kept apart. Their inner tension is possible, necessary and productive. Without the activity of the critical function, ontological illusion comes into play, pushing research into the perverting polarity between either "physical" (testing) sciences (like physics, chemistry, biology) or "human" (talking) sciences (like anthropology, linguistics, psychology, sociology, economy). Although emphasis on either side is possible, all sciences thrive on experimentation and language, and the critical know-how to differentiate between them.

69. Be aware testing & conversing are possible because of partly metaphysical & unalienable background-information.

The creative function, embodied by a single individual or a team, is heuristic. As such, its aim is to bring in new vistas and suggest novel connections, either between the components of the theory, between the experimenter and the experimental apparatus, or between both regulations. Creative sessions are organized in which the metaphysical assumptions of the team are made explicit and then discussed. The background against which all research takes place is noted and also discussed. The influence of this on current research is described. Theories are challenged by alternatives and the potential of the Ars inveniendi is to be constantly raised. The creative function may foster lateral, non-Fregean thinking. It may suggest new circumstantial conditions of conducting research, going from the psychology of the team-members, their proper diet, to the wall-paper of the research facility, etc. It works at the periphery of the research-paradigm, and stands under the authority of the critical function.

70. Be aware the production of knowledge is only possible because of an opportunistic logic which states that the actors of a research-cell develop a local "know-how" determining what works & what does not (methodological relativism).
71. Be aware this logic of local habits also influences quantitative factors and control-mechanisms.

20 The opportunistic logic of knowledge-production.

Besides a series of rules of thumb and judgments a posteriori, a local body of "know-how" determines the overall operations of the research-cell, understood as a local accumulation of facts from previous operations. This logic is opportunistic and strategic. It bears the mark of local contingency and subjective interest structures. It aims at the optimalization of effective results, and defines in practical terms which experiments and/or discourses produce facts and which do not. Clearly, this logic cannot be rooted in theoretical epistemology and represents a synthesis of a local tradition. This not only involves broad theoretical and/or experimental choices, but also the way in which small changes (in experimental setup or output) and/or personal attitudes (during discussions) are interpreted & assessed. Science optimalizes the production of facts by cherishing these variations between research-cells and by confronting the protocols of various local production-units, connected the publication of results in the various scientific journals available.

Clearly, in such an opportunistic logic, irrationality and personal preferences, based on idiosyncratic and emotional motives, are not silenced, quite on the contrary. Each cell takes on the image of its research-leaders. While the way results are gathered may contain blatant irrationality, the publication of research-results puts the cell in the line of fire of other researchers all over the world. Errors in procedure, irregular articulation of theoretical connections and drawing conclusions beyond the scope of the evidence will be noticed by others and reduce the scientific worth of the research, as well as depress investors and so possibly eliminate funding.

That this opportunistic logic directly influences quantitative factors and control-mechanisms should be repeated. Whether a threshold is considered as critical or not, does not always depend on theoretical assumptions, but also on "the feeling" or "intelligent guess" of those conducting the experiments. Whether a certain path will lead to success cannot be determined solely by testing and talking, for the decision can be made by following a hunch or because it seems proper to do so at the time ...

72. Local interpretation & strategic opportunism lead to criteria-variability & oscillation, so random factors also influence the production of knowledge. The effect of this indeterminism is necessary for a progressive & organised adaptation of the research-cell to internal & external factors. The production-process of knowledge implies decision-chains & selections which are contextual & random. Products of knowledge may, notwithstanding this randomness, nevertheless come about.

Especially when scientists inform policy makers, they should stress the relativity of their facts. Science has not replaced dogmatic religion and is not called to define how things are for ever and ever. Instead, the terministic or probabilistic nature of scientific theories should bar the way of any attempt to eternalize the truth of this-or-that proposition.

The research-cell is determined by two factors : (a) the production of knowledge as defined by the norms of theoretical epistemology and the maxims of applied epistemology and (b) the (psycho)sociology of knowledge, or the description of the actual behavior of scientists in their various fields. Internally, the production of knowledge comes about by communicative & instrumental action, externally, by publications. Insofar as the research-cell itself is concerned, the question Quid facti ? calls for strategic & instrumental action. Considered in relationship with other cells, the homo economicus is at hand.

How, given randomness in the chain of crucial operational decisions, knowledge can be produced, is clarified by  the effect of indeterminacy on the ability to adapt and thus survive change demanding auto-regulation and autopoiesis. Like certain physical and biological systems, knowledge is a complex, dissipative and chaotic phenomenon, continuously developing more complex cognitive textures.

In terms of the practice of knowledge, the latter is a process of complexification, a progressive (re)construction resulting from the integration & elimination of earlier scientific activities.

Maxim 72 allows new maxims to be added.

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initiated : 24 III 2006 - last update : 03 VI 2010 - version n°1