NOTES on Epistemology, Ontology and Philosophy of Science *

Categories of Being

Physicalistic Monism: One Ontological Form Of Being

Is there only one category of being: physical matter.   Only the intrinsic real, the physical, exists at any level of being.

Problem: What exactly is matter in this definition?  Is it a statement about a philosophy of science or a statements about general philosophy, specifying the ontology of the universe of being?

Cartesian Dualism: Two Mutually Exclusive Forms of Being

Are there two categories of being: matter and consciousness (body and soul); one intrinsic, the other subjective?

Objectivism: Three Forms of Being but One Unified Final Form

Fregean/Randian Epistemology:

There are three categories of being:  1. matter, 2. mind,  and  3. the category whereby 1. mind identifies physical existence; the physical is the intrinsic. 2. the mind is the subjective, and 3. the cognitive identification is the objective.

The first to conceive of this three part ontological/epistemological division of  the facts of reality was the mathematician Frege:

More recently there have been philosophers of logic and mathematics such as Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege, who have argued that the objectivity and necessity of logic requires in one’s ontology, besides a world of ordinary things known by sense and the world of mental entities known by inner awareness, a third world of objective meanings.  Cited in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: John Stewart Mill,  section 2. Language and Logic.

Of course Frege’s methodology for this three-part classification differs markedly from that of Rand.  Nevertheless, that Frege identified these three categories, and especially that he labeled the third category ‘the world of objective meaning’ suggests a significant similarity between the two systems of ontology/epistemology.

After providing a good definition that: “Objectivism is the view that there is a reality, or realm of objects and facts, which exists wholly independent of the mind,”  the connection between Frege’s objectivism and Rand’s Objectivism was stated on a blog site ‘Basics of Philosophy,”  as follows:

Objectivism as it is known today that finds its origins in the early 19th Century epistemological and metaphysical work of Gottlob Frege [1848, d. 1925]. The doctrine is, however, most closely identified with the 20th Century philosopher Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982) and her overarching (and sometimes controversial) concept of Objectivism… from   the blog, ‘The Basics of Philosophy’  by Branch/Doctrine > metaphysics >objectivism

Discussing the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, which is rejected as invalid by Ayn Rand, a  clear mention is made to Frege’s idea of different ‘modes of presentation.’

Which particulars a concept subsumes, according to Rand, depends upon what the concept-coiner was discriminating from what when he or she formed the concept (this appears to be how Rand accommodates Gottlob Frege’s insight that there are different “modes of presentation” of the same content). from Analytic-synthetic dichotomy’ page of the Objectivism Online Wiki.

Epistemology vs Ontology

When we assert categories of  being (e.g. mind or matter) we are talking about ontology of existing forms of being.

To grasp these categories philosophically, we need to define epistemological categories (e.g. subject, objective, intrinsic), classified with respect to the nature of consciousness:

1. Intrinsic facts: Existing independent of consciousness. (Example:  electromagnetic radiation in the range of 550-600 mμ)

2. Subjective facts: Facts dependent on the nature of consciousness itself.  (Example: the subjective experience of ‘red’. Regardless of how this experience was brought about.)

3. Objective facts: Facts dependent upon the ‘identificational’ power of consciousness.  The power to identify a fact and to hold the identification in some subjective internal form.   The relation between the internal form and the external fact is said to be objective if they are in cognitive correspondence.  What is important is that the form in which a facts of reality is held is never the form in which those facts exists.   One implication of this is that, epistemologically, there is no cognitive distinction between the objectivity of so-called ‘primary’ versus so-called ‘secondary’ sensory properties.   Neither is in ‘greater’  correspondence with the objective property being detected and subjectively rendered in some conscious form.

More importantly, the fact that perception does not (and cannot) reproduce the thing in itself, as it exists independent of consciousness, that is, perception cannot grasp ‘das ding an such’ i.e., ‘the thing in itself,’ does not invalidate the senses, but merely emphasizes that perception involves the selective sensitivity of the sense organs to certain relational properties of objects in external reality and transforms what it detects into perceptual qualities that constitute the form in which we ‘experience’ the perceived objects.  External complex relational properties correspond to, and causally underly, the complex relational properties at the sensory surface and which thereby specify (and in that sense correspond to) external object properties (including objects themselves as detected higher-order relational properties).

The causal relationship between sensory stimulation and corresponding perceptions is in no way self evident.  It is not the case of mapping simple external facts to simple psychological facts.  For though sensory qualities are experienced as ‘simple’ and ‘irreducible’ they are in fact the product of complex energy structure, specifically, they correspond to the invariance under transformation of external ambient energy patterns.

Perception occurs without engulfing or fully physically taking in or copying the object itself.  To demand that perception somehow grasp an external fact without interacting with the ambient energy structure  emerging from that object is to simple fail to grasp the very nature of perception itself.  

To argue that processed information results in loss of information is a gross fallacy and does not agree with scientific facts underlying sensory epistemology.  It misses entirely the fact that ‘information’ is already an intentional (consciousness laden) concept and always means ‘information about some object that is grasped or classified as information’ only insofar as it it is ‘informative’ of the external object.



Had We but World Enough and Time

From theories of the origin of the universe, origin of species, and origin of knowledge, we hear the same doctrine: Give me enough time and space, and I will re-create the universe through simple Newtonian Mechanics, all life forms through the simple rules of Darwinist Evolution, and all of human knowledge through simple rules of mental association, Skinnerian or Hullian Operant Conditioning or Pavlovian Conditioning.

In all cases, the defense is the same: ‘How else could this level of complexity have been achieved other than continuous simple incrementalism?”  This view might be called ‘The Primacy of Ontological Simplicity.’   Today that  view is implicit in materialist reductionism.

How else can it be? or What else could there be? are statements of the limited nature of current ideas regarding the nature of things.  It is never an argument favoring the status quo, but always a challenge to science or philosophy to discover a new way of looking at things in order to resolve the paradoxes that are always implicit in these ‘How else…’ statements.  ‘What else can life or mind be but matter or its deterministic effects?’

Always under these pleas is a simplistic model of the universe (e.g. ‘All that exists are material particles in motion.’)   From Descartes uber-simplistic res extensa, where extensiveness was the ONLY essential property of physical being, science soon (objecting to the limited application of such a model) added: separateness (or body), leading to the concept of corpuscular stuff.  But this was also restrictive, for corpuscular was insufficient to characterize matter, since it omitted its qualitative differences.  Thus the early physicists added the concept of atomic (reviving the Attic Greek theory of atomism, first recorded by Lucippus and Democritus).  The all matter consisted of  atoms which were declared (not proven) to be limited in finite configurations (each configuration being geometric, realized as such as shape or figure, or later as internal arrangement).   Soon was also added the notion of impenetrability (infinite density), and irreducibility (monolithic).

All of the rationalistically conceived ‘scientific’ ideas of matter were later entirely refuted by modern physics, inorganic chemistry, nuclear chemistry, organic chemistry, and finally quantum physics.  Today all that remains of matter is the concept of local perturbable fields, where, ironically, fields were declared to be real but not material!  In the end physics has abandoned ontology entirely and is left with reified mathematics!


Published by bioperipatetic on: Oct 11, 2014 @ 4:51 pm  

Latest Revision: Mar 29, 2015 @ 12:44 pm

* Do not cite or quote this page.  It is under development and its contents are tentative. – bioperipatetic

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