Thursday, October 8, 2009

13f What is Evolutionary Epistemology?

It was 1978, that I finally left the university. I had spend 8 years there. Six to get my grade in philosophy and 2 as an assistant professor for philosophy. I was a teacher of philosophy till 1986.

From 1986 till 2008 I spent my time on teaching computer classes at an Academy if Fine Art and spent little time on keeping track of new developments in philosophy.

That is not such a problem, because the developments in philosophy go slow, incomparable with the super fast developments of the digital world I was working in then.

I kept an eye on the development of Artificial Intelligence and its a bit disappointing results after 1986, but what I have missed completely was a new development in epistemology itself: evolutionary epistemology.

Evolutionary epistemology is the most controversial, the most fascinating and the most difficult discipline within philosophy today. It is controversial because it declares other philosophical disciplines bankrupt,

and explains itself as part of the sciences. At the same time, it is a fascinating and difficult discipline because of its inter- and transdisciplinary character.

Philosophy can be divided into two domains: an ontological domain that examines what exists; and an epistemological domain that examines how we can gain knowledge of that what exists. Evolutionary epistemology obviously is part of the latter domain.

It was Popper who in 1972(?) said : More than forty years ago I proposed the conjecture that this is also the method by which we acquire our knowledge of the extemal world: we produce conjectures, or hypotheses. try them out and reject those that do not fit. This is a method of critical selection, if we look at it closely."

Popper refers here to is work Logik der Forschung, 1934 (as The Logic of Scientific Discovery in English translation 1959). Remarkable , that it took 25 years before this book was translated, by the way, speaking of how fast developments in philosophy evolve.

He felt closely related with a Darwinian view on the development of knowledge, as he says: "Natural selection has destroyed the proof or the miraculous specific intervention of the Creator.

But it has left us with the marvel of the creativeness of the universe, of life, and of the human mind. Although science has nothing to say about a peronal Creator, the fact of the emergence of novelty, and of creativity, can hardly be denied."

This is even more clearly illustrated by the next quote: " I conjecture that life, and later also mind, have emerged in a universe that was, up to a certain time, lifeless and mindless.

Life, or living matter, somehow emerged from nonliving matter; and it doesn ot seem completely impossible that we shall one day know how this happened."

It is clear that Popper was one of the first who propagated an evolutionary interpretation of the growth of knowledge, namely by conjecture and refutation.

This reminds me of a discussion I had yesterday with someone who claimed that the thesis that we have no absolute truth is selfcontradictory, as this thesis is regarded as absolutely true.

But that is a fundamental mistake. This thesis is not absolutely true at all. It is an epistemological conjecture and everyone is free to come forward with the final refutation of this conjecture. That is how human knowledge evolves.

Quine(1969) held the view that instead of trying to ground science, outside of science, in a first philosophy, a fundamental epistemology, we should ground science, in science itself. And the evolution theory or neurobilologie, for instance, are good candidates for this task.

Quine believed that the natural sciences would somehow show the exact relation between the world, humans and the language uttered by human beings. Central in this view is still the knowing human being.

Evolutionary epistemology however, understands the knowledge relation not as a relation between a knower and a knowable world, nor as a relation between different knowers, but rather as a relation between an organism and its environment

The authors in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
say: "Evolutionary Epistemology is a naturalistic approach to epistemology, which emphasizes the importance of natural selection in two important roles.

In the first role, selection is the generator and the maintainer of the
reliability of our senses and cognitive mechanisms, as well as the ‘fit’ between those mechanisms and the world.

In the second role, trial and error learning and the evolution of scientific theories are construed as selection
processes. (2001)

And here we write 2001. Due to the fact that I answered the question "What is knowledge?" in a totally different way than Stephen Law did in his book, I have found the Missing Link in my personal philosophical knowledge.

And exciting discovery although it is a logical consequence of the influence of Popper and later Quine on the development of epistemology. Evolutionary Epistemology fits in seamlessly into my personal philosophical program for the future.

As for us here, let's move on to the nex question coming Thursday.

The Discussion

[13:28] herman Bergson: So much for today...if you have any questions or remarks...:-)
[13:29] oola Neruda: this sounds sort of like the normal scientific method... in what way do you see it as different
[13:29] herman Bergson: No it is the normal scientific method....
[13:29] oola Neruda: seeing if it works
[13:30] herman Bergson: yes
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: If Quine grounds science in science, how does that square with the Theorem of Incompleteness (or does that apply here?)
[13:30] herman Bergson: But more important is that there are fundamental basic philosophical assumptions made here
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes Repose...that is the important issue here
[13:31] herman Bergson: The thing doesnt matter....
[13:31] herman Bergson: we dont need to proof the completeness of knowledge...
[13:31] herman Bergson: we just need to make our conjectures...
[13:32] herman Bergson: it is open to anyone to refute them
[13:32] Frederick Hansome: can evolutionary epistemology be considered as falsifiable?
[13:32] herman Bergson: that is how knowledge grows
[13:32] herman Bergson: yes of course..
[13:32] herman Bergson: can you falsify evolution theory?
[13:32] Frederick Hansome: hardly
[13:32] herman Bergson: It is a tricky debate....
[13:33] Frederick Hansome: but there is concrete evidence for evolution
[13:33] herman Bergson: well that is the point...there is evidence for evolution and the evolution is the evidence
[13:34] herman Bergson: there are some who claim that the thesis of evolution is a tautology...
[13:34] herman Bergson: I didnt dig into the details..just heard about it...
[13:34] Frederick Hansome: what evidence do we have for evol. epist?
[13:34] herman Bergson: and you cant falsify a tautology
[13:35] herman Bergson: the emergence of mind...the growth of knowledge I would say Frederick
[13:35] Frederick Hansome: good
[13:35] Myriam Brianna: we have us, and evolutionary theory that speaks of us as a species that evolved in the mesocosmos and therefore had "epistemological" needs
[13:36] Myriam Brianna: we don't have to see the world "as it is", we just must be able to act in it
[13:36] Myriam Brianna: and apparently we are
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes Myriam and Evolutionary epistemology goes further...
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: there is a good article in the stanford
[13:37] herman Bergson: it does not just look at the human being as a knowing individual..
[13:37] herman Bergson: every organism interacting with its environment is a knowledge system....
[13:37] herman Bergson: for does a bee see its environment..or a cat...
[13:38] Myriam Brianna: as it needs
[13:38] herman Bergson: we are just a special case in this kind of questioning
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: it would be difficult to locate the "individual," in any case
[13:38] herman Bergson: what do you mean Repose?
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: the more i try to find myself, the more difficult it becomes to do so
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: i am a system
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: i guess
[13:39] Myriam Brianna: a strange loop :)
[13:40] herman Bergson: I see...yes....that is an interesting is about personal identy....
[13:40] herman Bergson: We could discuss that certainly some other time
[13:41] herman Bergson: Just search on personal identity in philosophical get lost in no time..:-)
[13:41] herman Bergson: so much is published about that subject
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: ok :)
[13:42] herman Bergson: Well...I think we certainly have touched a few fundamental issues regarding the question What is knowledge
[13:42] herman Bergson: and we, or at least I have taken a stand
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: i would say so
[13:42] herman Bergson: that is...I already did when I was a student
[13:43] herman Bergson: But it is nice to discover that epistemology went on
[13:43] Object: Sartre Placebo, thank you for your vote !
[13:43] herman Bergson: To resume a few issues...
[13:44] herman Bergson: First of all..ontologically I claim there is an external world..
[13:44] herman Bergson: Second I say that I can know that world by conjecture and falsification of my conjextures...
[13:44] herman Bergson: This impolies that I assume that I get closer to a truth that is not just dependent on my personal opinion
[13:45] herman Bergson: So I assume that by our cognitive processes we get closer to a truth we never know completely
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: i think never
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: cannot ever
[13:46] herman Bergson: But the mos timportant conclusion for me is that we dont accept relativism or extreme skepticism..
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:47] herman Bergson: You could say....I know there is something out there..!
[13:47] herman Bergson: In fact already what Kant said when he refered to Das Ding an Sich....the Thing as Such
[13:48] herman Bergson: We never can know it because our mind adds its own ways of knowing things to our experiences
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: we always come back to that yes
[13:48] herman Bergson: Yes...Gemma
[13:48] herman Bergson: we do...
[13:49] herman Bergson: But we are not prisoners in our own mind...
[13:49] herman Bergson: we are knowledge systems that interact with an environment that is not identical with the content of our sensory experiences
[13:50] Alarice Beaumont: we can build up our experience.. and be open minded
[13:50] herman Bergson: Which means....the fundamental ontological question do we know there is a real world independent of our mind.
[13:50] Frederick Hansome: Too many of us ARE prisoners in our own mind, all those who do not think and examine
[13:50] Alarice Beaumont: so we come nearer to the truth .... step by step.. little by little
[13:50] Myriam Brianna: that at least is a hypothesis that has shown itself to work
[13:50] Alarice Beaumont: open mind is essential... i think
[13:51] herman Bergson: Yes some way we do...
[13:51] Repose Lionheart: evolutionary ontology?
[13:51] herman Bergson: not sure if it already exists Repose :-)
[13:51] Sartre Placebo: i had to think about evolutionary psychology when i read today´s title :P
[13:52] Repose Lionheart: well, all things were one at the moment of ...ummm...manifestation?
[13:52] herman Bergson: evolutionary psychology is already a chapter of science
[13:52] Repose Lionheart: in cosmology?
[13:52] Sartre Placebo: cosmology is empirical based while ontological is rational ?
[13:52] Repose Lionheart: thus, things cohere ontologically. knowledge is possible...
[13:53] herman Bergson: welll if it is about coherence then it is about the coherence between our theories and the world
[13:54] Repose Lionheart: ahhh...
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: all one has to do is look back at the meager measure of time we have had in the now 'mindful' world and know you are the witness to that sam evolutionary intertretation of knowledge
[13:54] herman Bergson: that is the interaction between the knowing individual and the environment in a Darwinian sense
[13:55] Sartre Placebo: i found an interesting podcast series what might be related to todays topic, sadly this one is in german, it´s called beweistheorien
[13:55] Sartre Placebo:
[13:55] herman Bergson: What is that Sartre?
[13:56] Sartre Placebo: the lecturer goes back into the history of reasoning from parmenides to today
[13:56] herman Bergson: interesting....
[13:56] herman Bergson: I should have a lok at that
[13:56] herman Bergson: look
[13:57] herman Bergson: What I want to thank you all for is that I have learned really a lot from these lectures on epistemology..
[13:57] herman Bergson: Couldnt have happened without your presence
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: w0oh0o!
[13:57] Sartre Placebo: thx herman
[13:58] Frederick Hansome: thank you, herman. Well done.
[13:58] herman Bergson: When you reread the lectures in the blog, I think you find dozens of leads to dig into the subject deeper..
[13:58] Myriam Brianna: a thx and a yvw ^^
[13:58] Repose Lionheart: Thanks very much!
[13:59] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ahh that was an interesting hour!!! herman and class!!, thanks for your knowledge, over the knowledge, now I know more from knowledge :-)) I love this sentence!! byebye all see you on thursday :o)
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:59] bergfrau Apfelbaum: i must go :-(
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: thursday
[13:59] herman Bergson: I thank you all for your enthousiasm and (Lindenlike) PATIENCE :-)
[13:59] Myriam Brianna: cya Bergfrau :)
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:59] Abraxas Nagy: c ya berg
[13:59] Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
[13:59] Qwark Allen: ty
[13:59] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ***** APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE***********
[13:59] bergfrau Apfelbaum: herman
[13:59] Myriam Brianna snickers
[13:59] herman Bergson: Thank you
[13:59] Alarice Beaumont: bye bergfrau!
[13:59] Repose Lionheart: lol
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: time to go anyway
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: it is 2
[14:00] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye :-)
[14:00] herman Bergson: Ok..thank you all and CLass Dismissed ..see you next Thursday!
[14:00] Myriam Brianna waves
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: ty professor
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