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Chapter 3. The Real World: Knowing & Unknowing. Buckminster Fuller writes:.

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Chapter 3

The Real World:

Knowing & Unknowing

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Buckminster Fuller writes:

“All the biologicals are converting chaos to beautiful order. All biology is antientropic. Of all the disorder-to-order converters, the human mind is by far the most impressive. The human’s most powerful metaphysical drive is to understand, to order, to sort out, and rearrange in ever more orderly and understandably constructive ways. You find then that man’s true function is metaphysical.”

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  • The study of how the mind gathers knowledge is called epistemology, and epistemologists have found that the mind is endowed with four channels for gathering information: senses, reason, intuition and authority

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Epistemic Awareness

  • We face two epistemological problems: 1) How can we determine which facts are true? 2) How can we determine which facts are important?

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The Senses: Empirical Knowledge

  • Primary source of all knowledge is our own senses

  • Objective senses

  • Subjective senses

  • Naïve realism

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Knowledge from Others: Authority

  • Other people are major sources of information for each of us, but all such secondhand fact-claims are by nature distanced from our own immediate experience where we can better judge the validity of such claims

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Reason: Using Known Facts

  • Deduction

  • Induction

  • Necessarily

  • Probable

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Intuition: Knowledge from the Depths

  • Intuition refers to insights or bits of knowledge that emerge into the light of consciousness as a result of deeper subconscious activity

  • The principle weakness of intuition and feeling as sources of knowledge is that the insights they produce are as likely to be wrong as right

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John LockeReality & Appearance

  • “Appearance versus reality”

  • He defines probability as “likeliness to be true.” Or again: “probability is nothing but the appearance of such an agreement or disagreement by the intervention of proofs” whose connections are loose but still appear to provide a modicum of coherence

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  • Note the two basic epistemological problems. Is it clear to you at this point why these are so important? Can you summarize briefly your understanding of each?

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  • How much can we trust the senses?

  • How much do the senses lie to us?

  • Is there any way we can “get around” them and find out what is really going on in the world beyond our sense?

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We Never See the Real World

  • Our senses constitute our interface – the boundary of contact between two adjacent realms – with reality

  • Transducer – any substance or device that converts one form of energy into another different form of energy

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  • Consider vision as a paradigm for the transduction process of all our senses

  • What are “light waves”?

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The Mind Manufactures Experience

  • Color

  • Sound

  • Taste

  • Smell

  • Touch

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Epistemic Loneliness

  • We live in an epistemological shell with no doors

  • 1) The fallacy of objectification is a constant temptation

  • 2) We have all lived in a condition of confusion regarding the location of object/events

  • 3) Critical intellects are restless with these evolutionary arrangements with their limitations and deceptions

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The Pragmatic Nature of Knowing

  • If we experience only our experiences (and not reality), how can we be sure we know anything about the real world?

  • Hume implies: 1) the real world exists; 2) life is difficult if it is assumed that one cannot know the real world

  • “The map is NOT the territory”

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George BerkeleyThe Irish Immaterialist

  • Esse est percipi – “to be is to be perceived”

  • There was a young man who said,


    Must think it exceedingly odd

    If he finds that this tree

    Continues to be

    When there’s no one about in the


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  • This chapter speaks of “epistemic loneliness.” Are these words meaningful to you? Can you feel this condition personally or does it not apply to you?

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  • Moving through abstractions to rediscover concrete events is a major problem for all who seek to know the truth about the world

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The Pragmatic Thinker

  • Tabula rasa – “blank tablet”

  • Human knowledge is a collection of constructs created by the mind from the raw materials of sensation; it is a series of scaled-down maps that we use to find our way in the full-scale territory of the real world

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Why We Think in Abstractions

  • Abstraction – an idea created by the mind to refer to all objects which, possessing certain characteristics in common, are thought of in the same class

  • At high levels of abstraction we tend to group together objects. What is the result?

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Classifying & Labeling

  • Gogo, gigi, dabas, dobos, busa, busana?

  • Systems of clarification are reflexive

  • Systems of clarification are pragmatic

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Our Mental Grids

  • Our minds, says Bergson, can indeed “move through” all the pragmatic grids and intuit the nature of reality itself. By a sort of “intellectual empathy” we can come to know the very-changing, endlessly moving continuum that is reality.

  • Reality is, and that is all.

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Henri Bergson…to be a Hummingbird

  • Bergson made it intellectually respectable to believe that human beings could be free, responsible, fully human, and immortal

  • Life as an adventure of the mind

  • The primary function of human intelligence is to go to the heart of things, to understand objects/events in the real world exactly as they are

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  • Summarize in our words the point Bergson is making when he tells us that our minds have a habit of “chopping reality into fragments.” Is this meaningful to you personally? Could Bergson’s insights lead you to change your way of seeing and thinking about reality?

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  • How can we be sure of our facts?

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  • Correspondence Test

  • Coherence Test

  • Pragmatic Test

  • Pragmatic Paradox

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William James“Truth Happens to an Idea”

  • What does it mean for an idea to be true?

  • “What, in short, is the truth’s cash value in experiential terms?”…The truth of an idea is not a stagnant property inherent in it. Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events. Its verity is in fact an event, a process.”

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  • Can you see a way out of the pragmatic paradox? Is it indeed a paradox in the sense that one must actually deceive himself – that is, that he must believe that an idea is true on the wrong criterion – to make an idea work?