How Do We Know?
In one of Plato's dialogues, Socrates asks Theaetetus, a budding mathematician, "What is knowledge?" That is an enormously difficult question. The answer of Theaetetus swings in the direction of bits of knowledge, such as a cobbler or a carpenter might have in his trade. However, Socrates rejects this approach. He declares that he wants to know what knowledge isper se, not kinds of knowledge possible. Following Socrates' example, what does it mean when a child eagerly lifts his hand in the classroom and repeats persuasively to the teacher: "I know, I know!"? Or what is meant in the statement of a financial columnist who writes that the Dow Jones standard of the market will plunge to 500, if inflation is not controlled. In what sense does he mean "I know this will be the case?"
Before turning to how we know, and other questions, it must be emphasized that epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is fundamental to any learning. If wrong or inadequate conclusions are reached concerning the meaning of knowledge, this will affect all the rest of one's philosophy as well as other areas of knowledge. If one opts for the position that one can "know" only that presented to the senses, then any supposed knowledge that is not gained through the senses become no-knowledge, or refers to nothing. This limitation would wipe out the knowledge that scientists accept concerning the atom and sub-atomic particles, or the knowledge that the theologian accepts concerning God. Thus the theory of knowledge that one accepts will determine the kinds of knowledge that are possible or not possible. Now to the first important question.
I. What is Knowledge?
There are several proposed answers to this question. They look good on the surface, but some of them have serious problems. We will look at them with the final proposal being the one advocated by the author.
A. Opinion plus evidence equals knowledge.
It is argued that an opinion based on evidence is equivalent to knowledge. Before the 1972 election many pollsters believe that Nixon would win the election in November. The evidence seemed adequate. On the basis of this proposed definition that would be called knowledge. But is it? Before the election takes place, there can be no knowledge of the election results. Only after the event can one speak of a fact of knowledge. One may feel that one is sure about the outcome, but that is all. Moreover, when we speak of knowledge in a popular sense, we are speaking of more than opinion only.
B. Opinion plus probability equals knowledge.
This proposed definition of knowledge is not as good as the first one since we are talking here of a future that is remotely related to the present. It is a future related to present achievements, rather than a polling of people's intentions expressed to pollsters. Take a look at a question like this: will there be brain transplants by the year 2000? If we view the present status of transplants and evaluate our success in hearts, lungs, kidneys and other parts of the body, we may reason on the probable success in the future of brain transplants.
This proposal has the same problem as the first. Basically there is no knowledge until something has happened to be known. Philosophers are generally skeptical about humans who claim to know the future. Even prophets have had a difficult time getting non-philosophers to listen to them.
C. Observation equals knowledge.
Observation has been so useful in the scientific arena to the extent that it has been said that when one observes, one knows. But observing something may be meaningless. There are two kinds of observation: interpreted and non-interpreted. The story of Robinson Crusoe has been used to indicate this difference.1 Robinson Crusoe was cast upon an island after a shipwreck and eventually found another man whom he named Friday. Friday was a native and did not have the educated background that Crusoe had. One morning a ship appeared. Both Crusoe and Friday saw the vessel. Being younger, Friday probably had better vision and could see the vessel better than Crusoe in one senses (non-interpretative) but in another sense it could be said that Friday didn't really see the ship at all (interpretative). He saw something but did not know what it was. Crusoe didn't see as well (presumably) but he did see a ship and knew what it was. Friday observed but did not have knowledge, whereas Crusoe observed and did have knowledge. The difference is the two observers depended upon judgement, or past experience, or perhaps something else. But whatever the difference in the knowing of the two men, it did not depend upon the observation. Knowledge appears to be more than opening the eyes to see an object.
D. Knowledge equals opinions that one has a duty to accept.
It is argued that truth has its own attraction and must be accepted or believed or acted upon. There is a certain attraction about saying that knowledge is related to duty. One may have the duty to believe that his family is honest and faithful. But this duty of believing may be in contrast to the actual fact, i.e., they are really dishonest and unfaithful. One may counter that he can believe that his family is honest and that this belief is "knowledge" to the believing person in a subjective way. But it is not the kind of knowledge that everyone can know. In fact their knowledge is contrary to the family member's subjective knowledge. Knowledge, to be knowledge, must be open to all.
E. Knowledge is equated with the right to be sure.
If I predict the stock market is going up daily for the next three weeks and it does, then I am right and this may be equated with knowledge. But could a man do this without knowing why he is right? It appears so. Moreover, being sure may mean only that one is prepared to stand by one's claim to knowledge. At the same time standing firm in support of one's claim is not the same as knowledge since one can witness considerable certainty on the part of other religious or political parties of the opposite views. Then again, is it possible for people to know something without being aware that they know, or why they know. Knowledge seems to imply that one knows and knows the reason why.
F. Opinion requires no plus to be knowledge.
We have pursued the definition so far on the idea that opinion is related to something--polls, probability, observation, etc. Some have suggested that defining knowledge is meaningless. When we say that we know something, all that we are really doing is to give our word on something. This means that knowing is really nothing more than one's authority that a statement is true. Nothing more is needed. But if we stop to question this view, our first question will be: "How do you know?" Why do we question? We want more than an opinion posing as knowledge.
G. A better definition.
So far we have rejected certain proposals as inadequate. It is now time to put together the best definition we can. To know means that a person accepts a true proposition to be right or correct for "the best of reasons."2 The "best of reasons" will come below, but a few negations are attached to the definition. "The man who knows must not be guessing, he must not hit on the truth by chance, he must not rely on bad reasons if he relied on reasons at all."3 The definition also includes awareness or consciousness of the true belief. Knowledge implies that one knows that one knows. The "best of reasons" do not have to be one's own, but be at the basis of the claim. A reasonable proposition is one that claims our support over against withholding support or affirmation.
Knowing involves two different kinds of experiences: (l) direct experience, sometimes called the directly evident, and (2) reason processes, sometimes called the indirectly evident. The first kind of experience, the directly evident, is seen in the experience of seeing a pin oak tree. I see a tree outside of my window and I call it a pin oak. At one time someone told me it was a pin oak and every tree like it that I see I call a pin oak. The directly evident stops there. When I see it my experience leads me to say that it is a pin oak. We duplicate this experience with colors that we have learned, smells, tastes and like categories. Now if you asked: "How do you know that it is a pin oak?" I would have one of two responses ready: (l) I could say, "I know that it is. Take my word and experience for it." You might not be happy with this, and proceed to ask: "Again, I say, how do you know?" At this point I would switch to rational processes, or the indirectly evident. This means that certain questions may be asked about a knowing situation that will lend evidence for the truthfulness of one's perceptions. Three points can be made concerning the rational processes: (l) its reasonableness. My comment may be questioned for its reasonableness. Declaring that one sees an oak tree is more reasonable for Kansas than in saying one sees a balsa tree. Saying, "I see a thief" is not as reasonable or meaningful as "I see a man who is known or thought to be a thief, or who has been convicted as a thief." (2) Concurrence. Reasonable statements that are concurrent or in harmony with one another are better evidence than those that are not. "I see a pin oak" stands more sure with "there are acorns under the tree" and "the squirrels and blue jays are eating acorns in that tree." Multiple statements of fact lend greater credence to a perception. (3) Scrutiny. Reasonable statements must survive close scrutiny and critique. To say that I see a pin oak is based on a clear perception on a clear day, granting good eye sight, and a close enough distance to really see the tree, as well as some direct acquaintance of what a pin oak is.
Given these conditions and requirements, the indirectly evident gives some basis of claiming the directly evident to be knowledge.
II. Is Knowledge Possible?
Our search for a definition of knowledge implies that knowledge is possible. However, there have been and are philosophers who have believed that knowledge is not possible. The serious kind of skeptic is that reflected in the ancient Greeks who doubted the possibility of real knowledge. They chose rather to live simply in terms of appearances rather than being tormented with the frustration of trying to figure out the nature of the real world. One of the most extreme was Gorgias (483-376 B.C.) who is said to have claimed that nothing exists, and even if it did we could not know it. Even if we knew it, it could not be communicated to others. Perhaps the most disturbing part of Gorgias comment was that of communication. The skeptic does communicate his skepticism and wishes it to be accepted as a form of knowledge.
Generally skepticism is not as extreme as Gorgias. Pascal once wrote, "I lay it down as a fact that there never has been a complete skeptic. Nature sustains our feeble reason and prevents it raving to this extent."4 In actuality skepticism is one of degrees and about certain alleged facts. One may be skeptical about a political party, investing in commodities, or entering business. In other ways one is not skeptical. One must live, eat, sleep, work, have friends, etc. Often skepticism has been focused on metaphysical issues like whether God exits, or if man has life after death, and related questions.
In another sense skepticism is a healthy attitude to take toward the learning process. Descartes is famous for his stance of doubting everything possible with the purpose of trying to build a firm foundation for knowledge. Normally, when skepticism is used, it is not intended to convey Descartes' sense, but the idea that no knowledge is possible. One of the real problems with skepticism centers on the comment of Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard said that the Greeks willed to be skeptics. If this be so, skepticism is a style of life rather than an issue of knowledge or no knowledge. One becomes a skeptic by an act of will. One can remove oneself from being a skeptic by a similar act of will.
The issue of skepticism begins with an either/or dilemma. Either one opts for absolute certainty in knowledge or one is left with absolute skepticism. Neither of these extremes is
viable as Pascal observed. In the middle is a great amount of knowledge that has high probability that occasionally may demand revising or improving. But in any event, we must not be trapped into the either/or game.
What are the arguments for skepticism? Some arguments will be sketched below. Along with the arguments will be given criticisms or assessments.
The first argument is based on the unreliability of the senses. The eyes perceive the merging railroad tracks in the distance, or the mirage of the water on the road. The sense of taste is confused when sweet and sour foods are mixed, etc. Other senses are mislead also. When can you ever trust the senses? If they err in these, they probably err in most other experiences. Hence one should adopt skepticism.
In reply, how do we know that the senses err? By means of the senses and reason. We know that the railroad tracks do not come together down the way, by experience of riding the train or by reason. An oar looks bent in the water, but we can follow the oar with our hands and discern by the sense of touch that it is not bent. But even knowing that the senses err occasionally, under certain circumstances, is a knowledge that is important, and is knowledge to be maintained.
Both skeptics and philosophers who are not skeptics often denigrate the senses when what is needed is a better description or report of the sense experience. One example of this concerns the star Sirius. It is said that the light that I experience began so long ago to come to us, that it is possible that Sirius has burned out, exploded, or now no longer exists. Hence, I now see what no longer exists and this is absurd. Hence, one should be a skeptic. In contrast, no problem would arise if a precise statement were made to the effect that what I now see is a light that began years ago from a star that now may not exist. But at the moment I do see something that is meaningful for my experience. Moreover, there are many hidden facts of knowledge supposed in the attempt to prove my senses unreliable. One knows the speed of light, the distance of the star Sirius, what a star is, etc. The attempt to refute the sense experience requires a base from which to operate and this simply means a certain amount of knowledge presupposed in the base.
A second line of argument questions any norm of knowledge. Knowledge is called into question because there are diverse opinions, opposite cultural standards, customs, patterns, and we are left with only cultural traditions. This is pertinent to older studies of anthropology when it came to moral and ethical issues. Few skeptics would go as far as Gorgias to say that knowledge is not possible, for this is self-refuting. It is refuted by asking if the position can be defended. If it can be, knowledge is affirmed, and if it cannot be, then the position is senseless.
A third variation is that based on the history of ideas. A look at the history of ideas shows that great diversity has existed. In philosophy the extremes of naturalism and idealism have existed side by side. These extremes in the modern setting are complicated by still other competing philosophies. Who is to say which is right? How can one conclude that knowledge is possible with any degree of certainty?
In reply, the argument supposes absolute differences between philosophies as opposed to relative differences. This means that idealism and naturalism, as diverse as they are, admit many things in common. They both affirm an existent world, mind, man, and many other entities. They differ on the starting point of whether mind or matter is more basic. But they have many common suppositions that they affirm. As long as any appeal to history is made by skepticism, one must not overlook the fact that much has been solved in knowledge problems. While there may be many things yet undecided and uncertain, we have gained knowledge through the centuries. There is no reason to reject the possibility of future knowledge either. We must not conclude either that because we do not know specific answers at the moment to some problems that the future cannot produce these answers.
A last source of skepticism is the charge that we are prisoners of the present and cannot depend upon memory for the past or in any way anticipate the future. The memory is so unpredictable and undependable, it is argued, that we cannot know the past. History is unreliable. Only the present counts. It is true that the memory is unreliable in many ways. This is vivid in people suffering from hardening of the arteries and related disorders that affect the brain. The memory has a high possibility of being unreliable. What about memory in healthy people? If we were left to a single individual memory the argument would be more convincing. But there are collective memories of many people. Significant numbers of people remember various responses to the common event of Pearl Harbor in 1941. This can be recounted by friend and foe alike, and the practical results of a 4 year war can hardly be written off as a nightmare without reasonable remembrance. Other items of memory may not have the same degree of probability for accuracy, but neither may they be unimportant or have the result of nullifying a reasonable trust in the memory.
In concluding this section, we can say that there are some things we cannot doubt. There are others in which we must weigh the probabilities and act appropriately. In the ordinary sense of the situation we can conclude that skepticism does not have the conclusive result against knowledge that has been supposed. We have concluded in the first section that we know something when we have the best reasons for it. We are now turning to the sources of knowledge or ways to knowledge.
Part III. The Ways to Knowledge
There are many diverse bits of knowledge that we claim to know. We claim to know the tangible--a tree, cat, chair, house--but we also claim to know the intangibles ranging from number, concepts like justice and love, to persons and even a super-person, God. How do we acquire such knowledge.
The answer is found in the ways to knowledge. There is something of a tradition in philosophy that the sources of knowledge, or ways to knowledge are composed of reason, or rationalism, perception or empiricism, and perhaps intuition, or some variation. At first glance it appears that the senses are the most valuable source of knowledge. Most of what we claim to know has come through the senses. A knowledgeable man without some sense avenue to the brain is unthinkable. Yet not all knowledge is reducible to mere sense perception. This means that knowing a tree is more complicated than merely opening the eyes to see. I have to learn by some means as a child that the thing I see is called a tree. I do not get this information from the tree, or from my mind alone. Even though I receive the word from my parents that the tree is a tree, my mind is vitally involved in making that judgement about other trees. Hence the senses are extremely important for the knowing experience, but this is not the same thing as saying, as it has been done, "If I don't either see, feel, touch, taste, or smell it, it doesn't exist." Before we can talk about that extreme position, some word must be said about the knowledge we have from our youth up to a mature thinker. That involves the first source of knowledge.
A. The Way of Testimony
In his classic book, William P. Montague wrote,
We get more of our beliefs from the testimony of our fellows than from any other source. Little of our knowledge of the universe is directly tested by our own intuition, reason, experience, or practice.5
To survive in his society, man must acquire knowledge. Much of this so-called knowledge comes from the home environment and may be a mixture of truth and folklore. Nevertheless, children accept the beliefs of their fellows to varying degrees. At first this information stands on an authoritarian basis--it is accepted because punishment may be swift if it is not. The child may learn that spinach is good to eat because a spanking backs up the statement. Soon the child encounters other authoritarians. What happens? At a young age the parents may remain the influence, but as the early years of school make inroads on parental influence, then the teacher comes on strong as the source of knowledge. Somewhere the child assesses the qualifications of the teacher over against that of his parents, the relative intelligence of parent versus teacher, peer influence, and given other influences the influence of the parent's word may dwindle somewhat. As the child begins to question more, authoritarianism reaches a crisis.
It is at this point that we need to distinguish between authoritarianism and authority. Authoritarianism is a substitute for thinking. It involves the unquestioning acceptance of someone, or some institution, in certain matters of knowledge. Authoritarianism is bad. Authority is good. An authority invites questioning, but authoritarianism does not.
Unfortunately the use of authoritarianism does not cease with maturing youth. Some marks of authoritarianism can be seen in the following ways: (l) The attempt to transfer influence of authority in one field into another unrelated field. The letterhead stationary of many organizations indicates this. Many people assume that a physician running for public office would make a good statesman, but competency as a doctor does not mean competency as a politician. (2) The appeal to the truth of numbers is another use of authoritarianism. The old saying that "Forty million Frenchmen cannot be wrong" is an example of it. But forty million Frenchmen can be wrong. It was once believed widely that the world was flat and people were compelled to believe it to the point of death. But neither statistical count or compulsion made it so. (3) Longevity is used to support authoritarianism. Presumably long life implies wisdom and success for an idea. Long survival of an idea is often equated with truth. But longevity per se means nothing. A lot of false ideas have also had a long history. There is little good to say about authoritarianism.
Authority, or testimony, however, in contrast to authoritarianism, remains an important way to certain kinds of knowledge. How can the student know that Caesar crossed the Rubicon when he has not the slightest chance of meeting Caesar to find out? Current history books fare no better in the game since none of the authors are any closer to Caesar. But history is supposed to be based upon primary sources, or records written by eyewitnesses at best, or those very close to eyewitnesses. These records may eventually be affirmed with related artifacts, like coins, archive documents, and other archaeological finds. So when we speak of an authority speaking, orally or written, we presume someone who was there, who was involved intimately in the action, work, or event, and who can give a first-hand account. Anything less is hearsay or gossip. But we are dependent upon historical probability for much of our past knowledge. There is no way we can get to the past to confirm it. Our use of authorities in this context--in contrast to authoritarianism--is restricted to eyewitnesses and personal testimony.
The appeal to testimony or authority concerning the past is different than the appeal to authority concerning the present. If I told you that Oklahoma City is the largest geographical city in the world, you could merely take my word for it. If you rejected my word, you could consult a chamber of commerce claim, but if you rejected this as well as a map encyclopedia, then you could take a trip to Oklahoma to find the truth for yourself. There are many things we can confirm ourselves, but frequently we have no need to go beyond the assertion of personal testimony or authority. But if we needed personal confirmation of these items we find comfort in being able to do it.
There is another word about authority. We accept much on authority. This is true in science as well as in any other field. A student must submit himself to the authority of the scientific community. He takes the professor's word that all that has come to him from the past is true. The student had neither time, equipment or the ability to check it all for himself. This is true for any descriptive discipline. Only by accepting this authority, or testimony can one make progress in the discipline. Eventually the learner becomes a master himself, but he still accepts the authority of other scientists at face value.
B. The Way of the Senses
Knowledge has always been dependent upon the senses. While this has been basic to knowledge and existence, philosophy has been rationally oriented. This means that truth comes through reason. Rationalism was a dominant influence until the rise of the British empirical movement beginning with John Locke (1632-1704), when knowledge became one-sidedly sense oriented. Empiricism is the idea that "all knowledge of a substantial kind about the world is derived from experience."6 Locke is the father of the empirical tradition. His idea of experience generally meant that knowledge comes through the avenue of the senses. Note his famous statement:
Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas. How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer in one word: EXPERIENCE. All our knowledge is founded in experience, and from experience it ultimately derives itself.7
John Locke (1632-1704) is the father of the empirical tradition. His Essay Concerning Human Understanding attacked the traditional doctrine of innate ideas. Locke was important for his theory of knowledge as well as his political ideas of a compact government. His ideas influenced the founding fathers of the U.S.A.
Empiricism began as a philosophy of sense. It has sometimes been called sensation-ism. There is no doubt that the senses are extremely important for man's knowledge. That is so obvious that no explanation is needed. What needs discussion are the restrictions placed around empiricism. With the growing influence of science, empiricism came to refer not only to observing but verifying. If you can verify your claim, your observation, then you can claim certainty of knowledge. If you cannot, then no claim is attached to your statement.
Such a restriction or limitation requires some assessment of the idea of verification. First, how can one verify a principle of verification? While verification may sound impressive, there is quite a bit of subjectivity in the idea. For example, when is something verified? In whose eyes must it be? Marxists are committed to scientific methods, but are forbidden to accept certain views in science, i.e., the second law of thermodynamics, because of political requirements. What would it take to verify that law for a Marxist?
A second problem with verification is the fact that we claim to know much that is mentally or rationally oriented. That type of knowledge is not a product of the senses per se. To declare that 7 plus 5 equals 12 may have been learned in school via the eyes and ears, but we have not seen entities named 7 plus 5 equals 12. These are concepts born of the mind, not the world outside of the mind. One may see seven apples and five apples, but the concepts of seven and five are only means of organizing the apples in groups. These are truths of logic, not the senses.
There are other important facts or experiences that we claim to know that are not empirically verifiable. The consciousness of man, or the internal experience of consciousness cannot be verified in the empirical sense. Yet consciousness is vital to an understanding of man. On another level, the senses alone are helpless to distinguish between the real and the imaginary. The senses may be complemented or supplemented by judgement borne of reason. Then we can make progress in distinguishing between the real and imaginary, dreaming and awakeness.
The question is not whether or not we learn through the senses, but do we learn only through the sense? Must we cast aside as nonsense all the beliefs that cannot be verified scientifically? Many of us would say no!
Michael Polanyi admits the important role of verification and its usefulness, but notes two points: First, some things have been verified according to the rules, and yet have ben declared false later. Second, he noted,
The method of disbelieving every proposition which cannot be verified by definitely prescribed operations would destroy all belief in natural science. And it would destroy belief in truth and in the love of truth itself which is the condition of all free thought. The method leads to complete metaphysical nihilism and thus denies the basis for any universally significant manifestation of the human mind.8
Polanyi's thrust is two-fold: (l) Scientists have to trust the work of other scientists and one cannot begin anew in each generation to test all the accepted truths of the previous generation. Doing this would require one to spend a life-time verifying and no productive work could be achieved. (2) The idea of verification cannot be applied to the idea of truth itself and the love of truth. But these intangibles are important and without the standard of truth, science would languish.
Another issue of conflict, between strict empiricism and those who appeal to reason and other ways of knowing, concerns the nature of universals. A universal is a concept, principle or law, that is used to describe individual things. The concept of chair is applicable to many kinds of chairs. We never see the concept of chair, or chairness, but we do see individual chairs that vary in so many ways. The law of gravity would be a universal relating to a scientific description. But no one has ever seen the law of gravity. All that has been seen are falling objects. The law is an inference based upon particular events. If strict empiricism is to be held, then all that we can see is when a particular apple falls from the branch to the ground. Without reason, we cannot move from the falling apple to the unseen law of gravity which is a generalization, or a universal. But without these important laws we could hardly carry on the discipline of any science.
While too much has been claimed for empiricism, and many criticisms have been raised against it, we must not overlook its importance. The loss of one sense, sight, removes vast possibilities from meaningful experience and this would be true for any of the senses. Any theory of knowledge must have a healthy regard for the senses as a way of knowledge. In spite of the fact that we may only "see" what we are trained to see leading to the subjectivity of the senses, we must seek to transcend our training and accept a new objectivism in assessing our world and us.
C. The Way of Reason
One of the famous dictums from the history of philosophy is Aristotle's statement that man is a rational animal. Man reasons. Just what does this mean? It means that man has conceptual power of thought and through its use he can attain knowledge and truth. Reason may be contrasted to sense perception which is limited to observing a particular object, event, or act. Reason can generalize on these particulars, such as an apple falling to the ground, to the conclusion of an abstract, unseen law or universal, i.e., the law of gravity. Moreover, reason frequently is contrasted with impulsive living which means that one acts without reflection on the basis of whim. If reason is admitted to, then one can observe the possible outcome of impulsive acts and refrain from them. The view of man held by Plato and Aristotle was that reason was to dominate the appetitive and emotive elements of man's existence.
Philosophy has often made strong appeals to reason. One of the frequently quoted names in philosophy is that of Descartes, who said, "Cogito, ergo, sum." "I think, therefore, I am." Descartes hoped to establish a firm foundation for science and the model of certainty for him was mathematics. Mathematics owes nothing to perception and it served as a model of scientific endeavor for many philosophers. Yet the relative success of Descartes is still debated by philosophers and scientists.9
What kind of knowledge can reason give us? This cannot be answered without acknowledging that almost everything that we will set forth may be debatable to some philosophers.
First, it has been claimed that reason can give a priori truths, or truths that come from reason only without an appeal to experience or perception. A priori is a Latin phrase referring to first truths, or truths that are obvious upon their examination. This includes mathematical truths (5 plus 6 equals 11), and certain other statements that have the characteristic of necessity about them. One such example of necessity is the sentence, "Being red excludes being blue."
Another kind of statement that involves the use of reason without regard to an appeal to the senses is the analytic statement. Analytic statements are those in which the predicate is contained in the subject, i.e., white swans are white, all bachelors are male, etc. These kinds of statements relate to certain rules of logic: the law of identity which is frequently illustrated by A is A (or a cow is a cow, but not grass is green.), the law of excluded middle (either A or not A, either I am rich, or I am not rich) in which there is no middle position, but an either/or situation, and the law of contradiction (not both A and not A, or a man cannot be both in New York and not in New York at the same time).
Two questions arise in connection with the "truths of reason." It is argued that these tell nothing about reality, but are only definitions. I may define all giants as being tall, but know nothing about whether there are any giants at all. Likewise, I may know that 2 plus 2 equals 4, but are there four anythings in the world? Reason alone can give few truths. Reason needs perception to know the world outside the mind. Likewise, perception needs reason to understand the world it perceives.
The second question concerns whether a priori statements or truths are anything more than psychologisms. This means that the mind of man is constituted so that all men think this way and this has nothing to help us to determine whether this is true thinking. If you could change the mind-set you would change the truth basis. In defense of a priori truths it is argued that psychologism would be at the mercy of any stubborn individual who concluded that 2 plus 2 equals 7. A priority is defended upon the basis of the necessity of truth. Regardless of what reason may be given for rejecting 2 plus 2 equals 4, it is commonly regarded as a necessarily logical truth.
Before concluding, we need to remind ourselves that we are treating these ways as separate and isolated ways, which they are not psychologically. We are not restricted merely to reason without the senses or the senses without reason. Our experience of knowing combines the two. In trying to thread a needle one may see the thread, the eye of the needle, and then make a judgement that that particular piece of thread will not go through the needle's eye. Much knowledge is found through the combined ways.
Reason does, in conclusion, have its limitations. It needs the help of experience or the senses in many ways. Moreover, reason can be distorted by prejudices, greed, passion, and imagination. Against these common enemies of man, reason has always had a struggle.
D. The Way of Phenomenology
What is this strange word? It refers to an emphasis in philosophy inaugurated by Edmund Husserl (1859-1938). One may recognize some kinship to philosophers of the past such as Plato, Descartes, and Kant, but the emphasis owes its greatest impetus to Husserl and those influenced by him.
Phenomenology is a process of critical thinking about anything. It may be described as critical analysis, or a free descriptive approach to any subject. The aim of such a process of thinking is to get to a full understanding of the topic in all its essences, or its nature. Think about the example of love. In practicing phenomenology one seeks to get to the root issue of the meaning of love or charity and describe it in its essence. (That would be true for any other subject.) If one pursued this topic one might ask: how can I discover the characteristics of love? Must it be given up as indescribable? As non-existence because it is not seen? Does love apply to friends? Enemies? Can you love the one you hate? Can you command another to love? Is there a difference between liking and loving someone? What kind of love can be commanded? Are sex and love synonymous? Can love exist without sex? Sex without love? Are there different kinds of love?
One may find a remarkable example of phenomenology at work in the description of love in the work of C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.10 Lewis speaks first of Need-love which brings a frightened child to its mother, and gift-love which moves a man to work, sacrifice, and plan for the future of his family that he may not see. Affection is the humblest of loves in which there is love between parent and child, a mother cat and kittens, and similar relationships. Affection goes beyond the parent to people, and objects, i.e., my books. Affection involves the familiar, modesty, being not overly discriminating, and not expecting too much.
The second love, friendship, is the least natural of loves, "the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary."11 Friendship involves companionship, a common idea or a common insight or interest (or burden). Friendship may die when one of the friends declares non-interest in the object, but only in friendship for itself. Friendship "has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival."12 A third form of love is eros which includes both sex and relationships transcending sexuality. Eros involves desiring a Beloved, not the pleasure she can give. Eros transcends mere sexuality to say something about a beloved, rather than a mere fact about ourselves.
The fourth love is charity. It is related to God as Love, the creator of love, who creates man for gift-love and need-love. "Divine Gift-love--Love Himself working in a man--is wholly disinterested and desires what is simply best for the beloved . . . Divine Gift-love in the man enables him to love what is not naturally lovable; lepers, criminals, enemies, morons, the sulky, the superior and the sneering. Finally, by a high paradox, God enables man to have a Gift-love toward Himself."13
These are sketchy summaries of Love's work, and meaning, but the reader can see that the essence of love, the meaning of love, is described in its many features. There may be other points omitted by Lewis that could be included in the study. But he has thought and come to an understanding of the essence of something.
If the reader has understood the idea of trying to find the basic understanding of any topic, we can now look at Husserl's terminology which is fairly abstract. He wrote that phenomenology was a "science of essential Being . . . a science which aims exclusively at establishing "knowledge of essence" and absolutely no "fact."14 (This science is called an "eidetic" science which means general or universal.)
The science of the essence is in contrast, therefore, to the science that deals with facts. The contrast between facts and essences can be seen in the two columns below:
Facts are: Essences are:
l. individual 1. universal
2. contingent 2. necessary
3. spatio-temporal 3. non-spatio-temporal
4. psychologically perceived 4. phenomenologically known
The contrast between fact and essence is so great that Husserl asserted that "pure essential truths do not make the slightest assertion concerning facts."15 Thus the essence of something can be discussed apart from whether it exists or not. This possibility is seen in the example of inventions. Inventions have a mental existence (or a phenomenological basis) before they are created and exist as things. The inventor has a consciousness of a non-existing thing, or idea, and as he studies the idea, he works toward a description of its essence. Eventually, the idea may have a spatio-temporal form, but it is not necessary that it be.
We have defined phenomenology as a science of essences, or a process of thinking. A popularizer of Husserl, Richard Zaner, defines phenomenology as a method of philosophical criticism. As such it seeks to discover the presuppositions of knowledge in any field of study, and takes nothing for granted in beginning that study. This taking-nothing-for-granted is important. Zaner wrote:
The task of phenomenology, then, is the reflective-descriptive explication, analysis,
and assessment of the life of consciousness, and of man, generally.16
How does one go about this reflective-descriptive-analytic method? It is achieved by "bracketing" or disconnecting one's thought from the world of existence. This bracketing is also called the epoche, a Greek word which means a certain refraining from judgement. The epoche, or refraining from judgement, is applied to the world in general and science in particular. The epoche means that one makes no "judgement that concerns spatio-temporal existence."17 The world is still in existence but one must remove, or bar all judgments of it and about it. In a sense this means to be aware of and remove all pre-judgments about the world.
When one brackets the world and all interpretations about it, one is brought to the remaining thing that can't be bracketed--one's consciousness. The epoche, in practice removes all judgments--cultural, religious, political, or any other, from our considerations, and one begins with a description of what is brought to mind.
As a simple example of the epoche, the "stepping back from" a subject, or the "removing-all-familiarity," from a subject, try this experiment. As you go home or go over a familiar pathway, go with the idea that you have never been that way before. As you walk down your street think of the way you saw it the first time there. Mentally recapture that attitude. The sense of dis-engagement will enable you to see things you don't notice anymore. From the point of dis-engagement, one may see the need of a paint job on a house, the height of children over what they were weeks before, the ugly spot in the corner of a yard, the flowers bursting open, etc. You can assume this dis-engaged stance and go on to describe the scene as though one were a stranger on the scene. To assume this dis-engaged stance is the meaning of the epoche. This dis-engagement must be sustained deliberately and systematically while critically exploring in detail and depth what is discovered in the experience. However, it must be remembered that the epoche is related to the essences rather than the simple experience given above.
Concerning the idea of the epoche, Zaner wrote:
The requirements for developing a pure critical theory of consciousness are, then, before us: I must reflect on my own consciousness, systematically disengage and remain neutral toward all prior knowledge of whatever kind, adopt a critical attitude, and engage in careful imaginative variations.18
Zaner's comments may be illustrated in a paragraph drawn from Martin Heidegger. The summary paragraph below is how Heidegger describes fear. The imaginative variations can be seen as Heidegger develops his views on the essence of fear. Fear involves
(l) "that in which we fear," characterized by threatening, detrimentality coming from a definite region, which has something 'queer' about it," a drawing close of the detrimentality to ourselves. (2) fearing as such, meaning "what we have thus characterized as threatening is freed and allowed to matter to us," (3) "that which fear fears about is that very entity which is afraid--Dasein." This includes fear as a mode of state-of-mind, fearing about others, "fearing for" others, being afraid for oneself; the close proximity of the feared object brings alarm, but if the object is unfamiliar then fear becomes dread, and when dread of an object is connected with suddenness, fear becomes terror.19
Two of the major illustrations we have used are abstract in kind, love and fear. But one may also do a phenomenology of an area in science, history, or whatever. What is the essence of a tree? an atom? a cell? A study of the cell involves its nature, life-support, division, growth, relationship with other cells, things mistaken for cells, etc.
One last comment on the epoche and the dis-engagement attitude. The word dis-engagement might give the impression of leaving the world, or ignoring the world, or regarding the world as non-existent for the moment. Paradoxically, to become dis-engaged is to look at the world more intently and seriously than ever before. The world has not left, nor disappeared, and one does not leave off experiencing the world. But dis-engaging the world to center on essences makes it possible to know the world better.
After I have achieved a study of the essence of something, what happens then? If you read the work of Lewis, The Four Loves, you subject it to criticism. Lewis is right on many points. But he is wrong on his chauvinistic ideas about friendship and women. As you read him you accept or reject, or improve on his thought. This experience of following-after-another's thought is called inter-subjectivity. Each thinker may come to assent to the phenomenological description and verify it within his own experience. There is no substance to the idea of objectivity in science which presumes something outside the mind of man. Only inter-subjectivity exists. This does not mean that no truth exists, or that truth is personal from one person to another. There is truth among reasonable men, and if the epoche is practiced, men will come to the same truth generally.
In conclusion, we may note that phenomenology is important as a way of knowing. We know the world by means of essences, and it is imperative for the student of philosophy to develop a sense of epoche for science, politics, morals and religion. Without phenomenology we are victims of pre-judgements; with phenomenology we hope for honesty, fairness, and truth.
E. The Way of Self-Revelation
Self-revelation as a way of knowing is important for two kinds of knowledge: knowledge of persons and knowledge of God. So far we have related to things, logic, and ideas. How do you know persons? Is a body the sum total of persons? When you see a body, do you "know" the person?
Self-revelation suggests that knowing persons involves more than seeing bodies. The knowledge of persons also suggests some analogy for knowing God, also a person. Let us look at them in that order.
l. Knowledge of person
A discussion of persons and the possibility of knowing persons can begin with a number of alternatives. First, one may conclude with a form of behaviorism that nothing beyond bodily activity, chemical makeup, and physical evaluation can be made about man's consciousness. Behaviorism concludes that no "mental" consciousness exists apart from the chemical and physical makeup of the body. This is a "nothing-but" attitude, a reductionistic attitude to man's existence and overlooks many treasured features of man's mental life. Many important things go on in man's consciousness that are not reflected in behavior.
Second, one may adopt a solipsists position and say, "I alone exist" which sounds absurd, but carried to its extreme there are only persons or bodies when I think them into being. Any knowledge of other persons is really contrary to the solipsist's position. Why speak about other people when they really do not exist? Third, one may adopt the position that knowledge about other persons is limited. We can talk meaningfully about other bodies as we do about trees, sponges, or paperclips. Chemical and physical analyses can give us the vital statistics of a body whether it be in terms of 32-26-36 or the basic elements of chemistry. But we are not content with this knowledge. How do we get from knowledge of a body to a knowledge of other minds? This is more difficult.
One way of bridging this gap is to argue from analogy. We "look" at our states of mind, our bodily expressions, and noting that similar bodily expressions are evident in other bodies, we conclude that they have similar states of mind. At best this is an inference and if this is all we have to go on, our knowledge is quite meager. Moreover, bodily states of mind can be misleading--when a woman cries, is it because she is happy or sad?--and occasionally we find a body that is still and unsuggestive in its actions: is it dead? alive? Then what may we conclude about all this?
One may readily see how skepticism about the knowledge of persons arose. Even granting the truth of Wittgenstein who said, "The human being is the best picture of the human soul," we are not moved very far along the way in the pursuit of knowledge about other people. We have only knowledge about the things we see, namely bodies.
P.F. Strawson talks about the idea of person in its primitive sense. He noted that "the concept of a person is to be understood as the concept of a type of entity such that both predicates ascribing states of consciousness and predicates ascribing corporeal characteristics, a physical situation, etc., are equally applicable to an individual entity of that type."20 This means that persons are known through bodies, but the idea of person is more fundamental than body. The body is a key to knowing persons, but the person is not the same as the body alone.
In light of this we can talk about self-revelation which comes through the body, frowns, speech, touch, and which involves personal relationships. Self-revelation involves personal interchange along verbal lines. A man may sit motionless in his outward appearance in most of his body, but then pour out his innermost thoughts, feelings, hopes, and aspirations. As comments, questions, and exclamations fly back and forth, we come to know something of the person.
Some ideas of Martin Buber are often helpful when one talks about the knowledge of persons. Persons involve a special kind of relationship. Buber distinguished between an I-It relationship and an I-Thou relationship. In an I-It relationship there is no reciprocity. I pick up a pencil, note its length, color, eraser, and I may use it, but the pencil is essentially a manipulated object. There is no backtalk. Indeed, it is possible for a human to treat another human in a manipulated way. People are often treated as things, objects. In contrast, the I-Thou is a reciprocal relationship involving trust, respect, and self-communication. It is an encounter of one person with another, hence self-revelation. Concerning the importance of self-revelation, Hamlyn noted, ". . . a case can be made for the thesis that no proper understanding of the concept of a person can be had in independence of an understanding of the concept of human relationship."21 The I-Thou relationship is not a manipulative one. It does involve verbal communication as well as any other appropriate physical response, but its chief avenue is verbal. Even this can be misused, and misleading. There is no guarantee against being deceived. A suave person can dupe almost anyone, but that is simply one of the risks of personhood. Nevertheless, the I-Thou pattern remains the most significant basis of knowing what a person thinks, believes, hopes, dreams, remembers, fears, and loves.
2. Knowledge of God
Just as there may be some knowledge learned from the activity of bodies, so philosophers and theologians have argued that some knowledge about God is available. Regardless of what one may conclude about the validity of the arguments for God's existence, whether they are valid or not, useful or not, etc., the actual amount of information concluded in the arguments is not of great proportion. The main object of the arguments is to prove the existence of God. Other possible facts may be that God is creator, is intelligent, and powerful. As far as man's religious needs are concerned, those items are meager and lead at best to worship of a near unknown. Thus, a knowledge of God that is religiously significant and useful must go beyond a "body" knowledge. If we are to know anything about God that is meaningful, it must be beyond the attempt to speak of God as a force which may be compared to the attempt to examine God in a test-tube or under the microscope. A God lower in personhood than man is hardly worth the effort and trouble. Thus, if God is, then he must be known as Person in some sense of that word. Augustine's comment about speaking of God as person is pertinent. He claimed that we speak of God as "person" not to express God's being adequately, but in order not to be silent.
Speaking of God as person immediately involves one in the complicated question when one considers all the diverse religious claims of human history. Diversity implies that all cannot be true. Is there one that is true? It is impossible to cover the complete area of religious movements, but one may generalize in this fashion. Most religious leaders claim to be sent by God to enlighten mankind. Some religious leaders seem not really to be interested in a unique God, such as Buddha and Confucius. They preached an ethical humanism designed to help people face the problems of existence in their day. Others regarded themselves interested in being a reformer or a prophet as did Mohammed.
In Christianity, however, the elements of a theory of knowledge along the lines of personhood take on different dimensions. If Jesus, the Christ, is really God in the flesh (God-Incarnate) then we have God as person communicating of himself in a form that men can understand. This means that God was not content to speak merely thru prophets, but has come Himself. Admittedly, God as person transcends our knowledge of man as person, but we cannot begin with anything less than person in common between God and man. We understand persons in self-communication and we cannot have anything less than this in knowing about God. We understand something of God's qualities of love, mercy, and communication because we have something of these qualities in humans. God speaks our language. God is said to love, forgive, help; he is said to be a companion; he encounters men and brings transformation and enlightenment to man's ignorance; and affirms life because He created it as well as entered into human history to partake of it on man's level of understanding.
Self-revelation thus becomes important for any knowledge about God. How can one know God then? This takes a two-fold answer. First, it is historically related to a given point in human history and is called the Incarnation.22 The record of this is written in Scripture. Second, self-revelation involves contemporary encounter with the living person of Christ via the Scripture today. The Christian claims that men can have a relationship with God in Christ now.
Consequently, Buber's terms of an I-Thou relationship still fits here for a knowledge of God as Person. Gods may be framed in an I-It relationship which amounts to a form of idolatry. But an I-Thou relationship with God is not manipulative. God encounters man. There is a turn-about in the matter of hiding a knowledge of oneself. In human relationships we know about ourselves to a great degree, and we are searching for knowledge in the person we encounter. In the relationship with God, there is open knowledge available for all to know, but I, the knower, am given to guarding my image. Just as I can turn off or avoid other people, I can also avoid God for the time being. Just as there may be certain facts we know about people without knowing them, so it is true with religious knowledge. Knowledge about God without encounter is like knowledge about people without encounter. One cannot really say I know the person.
By way of concluding this section, it should be noted that we have not included faith as a way of knowing as some theologians do. Faith as a way of knowing is ambiguous. Faith is a requisite for another way of knowing--that of self-revelation. Faith--which means to commit oneself to another--serves the basis for an I-Thou relationship in which I commit myself to a person or to God and thereby the avenue is open for God to speak openly as well as for me to speak. Hence, faith without supposition of God as person is nothing more than faith in the unknown future. This kind of faith--without God as person--is little more than projection of one's hopes on the future.
There are many other issues in religious claims to knowledge that may be pursued, but we cannot depart on that excursion here.23
F. The Way of Intuition
Intuition as a way of knowing is not only difficult to define, but also to defend. Nevertheless, intuition must not be written off completely as a way of knowing some things. Note the following example. A young man enters a room filled with people. He is introduced to many, but as he meets one young lady, meeting her is different than the others. Later as the evening progresses, her eyes meet his as they search the room for each other. Nothing is said, only a direct conclusion reached by eye contact. Later, they date, become engaged, and if you should ask either if they are loved by the other, they will respond with a positive yes. If you ask for reasons why they think they are loved, reasons sound irrational and superfluous. But they are committed to the idea of being loved by the other to the extent of making a marriage vow. If they knew Pascal's statement they would agree that "we do not prove that we ought to be loved by enumerating in order the causes of love; that would be ridiculous."24
The experience of love is something known on the lines of intuition. Intuition refers to the direct non-rational experience of knowing.25 Intuition is in contrast to conscious reasoning or the experience of knowing an object through the senses. Some speak of intuition as synonymous with mysticism. This is unwise, misleading, and does violence to a correct understanding of intuition. Mysticism is the attempt of certain religious groups to use methods26 of concentration whereby the mind is emptied of this world's content and the persons attempt to reach a unity with a world-soul or the Infinite. Such a method is achieved through self-discipline. Self-revelation presupposes that no mystic can achieve a knowledge of God apart from God's self-revelation which is not due to man's efforts.
Intuition is not the fruit of efforts. One does not set forth a method of intuition as one does in mysticism. It is not deliberate as reason is. Pascal, who is famous for certain statements about intuition, spoke of it as a way independent of reason: "The heart has its reasons which reason does not know."27 Intuition is not a sixth sense as we know it. It appears on the fringe of reason and seemingly functions when reason has reached a stalemate. You may remember a time when someone presented an unrefutable argument to you. You could not answer it, nor could you accept it. You knew that it was wrong, but you did not know why. Intuition led you to reject it. Eventually, you may have found reasons that justified your rejection, but your first ground of objection was really intuitive.
The limits of intuition are debated by philosophers. Some will limit it to the experience of recognizing a color such as "I see blue." Others will advance to the area of mathematics and logic. Still others admit the legitimacy of intuition in the area of art, love, and romance.28 Yet it is admitted that intuition has played a vital role in some of the greatest scientific discoveries from the days of Archimedes to the present.29
Intuition is difficult to limit in the definition and thus many things pass under the flag of intuition. A variety of people attempt to gain support for a cause under the guise that they have an intuition which may have no support whatever. When intuition is equated with the voice of God, all kinds of evils may be justified. "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."30 A further difficulty with intuition is the inability of having other people "feel" or know the same intuition that we have. We may say that intuition lacks "public verification." Some intuitions are wild and unrestricted. If people make wild claims based on intuition we may be inclined to lock them up. But even supporters of intuition do not claim its universal value without regard for other ways of knowledge. It is frequently restricted to areas of knowledge that are of vital importance to individuals such as love, art, and creativity, or to areas in which intuition can be complemented by other ways to knowledge, such as reason, observation, and confirmation.
G. The Way of the Apprenticeship
A seeming contradiction is posed by Plato in his Meno in which it is asserted that either you know what you are looking for, and if so there is no problem, or you do not know what you are looking for, and then how can you look for something you know not, and if you should find it, how would you know it? In a similar manner, Michael Polanyi asks, "How can we tell what things not yet understood are capable of being understood." He answers that "we must have foreknowledge sufficient to guide our conjecture with reasonable probability in choosing a good problem and in choosing hunches that might solve the problem."31
Polanyi seeks to develop a type of knowing called "tacit knowing or learning." Tacit learning means that "we can know more than we can tell."32 It also means we can learn more than we are aware of. This is particularly true in learning certain things in the area of apprenticeship. Polanyi's analysis of tacit learning involves two things: (l) focal attention or awareness which is seen in the experience of driving a nail with a hammer. My attention is focused on the head of the hammer and the attempt to hit the nail-head. (2) Subsidiary awareness is the awareness of the handle in my hand, but which is not the center of my attention, yet it is necessary for the focal awareness and is merged into it. If my attention is focused on learning a particular skill, there is both focal and subsidiary learning taking place. This operates in both the master and the learner. A master teaches more than he is aware of teaching. Because of this it is frequently true that great scientists follow great masters under whom they served as apprentices. The great research in the chemistry of carbohydrates has come from "four scientists, Purdy, Irvine, Hawerth, and Hirst, who followed each other in single file as masters and pupils."33 The fading of apprenticeships in some areas brings a great loss to culture. While microscopy, chemistry, mathematics, and electronics have been great helps in many areas, nevertheless, scientific mechanization has been unable "to produce a single violin of the kind of the semi-literate Stradivarius turned out as a matter of routine more than 200 years ago."34
In a similar vein, connoisseurship, like a skill, cannot be communicated by precept alone. A medical diagnostician, a wine taster, a cotton-classer, and a variety of scientists rely upon learning via a master who cannot teach everything by precept. The things we know in a tacit way are "problems, and hunches, physiolognomies, and skills, the use of tools, probes, and denotative language."35 Polanyi goes on to argue that all our knowledge involves a tacit dimension.36
Tacit knowing calls for a revision of the myth associated with scientific knowledge. The myth traced back to Bacon is that of gathering all kinds of data and the results will fall into a pattern and discovery is born. This is false and misleading. Scientific discovery begins with discipleship, or submission to the authority of the scientific community. After the apprenticeship is served and a "feel" for the discipline has been acquired, then one can turn to exploring the unknown. As an apprentice one learns tacitly as well as focally. But how does one make a new discovery? To be a real discovery, it must be something that is accurate, profound and of intrinsic interest.37 Making a discovery means looking at the unknown. What do you look for? One can only be guided by problems, a profound problem--but who alone can decide what a real problem is? How can one think what has not been thought before? How can one put together an experiment that has never been done before which will change the total way of looking at reality? Reason and hunches are the answer. Polanyi notes that "De Broglie's wave theory, the Copernican system and the theory of relativity, were all found by pure speculation guided by criteria of internal rationality."38 Beyond this there are no methods for making great discoveries. We conclude this section with a note from Polanyi:
Objectivism has totally falsified our conception of truth, by exalting what we can know and prove, while covering up with ambiguous utterances all that we know and cannotprove, even though the latter knowledge underlies and must ultimately set its seal to all that we can prove. In trying to restrict our minds to the few things that are demonstrable, and therefore explicitly dubitable, it has overlooked the critical choices which determine the whole being of our minds and has rendered us incapable of acknowledging these vital choices.39
We have surveyed a number of ways to knowledge. In a sketch such as the one presented above, it is evident that there is more overlapping than allowed for in a logical treatment of the ways to knowledge. Some of the ways are more useful for certain items of knowledge than others. The following chart may help to pull together the emphases.
Ways to Knowledge Things Known
Testimony or the past, transmitted culture
Empiricism or objects before us experienced
the senses thru the senses--trees, bees,
birds, flowers, bodies
Reason logical truths, deductions,
Phenomenology essences, general or
Self-revelation human persons and God as person
Intuition love, friendship, "hunch-"
Apprenticeship skills, music, connoisseurship,
It appears that one way may have more limitations than another. The way of the senses has all kinds of uses whereas self-revelation is quite restricted. Intuition may be the most limited way.
The most serious problem of looking at the ways of knowledge is that of reductionism. Reductionism, it will be remembered, is the desire to reduce everything to a common denominator. Reductionism here is the belief that only one way--most often empiricism--is the only way to knowledge. But simplicity is of no virtue if it ignores large segments of life and knowledge as any form of reductionism does.
In a positive way, we are led to see that some ways are more suitable for some items than others. The ways are complementary.
For Further Study
Nicolas, Human Knowledge, New York: Pagasus, l969.
Chisholm, Roderick M., Philosophy, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964.
________, The Theory of Knowledge, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Hamlyn, D.W., The Theory of Knowledge, Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, l970.
Husserl, Edumund, Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy, New York: Harper Torchbook, l965.
Locke, John, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Oxford: Clarendon Press, l975.
Montague, W.P., The Ways of Knowing, New York: Macmillan Co., l925.
Pascal, Blaise, Pensees, New York: Modern Library, l94l.
Polanyi, Michael, Personal Knowledge, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, l958.
________, Science, Faith, and Society, Chicago: Unversity of Chicago Press, 1964.
________, The Tacit Dimension, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1967.
Strawson, P.F., Individuals, London: Methuen and Co., LTD, l959.
Zaner, Richard M., The Way of Phenomenology, New York: Pagasus, l970.
1Cf. R. Chisholm, Theory of Knowledge, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1966, pp. 10-11.
2D.W. Hamlyn, The Theory of Knowledge, Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1970, p. 101.
3Ibid., p. 101.
4Blaise Pascal, Pensees, New York: Modern Library, 1 941, p. 143.
5W.P. Montague, The Ways of Knowing, New York: Macmillan Co., 1925, p. 39.
6Hamlyn, op. cit., p. 36.
7John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, l:2.
8Michael Polanyi, Science, Faith, and Society, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964, p. 76.
9Cf. Celestine N. Bittle, Reality and the Mind, New York: The Bruce Publishing Co., l936.
10New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1960.
11Ibid., p. 88.
12Ibid., p. 103.
13Ibid., p. 177.
14Edmund Husserl, Ideas, New York: Humanities Press, Inc., 1931, p. 44.
15Ibid., p. 57.
16Richard M. Zaner, The Way of Phenomenology, New York: Pgasus, 1970, p. 122.
17Husserl, op. cit., p. 111.
18Zaner, op. cit., p. 137.
19Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. by J. Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, New York: Harper and Row, 1962, pp. 180-183.
20B.F. Strawson, Individuals, London: Methuen and Co., LTS, 1959, p. 104.
21Hamlyn, op. cit., p. 248.
22This means that God took to himself human nature for the purpose of revealing his love toward man--love initiates a move toward another--and seeking man's reconciliation to Himself. The historical questions on the integrity of the witnesses, and of the documents is too far involved for our brief treatment, but one may consult William Temple, Nature, Man, and God, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1964; C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1960; E.J. Carnell, Introduction to Christian Apologetics, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952; F.F. Bruce, Are the Documents Reliable?, Grand Rapdis: Eerdmans, 1959; Bernard Ramm, The God Who Makes a Difference, Waco: Word, 1971.
23For further information, see Emil Brunner, Revelation and Reason, Philadelphia: Westminster Press; Dallas M. Roark, The Christian Faith, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977, chapters 1-3.
24Pascal, op. cit., p. 283.
25In phenomenology, "intuition" is related to the perceiving of essences, and its meaning something like "apprehending." It is a technical term in phenomenology.
26Even when one talks about theistic mysticism as in western Christian thought it is permeated by the human effort of using "methods" "techniques" to climb up the ladder to God.
27Ibid., p. 277.
28Cf. Montague, op. cit., p. 226.
29Joseph Brennen, The Meaning of Philosophy, New York: Harper and Row, 1967, p. 169.
30Pascal, op. cit., p. 314.
31Polanyi, op. cit., p. 14.
32Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1967.
33Polanyi, Science, Faith, and Society, p. 44.
34Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958, p. 53.
35Polanyi, Tacit Dimension, p. 29.
36Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, p. 203.
37Ibid., p. 136. Profundity and relevance are probably more important than measuring for measuring the speed of sewer water is uninteresting.
38Ibid., p. 167.
39Ibid., p. 286.