Redirecting Philosophy

Redirecting Philosophy: The Nature of Knowledge from Plato to Lonergan

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Redirecting Philosophy
    Book Description:

    An insightful and fully up-to-date guide to the philosophy and the theory of science, Meynell's book will be of outstanding value as a course book in both graduate and undergraduate studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7910-8
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Part I: Prelude
    • 1 Scepticism
      (pp. 3-19)

      Any investigation of the nature and possibility of human knowledge has to take account of some ancient arguments which have surfaced over and over again in the history of philosophy, arguments to the effect that such knowledge is impossible. By looking at some of these arguments, I hope to be able to give both a preliminary sketch of the nature of human knowledge and an account of how it is to be grounded and justified.

      There are two typical reactions to arguments for scepticism in philosophy. One is to attempt to refute them; the other, to maintain that their irrefutability...

    • 2 Truth
      (pp. 20-42)

      In the last chapter I tried to show that scepticism is refutable and that knowledge is possible, and furthermore, that there are foundations of knowledge which can be articulated and justified. One gains knowledge, or justified true belief, so far as one applies to an indefinite extent the threefold process of attending to data,¹ of envisaging possibilities, and of judging on sufficient ground that some rather than others of these possibilities are probably or certainly so. The real world, I briefly argued, is nothing other than what is thusto beknown. In opposition to some extreme forms of idealism,...

    • 3 Data
      (pp. 43-59)

      I have argued that knowledge needs and has foundations; it is now necessary to describe at greater length what these foundations are.

      Contemporary philosophers often dispute whether there are any data or, if there are, whether they are perceived material objects or sense-data. Short of some data, it looks as though there are no foundations for knowledge; and short of foundations for knowledge, it looks as though ‘anything goes,’ as though any knowledge-claim was as good as any other. Both the contentions embodied in that last sentence, I maintain, are correct. But I shall argue that there are sense-data, and...

    • 4 Reality
      (pp. 60-84)

      So far, I have been attempting to give an account of knowledge, of what it is to know. I have tried to show how knowledge is possible at all, the nature of the truth which it entails and to which it aspires, and the kind of data upon which it is based. A ‘metaphysics’ should issue from this, in the sense of an account, in the most general terms, of what there is to be known. What I hope to do in this chapter is to sketch how one might go about constructing a rational, critical, and in a sense...

  6. Part II: Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
    • 5 Limits of Sociology: Wittgenstein, Bloor, and Barnes
      (pp. 87-106)

      What I have argued so far is in fundamental conflict with the statements and assumptions of many recent philosophers and sociologists. Thus one might well infer, from a number of passages in Ludwig Wittgenstein’sOn Certainty, that that philosopher held (i) that all justification is within a system; (ii) that the system ultimately depends not on what we see or perceive, but on how we act; (iii) that how we act, and the system of presuppositions which depends on this and within which all argument makes sense, differs radically from place to place and from time to time; yet (iv)...

    • 6 Primitives and Paradigms: Winch and Kuhn
      (pp. 107-129)

      Some writers, as I have said, defend the proposition that we all inhabit one world as compatible with a thoroughgoing relativism. Others infer from relativism, more consistently I think, that those with different world-views really inhabit different worlds. Thus D.Z. Phillips writes: ‘The saint and the atheist ... see different worlds ... Religious language is not an interpretation of how things are, but determines how things are for the believer.’¹ I want first to show that there is one sense in which Phillips’s claim is certainly true, another in which it is at least rather implausible. This will provide me...

    • 7 Anarchy and Falsification: Feyerabend and Popper
      (pp. 130-151)

      Kuhn rejects the thesis that there are available permanent canons for the advancement of knowledge, which apply always and everywhere; he avoids the conclusion that science is anarchic by his conception of ‘normal science’ constituted by the acceptance of ‘paradigms.’ Paul Feyerabend, on the basis of similar arguments, draws the anarchic conclusions and enthusiastically commends them. I shall summarize Feyerabend’s position without comment in the next six paragraphs and afterwards proceed to discuss it.

      Historical investigation (writes Feyerabend) shows that the most successful human inquiries have by no means proceeded in accordance with a ‘rational’ method. The fact is that...

    • 8 The Self-Immolation of Scientism: Sellars and Rorty
      (pp. 152-176)

      Two salient features of Sellars’s philosophy are, first, his conviction that, as he puts it, ‘Science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not,’ and second, his opposition to what he calls ‘the myth of the given.’ I shall argue that these features are in fundamental conflict with one another and, further, that the philosophical principles developed in this book provide resources for a resolution of the problems which give rise to the conflict. As I suggested in the fourth chapter, these principles issue in a metaphysic...

  7. Part III: Continental Drift
    • 9 Consciousness and Existence: Husserl and Heidegger
      (pp. 179-196)

      How are we to justify our claims to knowledge of the real world and distinguish actual knowledge from knowledge falsely so called? This has been a recurrent problem for philosophers from the Greeks onwards, but has been especially pressing, as it seems, since the time of Descartes. Edmund Husserl developed the ‘phenomenological’ style of philosophy largely as an attempt to answer this question; as he saw it, such a philosophy would have to be free from anya priorimetaphysical commitment, and indeed from any presuppositions whatever, being based on a thorough examination of experience. For so far as a...

    • 10 Deconstruction and the Ubiquity of Power: Derrida and Foucault
      (pp. 197-221)

      On a superficial overview, the upshot of Jacques Derrida’s work seems to be to make nonsense of all human discourse and communication. When one looks at it more carefully, this impression is abundantly confirmed. Still, there are lessons of great importance to be learned from it, and I shall try in what follows to show what they are.

      With regard to his well-known dispute with Derrida, John Searle has been taken to task for the crudity of his contrast between ‘serious’ and ‘nonserious’ discourse, as throwing light on the distinction between fictional talk and talk which is in the business...

    • 11 An Unstable Compromise: Habermas
      (pp. 222-238)

      What I want to argue in this chapter amounts, briefly, to this: Habermas’s basic epistemological principles, as set out inTheory of Communicative Action,¹ are quite largely correct; but they commit him, when followed through, to something much closer to the traditional metaphysics and ‘first philosophy’ than he is prepared to countenance. In fact, his thinking appears to exhibit a curious oscillation between what is in effect the proposing of a ‘first philosophy’ and a denial that such a ‘first philosophy’ is possible.

      The kind of totalizing view (says Habermas) which would purport to survey the whole of nature, history,...

  8. Part IV: Recovering the Tradition
    • 12 How Right Plato Was
      (pp. 241-251)

      It is characteristic of the ‘forms’ of Plato (1) that they correspond to universal terms; (2) that they are realities as opposed to appearances; (3) that they are intelligible as opposed to sensible; (4) that they make knowledge possible; (5) that they are permanent as opposed to changeable, ‘being’ rather than ‘becoming’; (6) that mathematics as well as ethics and aesthetics have a great deal to do with their apprehension.

      I think the ‘forms’ constitute just about the most important discovery ever made in philosophy.¹ I shall try, in what follows, to show why.

      Aristotle says that the identification of...

    • 13 On Being an Aristotelian
      (pp. 252-265)

      Plato may be regarded as having made the great discovery, of which modern science is a colossal vindication, that the real is intelligible. But as a result of this he made what is on the whole too radical a dichotomy between the true and unchanging world of intelligible ‘forms,’ on the one hand, and the fleeting and merely apparent world of our ordinary experience, on the other. Aristotle pulled the two worlds firmly together again, and stressed the role of experience in knowing, while by no means neglecting the role of intelligence and reason (to use the terminology we introduced...

    • 14 Two Methods: Descartes and Lonergan
      (pp. 266-278)

      In the last two chapters, I have argued that claims central to the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle are true and of permanent significance and relevance for a proper understanding of the world and of human life. What difference is made to them by that ‘turn to the subject’ which has been so striking a feature of philosophy since the seventeenth century? In this chapter, I shall compare two accounts of how ‘subjects’ may be so ‘objective’ as to come to know the real world, those of Descartes and Lonergan. I shall argue that Descartes was largely right in the...

    • 15 Conclusion
      (pp. 279-282)

      A common view of where we are at present in philosophy could be expressed in some such way as this: the attempt to articulate general criteria of knowledge and value, which has characterized philosophy since the seventeenth century, has ended in failure. This is not in the least to be regretted. The sciences can and do establish their own criteria, and are not and should not be dictated to by philosophy, and the same goes for morality, politics, and other aspects of culture. Philosophy, if it has a future, must thus give up its pretensions to be a sort of...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 283-322)
  10. Index
    (pp. 323-327)