Tag Archive: objective knowledge

Operating with World 3 objects

[A]ll the important things we can say about an act of knowledge consist of pointing out the third-world objects of the act—a theory or proposition—and its relation to other third-world objects, such as the arguments bearing on the prob­lem as well as the objects known. [163]

Objective understanding

I have given here some reasons for the autonomous existence of an objective [World 3] because I hope to make a contribution to the theory of understanding (‘hermeneutics’), which has been much discussed by students of the humanities (‘Geisteswissenschaften’, ‘moral and mental sciences’). Here I will start from the assumption that it is the understanding of objects belonging to [World 3] which constitutes the central problem of the humanities. This, it appears, is a radical departure from the fundamental dogma accepted by almost all students of the humanities (as the term indicates), and especially by those who are interested in the problem of understanding. I mean of course the dogma that the objects of our understanding belong mainly to [World 2], or that they are at any rate to be ex­plained in psychological terms. [162]

Einstein’s theory of objective knowledge

Was ist eigentlich „Denken“? Wenn beim Empfangen von Sinnes-Eindrücken Erinnerungsbilder auftauchen, so ist das noch nicht „Denken“. Wenn solche Bilder Serien bilden, deren jedes Glied ein anderes wachruft, so ist dies auch noch kein „Denken“. Wenn aber ein gewisses Bild in vielen solchen Reihen wiederkehrt, so wird es eben durch seine Wiederkehr zu einem ordnenden Element für solche Reihen, indem es an sich zusammenhangslose Reihen verknüpft. Ein solches Element wird zum Werkzeug, zum Begriff. Ich denke mir, dass der Uebergang vom freien Assoziieren oder „Träumen“ zum Denken characterisiert ist durch die mehr oder minder dominierende Rolle, die der „Begriff“ dabei spielt. Es ist an sich nicht nötig, dass ein Begriff mit einem sinnlich wahrnehmbaren und reproduzierbaren Zeichen (Wort) verknüft sei; ist er es aber so wird dadurch Denken mitteilbar. [6]

Knowledge without a knower

My first thesis involves the existence of two different senses of knowledge or of thought: (1) knowledge or thought in the subjective sense, consisting of a state of mind or of consciousness or a disposition to behave or to react, and (2) know­ledge in an objective sense, consisting of problems, theories, and arguments as such. Knowledge in this objective sense is totally independent of anybody’s claim to know; also it is independent of anybody’s belief, or disposition to assent; or to assert, or to act. Knowledge in the objective sense is knowledge without a knower: it is knowledge without a knowing subject.

Of thought in the objective sense Frege wrote: ‘I understand by a thought not the subjective act of thinking but its objective content…’. [108-9]

Russell’s theory of objective truth

Thus although truth and falsehood are properties of beliefs, yet they are in a sense extrinsic properties, for the condition of the truth of a belief is something not involving beliefs, or (in general) any mind at all, but only the objects of the belief. A mind, which believes, believes truly when there is a corresponding complex not involving the mind, but only its objects. This correspondence ensures truth, and its absence entails falsehood. Hence we account simultaneously for the two facts that beliefs (a) depend on minds for their existence, (b) do not depend on minds for their truth. [93]

Subjective and objective knowledge

The commonsense theory of knowledge, and with it all—or almost all—philosophers until at least Bolzano and Frege, took it for granted that there was only one kind of knowledge—knowledge possessed by some knowing subject.

I will call this kind of knowledge ‘subjective knowledge’, in spite of the fact that, as we shall see, genuine or unadulter­ated or purely subjective conscious knowledge simply does not exist.

The theory of subjective kowledge is very old; but it becomes explicit with Descartes: ‘knowing’ is an activity and pre­supposes the existence of a knowing subject. It is the subjective self who knows.

Now I wish to distinguish between two kinds of ‘knowledge’: subjective knowledge (which should better be called orga­nismic knowledge, since it consist of the dispositions of organisms); and objective knowledge, or knowledge in the objective sense, which consists of the logical content of our theories, conjectures, guesses (and, if we like, of the logical content of our genetic code). [73]

Letting our theories die in our stead

As opposed to this, traditional epistemology is interested in the second world [World 2]: in knowledge as a certain kind of belief—justifiable belief, such as belief based upon perception. As a consequence, this kind of belief philosophy cannot explain (and dos not even try to explain) the decisive phenomenon that scientists criticize their theories and so kill them. Scientists try to eliminate their false theories, they try to let them die in their stead. The believer—whether animal or man—perishes with his false beliefs.[122]

The supposed limits of the critical method

Erstaunlicherweise pflegt man im deutschen Sprachbereich gerade eine der ältesten und darüber hinaus eine der wirksamsten und für unsere kulturelle und soziale Entwicklung bedeutsamsten Traditionen des europäischen Denkens nicht selten zu vergessen, zu bagatellisieren oder gar zu diffamieren, oder aber sie zumindest als frag­würdig zu behan­deln: nämlich die Tradition des kritischen Denkens und der kritischen Diskussion, der unvor­eingenommenen Analyse und Prüfung von Anschauungen, Wertungen, Autoritäten und Institutionen. Die bei uns noch immer weitverbreitete Gewohnheit, kritisches Denken mit einem negativen Wertakzent zu ver­sehen, mag dazu verleiten, daß man die Rolle und die historische Bedeutung dieser Tradition falsch einschätzt, zumal sich alle möglichen Verfechter von Auffassun­gen, die durch kritische Untersuchungen gefährdet sind, große Mühe geben, eine solche Fehleinschätzung zu fördern und den Wirkungsbereich der Kritik nach Möglich­keit einzuschränken.

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