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This blog post is the first annex to my latest article Knowledge by means of discernment (prolegomena to discernibility), and further elucidates the ideas propounded in my last two essays, On the ten modes of Skepticism and Notes on the Thinkable: Version 2.0. The reader is invited to consider this broader corpus of text as a work in progress.
In my philosophical work hitherto, I suggest that a hypothesis can be formulated on the fundamental distinction between sensible and intelligible objects, the world and the thinkable. The thought of something is not that thing as such, unless it only is an object of thought. Along those lines, I suggest that what has change or the lack of change in itself — what changes or remains regardless of thought — is an element of the world, a pragma. _Conversely, what does not have change or the lack of change in itself — what changes or remains _because of thought — is an element of the thinkable, a chrēma. This bifurcation, which on the face of it concerns the realm of metaphysics, also underpins my research in — or approach to — the philosophy of knowledge; the objective being to ultimately make a holistic claim on reality, always without remaining oblivious to the hypothetical nature of my premise. Admittedly, the tacit proposition of having a metaphysics informing an epistemology, of them being applied in tandem, is that any work on knowledge cannot avoid being permeated and penetrated by a certain account on the abstract structure of all there is; for to propound any epistemological theory one must first have conceived of an answer to the perennial question of what is and only then venture to address the issues of how do we know of it, what is constitutive of knowledge etc.
Couched in these terms, let us pit some further stress on the abstract structure of reality and our knowledge of it. The magnitude of reality that consists of sensible objects, the world, initially manifests as totality, rather than episodic specificities. This concerns its manifestation, not its underlying structure. A given object of sense is thus presented as being inextricably bound up together or interwoven with all or some other such objects, each interacting or interoperating with others in ways that may vary based on specific features, emergent properties or other endo- or exo- genous factors. Absent the second magnitude of reality that encompasses intelligible objects, my assertion is that no distinction between the totality and a specificity can be drawn. That is so, because in order to specify and then to define, we make use of our innate faculty of the intellect in order to trace that which is common in the multitude. Such abstract pattern we derive courtesy of our senses and intelligence operating together to produce an idea or an abstraction of a thing. These abstractions we then categorise and structure in an orderly manner, so that they form classes, sets, groups, broader taxonomies and so on.
In as far as the world is concerned, a “tree” does not exist as such. All there is, is multiple instances of certain combinations of matter that feature broad commonalities and regularities between them, though they never are identical. “Tree” only is conceivable as an object of thought, as an abstraction; and only as thinkable may it be used to provide for a certain categorisation of the abstract patterns at play. As for identity it is an object of pure intellect, which can be held constant relative to itself, even when the objects of sense it may correspond to are differentiable in themselves and in respect to other objects of their own class or kind. To suggest that we know that tree we implicitly acknowledge that we allude to an acquaintance of ours with certain information that delineates “tree”; information, which in this case is conveyed by the faculties of sense, permitting us to formulate an idea of “tree” that is independent of any particular tree and which, a fortiriori, is placed in an overarching abstract order where its status qua “tree” or “abstraction of tree” remains unalterable regardless of the degree of clarity or quantity of further information we may have achieved and gathered.
Without the operation of any faculty of discernment, no particularity is identifiable and, hence, no definition is tenable. If the world is indeed presented as totality, and if knowledge consists of a precise definition of a clearly traced abstract pattern, then discernibility must be an inalienable characteristic of whatever can be properly named “knowledge”, as it will be providing for the essential distinction between it and them, the specificity as juxtaposed to — or abstracted from — the totality. In this regard and in as far as my metaphysics goes, knowledge is squarely placed in the realm of the thinkable and its validity is evaluated ex post with respect to its correspondence to the world.
By ex post evaluation of knowledge, I mean that the delineations between acquaintance and knowledge or certainty _and _justified true belief can only be drawn ex post facto, when it is determined whether a further refinement of the method that informed the practice of tracing the abstract pattern — or of the clarity germane to the abstraction — engendered change in the abstract structure peculiar to said pattern. If the structure had to change, so as to adapt to a higher degree of clarity, then the then-deprecated abstract structure would have to be considered as partaking of acquaintance. In contradistinction, an abstract structure that always remains robust to such refinements must be treated as knowledge for as long as it does indeed remain unalterable. Put differently and succinctly, an abstract order of things can only be evaluated as knowledge in an ex post fashion when it is recognised as being robust to any further clarification of our conception of reality.