Second parergon to a consideration of discernibility

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We are confronted with an antinomy when doing epistemology: we seek to have knowledge of a thing in itself, while it is never made manifest in nothing. We wish to have a positive _understanding of it and, to that end, we want to _define _it in its own right, not _negatively where we would be placing it in juxtaposition to all that it is not, since that exercise would inevitably have to start from a certain positive assertion. If our appreciation of said thing and/or of the context that engenders it is uni-magnitudinal, we cannot address the tension without the operation of a double standard, for, in examining our knowledge of it as __such, we are, inadvertently, making a tacit ontological claim commensurate with our epistemic proposition: we posit its existence as such.

We want to achieve positivity, otherwise we would become involved in an infinite regress of negation where all our considerations would be informed by — and limited to — an ubiquitous “not”. Furthermore, we do not intend to suggest identities between conceptual and ontic objects. In that regard, there is, in essence, one way of addressing the tension now discussed: to found our epistemology on a metaphysics that treats reality as bi-magnitudinal — as having both sensible _and _intelligible realms.

I want to have knowledge of dog. The use of the word “dog” in the previous sentence denotes an abstraction — it does not refer to a given entity with the name “dog”. An abstraction is an object of intelligence which does not correspond to any specification of it and vice versa. Specifications may partake of the abstraction, but are not identical to it  or are not it. To formulate and to grasp an abstraction we utilise our innate faculties for processing information, so as to trace the common in the multitude in all stimuli. The abstract pattern we identify, is the abstraction.

To seek knowledge of the abstraction is to consider only the intelligible object or, more fully, the intelligible object as discerned from the totality. Put differently, the bi-magnitudinal metaphysics mentioned above, permits a bifurcation in our epistemic claims, so that we distinguish between knowledge of intelligible and sensible objects. In addition, we recognise the possibility of utilising different means for achieving our ends and, also, we draw delineations between our classes of knowledge with regard to the objects they refer to, for the sake of avoiding the conflation between epistemological and ontological statements concerning sensible and intelligible objects.

We thus have a means of propounding epistemological claims that correspond to the object of sense or intelligible under examination, all while recognising that these two categories do not necessarily overlap though they may correlate. In these terms, our positive epistemic [pro]position(s) are characterised by a greater degree of precision, courtesy of our clearer conception of reality. Couched in those terms, to seek knowledge of dog is to first recognise that said object of intelligence has been discerned from totality, that it refers to what is common among the plenitude of representation peculiar to it and that, conversely, each specification of it may require its own epistemic assessment, given that abstraction and specification are not identical.

Discernibility, therefore, is central to such an epistemology, as it underpins and ramifies throughout every epistemic statement. The epistemological positivity sought, no longer is connatural to ontological positivity, but rather — and only — is a recognition of the possibility that the object of intelligence thus discerned may not have a presence beyond the thinkable. What this implies for our inquiry into reality, for our research, is that no comprehension of one of the two magnitudes — if possible — is enough to provide for certainty and, consequently, our approach must be holistic.

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Protesilaos Stavrou

EU policy analyst. Philosopher. Web developer.
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