Two Dogmas of Empiricism?

Two Dogmas of Empiricism by Willard Van Orman Quine


Greg Bullock from the Facebook group Athenaeum Electronica asked me to look into this paper by Quine and report back what I think.


Recently, the group had a question about how important we thought religion or spirituality was as opposed to science.


Entangled, the first book in my two-book series Ages of Invention opens with a society that is made up of an upper class, the Cartesians (rationalists who follow Renée Descartes) and a lower class, the Hume’ns (empiricists who follow the philosophies of David Hume). The second book in the series, Fly Like An Eagle, also examines the two philosophies, representing the two perspectives.


My evolving philosophy is rationalistic that I call The Theory of Perspectives. Perspectives apply to our choice of any number of perspectives [a human might be described as a mammal that can choose perhaps more perspectives than other mammals). I believe perspective to be the motive force for self-ordering of universal systems on any number of levels.


I might have come to seeing dualistic (and greater) perspectives by majoring in thermodynamics that has the perspective of systems and boundaries (a kind of inventory that focuses on both objectivity (positions and position intensities) and subjectivity (the experience of the flow) of problem solving).


[Will attempt to translate these ideas of Quine using Chrome browser and Dictionary of Philosophy (Revised 1982)]


Speaks of Modern Empiricism: published in Philosophical Review in 1951

(not in dictionary with Modern, but in browser as a definition of empiricism):


In philosophy, empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. It is one of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism and skepticism. (In Entangled, highlighted David Hume as an empiricist: sensation over intellect. Renée Descartes is rational or analytical based on abstracts (ex, math)).


[A problem already exists because empiricists trust reality as translated through our senses. There is a problem if consciousness is not continuous]


Synthetic means grounded in fact


The Two Dogmas of Empiricism by Quine:

  • Truth (Analytic) is grounded in Fact (Empiric).
  • A meaningful statement must always refer to some Fact.


Quine says these two dogmas blur the boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science. [So Quine evidently believes there should be a discrete boundary between the two. He states that pragmatism, or pragmatic thinking, blurs this boundary].


So let’s define pragmatism: measuring theories by assessing the success of their applications (to me another of potential perspectives).


The word love is not the feeling of love. How successful is the word love individually and socially—very—if individuals want to communicate in a society and if a society wants to function within a world. How successful is the feeling of love—very—if our trust within a society is based on it. However, descriptions and experiences are in two different worlds. The neural consciousness that allows us to assess both the explicate order and the implicate order [David Bohm].


For example: quantum information [explicate order] and the undefined action of quantum mechanics [implicate order]) only appear entropic because of the way the neurons shape our experience (A person who has never seen anything with their eyes since youth does not develop a visual cortex—The experience that person has is not explicit or described—it’s all static). But even the static is experienced.


So, if we concede that success is part of both experiences (analytical and sensational) then [according to Quine] we muddy the waters, we ignore Uncertainty (which forces us to create a dualism. For what purpose? To see that truth is different depending on perspective. Facts are different depending on perspective.

Now, the statistical part, the statistical existence, the success at existing at all, has to do with sampling in the here and now. If we sample for an idea or experience in the here and now one hundred times and it doesn’t exist, then it probably will not successfully motivate us. This is the experience of thoughts and ideas. They create IF worlds which may exist for a time, just not 100% here, and just not 100% now. Well, we can create a path (experimental setup/new perspective) to the 100% outcome and success of an idea/an invention (in math, called mapping). Or we can accept that even though something doesn’t exist here and now, that it might exist somewhere else and leave it at that.


Krishnamurti says that without balance, without letting go (remaining unconstrained) and experiencing our centers, or without constrain by some relationship boundary with something(s) else, then we may be either helpless inhabiting a world with others, or overly constrained and depressed (unable to react or move).


A list of my discoveries from my expanding universe experiment:

  • There is confusion between the condensed description of a thing and the thing sensed.


  • The description educates the thing sensed and is part of the explicit universe that can be measured by its probability of existing HERE and NOW.


  • No matter what the topic of descriptive thought, the thought exists and is attached to something in the outside natural world [the first of the two dogmas]. Worlds, fantasies, or ideas unattached to natural science exist at a lower percentage (less than 100%).


  • How we see things that manifest from a total implicit universe (What Is Behind What Is) requires neural tissue to build such a world. Then even if the implicit universe does not resemble sensation (maybe only to us) our neural tissue translates the HERE and NOW explicit (near 100%).


  • Nothing exists before the universal singularity (before the Big Bang) since it is the first relationship (so small an energy that it is almost a point or location or center). Nothing exists outside of relationship. So until the universal boundaries or relationships are at varying stages of complexity, nothing can exist, or be sensed or explained or explicit (no complex awareness or consciousness). The universe starts as implicit and self orders its complexity or explicitness as available energy decreases (entropy).


  • We may not be able to know whether or not there is a continuity to sensation or consciousness. It may depend on how often the universe cycles (expands and contracts) and whether or not any two perspectives can be identical.


  • Mathematics based on sampled data from the natural world is as much as we can predict for certain about future behavior.


  • An easy way to understand the two perspectives of Uncertainty is to look at the two different perspectives of complex number solutions: a) location and b) momentum. If you know the center from which you see, you cannot experience your relationship with the outside. Two systems each have their own perspective, but the experience of the interchange (subjective sensations) cannot be known from their objective centers through which they operate. Nothing exists except in relationship.


  • String theory is all about giving shapes to relationship boundaries. The experience of each system/relationship/boundary is in the areas of tension (where inflection occurs between where boundary is concave upward and concave downward).


  • Because the universal boundaries are unstable and invaginate inward at inflection points, the expansion of the universe may make up more boundary/territory inward in toward the center (lowering the fractal dimension and creating tension (gravitational tension) by three times the radial speed of light (but it is only where the inflection points are concave downward and on crests that expansion occurs (the concave upward gravitational wells are stable (no boundary to push against and expand very little (they have great inertia).


  • The simplest dualism of a system is FORM [description] and FUNCTION [a: change of form, or b: experience of that change/flow across a boundary]. For example: the brain is an organ system with a shape, but the experience of that shape is the mind. Uncertainty tells us we cannot sample both simultaneously. The brain is a description of a system that functions as a mind. The complex number solution describes both position and flow, but only the What Is Behind What Is can experience that flow (possibly educated by the explicit).

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