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Theaetetus: Theory of Knowledge




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Lecture 9 (30th September 1948)

See Burnet, Taylor and Cornford. You couldn't have a worked out theory of knowledge in the Eleatic theory of reality because knowledge implies distinction between knower and known which Parmenides couldn't admit (though he couldn't consistently deny it). He does make the superficial distinction between the way of truth and the way of opinion, so there can be false opinion but only inconsistently can he admit this even with the purpose of refuting it. On strict Eleaticism there couldn't even be such a theory. Still you do get in this distinction of Parmenides the suggestion of a theory of knowledge and you do find the question of knowledge taken up by the 5th century philosophers such as Empedocles and Anaxagoras, though of course they take up the question in a physiological way and not so as to bring out and, if possible, solve the logical question. (Democritus also has theory of knowledge - very crude and unphilosophical.) What we can say about the Sophists (as Burnet says) is that they were influenced by the great variety of philosophical theories to adopt the view that there could be no settled truth in these matters - no independent reality that we can know but simply appearances, simply what we accept - but I think it can be said that they were influenced most of all by Eleaticism as providing a kind of criticism that could be turned against any theory. In that way Gorgias can be llinked with Parmenides and of course the [?] Euthydemus gives a further example of universal refutation that comes from Eleaticism and also the positive doctrine of Eleaticism that there is no multiplicity, no motion or change, is something that no one could possibly believe. If that is the outcome of rigorous argument the only thing to do is to abandon rigorous argument and go back to persuasion or what various people find plausible. Now of course this is the sort of position that has been met by modern realism and is already largely met by Socrates - by the contention, namely, that even to say something seems so to us is to admit the conception of being so or of truth and the particular truth that it does seem so to us and that even to say we are persuaded by an argument which is no rigorous (i.e., is plausible) is to imply the possibility of rigorous argument, it to imply the reality of implication so that the relativist or humanist position can't be maintained (see “Marxist Philosophy” ). In fact we find Socrates arguing against the doctrine of convention or nomos


  ― 22 ―
that there is a nature or physis in human affairs as much if not more than other affairs, i.e., something that is just so - though Socrates for the most part confuses the issue by taking his “nature” as something behind or beyond experience, his being as something as beyond becoming instead of something in becoming. The Sophists then are right in holding that if we are to speak of anything at all it must be something that appears to us but wrong in taking appearance or relativity to us as the character of what does appear - taking it to exist in so far as it is ours. Now coming to the dialogue in which Socratism and Sophistry are confronted on the theory of knowledge we find the position taken up that knowledge is perception or sensations - that it is aesthesis - which really means something immediate or a faculty that presents us with immediate objects, a sort of usage borne out in the Kantian expression transcendental aesthetic for those conditions of our knowledge which he thinks to be immediate or intuitional and also in the use of the term “aesthetics” for what was thought to be immediate feeling as contrasted with discursive thought. The general distinction of Logic, Ethics and Aesthetics corresponding in theories of this kind to the distinction of the faculties of reason, will and feeling - first definitely separated in the Kantian theory (Cognition, Conation, Feeling). Now Socrates identifies the doctrine (hypothesis) that knowledge is sensation with the doctrine of Protagoras that “man is the measure of all things”, that “I perceive this” is the same as “this appears to me” and that again as “this is so to me” or “this is to me” and similarly what you perceive is to you and the meaning of being and knowledge alike is being to a person or to a mind. Now it is to be noticed in connection with this identification (of being perceived with relative existence) that it depends on the insistence of Socrates in treating knowledge as meaning certainty - that he assumes that to ask what is knowledge is to ask what is there of which there can be no doubt and one answer (cf., Theaetetus) is the immediate data of experience - what is given or impressed on our minds and the realist (empiricist) criticism of this is that there is nothing immediate - nothing immediate in this sense “impressed on our minds”. The least we can know - the least we can say we perceive or sense is a proposition or complex situation and that is bound up with the formal possibility of contradiction, with the denial that anything is certain in itself. But Socrates never even considers the possibility of holding that there is no


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intelligible type of cognition and yet admitting that in sense perception we can sometimes get truth. We can know what is the case and I would argue that the break-down in the dialogue of the two theories of knowledge proposed is due just to this fact that we cannot in any such theory establish a basis of certainty - that we can't in any such way get the sort of thing that Socrates describes as knowledge - the upshot being that there is no such thing - this knowledge can be usefully understood not as being above all possibility of error - as having arrived at the safe and certain but just as not as a matter of fact being mistaken in a given instance. Now Socrates goes on to develop the position of Protagoras, maintaining that while Protagoras openly contended that “what I perceive is to me” he held a secret doctrine which he revealed only to his closest followers that nothing is, that everything becomes or moves (is in motion) and it is in terms of the theory of universal motion that an account of sensation and of the relativity of knowledge is to be given.




  ― 24 ―

Lecture 10 (7th October 1948)

If we take the meaning of sensation in a modern terminology knowledge is sensation would mean the reception of a datum, something simple and given in regard to which it might be said we can't be wrong though equally it could be said we can't be right because the datum is not supposed to be complex or propositional from which it could be argued that it isn't known at all and that it gives no assistance whatever in the treatment of matters in which we can be wrong which any theory must admit in some sense to exist. In fact that is one line of the Socratic criticism of the Protagorean view attributed to Theaetetus, namely that even a doctrine of data must admit matters in which we can be wrong but cannot account for them. Now this may have been what Theaetetus meant - he may have meant “seeing is believing” in the special sense of being quite certain but if we rendered aesthesis as perception, if we took the view that knowledge is perception there would be no reason at all for identifying it with the view that knowledge is relative to the individuals because there is no reason whatever for saying that perception is relative to the individual, that perception is of something peculiarly mine and couldn't possibly be yours. And while on any view we might have to admit a knowledge of something not immediately confronting us, e.g., as we have a knowledge of some things that happened yesterday, that doesn't exclude the view that perception or knowledge of what is immediately in front of us occupies a specially important position in the theory of knowledge - that is something which any knowledge either is or is in some sense based on. [Note inserted by DMA: I take this to be base empiricism - connect with JA's confusion about Universal connection.]

I was referring then to what Socrates presents as the secret doctrine of Protagoras, namely, as against the superficial view that what appears is, that nothing is but everything proceeds or goes on and Socrates presents as this secret doctrine an account of the processes which take place when we perceive - processes which however he, in this theory, identifies with what is perceived so that not merely is it said that when we perceive a white colour there are movements from us to something outside of us and movements from that thing to us (our eyes specifically) but it is assumed that these processes, these cyclic exchanges (Heraclitus) are the white colour or that this cycle is some sense both whiteness in the thing and seeing in us and this is supposed to explain why different people have different perceptions and also why the same person has different perceptions under different conditions, e.g., dreaming, insanity, diseased, i.e., this relativist theory of knowledge would speak of someone becoming sensible which means his becoming sensible of something and something becoming sensible which means its becoming sensible to someone - sensation then or perception always involves exchanges and difference of sensation is explained by the exchanges being different. It is contended, however, that


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while on this theory Protagoras would not say that one view was truer than another but only that it is relative to different conditions he would say that some views are better than others and that there is a distinction between the wise and the unwise in that the wise is he to whom what is better appears and who can make it appear also to others. Now even if Protagoras didn't hold a theory of motion such as is attributed to him here he did hold a theory of “usefulness” and took teaching to be the inculcation of better or more useful beliefs, beliefs which are relative to a better state and we can accept the arguments of Socrates against such a theory of relative truth even if we consider that the theory of motion - of knowledge as involving cyclical exchanges is not invalidated at all and similarly with the theory that knowledge is perception or at least that perception is knowledge, even if we think that there is no ground for combining any of these views with relativism.

The position is that in putting forward his doctrine of useful beliefs Protagoras is committing himself to a different sort of distinction between truth and falsity - to the doctrine that certain views are better or are more useful - not meaning that it is more useful to take them as more useful and so on indefinitely - a regress which would prevent Protagoras from even stating his position. In other words here again we have an initial contradiction, a contradiction between maintaining truth is usefulness and the meaning of truth involved in that very case.

Now in order to say that the true is the useful Protagoras has had to admit the existence of absolute facts, to admit the existence of the true as actual or occurring and the same is the case with the doctrine of motion or at least with the attempt to import relativism into it. If, for the sake of argument, we admit that knowledge involves interaction between mind and something else then in order to say this we have to assume a knowledge both of this mind and of this other thing and no simply a knowledge of what passes between the two. To say that A knows X only when there are motions from A to X and motions from X to A, i.e., only when there is a cycle passing through A and X is not the least reason for saying that it is these passages or intermediate motions which are known and not X itself or in other words knowledge of X depends on interaction with X doesn't imply knowledge of X is knowledge of that interaction of what in this theory is called the swifter motions as contrasted with the slower motions and in fact it regularly happens that we know let us say a book without having any knowledge of the processes, e.g., physical processes going on between us and the book and if we did know these intervening processes it would be on this theory because there were further processes or cycles linking us and them, but that would be no reason for saying that we knew those further intervening conditions.

(Cf., Kemp Smith, Prolegomena. - must make realist assumption, e.g., on “subjectivist” view must assume [?] of sense organs (not “mediated”).)




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To sum up the realist will not deny that what particular thing a person knows depends both on his own state at the time and on the state of the thing with which he is confronted but the fact that my knowing X depends on, or has conditions, doesn't make it relative or dependent knowledge - does nothing to show X isn't an independent thing.

Realists will still admit the possibility of error, will admit that the change and complexity of things along with change and complexity in ourselves or the variety and development of our interests - these sometimes lead us to believe what is not the case but even so, even admitting the occurrence of error, this is to have some recognition of what error is, and what brings it about and that means a direct knowledge of some facts even if the person who knows them continues to be in error in other things. But we certainly could give no account of error on the theory of relative knowledge - on the theory that our objects are just something that characterises ourselves at a given time or thqat characterised our interactions with other things - on that showing there wouldn't be error.




  ― 27 ―

Lecture 10 (7th October 1948)

(Any account of error assumes certain account of knowledge that is not erroneous, so no ground for “relativity of knowledge”.)

The reason why the question of error with the associated questions regarding appearance is evaded in the discussion lies in the assumption already mentioned with which the whole dialogue begins, namely that what we are looking for as knowledge is some type of cognition (the exercise of some faculty) which always gives us truth, which is certain and incapable of error, as against the recognition of the fact which I take to be part of empiricism that it is by the exercise of the very same faculty that we on the one hand know rightly and on the other hand make mistakes. Indeed whatever may have been Plato's precise view of the matter I take the actual outcome of the dialogue to be that if what we are seeking as knowledge is certainty then we cannot work out any theory of knowledge just as it is the outcomes of the Parmenides that if we set up anything ultimate or self-sustaining in the way of being we cannot work out any theory of being.

Realising apparently that there is a difference between the theory of Heraclitus and Protagoras, Socrates further examines the claim of the theory of universal motion to give an account of knowledge - the argument as presented by Burnet as follows.

“When we say everything moves what do we mean by moves? There are two forms of motion, first motion from place to place and second motion from state to state, in other words motion is either locomotion or alteration and if motion is universal it must include both. Since then everything not only moves its place but also alters its state we cannot ascribe any quality to what moves for what we call qualities are nothing but perpetual processes going on between what acts and what is acted upon and accordingly in the vewy moment of being named, the quality is gone.” (Thales to Plato, p. 245.)

(N.B. Sophistical character of the argument: if motion is universal it must include both, but view [?] in Heracliteanism.

Leaving aside the distinction in Heraclitean theory between persistence as involving equality of exchanges and change as involving inequality of exchanges we can advance at the outset a general criticism of the Socratic view here - namely that if a thing had to stay in order to be named - if whatever could be said to be known must be something abiding then the very expressions “motion”, “becoming”, “change”, “process” would be meaningless so that Socrates would not merely have to deny that everything is in motion but would have to deny that the words “change of state” could convey


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anything and this criticism emphasises again the importance of the Parmenides in opposition to the doctrine of the Phaedo - the doctrine of the secondary or derivative or incomplete being to what becomes or of process - the point being that unless we accord complete being to what becomes we can give no account of its distinction from or relation to what is but doesn't become, to the true being of the forms. And I would argue this is to deny being which doesn't become, to assert with Heraclitus that true being belongs to becoming or to process.

The next part of the argument against the view that “knowledge is sensation” is the argument from “common sensibles” - that is from things cognised by various senses or at least common to things cognised by various senses. In terms of senses we are said to see colours and hear sounds but if we are aware of anything common to a colour and a sound, this, it is argued, cannot be given by either seeing or hearing but must be due to some other faculty, something we might call “thought” so that there is knowledge other than sensible knowledge and therefore knowledge cannot be identified with sensation. Such characters are same, being, other, like and unlike, also unity and number, odd and even also aesthetic and ethical predicates good and bad, fair and foul. For example, we say sound and colour both are or colour is other than sound or is the same as itself. As Burnet puts it “not one of these common properties has any specific instrument by which it is apprehended as was the case with such properties as sweetness, hardness etc. - it seems rather that in these cases the soul is its own instrument and acts by itself”. Here we have a distinction between sensible qualities ( [?]) known by means of bodily affections and the apprehension of common qualities by means of comparisons and reflections, processes which take place within the soul itself. (As Burnet remarks here we have the beginning of a theory of categories in place of a theory of form.) These categories are recognised by the soul without the help of sense and are used by it to organise the manifold of sense and this kind of cognition leads us to reject the hypothesis that knowledge is sensation and to consider that knowledge resides in the activity of the soul when it is concerned with what is, with being and truth which cannot be apprehended by the affections of the body - that activity is called judgment and the second part of the dialogue is concerned with whether knowledge can be identified [?] with judgment. (i.e., modification of the term used for “opinion” in the Republic.)

It should be noted (cf., Phaedo) that the particulars are not supposed to be known by the body but to be known by the soul through the body or using the body but the forms are known by the soul in itself or using


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its own resources and here also the soul would seem to be what knows anything whatever, but if that is so what it knows by means of would seem to be unimportant, would not seem to imply different kinds of knowing since in each case the soul is concerned with something external to itself. It doesn't matter whether the soul is knowing Forms, properties, categories, sounds or colours and it doesn't matter what instruments it is using, we don't have any ground for making a distinction among cognitions as such.

Now if we take what is called an act of comparison or reflection, take the judgment “Sound is not colour”, then whatever is acquainted with that fact knows difference or otherness, knows sound and knows colour. If it were one act of mind that knew sound and another that knew colour and a third that knew otherness or difference there would be nothing to know the fact that sound is not colour.

But in point of fact we don't merely know differences between sound and colour and so on, we know differences within sound and within colour - we know in what are called seeing and hearing not simple sensations or data but complex situations and it is only because we do that any further coordination - any knowledge of additional connections and distinctions - is possible. The very admission that some objects have likeness and unlikeness to one another is an admission that they are complex - that they have not a single quality X but many qualities - in fact what we are said to see by means of our eyes is not colour by itself but coloured things, things having colour or being of this or that coloured kind, i.e., situations or propositions and that is why we can connect what we see with what we touch, why we can say the thing I touch is the thing I see and this is opposed to the view that we recognise one and only one type of quality by means of a given sense, the point being that when we use our eyes we can make certain discriminations better than we can make others (particularly discriminations of colour) but we still see a thing as having a variety of characteristics not just as being coloured and this means that sense knowledge itself is what Plato is here calling judgment - that is knowledge of propositions, so that the occurrence of judgment does nothing to show that there is any type of knowledge other than sense knowledge.




  ― 30 ―
Question why ethical and aesthetic characters included in “common sensibles”. Suggests they are comparisons; Socrates ethical judgments essentially comparative. N.B. Phaedo [?] any quality - question of more or less?

Lecture 11 (21st October 1948)

According to Socrates we have certain simple sensations given to the soul which then makes comparisons and discriminations among them but on the view that we know nothing less than a situation these primary data would be denied and anything that could be called sensory would be judging or awareness [?] of a situation, awareness of something that already embodies the categories - at any rate embodies the form of the proposition as well as particular terms. On the theory of the pure datum on the one hand while we couldn't have a false sensation we equally couldn't have a true sensation, i.e., we wouldn't have knowledge at all, not having a complex object, and, as already said, we couldn't connect a … [?] knowledge of with an actual knowledge and mistakes about complexes. The position is the same whether the simple entities from which we are supposed to start are recognised as sensations or intelligible objects and this point is brought out in the discussion of knowledge as thought when Socrates refers to a theory which has been revealed to him in a dream, a theory of intelligible elements of known complexes - this dream theory being parallel to the secret of Protagoras with the suggestion in both cases that Plato is going beyond the doctrine that the [?] actually held - trying to see whether they can't be made consistent with a slight modification and that being found impossible in both cases the upshot of the dialogue is that we can't work out any theory of certain or infallible knowledge - that we have always to admit the formal possibility of error - the possibility of contradicting any proposition so that there is no generic distinction between the true and the false - no character whereby we recognise the true wherever we see it, but we have in each case to find out the concrete truths ourselves and at the risk of error. The position regarding simple entities (sensible or intelligible) is similar to that of Locke's simple ideas - namely that no proposition can be asserted about them except possibly that any one of them is not any other. The discussion in the later part of the Theaetetus shows the impossibility of asserting any affirmative relation between any simple and another and even to assert a negative relation is to assert a situation in which they both occur - in fact is to imply the complexity. If we look back to the Phaedo we see


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that Socrates can have affirmative predication only by admitting that forms are complex as when he says that three is odd, both 3 and odd being general terms which have various instances and as regards negative predication if we stick to simple forms and say that any one is not any other we have to drop the Socratic notion of specially opposite forms, a notion which depends on a propositoinal logic with the possibility of obversion [?]. Now, if admitting that there can be no relation between simples we recognise that all knowledge is of situations the distinction between sensibles and intelligibles loses all point.

As regards the contention that the dream theory in the theory of Socrates himself modified so as to remove certain inconsistencies Burnet and Taylor though admitting the parallel with the secret doctrine of Protagoras do not regard this as a secret doctrine of Socrates, i.e., do not regard the doctrine of intelligible elements as a logical development of the theory of forms having to be presented in a roundabout way precisely because Socrates is conducting the argument. They suggest it is the theory of some Pythagorean most probably Ecphratus of Syracuse. Now obviously the theory has a Pythagorean character - you might even say that the Socratic theory is being reformulated in Pythagorean terms just as the theory of Protagoras was reformulated in Heraclitean terms but on their own showing the Socratic doctrine was always of Pythagorean character - in fact Burnet maintains that Socrates was looked up to as a leader by the Pythagorean schools in Greece after the departure of Philolaus. If then the parallel between the secret doctrine of Protagoras and the dream of Socrates is to have any point the latter must be regarded as an attempt to restate Socraticism in a more consistent form and while the problem of the relation of elements to one another and the complexes they are said to compose is certainly one that affects Pythagoreanism it also applies to Socrates in the Phaedo who, according to Burnet, is endeavouring to overcome the separation between form and particulars by treating the particular as a meeting place of forms - as being constituted by the coming together of various forms just as in the Theaetetus a syllable is said to be constituted by the coming together of various letters. Now the difficulty of the doctrine of the Phaedo, e.g., that on this view there is still no such thing as a particular, has been criticised with reference to the Parmenides but the main point is that if individual forms are what is, then no relation whatever, e.g., coming together, can be asserted between one form and another, or that if we start from unitary beings, rational entities, things which are in themselves then we can give no account of situation. In the last part of the Theaetetus it is shown that if we take the so-called letter as ultimate or being in themselves we can give no account of so-called syllables (complexes of elements) and we have to reject the notion of


  ― 32 ―
that which is in itself and take a propositional view of things as is done to some extent later in the Sophist. The position is that intellectual knowledge, knowledge by way of thought, the knowledge that soul is supposed to have in itself must be like sense knowledge, knowledge of situations and must be equally liable to error. The suggestion is made that error arises not in pure sensation or in pure thought, but in a maladjustment of the two, so that a present situation is referred to the wrong thought, e.g., when being acquainted with both Theaetetus and Theodorus and seeing the two of them in the distance we think it is the other. But apart from other difficulties it is pointed out in the dialogue that people make mistakes when they are entirely concerned with what are called thought objects, e.g., mistakes in pure calculation (5+7=11) working with not things but numbers themselves. From the point of view of the logic of situations the position would be that we are always concerned with objective situations and 5+7=12 is a situation of the same order and one we could just as consistently … [?] about as the situation Theaetetus and Theodorus are both present or Theaetetus is in the distance.

This line of argument is closely connected with Hume's theory of belief, namely, that belief is constituted by a lively idea associated with or present impression, impression being immediate perception and ideas reproductions of such impressions (real [?] in front of us, not in front of me). The point is that we see how a belief that is entirely composed of what Hume called ideas, e.g., “Caesar crossed the Rubicon” where it is not a question of association between something given and something reproduced or recalled.

We could say in fact that there are in the Theaetetus at least indications for the refutation of all the theories of knowledge of the modern period (Descartes to Hegel), for the refutation, e.g., of a view like Locke's that there are simple ideas or impressions - atoms of cognition so to speak - out of which complexes may be constructed. The point is that if impressions mean anything an impression if a particular thing and incidentally a complex thing and as against any correspondence theory to know such an impression is not to know something else of which it is the impression. The criticism is not fully developed in Theaetetus but at least the insoluble difficulties of a correspondence theory are shown and we are driven towards the solution that all cognition if of complex situations and that a distinction between inner and outer if it has any truth at all is merely a distinction between the location of situations and not between kinds of situation or kinds of knowledge we could have of them.

Lecture 12 (28th October 1948)

The hypothesis that knowledge is thought doesn't meet the difficulties because in the case of what are considered to be specially thought objects there is no possibility of error any more than with pure data so that we still have not a theory covering the facts of cognition. But when the suggestion is made that error may occur in a false relation between a thought-object and sense-object this means that the hypothesis that knowledge is thought is already abandoned and no account whatever has been given of the kind of cognition that is not certain. And when further it is admitted that we can be in error even in the case of what are called objects of thought (e.g., 5+7=11) we can no longer speak of error as concerned with the relation between a thought and a sense object. We have also seen that even the latter type of error - reference of a sensation to a wrong memory image - is not really explained by the correspondence theory apart from the fact that memory images are different from the “common predicates” which were first formulated as objects of thought and further objections to a correspondence theory appear, e.g., the “wrong reference” is due to the fact that image was not sharply impressed to begin with or has been worn away in the course of time; then the present representation would be a quite correct one - we should be correct in saying that the present sensation resembles the image as it is now and error would arise only in terms of the things perceived at one time and another - only if we said this thing which I now see is the same as the thing which I saw then, i.e., judgment would be concerned with situations and the mistaking of situations wouldn't be accounted for by any doctrine of images - of things intervening between us and external realities. If, in fact, there are internal objects then knowledge of a relation between an external object and an internal object is on exactly the same footing as knowledge of a relation between two external objects or two internal objects - that is, it is knowledge of a situation.

Now before coming on the theory of elements of thought Socrates suggests that error in pure thinking (5+7=11) may be explained by distinguishing between having knowledge and possessing knowledge, e.g., we may possess a coat without having it on and here we have the dovecote simile - the suggestion of various pieces of knowledge flying about in our minds and of our trying to catch them and catching the wrong one; but then when we do catch one we should know what it is and if we were said to have pieces [?] of error in the mind as well we should still know one of them when we got it and the fact that it was different from another one wouldn't matter. What all this leads to is the rejection of the view that knowledge is in separate pieces - of the very sort of view that Socrates proceeds to bring up, as contrasted with the view that any knowledge


  ― 34 ―
is of situations and that any constituent of situations is itself a situation - is not an ultimate element. Theaetetus, then, admitting that we can't identify knowledge with true judgment suggests Knowledge is True Judgment with a reason (doxos), account, or explanation of it and this leads on to the dream theory of Socrates that there are elements which are the basis of all knowledge - which are the objects of simple apprehension and have to be put together to form a judgment so that there elements are the reasons or ground of the judgment and putting them together is discourse or judgment itself - just as we are able to discourse in the sense of speaking by putting letters together to form syllables. Now this hypothesis of letters and syllables is cogently criticised in the dialogue - the criticism as summed up by Burnet being that either the syllables are only the sum of the letters so they won't be anymore unknowable than the letters are or else it itself is an indivisible unity in which case it would be the object of simple apprehension and we would be no further forward.

Now one way in which this latest hypothesis is formulated is that to know anything is to know it with its differentia which is just one way of expressing the position involved in the Socratic distinction between Knowledge and Opinion - that we have to show not only that something is so but why it is so and it is thus the Socratic position that is here being criticised by Socrates. It would be straining verisimilitude to make Socrates say it was his position but it is precisely against a doctrine of the kind he held that the criticism applies namely that knowledge of the ground or reason requires the same sort of explanation as the theory it was supposed to explain. To say that we have discovered grounds or a cause of something is not to say that it is any more certain than the objects of opinion - if to be an object of knowledge is to be deduced from premises that means that these premises will need to have grounds assigned to them ad infinitum - i.e., it would appear that they are objects of opinion and thus knowledge is grounded in opinion - a thing is shown to be certain by its dependence on the uncertain. Now one way to take to avoid this difficulty is to argue that there are self-grounded propositions on which all demonstration depends which will mean that it is these self-evident entities that are the objects of knowledge but this brings us back to the same sort of difficulty as in the doctrine of elements: firstly, how we can describe the self-evident at all and secondly how we can derive anything from it, how if fact we can derive complexity from simplicity. It would in fact be impossible to derive anything but the self-evident from the self-evident - a poitn which involves


  ― 35 ―
a rejection of Taylor's distinction between historical and demonstrative science - a rejection in fact of demonstative science and with it of self-evident propositions themselves. The whole doctrine of Rational Science involves the attempt to find some non-propositional knowledge on which propositional knowledge can be based - to find as in the theory of Leibniz some essence or notion from which various characters can be unfolded but the very recognition of their being wrapped up in this essence is a recognition of a situation, not of simplicity and so here, in reference to a thing's differentia (essence) if this is treated as something simple it doesn't help us to see how the subject has the predicates empirically assigned to it and if it is treated as something complex then we are starting from something just as empirical any anything it explains - namely that a number of characters do hang together. Starting then with the non-propositional we could not proceed to any proposition - starting from the propositional we have something on the same logical footing as any proposition we could arrive at - open to the same doubt and criticism so that there is no question of distinguishing Rational or Essential or Primitive truths from derivative. We noted the absurdity of holding that an opinion becomes knowledge by being inferred by opinions, in other words taking conclusions as of higher order than premises but it is equally absurd to take premises above conclusions - to think that a conclusion is more subject to doubt than what it has been inferred from for if the premises are objective facts and the inference formally correct then we are just as sure of the conclusions as of the premises.

Finally in regard to any position like that of Socrates (or Taylor) in reference to any recognition of demonstrative science the attempt finally is to derive propositions from the non-propositional - from pure forms or concepts and this can't be done - the Form of the Good can't establish the goodness of anything in particular - the theory of Forms cannot show even that there are particulars - let alone argue that a particular is of this or that kind.

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