Monday, November 03, 2014

Searching for the Truth: Dialectics, Doubt, and Certainty

Searching for the Truth: Dialectics, Doubt, and Certainty

The relationship between apprehension and comprehension is dialectic in the Hegelian sense that although the results of either process cannot be entirely explained in terms of the other, these opposite processes merge toward a higher truth that encompasses and transcends them. The process whereby this synthesis is achieved, however, is somewhat mysterious; that is, cannot be explained by logical comprehension alone. Thus the development of knowledge, our sense of progress in the refinement of ideas about ourselves and the world around us, proceeds in a dynamic that in prospect is filled with surprising, unanticipated experiences and insights, and in retrospect makes our earlier earnest convictions about the nature of reality seem simplistic and dogmatic. As learners, engaged in this process of knowledge creation, we are alternatively enticed into a dogmatic embrace of our current convictions and threatened with utter skepticism as what we thought were adamantine crystals of truth dissolve like fine sand between our grasping fingers. The posture of partial skepticism, of what Perry (1970) calls commitment within relativism, that is needed to openly confront the conflict inherent in the dialectic process is difficult to maintain. The greatest challenge to the development of knowledge is the comfort of dogmatism - the security provided by unquestioned confidence in a statement of truth, or in a method of achieving truth - or even the shadow dogmatism of utter skepticism (for to be utterly skeptical is to dogmatically affirm that nothing can be known)...
The modern tendency however is to embrace the comprehension pole of the knowledge dialectic and to view with skepticism the intuitions of subjective experience. The clearest and most extreme intellectual expressions of modern reliance on comprehension are manifest in the domination of American psychology by behaviorist theories and methodologies and in the epistemological philosophy that spawned behaviorism - logical positivism. In a zeal born out of the upending of the tidy system of classical physics before the discoveries of modern twentieth century physics, positivism sought to affirm that all knowledge must ultimately be based on empirical or logical data. In this way, the most dogmatic of the positivists denied the existence of subjective experience (apprehensions) except insofar as these were verifiable by a community of observers following logical and scientific conventions (comprehensions)...
We are thus led to the conclusion that the proper attitude for the creation of knowledge is neither a dogmatism of apprehension or comprehension nor an utter skepticism, but an attitude of partial skepticism in which the knowledge of comprehension is held provisionally to be tested against apprehensions, and vice versa. The critical difference between personal and social knowledge is the presence of apprehension as a way of knowing personal knowledge. It should be clear that the apprehensional portion of personal knowledge is all that prevents us from losing our identity as unique human beings, to be swallowed up in the command feedback loops of the increasingly computerized social-knowledge system. Because we can still learn from our own experience, because we can subject the abstract symbols of the social-knowledge system to the rigors of our own inquiry about these symbols and our personal experience with them, we are free. This process of choosing to believe is what we feel when we know that we are free to chart the course of our own destiny.


No comments:

Post a Comment