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Chapter 13_ Cultural Context_ Renaissance, Reformation ...

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Chapter 14: The Early Empiricists: Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes
Bacon’s Task: The Reconstruction of All Knowledge
Two themes that were typical of the RenaissanceA radical criticism of the pastregarding the contents and methods of Medieval knowledge: The contents and methods of the past wereGod-centered, not human centered: It focused on how reality works from atheologicalperspective, not on how reality (nature) works so that humans can gainusefulandapplicablescience and technology for the betterment of human lifeon EarthNot trustworthy because Medieval knowledge was largely based onrevelation/scripture, which needed to be accessed first and foremost throughfaithNot useful practically in terms of solving worldly problems
Bacon’s Task: The Reconstruction of All Knowledge
Optimism concerning the futureregarding the contents and methods of knowledgeHuman-centered: the goal is the acquisition ofusefulandapplicabletheoretical knowledge of how reality works so that it can beused,manipulated,controlledforour benefitThe rightmethodof knowing will lead us intoutopias—social, political, economic etcThe new science is comparatively trustworthy, for it is an empirical method of studying empirical reality“Knowledge is power!”: Knowledge is utilitarian: We can master and possess nature
Bacon’s Task: The Reconstruction of All Knowledge
The separation of reason and faith, philosophy and theology: the proper use of reason is not to understand and to articulate rationally what faith intuitively and non-rationally understands. The proper use of reason is to gain useful knowledge aboutthisworld/realityThe rise of non-teleological science: natural science is the study of the material, efficient, and formal causes of the universe of observable effects thatarenature. The emphasis is no longer onwhysomething exists, but onwhatit is (material and formal cause) and how it exists (efficient cause).
The Route to Knowledge: From Idols to Induction
The corruption of the mind: The way (method) to resurrect ourselves from our fallen nature (from our fall from the grace of God and the gracious and enchanted life in the Garden of Eden) and to restore our “dominion” over nature is to cleans the mind of its corrupted methods of knowingThe myth of progress in the modern world is grounded on and sanctioned by a belief that we are doinga sacred and holy taskwhen we master and possess, dominate and subjugate nature through science and technologyRestoration of the mind’s original condition: The 4 idols that corrupt our mind (the allusion here is to the Judeo-Christian prohibition against “idolatry” in the 10 commandments
The Route to Knowledge: From Idols to Induction
The idols of the tribe:This refers to the innate and inherent tendency of human beings to anthropomorphize their world by transferring our wants and likes onto nature.Example: teleological explanations are really simply anthropomorphisms: we interpret the existence and nature as being a purposeful thing, when in fact it is just a blind and chance occurrence: the lamb does not exist for the lion to eatThe idols of the cave:This is essentially a complaint against relativism and the unacknowledged social construction of our understanding of nature/reality: we are limited by our social-historical conditioning. What is needed is to recognize this and to break free of it: this is to be accomplished through a healthy sense of skepticism
The Route to Knowledge: From Idols to Induction
The idols of the marketplace(of language/communication):Problem: We have language (words, symbols, concepts, theories) for things that don’t exist either concretely or verifiably. Solution: adopt a position ofnominalism: do not assume that words imply that something actually existsProblem: Words have different meanings (equivocation). Solution: Beware of equivocations.The idols of the theater: The philosophical systems of the past (but also the works of mythology and religion) are like plays in a theatre: they are largelyfictional, and are fictions of thedesire to knowwhile not actuallyamounting to knowledge
Bacon’s Inductive Method
Bacon refuses the deductive-syllogistic method of Aristotle as a method of knowing.Distinction betweendeductiveandinductiveinferencesAn inference: the pattern of thinking the mind follows/carries out when processing information to make knowledge claimsDeductive: General-specific—specific conclusionInduction: Specific data—general conclusionThe problem: The problem is that thewarrants(major premises) that are used to subsumedataclaims are themselves notgivenin their truth-value. Rather, they are derived throughinductions. So, both the warrants and data of deductions are based oninductions.
Bacon’s Inductive Method
The Solution: The solution is to refine the method of inductionThe refined method: make generalizations on the basis of standard “tables of inquiry”:Collection of DataThe Table of Essence and Presence: List all relevant instances of the object of knowledgeThe Table of Deviation or Absence in Proximity: List all relevant instances of the opposite of the object of knowledgeThe Table of Degrees or Comparison: Distinguish betweenkindsof objects anddegreesof objectsThe Process of InductionWe make a refined generalization about the object of knowledgeThe knowledge induced from the object is the “objective” form, or scientific law, of the object: it is that about the object that is permanent
Bacon’s Scientific Humanism
Induction is the “Machine,” or mechanism, that will restore a fallen humanity to its rightful place in the Garden of Eden:We can make the ideal of paradiserealon earth: We can actualize our godly potential if we use our minds in the right way—we must think inductively!TheBaconianProtestant Reformation (on analogy with the Protestant Reformation of Luther): just as every believer has direct access to God through their own interiority (individual faith), every scientist has direct access to God’s laws of nature through their own interiority, which is the reformed process of their own thinking
Bacon’s Scientific Humanism
The scientificreformationist“work ethic” will diligently and rigorously be able to read God’s mind by inductively finding the laws of nature. Induction is God’s redeeming gift to humankind, and by using the gift that God gave to us, we do God’s bidding and our work becomes a holy mission. Humankind is thereby charged with a mission from God: get back to the Garden by ourselves and through ourselves via the reformation of our own thinking.We will win re-admittance to the Garden of Eden by transforming first ourselves and then nature: if we change the way we think, then we will change what we do and who we are: We can sanctify ourselves and our world through the good work of science
Evaluation and Significance of Bacon
Bacon’s accomplishment isphilosophicalrather thanscientific. He did not invent anything noteworthyscientifically. So he’s not a noteworthyscientist. Rather, he’s aphilosopher of sciencewho sought to clarify for the first time in the modern world the inductive and empirical method of science. With this philosophical step, science advances into its modern methodology and practice as being non-teleological, self-reflectively critical (through the disavowal of traditional idols of knowledge) as well as being rigorously empirical and inductive.As a philosopher, Bacon clarifies and cultivates a modern, humanistic, autonomous andprogressivescientific and cultural mindset that continues to this day. Because of this, it is relatively accurate to say that we live in aBaconianworld.
Hobbes’s Task: Making Physics Sovereign in Philosophy
Toreformthe natural and social sciences in terms of bothmethodandcontentin terms of the following “new” and “modern” operative assumptionsMethodologicalassumption:Reduce the multiplicity of phenomena to the simplest possible laws and elements (the use of Ockham’s “razor”)The model of this reduction is to be found in physics, where the best theory is the theory that is simplest and explains the mostthetheoreticalgoal issimplicityandexplanatorypower.Thepracticalgoal isapplicability:paradisalprogress
Hobbes’s Task: Making Physics Sovereign in Philosophy
Epistemologicalassumption:Empiricism: all of our knowledge comes through the sensesMetaphysical/ontologicalassumption:Mechanistic Materialism: reality is nothing but matter in mechanical motionThe popular notion of materialismThe technical & philosophical notion of materialism:All things/entities/beings are reducible to matter & motion in a spatial-temporal nexus: Realityismatter and force: material and efficient causes/effects (with no teleological causes and a disavowal of Platonic forms and/or innate ideas)All things happen according to a finite set of fixed physical lawsExample: Newtonian physicsComplete causal determinism: everything in nature and human affairs is caused in such a way that it could not be otherwiseHistorical lineage: Democritus—(Aristotle)—Epicurus— Lucretius—(Bacon)—Galileo—Hobbes—Newton—LeMettrie—Hume—Darwin—Marx/Engels—(Nietzsche)—Skinner—Smart: Modern Behaviorism (Eliminative Materialism)
Hobbes’s Task: Making Physics Sovereign in Philosophy
Chief results:God does not exist (unless God is a material event—but then this is not what most people understand by the word “God”)There is no teleology to the material universe: There is no purpose, goal, final cause to the universe or any entity within it: there is no answer to the question “Why?” anything exists—only answers to What (material cause) exists and How it exists (efficient—forces/processes).Chance, understood as arbitrariness and purposelessness, is the nature of reality: nothing happens for any purposeful reason. Everything is a result of blind mechanical “chance”: Motto: Shit happens!Yet, everything in the universe is causally determined in anecessary(it could not have been otherwise!) chain of material and efficient causes: everything whatsoever is the outcome/effect of a series of prior material/efficient causes: every event is exhaustively pre-determined
The Physics of Knowledge
A brief overview of Hobbes’s materialistic understanding of human natureHuman being is a machine: All human activity can be understoodphysicalisticallyas the natural behavior of matter according to material and efficient mechanical laws.The so-called mind can be reduced to the brain, and thinking and acting can be reduced to biochemical brain states and stimulus-response reactions.Thus, thinking, knowing, believing and acting are merely complex forms of physical activity of an anatomical (matter) and physiological (process) machineFurthermore, since the laws of physics are universal, there can be no such thing as free will.If everything is material, there can be no such thing as an immaterial soul
The Physics of Knowledge
Psychological events (brain=mindsoul)How perception and thinking workExternal matter hits the material anatomical-physiological apparatus’s of physical perception (the senses): For example, light waves strike our eyes.These waves trigger a Billiard ball-like sequence of events neurologicallyThis sequence of events is called linguistically “color,” but color itself does not exist either in the mind or in reality. What really exists is a sequence of events.The notion ofphenomenality: Phenomenal qualities do not exist externally in the object of perception nor internally in us. Rather, what is really happening in the “perception of the color red” is the mechanistic motion of particles colliding in certain ways that produce the experience of red relative to our particular anatomy-physiology.
The Physics of Knowledge
Verbal eventsThere are basically three different ways to think about the existence of verbal events. Either language refers to things that are real, ideal, or nominalRealismmaintains that language refers to things that actually exist: Things are mind-independent: They are Out ThereConceptualismmaintains that language refers to things that are mind dependent: Things aremeaningsin our minds: Things are meaningsin here, i.e., inconcsiousnessNominalismmaintains that language refers to things that neither exist “out there” nor “in here” but only within a linguistic system: Things/ideas are language dependent: Things/ideas are merely words (linguistic devises) on the chessboard of language
The Physics of Knowledge
Verbal eventsHobbesiannominalism:Words arephysicalistic-neurological events (materialism) that happen in the form of phonetic gestures (utterances) that stand for (denote and connote)sensations(empiricism)The relations between words correspond to the relations betweenphysicalisticeventsFor example: Words such as “red” do not refer to things that actually exist that are red. Nor does the idea “red” exist in our mind. Rather, the word is merely a physical event that is causally determined to happen
The Physics of Knowledge
Verbal eventsHobbesiannominalisticknowledgeLanguage usage and thinking do not inform us about the world that exist either externally “out there” or internally “in here.” Rather, language only gives us a representational picture of was is actually aphysicalisticevent, and this linguistic event is also only a highly “evolved” (Darwin)physicalisticevent that points to other eventsAs a result, all knowledge is representational: Knowledge does not tell us about reality, it only tells us about how reality appears to u. As a result, reason (abstract rational thinking) is essentially divorced from reality: Reason can only make “pictures” of realityThe result of mechanistic materialism and empiricism: reason alone cannot give us knowledge about reality as it really is, for both reason and language are simply an “epiphenomenona” ofphysicalisticbrains statesConclusion and chief assumption for modern science: Only natural, empirical, mechanistic material science can tell us accurately about reality
The Physics of Knowledge
HobbesiannominalisticknowledgeSome general problems with this position (and any like it)First, although itexplainsreality empirically, materially, mechanistically, andrepresentationally, in doing so it fails to allow us tounderstandthe meaning of material existence/mode of existence:when looking at the brain, the scientist never sees the experience of “red”; rather, s/he sees only pictures of neuronal activity, and if s/he looks at the brain itself, s/he sees brain tissue, blood, cells, nerves, chemicals and so on.Example:Neurotheology: A natural scientific representation of religious brain-states does not allow us to understand the existential meaning of these brains states for the people who experience them. The same could be said of all human emotions and rational capacities: explaining scientifically what and how the brain works does not reveal the meaning of existence in terms of why we exist
Metaphysics: All Motion is Determined
Ethics is reduced to behaviorismMorality and ethics are reducible to psycho-physical causal/deterministic events: there is no right and wrong, only causal occurrences that are experienced as pleasurable and painful events. What we call right and wrong are misplaced abstractions that do not accurately represent the truth of what is happening at the material level of reality: The “good” is what feels good, and what feels good is a causally determined sequence of events. The “bad” is what feels bad
Metaphysics: All Motion is Determined
Political motions/eventsTheoretical Program: Hobbes seeks to provide a mechanistic-materialistic explanation of political society & governmentThe State of Nature: Nature is a war of all against all: survival of the fittest: Eat or be eaten: everybody has equal right toeverything: Might makes right; freedom=powerConsequently, we exist is a constant state of fear of loss of property and life
Metaphysics: All Motion is Determined
Political motions/eventsNatural LawsThe law of nature is survival of the fittestIn order to survive, we must form groups and coalitions for protection and sustenanceIn order to form groups and coalitions, we must give up our individual autonomy and rights to everything: we must voluntarily limit our rightsThe motivation for this is not altruism, but egoism: its what’s goodfor meTo insure protection of one’s rights, and to insure that others will remain within their limits, a third coercive and punishing body must be formed: government—the Leviathan
Metaphysics: All Motion is Determined
Political motions/eventsSocial Contract Theory: Government is a contract among individual constituents that is created for the sake of individual survivalGovernment isnotinstituted by God, nor is it sanctioned by God, nor is it in any way agiftfrom God to a wayward humanity
Evaluation and Significance of Hobbes

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Chapter 13_ Cultural Context_ Renaissance, Reformation ...