Objectivity, Science and Self-Honesty
Epistemology is the study of the nature, acquisition, formation, and evaluation of information, truth, knowledge, concepts and beliefs. The more accurate that one's knowledge is, the more effective will be one's pursuit of hedonic value, both for oneself, and for those one loves and cares about.
(When Prior Chyren began the project which evolved into Scionics, he actually began with epistemology. He reasoned that having effective standard for recognizing and extracting accurate knowledge from the world was a fundamental prerequisite for accuracy throughout the rest of one’s philosophical system. This was so central to his approach that the book which decades later evolved into The Protocols of Scionics was originally simply titled Truth.)
Truth is the correspondence between a statement and reality. If one's words are true, then one’s words are, in a very real sense, in harmony with reality. If one’s thoughts are true, then one’s thoughts can be said to be in harmony with reality. If one’s actions are guided by truth, then one’s actions are in harmony with reality. To operate exclusively from a position of truth is to operate in complete harmony with reality.
We are subjective beings. We each uniquely experience the world through our own individual perspectives, shaped by our own individual likes and dislikes, and our own individual strengths and weaknesses. Each individual experiences the world in a unique way, somewhat differently from any other individual. Each individual is only conscious of the contents of their own sensory perceptions and their own mind. It may seem that our inherent subjectivity would ultimately preclude the possibility of mutually agreeing upon truth, or of operating in mutual harmony with reality.
While each of us is necessarily subjective by nature, however, we all also have the capacity for objectivity; many unfortunately intellectually cripple themselves by denying that capacity. This is based upon a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the function or role of objectivity. Objectivity does not require the rejection of one's subjective experience, nor does our subjective nature preclude objectivity. Anyone can cultivate objectivity – and everyone should.
Objectivity is a special mode of thinking which one can and absolutely should adopt, within the framework of one’s inherently subjective experience of reality; objectivity does not replace subjectivity, but “overlays” and augments it. This becomes clear once one understands that the very essence of objectivity is self-honesty. To be completely objective is to be completely honest with oneself. It is only by putting forth the disciplined effort required to honestly integrate all of the information available to oneself that one’s thoughts will be in harmony with reality. This entails honestly accepting the facts of reality whether one likes or dislikes those facts, and honestly evaluating the reasons why one feels the way one does about such facts. It entails believing in things because they are epistemologically justified, i.e., “proven,” rather than because they are psychologically appealing, i.e., “feel good.”
Other animals simply don't have the capacity to deceive to themselves that humans have. It is absurd to imagine, e.g., a cat or dog lying to itself. This is not because they are somehow “morally superior” to humans, but simply because they don’t have the conceptual abilities which humans do, and it is just these conceptual abilities which are necessary to construct a conceptual understanding of the world. Lacking the conceptual ability for self-deception, non-human animals thus operate with complete objectivity, within the bounds of their capacity to understand the world.
Human beings form concepts by their inherent, inborn mental nature. Human concept formation, however, may proceed essentially automatically and unconsciously, or it may proceed under the direction of intentional, volitional guidance. Rational, reality-based, intentional, and volitional concept formation requires disciplined, honest mental effort. Not having the conceptual faculties of human beings, other animals do not have the option of self-deception but must deal with reality as it is presented to them, according to the nature of the individual animal; however, self-deception and self-honesty are a matter of choice for humans.
The motivation for human self-deception always involves some unwillingness to accept unpleasant facts of reality. This invariably leads to the purposeful construction or acceptance of false conceptual frameworks, which “feel better” than than the unpleasant facts. This superficial soothing comes at a price however, since false conceptual frameworks are ultimately ineffective for dealing with the actual facts of realty.
The motivation for human self-honesty always involves an eagerness to know the unvarnished facts of reality. This motivation leads to the construction of factually accurate conceptual frameworks, which often may not initially “feel as good” as some other false framework. Any initial discomfort is richly rewarded, however, as factual conceptual frameworks ultimately provide the greatest ability for effectively dealing with reality.
Reality was not invented by humans, but humans are required to deal with reality in order to survive. Self-honesty or objectivity as a mode of thinking was not invented by humans, but was discovered or identified by humans as the means for most effectively integrating and surviving within reality. This is analogous to the way that humans discover or identify, rather than invent, universal mathematical truths. Objective thinking works because it is in harmony with the fundamental nature of reality itself.
Science is a special, formalized application of objectivity and self-honesty, which is a means for extracting maximally reliable information from reality. Just as mathematical techniques were invented as a formalized means for discovering mathematical truths, so too was science invented as a formalized means for discovering truths about the world.
Philosophers have long sought some optimum epistemological approach for extracting accurate information from the natural world; science has provided them with the goal of that search. Despite the obvious superiority of the epistemological approach of science, however, there still remains a rather wide diversity of mistaken opinion as to what the optimum epistemological approach might be. Some have even held that nothing can be known at all: this view is called “extreme skepticism.”
An examination of various epistemological approaches will follow. This short survey will begin by looking at approaches which are incomplete, suboptimal, or invalid. A familiarity with these approaches (and their ineffective natures) will serve as a defense against their. Subsequent to this will be a description of the single most effective and successful epistemological approach ever discovered: empiricorationalism, the epistemology of both science and Scionics.
Epistemological skepticism is any doctrine which recognizes the unreliability of beliefs. In its most extreme form, skepticism is the doctrine that nothing can be known. We have already seen, however, that there are some things which can be known with total certainty, e.g., the Three Metaphysical Axioms and the truths of mathematics and logic. This invalidates the most extreme form of skepticism.
As human beings, due to our nature as finite, limited beings, we must sometimes use uncertain information. A more mild form of skepticism therefore does have validity, in which information is viewed as provisional, until it can be tested and proven according to some sort of optimum epistemological criteria. Skepticism, itself, does not dictate what these criteria might be; it would be safe to assume, however, that they must somehow demonstrate a correspondence with reason and reality, as well as an efficacy in dealing with reality.
The term “fideism” comes from the Latin word for “faith” or “belief.” Epistemological fideism takes several forms, often related to mystical “spiritual” ideas. One form involves the doctrine that one’s spiritual beliefs are not subject to critical evaluation, or that faith, i.e., uncritically accepted spiritual belief, is the most reliable means for acquiring or evaluating information about reality. Another form of fideism holds that “spiritual revelation” is the means to “divine,” “absolute” truth. Still another form essentially holds that a belief is true merely because it is firmly believed, even in the absence of any meaningful or demonstrable correspondence with reality. A further variant is believing something because some (typically religious) “authority” decrees that it should be believed, again in the absence of correspondence with reality.
All of these variations of fideism can easily be recognized as fundamentally flawed when it is noted that different people often hold contradictory spiritual beliefs, or that different “authorities” often propound contradictory beliefs. If spiritual beliefs actually did represent divine, absolute truth, then those possessing such truths would be in natural harmony with one another; in reality, however, it is very common for people’s differing spiritual beliefs to bring them into a state of disharmony with one another. Furthermore, it is often the case that long-held spiritual beliefs are found to be in conflict with newer scientific information, which simply would not occur if such beliefs truly reflected divine absolute truth.
Fideism is often a matter of simply believing that which one wants to believe, or choosing to accept an authority which one wants to accept, without ever testing these wants against some other epistemologically valid criteria. This serves to move one ever-further away from the self-honesty of objectivity, and ever-further into the self-deception subjectivity. As one moves ever-further into self-deception and the false beliefs which it entails, it then requires continuous further self-deception to maintain this, and one is then left constantly reinforcing the epistemologically invalid habit of self-deception! This actually damages one's ability to psychologically deal with unpleasant facts honestly, which in turn damages one's ability to deal with reality effectively. Such psycho-epistemologically damaged individuals, following false paths guided by non-reality-based beliefs (even while typically professing beliefs in harmony, happiness, and love) often lead lives of disharmony, unhappiness and hate.
Intuitionism and Emotivism
“Intuitionism” is the doctrine that intuition is the proper means for acquiring truth and knowledge, or for forming and evaluating concepts and beliefs. "Intuition" has been variously interpreted to include such things as emotion, instinct, "feelings," etc., and has also been identified by other names, e.g., “emotivism.”
Regardless of what this doctrine is called, however, it remains the case that all beliefs must correspond with reason and reality; those which do are true, and those which do not are false. The criteria of intuitionism, however, with its emphasis upon intuition, emotion, instinct, and feeling, can easily lead one to reject facts of reality which are unintuitive or unpleasant but true. This can affect even those who truly endeavor to accept the facts of reality as they, because it is often the case that intuitions which appear true a priori are later found to be false upon detailed examination.
While one can endeavor to increase the reliability of one’s intuitions, errors and misjudgments will always remain; even if this is only occasional, major undesirable consequences can sometimes result from seemingly minor misjudgments. One's intuitions must therefore always be justified through valid epistemological means before they can be accepted as epistemologically valid. In fact, one of the best means of increasing one's intuitional accuracy is through creating the habit of basing or testing beliefs upon other more reliable epistemological criteria, independently of one's intuition. Such independent testing of one's intuitions serves to keep one's intuitions from leading one too far astray from truth, and also for showing one where one's intuitions are likely to be valid or invalid, thus helping to increase their overall accuracy over time.
Empiricism, Rationalism and Empiricorationalism
Empirical evidence is the evidence of sensory or perceptual experience. Epistemological empiricism is any doctrine which holds that empirical evidence is a valid means for acquiring truth and knowledge, and for forming and evaluating concepts and beliefs.
Attempts are sometimes made to discredit the validity or reliability of empiricism. This is typically done by attacks on the ontological status of the world, or of the ability of sensory or perceptual experience to provide any level of reliable information about actual reality. These attacks may hold that it is possible that the apparent reality of the physical world is actually a simulation, or a dream, or the like. They may also hold that, regardless of the ontological status of the world, human senses and perceptions are fallible and error-prone.
There is actually some merit to such critiques of empiricism. After all, we very well may be completely ignorant as to the ultimate nature or ontological status of the world, and it certainly is true that our perceptions of the world are both incomplete and fallible. That being said, however, it certainly does seem that we can learn more about the world, and accomplish more within the world, through the use of our perceptions than we could by simply ignoring them. If one is hungry, for example, should one simply ignore the fact that one sees food on one's table, and instead resign oneself to the “fact” that the table and the food just may be some sort perceptual illusion, and simply starve? This would be absurd, of course.
The evidence of one’s immediate perceptual experience, while fallible, is certainly reliable enough in most circumstances. If one wants to know what the weather is outside, for example, one merely steps outside, and one's senses provide all of the information which one needs. One would certainly not rely upon intuition or mystical spiritual faith to determine the weather; if one wants to know facts about the world, there is nothing more direct and straightforward than empirical evidence – simply observing the world itself.
There are times, however, when we deal with things which are beyond our immediate perceptual experience. Stepping outside may be a flawless method for determining the weather right here, right now, but it may be a poor method for predicting tomorrow’s weather. When it is necessary to operate beyond the range of our immediate perceptual experience we, must integrate the information we already have to create new information; in other words, we must reason.
Rationalism is any doctrine which holds that reason is the proper means for acquiring truth and knowledge, and for forming and evaluating concepts and beliefs. Reason, the proper application of logic, is very powerful, but it is of limited use for determining certain things about reality in the absence of empirical evidence. If one is sitting in a windowless room, reason alone would be insufficient for determining the weather, for example.
Neither empiricism nor rationalism is sufficient alone as an epistemological approach for human beings. Their true power becomes apparent, however, when they are used in conjunction with one another; furthermore, due to the inherently limited nature of human perceptual and reasoning abilities, empiricism and rationalism must be skeptically applied. This requires the testing and retesting of beliefs which may unknowingly be based upon erroneous or incomplete observations or reasoning. This skeptically applied integration of empiricism and rationalism is identified by the Scionics Institute as “empiricorationalism.” Empiricorationalism is the creation of models of the world (beliefs) based upon actual empirical observations (empiricism) using valid, logical reasoning (rationalism) and then testing these models to see if they actually hold up under scrutiny (skepticism). Empiricorationalism is the epistemological approach of Scionics philosophy, and the epistemological approach of science.
Scientific knowledge is very different in nature from mystical beliefs. Scientific knowledge is never considered “absolute,” i.e., never considered to be “conclusively” true, beyond doubt and unquestionable; scientific ideas are always subject to further testing. This is in marked contrast to false, mystical “absolutisms:” the acceptance of things unproven and unprovable, which are clung to by mystics as being true beyond doubt or question, and the rejection of things of proven reliability which the mystic refuses to accept. Scientific knowledge is measured in terms of its reliability and predictive power, and this standard of reality-based reliability propels the further advancement of knowledge and power. Mystical beliefs are essentially measured in terms of their conformity with the mystic’s personal faith, feelings, intuitions, etc., and this adherence to invalid epistemological approaches stunts the advancement of reality-based knowledge. The ultimate price of mystical beliefs is ignorance, unhappiness and impotence; the ultimate reward for reality-based thinking is understanding, happiness and power.
There are various devices and methods which can be employed to extend both our empirical and rational faculties. We can enhance our empirical observations by using telescopes to see things which are very far away, for example, or microscopes to see the very small. We can enhance our reasoning capacities by programming computers to integrate huge amounts of data far faster than any team of humans every could. In this way, we are coming to understand the nature of ourselves, our reality, and how best to live within our reality, faster and more completely than at any previous point in human history. Used wisely, this will allow us to live happier and more fulfilling lives than at any previous point in human history.