Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And what can we know?

We have been conditioned to think that what we can know is all we can see and sense.  Bertrand Russell argued that man can't know what science can't discover.  It is rooted in a simple idea that everything we see and sense is all that there is to exist.  

Wittgenstein ended his Tractatus with this world being all that is the case, admonishing us that those things that we cannot explain we need to pass over in silence.  This silence wasn't the respectful passing of things that are too great for us.  No, Wittgenstein viewed things unexplainable as nonsense - that which is not real.

But where did we get such a profound sense of man's abilities that we should come to the conclusion that all there is - all that can ever be known - should fit so nicely within the narrow bandwidth of our senses and the reason built from these senses?

Logical positivists, optimists came to this (what Audi would call) naive empiricism.  Naive because it is rooted in the idea that all that can be known can be apprehended by the senses.

Let's face it, the bandwidth of our senses is very narrow.  I wish I could see what cats see at night.  As such, the reason that is built singularly from sense data is also narrow.  Because of that, we should have great humility at the powers of our reason.  We do not.  In fact, we mock religion when it claims to have knowledge outside the realm of reason.

It should not.

What man calls foolish, God calls wisdom and vice versa.  How intriguing it is to live a life knowing that what we can know is elevated high above what the senses deliver to us!

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