on Being Empirical, Rational and Epistemologally Plural.

An old Economist  joke revised:

Two economy professors walk into  into a crowded bar .  One  pointed to the ground  and says “look! five dollar bill “. “It can’t be.” replied the Other.   “If it were somebody would have picked it up by now.”

This is  rational expectation in “rational choice theory”.  The  punch line of the joke is that  professors the believes in his principles of logic so strongly that he ignores the facts.  His rational expectation is only a prediction based on a logical foundation. It is only a prediction because circumstance challenges foundation.

I  flip a silver dollar coin  nine  consecutive times and in all nine times tails came up heads . I am now going to a flip the coin a tenth  and final time.

Janus CoinIs it more likely that the coin comes up heads again like it had before?   Or should I bet that the coin flip more likely ends in tails because it tails is due.  What does my experience tell me?
Using Mathematics, we know that neither is more likely: the outcome of a coin flip is 50%  likely to heads, and 50% likely to be tails….each time a coin is flipped, regardless of the past or future.
Thinking otherwise is called “Gamblers Fallacy”. Casinos count on this fallacy to make money..

Whether one relies more on evidence, facts and experience or whether one relies on logic, principles and mathematical predictions… One must consider both being empirical and rational, considering both apparent surface circumstance and the deeper connective constancy.

Empirical worldThe Science of Physics, beginning with Isaac Newton is a universal volume of rule to explain the surface of happenings, constantly being tweaked by new hypothesis and rigorous experimentation.
In that sense  found Newton an early  way to merge rationalism and empiricism to explain the way things work in the common denominator of the natural world.   Science and its method  strongly suggests that all that happens – or- is… follows the same rules.

But Science is largely incomplete,  does not always directly  address how one makes choices in his daily life, and says little about Ethics, Aesthetics or subjective conditions.
I may know what, why, or how things happen much of the time… but how should I or others act? what about quality and  non- quantitative measurable experiences?

Epistemological Pluralism.

Although the rational-empirical synthesis including science and technology  have been productive in age of reason, Its clear our knowledge  is  far from complete :  It maybe necessary to integrate or incorporate  other modes of thought, problem solving and investigations.
Some other modes of thinking  for  assimilating:


Does earth rotate around the sun? or does the Sun and other planets, stars wobble around a earth at the center?

It seems odd, but one  could argue either way.
Ultimately, It is more practical, in science and education to say the Earth Rotates  around the Sun.– the sun being the center of a “solar System”.  That’s how its taught to us in science class.

Pragmatism assumes pluralism.  There maybe two or more ways to interpret: an idea; proposal; or policy… The meaningfulness, or validity of each interpretation is defined by its usefulness and consequences in concrete reality– verifiable by experience.  That is, the most practical, or  most concretely useful interpretation of an idea,  policy, definition, or strategy is the correct one.
Some say we define objects, carve them out in our reality ,due to the objects associate usefulness, example I know a chair when I see one because of how  a chair is used in my life.
Pure pragmatism has its own consequence on its own, someone could justify any action as true by rationalizing its immediate usefulness.  With no other principles, and a too small a bracket of experience,   pure pragmatism- of- the- moment may leave one with unstable fluctuating world- view.   But integrated with reason and  experience I believe it is sound.
Pragmatism may ultimately be a way of deciding which paradigm is most useful for a task, in epistemological  pluralism.

Phenomenological Investigations
An important form of investigation is perspective-taking or “feeling-into“. An individual imagines other being’s circumstances, and the participation, capacity, cognition of other beings (people and animals) in those circumstances, checking in with his own emotions and cognition.
This holistic (mind/body)  form of investigation is a constantly evolving mix of logic, emotion, past experience, and unbias observation. Mixed with reason it is a powerful tool for developing personal ethics ;   understanding of other experiences  and other circumstances, and developing  choice- making of  “doing what feels right“.
Buddhist refer to this as this as “compassion” and western philosophers, humanist and existentialist refer to this as “Empathy“.

A phenomenological method of letting go of bias and mental clutter to experience unity and connectivity to the concrete (and for some spirit).    Also a method of of mysticism, and a way to realize nature  that  transcends using  Reason alone.  Much is written by me  on this blog, from a  Zen perspective.
SEE the Meditation Category.

Somewhat esoteric form of intellectual criticism. Deconstruction is a way of critical thinking from a nihilistic percspective.
decontsruction serves to expose or extract the cultural bias, norms, zeitgeist, symbolism, self containment, meaning, modes of thinking, and or absurdity of a “text”.
A “text” code be anything from film, law books, to music that reflect the thinking time or genre….
Deconstruction is a way to think outside of the box.

Figure and Ground.
Some say  a social movement can be studied by comparing it to what is not.
For example: one might critique “Feminism in Twentieth Century” as to where it contacts “What is not Feminism” in the Twentieth Century.
What happens when a social movement meets, conflicts, withdraws or compares with what -is- not  the movement in the era, gives definition to a movement.  Imagine a figure in a picture against its back round, where the figure is shaped by its edges..  Gestalt social theory is not in vogue, probably because there aren’t many rules.
But it is an interesting way of thinking,  The Figure/ground concept is prevalent in Eastern Philosophies pertaining to phenomena , Holism, Field Theory and gestalt  psychology of perception.
This may give us some ways of looking at social phenomenon that scientific method has difficulty with.

Hermeneutics is a  broad  branch of study pertaining to    interpreting  Scripture , Law, myth and  parable stories … the meaning ,the language ,and  the symbolism.
Hermeneutics  also included the process of interpretation of texts.  For example:
When The U.S Supreme Court interprets  the U.S.  constitution, ratified in 1788  the federal judges consider  the intentions of the Constitutions authors  when they wrote the words.
Another Example:  Protestant reformer Martin Luther postulated that interpreting meaning in the Bible rest in the authority of the reader.
So where does the meaning of scripture, law and myth reside? the writer in his time zeitgeist? the reader in his time, age in zeitgeist.  Who has the authority to interperet meaning? All these are important in  anthropological and cultural study. Hermeneutics is that investigation.

There are many other more modes of thinking.
Why is pluralism so important?   Why do we need to integrate and incorporate other paradigms into our thinking  ?
As Abraham Maslow, early humanistic  psychologist ,once said, “”If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”   Have only one way to solve difficulties and interpret,   than we tend to  know  things in  only one manner.  If we are to understand and study reality in all its  richness and  facets, including science, the humanities, ethics, aesthetics, well being, then we need to have many different kinds of tools.


About chris
I write because I'm not good at it. I share because, writing without sharing seems empty. Thus, I write and share what I think is meaningful.

4 Responses to on Being Empirical, Rational and Epistemologally Plural.

  1. Pingback: correct interpretation of “to the pure, all things are pure” (Titus 1:15) « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

  2. Pingback: Rationality |

  3. Pingback: Words, Words and more Words « Hermes Table

  4. chris says:

    Reblogged this on Pennsylvania Echoes and commented:

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