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Death of Philosophy 3

Ontology and Epistemology

1 Does a philosopher explictly commit himself to a certain Ontology and Epistemology? If he does, why would
he do this? Is it so as to make his ontological situation clear and to exclude other positions? can one take it at
face value that the Ontology a philosopher commits himself to, for example soft naturalism, is really the case,
that it really is the ontology that underlies and structures his philosophical thinking? It might not be the case that
he wishes to deceive by labelling his ontology of a certain kind, but because he might not be the best judge of
what his underlying, and often implicit and unperceived, ontology is.

2 Is it the case that all human beings are committed to some kind of ontology? Is it the case that anyone who
executes philosophical activities are committed to an ontology, even though the person may not expplicitly
state an ontology or a commitment to an ontology?

3 Is it the case that merely by using language to execute philosophical activities an individual already commits
himself to a certain ontology at the exclusion of others? I place philosophical in brackets as I doubt that there
are, or exist, any specific thing such as genuine philosophical activities. Merely by employing words to explore
the usage of other words, of oneself and/or others, in or for a reasoning manner, so as to identify and reveal
patterns of usage of these words and making explicit underlying assumptions, in my eyes do not bestow the
label of being philosophical on these activities. One finds such activities in many if not most socio-cultural
practices and intellectual or academic discourses.
If I do not explicitly commit myself to a particular ontology when I use words in this analytic, exploratory and
clarificatyory manner, do I then not commit myself to an ontology? Or do I unknowingly commit myself to an
ontology that posits things such as words, concepts, ideas and conceptual usage as that what really exist, that
what exist primarily? Or do I by my actions by employing words to explore words, inadvertently reject physical
things, thoughts, behaviour, or whatever, as that what exist? Or perhaps I ontologically commit myself, but not
even being aware of the fact, to Kantian categories, space, time, realism, idealism, (neo-)pragmatism, post-
Wittgensteinian paradigm relativism of incommensurable forms of life, Heidegger's late philosophy of the
history of being, and post-structuralist objectivist or deconstructionist analysis of anonymous systems of signs
(these were merely included as a reference to a certain author)?

4 It might be best if I do commit myself explicitly to some kind of ontology, if only to prevent someone else to
fabricate an ontological label for me, something like ontological absence, anarchist, vacuum, etc. But if one has
moved beyond those traditional philosophical ideas and left them, their study and usage to the subject of the
history of ideas and speculative metaphysics, such labels and projections have become irrelevant. For those who
truly have moved beyond any kind of independent philosophical discourse, that has its own unique objects or
subject-matter and exclusive (philosophical) method, techniques and methodology, (that is when nothing of
traditional, speculative metaphysics, absolute system and theory-building remain and the need for making
sweeping generalizations and statements about the nature of the world, human existence, thinking and
behaviour and how human - consciousness - relates to nature have been bracketed) there remains no need for
implicit, hidden or explicit ontologies and epistemologies or ontological and epistemological assumptions and
beliefs.

5 For this kind of 21st Century individual there no longer exist the need for a unique and independent discourse
of philosophy, traditional philosophical values, norms, methods, techniques and aims. He merelygets on with the
piece meal (!) task of occasionally exploring that what some people do with words, how they do it and what
they try to achieve by means of it. He has no philosophical or other kind of score to settle, prove that he is in
possession of the trump card or solely possess the master key to unlock eternal, absolute philosophical ideas,
insights and understanding - for example by correcting lesser thinkers from his ivory tower, where he is seated
and adored (at least by himself) on his high pedestal.

6 This type of individual just gets on with the task at hand without seeking for absolute ideas or trying to reveal
infinitely and universally true insights - ideas and insights that will be all-explanatory of all phenomena, events
and situations (that could be encountered) on planet earth, our treality/ies, life-world/s, universe or multiverse,
now or at any time. The task at hand being the so-called piece meal exploration of certain things that that are
presented verbally in many discourses and that he becomes aware of, verbal expressions, notions and statements
that appear to him to be in need of investigation because as they stand they are misleading, restrict meaning,
lead to the creation of problems or problems and distortions in thinking and in thereby cause unnecessary
confusion.
7 I am an ontological anarchist, just as I am politically an anarchist. I do not subscribe to or commit myself to
one ontological position, for example idealist, realist, naturalists, etc. I personally therefore do not have an
ontology, but I employ ontologies in a functional manner, functional ontologism. That is, I employ, merely
temporarily the appropriate ontology for a particular context so as to make sense of the contents of that context,
of what the writer, actor or creator of a context wishes to express, depict or communicate. This is obviously only
a temporary commitment, a functional tool, and it depends on what the author or agent, the context, the domain
or area of the discourse he works or acts in, and the discourse he employs. I therefore can employ multiple,
context- and discourse-related, -relative ontologies, in a temporary manner for their functionality, as if they are
tools or instruments. Then I can after having made sense empathically of the contents of the context, I can
suspend these ontologies so as to be able to view and deal with the context more objectively.

8 What is the purpose of ontology? Does it serve a particular function in the entire frame of reference or the
philosophy of an individual? Philosophy does not here refer to the discourse or subject of philosophy but any
thesis, article, book, etc created by someone. This is why one reads about - the ontology of a thesis for a Masters
or Doctors degree or other research. It might be possible that an individual sets out a ontology and then employs
it to develop a thesis or research in terms of it, of the principles it stands for, the entities it commits the person
to, the basic or most primitive units that exist or that what is, in terms of the particular ontology. It is however
often the case that an individual does not commence with the creation of an ontology and then on the basis of it,
and the entities and beliefs it commits him to, develops the rest of his universe, but that he develops his
universe, context or frame of reference without explicitly commiting himself to an ontology. By reading his
work, his descriptions and investigations one will discover ideas and assumptions that point towards his
ontology, the ontological aspects of his frame of reference. Such aspects will reveal and indicate what he
assumes or believes to be that what exist, that what are the primary principles, building blocks, entities, ideas,
categories, etc of his frame of reference. These things can be used to label his ontology as naturalist, realist,
idealist, pragmatist, empiricist, rationalist etc - a label that functions like the name of a certain make of car or the
brand name of a pair of shoes, a watch, or other goods. It is like a short hand version to indicate what
(ontological) can or should be expected from the item under discussion. In other words an ontology can either
(a) be explicitly worked out and stated and then function as a general idea, a leading ideal or guiding directive
by affirming certain things, values, attitudes, believes, insights, ideas, etc as meaningful, as true, as necessary, as
principles that need to be adhered to, followed and actualized. Or (b) it can appear and become clear during
descriptions, research or investigations. In this case the ontology will emphasize and affirm what the writer or
researcher commits himself to as primary identities or the most basic units of his universe or frame of reference,
for example thoughts, actions, behaviour, thinking, ideas, reason, external, physical objects (or the basic atoms
or units they are made of), concepts, conceptual practices, words, etc.

9 These are the two opposite poles concerning the function of ontologies. There exist many intermediate
positions, but an ontology will determine what an individual can express and believe, what he cannot say or
believe and what he might or may say and believe. It is not necessary to commit oneself to a particular ontology,
one could for example identify the ontology and the ontological commitment of an author and then employ it
merely temporarily so as to assist one to understand what he attempts to express and describe. One can then
bracket the authors ontology so as to explore what he expressed or described in a more objective manner.

10 So much then for the traditional topic or philosophical domain of ontology. Occasionally closely related to or
accompanying it is the idea of epistemology - the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods,
validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

11 If a writer assumes certain ideas, entities, phenomena to be most primitive or more basic than others he
should have reason to believe this so that his belief is justified and not mere opinion. Thus regardless of the fact
if he wishes to involve himself in epistemology or not, by having such beliefs that certain things, principles or
ideas are fundamental, he already made epistemological decisions and claims. Epistemology /p st m ld i/;
from Greek , epistm, meaning "knowledge", and , logos, meaning "logical discourse") is the
branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge. In a philosophical dialogue, King James VI of
Scotland penned the character Epistemon as the personification of a philosophical concept to debate on
arguments of whether the ancient religious perceptions of witchcraft should be punished in a politically fueled
Christian society. The arguments King James poses, through the character Epistemon, are based on ideas of
theological reasoning regarding society's belief as his opponent, Philomathes takes a philosophical stance on
society's legal aspects but sought to obtain greater knowledge from Epistemon; whose name is Greek for
scientist. This philosophical approach signified a Philomath seeking to obtain greater knowledge through
epistemology with the use of theology. The dialogue was used by King James to educate society on various
concepts including the history and etymology of the subjects debated. King James; Warren, Brett. The
Annotated Daemonologie. A Critical Edition. In Modern English. 2016. p. x-xi. ISBN 1-5329-6891-4.
The word epistemology is derived from the ancient Greek epistm meaning "knowledge" and the suffix -logy,
meaning a logical "discourse" to" (derived from the Greek word logos meaning "discourse"). J.F. Ferrier coined
epistemology on the model of 'ontology', to designate that branch of philosophy which aims to discover the
meaning of knowledge, and called it the 'true beginning' of philosophy. The word is equivalent to the concept
Wissenschaftslehre, which was used by German philosophers Johann Fichte and Bernard Bolzano for different
projects before it was taken up again by Husserl. French philosophers then gave the term pistmologie a
narrower meaning as 'theory of knowledge [thorie de la connaissance].' E.g., mile Meyerson opened his
Identity and Reality, written in 1908, with the remark that the word 'is becoming current' as equivalent to 'the
philosophy of the sciences. Suchting, Wal. "Epistemology". Historical Materialism. Academic Search Premier:
331345.
Some philosophers think there is an important distinction between "knowing that," "knowing how," and
"acquaintance-knowledge," with epistemology being primarily concerned with the first of these. While these
distinctions are not explicit in English, they are defined explicitly in other languages (N.B. some languages
related to English have been said to retain these verbs, e.g. Scots: "wit" and "ken", in Dutch weten and ken.). In
French, Portuguese and Spanish, to know (a person) is translated using connatre, conhecer, and conocer,
respectively, whereas to know (how to do something) is translated using savoir, saber, and saber. Modern Greek
has the verbs (gnorzo) and (ksro). Italian has the verbs conoscere and sapere and the nouns for
knowledge are conoscenza and sapienza. German has the verbs wissen and kennen. Wissen implies knowing a
fact, kennen implies knowing in the sense of being acquainted with and having a working knowledge of; there is
also a noun derived from kennen, namely Erkennen, which has been said to imply knowledge in the form of
recognition or acknowledgment. The verb itself implies a process: you have to go from one state to another,
from a state of "not-erkennen" to a state of true erkennen. This verb seems to be the most appropriate in terms of
describing the "episteme" in one of the modern European languages, hence the German name
"Erkenntnistheorie." The theoretical interpretation and significance of these linguistic issues remains
controversial.

In his paper On Denoting and his later book Problems of Philosophy Bertrand Russell stressed the distinction
between "knowledge by description" and "knowledge by acquaintance". Gilbert Ryle is also credited with
stressing the distinction between knowing how and knowing that in The Concept of Mind. In Personal
Knowledge, Michael Polanyi argues for the epistemological relevance of knowledge how and knowledge that;
using the example of the act of balance involved in riding a bicycle, he suggests that the theoretical knowledge
of the physics involved in maintaining a state of balance cannot substitute for the practical knowledge of how to
ride, and that it is important to understand how both are established and grounded. This position is essentially
Ryle's, who argued that a failure to acknowledge the distinction between knowledge that and knowledge how
leads to infinite regress.

In recent times, epistemologists including (Sosa, Greco, Kvanvig, Zagzebski) and Duncan Pritchard have argued
that epistemology should evaluate people's "properties" (i.e., intellectual virtues) and not just the properties of
propositions or of propositional mental attitudes. Whether someone's belief is true is not a prerequisite for (its)
belief. On the other hand, if something is actually known, then it categorically cannot be false. For example, if a
person believes that a bridge is safe enough to support him, and attempts to cross it, but the bridge then
collapses under his weight, it could be said that he believed that the bridge was safe but that his belief was
mistaken. It would not be accurate to say that he knew that the bridge was safe, because plainly it was not. By
contrast, if the bridge actually supported his weight, then he might say that he had believed that the bridge was
safe, whereas now, after proving it to himself (by crossing it), he knows it was safe.

Epistemologists argue over whether belief is the proper truth-bearer. Some would rather describe knowledge as
a system of justified true propositions, and others as a system of justified true sentences. Plato, in his Gorgias,
argues that belief is the most commonly invoked truth-bearer. In the Theaetetus, Socrates considers a number of
theories as to what knowledge is, the last being that knowledge is true belief "with an account" (meaning
explained or defined in some way). According to the theory that knowledge is justified true belief, in order to
know that a given proposition is true, one must not only believe the relevant true proposition, but one must also
have a good reason for doing so. One implication of this would be that no one would gain knowledge just by
believing something that happened to be true. For example, an ill person with no medical training, but with a
generally optimistic attitude, might believe that he will recover from his illness quickly. Nevertheless, even if
this belief turned out to be true, the patient would not have known that he would get well since his belief lacked
justification.
The definition of knowledge as justified true belief was widely accepted until the 1960s. At this time, a paper
written by the American philosopher Edmund Gettier provoked major widespread discussion. The Gettier
problem - Edmund Gettier is best known for a short paper entitled 'Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?'
published in 1963, which called into question the theory of knowledge that had been dominant among
philosophers for thousands of years.[9] In a few pages, Gettier argued that there are situations in which one's
belief may be justified and true, yet fail to count as knowledge. That is, Gettier contended that while justified
belief in a true proposition is necessary for that proposition to be known, it is not sufficient. Other words and
names concerning this debate are: infallibilism, indefeasibility, Matilal, reliabilism, Nozick, Armstrong,
Williamson, Goldman, Blackburn, Externalism vs Internalism, value problem, virtue epistemology, a priori and
a posteriori knowledge, Kant and analytic-synthetic distinction. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology).
More relevant to this discussion are the different schools of thought such as empiricism, idealism, rationalism,
constructivism, skepticism and varieties of them.
A few words on the regress problem - The regress problem is the problem of providing a complete logical
foundation for human knowledge. The traditional way of supporting a rational argument is to appeal to other
rational arguments, typically using chains of reason and rules of logic. A classic example that goes back to
Aristotle is deducing that Socrates is mortal. We have a logical rule that says All humans are mortal and an
assertion that Socrates is human and we deduce that Socrates is mortal. In this example how do we know that
Socrates is human? Presumably we apply other rules such as: All born from human females are human. Which
then leaves open the question how do we know that all born from humans are human? This is the regress
problem: how can we eventually terminate a logical argument with some statement(s) that do not require further
justification but can still be considered rational and justified?

As John Pollock stated:

... to justify a belief one must appeal to a further justified belief. This means that one of two things can be the
case. Either there are some beliefs that we can be justified for holding, without being able to justify them on the
basis of any other belief, or else for each justified belief there is an infinite regress of (potential) justification
[the nebula theory]. On this theory there is no rock bottom of justification. Justification just meanders in and out
through our network of beliefs, stopping nowhere. John L. Pollock (1975). Knowledge and Justification.
Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. ISBN 0-691-07203-5. p. 26.

The apparent impossibility of completing an infinite chain of reasoning is thought by some to support
skepticism. It is also the impetus for Descartes' famous dictum: I think therefore I am. Descartes was looking for
some logical statement that could be true without appeal to other statements.
Responses to the regress problem by epistemologists studying justification have attempted to argue for various
types of chains of reasoning that can escape the regress problem: foundationalism, coherentism, foundherentism,
infinitism and skepticism.

12 I merely mention these problems and their solutions as they form part of epistemological discussions. I am
not particularly concerned about truth, believes being justified or not and more interested in the fact if
something has meaning, if what someone says or does is meaningful when taken in the context it is expressed
in. Are there (absolute, eternal or contextually-relative) norms, rules and standards for something, an action or
statement to be more meaningful or less meaningful? Who decides on and maintains such rules, if they do exist?