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The leap of faith into absolutes.

  1. Sep 16, 2007 #1
    The leap of faith into absolutes.

    Karl Popper authored the book “The Open Society and Its Enemies”. The concept Popper illustrates in this book sounds much like the concept of a liberal democracy but his concept is more epistemological than political. It is based upon our imperfect comprehension of reality more than our structure of society.

    Popper argues that all ideology shares a common characteristic; a belief in their infallibility. Such infallibility is an impossibility, which leads such ideological practitioners to use force to substantiate their views and such repression brings about a closed society.

    Popper proposed that the open society is constructed on the recognition that our comprehension of reality is not perfect—there is realty beyond our comprehension and our will cannot compensate for that lack of comprehension. Even though the will of the power structure can manipulate the opinions of the citizens sooner or later reality will defeat the will. Truth does matter and success will not always override truth—truth being reality.

    American culture has lost respect for truth. We have been swamped with PR and spin and untruth to such an extent that we have lost confidence in truth and it has lost its value.

    I think that many Americans display and embrace their symbols so extravagantly because we have devalued truth and have glorified infallibility. When we reach such a situation ideologies become more and more important and the adoration of symbols is our method of showing our evaluation of our ideology which is one of our gods.

    I think that for many Americans the natural sciences have come to represent that which is infallible. Rather than a solution science/technology has become the problem because it is ill used, especially when applying the scientific method when dealing with human problems.

    I think that the more attached we are to what we consider to be absolute truth the more we idolize such things as science/technology and symbols such as flags, nations, and religion. Would you agree?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2007 #2
    We live in two different worlds.

    I recently had occasion to hang out in the waiting area of St Joseph Hospital in Asheville for a few hours. I was free to walk many of the corridors and rest in many of the waiting areas along with everyone else. It was early morning but it was obvious that the hospital functioned fully 24/7.

    A person can walk the corridors of any big city hospital and observe the effectiveness of human rationality in action. One can also visit the UN building in NYC or read the morning papers and observe just how ineffective, frustrating and disappointing human rationality can be. Why does human reason perform so well in some matters and so poorly in others?

    We live in two very different worlds; a world of technical and technological order and clarity, and a world of personal and social disorder and confusion. We are increasingly able to solve problems in one domain and increasingly endangered by our inability to solve problems in the other.

    Normal science is successful primarily because it is a domain of knowledge controlled by paradigms. The paradigm defines the standards, principles and methods of the discipline. It is not apparent to the laity but science moves forward in small incremental steps. Science seldom seeks and almost never produces major novelties.

    Science solves puzzles. The logic of the paradigm insulates the professional group from problems that are unsolvable by that paradigm. One reason that science progresses so rapidly and with such assurance is because the logic of that paradigm allows the practitioners to work on problems that only their lack of ingenuity will keep them from solving.

    Science uses instrumental rationality to solve puzzles. Instrumental rationality is a systematic process for reflecting upon the best action to take to reach an established end. The obvious question becomes ‘what mode of rationality is available for determining ends?’ Instrumental rationality appears to be of little use in determining such matters as “good” and “right”.

    There is a striking difference between the logic of technical problems and that of dialectical problems. The principles, methods and standards for dealing with technical problems and problems of “real life” are as different as night and day. Real life problems cannot be solved only using deductive and inductive reasoning.

    Dialectical reasoning methods require the ability to slip quickly between contradictory lines of reasoning. One needs skill to develop a synthesis of one point of view with another. Where technical matters are generally confined to only one well understood frame of reference real life problems become multi-dimensional totalities.
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