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Agnosticism ≠ Ontology

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Posted by Luis Hamburgh on August 31, 2002 18:40:31 UTC

Hello Harv,

Bringing the discussion back to the top...

I’ll try my best not to turn this into a rambling 5,000 word essay (heh heh . . . you compared me to him first. Now we’re even! :P), but I’ve been looking forward to this all week and might get a little verbose.

Unfortunately I think we’re hitting the same wall. But, I think your popularity and agreeableness may cause you to stretch yourself too thinly around these parts, so I plug away -- waiting for that moment when you’ve had time to step back and fully consider my position.

>>>”Perhaps it would be easier if you laid out your logical structure from premise to conclusion.”

Okay. Here is what might be a “typical” progression from cogito, ergo sum to (what I consider to be) the dilemma of Ontology:

~ Perception plus interpretation of perception equals consciousness.
~ I perceive, and interpret what I perceive.
C1 = I am a conscious being.

~ I am a conscious being.
~ There is stuff other than me.
C2 = I am a fraction of the whole universe.

~ As a fraction of the whole universe, I am prone to incorrectly judge what I see.
~ The universe does not make such mistakes.
C3 = I am an inherently fallible subject of the objective universe.

~ I am an inherently fallible subject of the objective universe, but I can write and speak my concepts, in effect separating them from myself.
~ Others may consider these separated concepts.
C4 = My conceptions, though innately erroneous due to their subjective origin, are capable of becoming objective things.

~ My conceptions, though innately erroneous due to their subjective origin, are capable of becoming objective things.
~ The more we objectify our considerations, the better/more accurate our conclusions about the objective universe become.
C5 = Ontology = an objective consideration of the universe is desirable and ‘approximable’ (sic).

~ Ontology is the subjective attempt to best approximate objectivity while discussing ‘what is.’
~ Quantum Mechanics tells us that there are no such things as objects.
C6 = ?

This is (yet another) depiction of where you and I part ways. I am, and have been for a long time, aware of our point of departure. Although my illustrations change from post to post, the essence of my position remains. It’s both disappointing and disheartening to see you gloss over this key point.

I think some folks insist on separating perception from interpretation (into what you call epistemology and ontology) specifically to maintain the sense that objectivity and knowledge are givens. On the other hand, I think the person who frees himself from ontology altogether will be a lot quicker to assimilate counterintuitive findings.

Some come away from Argument 6 asserting, ”QM arrives at an incomplete/unsatisfactory/erroneous ontology.” But the person who takes from this, and other counterintuitive theories, the suggestion that he might backtrack an Argument or more may be on his way to becoming an Agnostic (hooray!).

If, while contemplating the Schrodinger’s Cat “paradox,” you conclude that QM is unsatisfactory, then I’d say you cannot assimilate its counterintuitive nature with your own biases. This, I’d further suggest, is due to your own requirement that the best assimilation is the one you can furthest push towards objectivity. But the agnostic is satisfied in pushing judgment away from his own “subjectivity,” and not necessarily towards any “objectivity,” a phenomenon that may or may not even exist.

If the recognition of QM’s counterintuitive nature boils down to a rejection of “ultimate knowledge,” our conclusion becomes your two-tiered option (“we lack the necessary observations of every possible implication” vs. ”we must reject QM theory”) only if we are biased by Ontology!

To automatically deny that QM is a better representation of “the actual state of things” than one’s own commonsense beliefs is not testimony to ontology’s validity – I’d say just the opposite.

(Incidentally, by still adhering to the notion that “time passes,” you’ve shown me that you adapted your understanding of time to an “ontology.” Happily, this is consistent with your stance as an Ontologist. However, time itself does not pass.)

A hasty misunderstanding of my most recent post (”I've never claimed that a deeply held ontological view is unbiased”*); a misrepresentation of my stance (”to think that we are objective minds possessing the objective conceptual scheme”); the ignoring of/not seeing the very zenith of my contention (e.g., by separating “reality” from “ultimate reality” you ignore the root of our disagreement) – it looks to me like Danny DeVito is trying to win back his cigarettes all over again.

Ontology requires that objectivity is a given (it is, after all, a branch of Metaphysics). But the agnostic not only recognizes his inability to know an objective reality, he also retreats from acknowledging ”objectivity” as a given. Asking an agnostic to discuss his ontology is like asking a man to discuss his ovaries. Still, somehow you continue to search for that mysterious place where I back everything up with a hidden ‘I know.’ Remember the dog analogy? Is there a hidden ‘I know’ behind all that seemingly primitive sleeping, barking, and scratching?

A more thoroughgoing deliberation of my stance might reveal exactly where in my arguments (A1 thru A6 above) we should focus. I think it would make for a much more satisfying (your term) direction for this discussion.


* - One post ago you’d separated Ontology from personal ontology in order to steer clear of metaphysics. My observation of your altered approach (“By now calling personal stances ‘ontological biases,’ . . .”) was an admiration of the maneuver, not a suggestion that you “claimed . . . a deeply held ontological view is unbiased.”

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