CEPA eprint 1481 (EVG-193)

The view from here

Glasersfeld E. von (1996) The view from here. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 3(4): 18–19. Available at http://cepa.info/1481
A practiced reader can usually read quite a few different meanings into a text, because even the most commonplace prose is not a one-way street. Rabelais, Shakespeare, Pirandello, and Joyce have artfully exploited this openness. Philosophy - in my mind at least - is a more stringent game. Not that its language is any less ambiguous, but the persistent reader learns to strive for a different goal. It is neither the multiplicity of interpretations that thrills him, nor the feat of proving any of them wrong - he or she has come to realize that it may be more profitable to find an interpretation that could have made sense to the author.
I began my response to David Johnson with this somewhat pompous observation, because it is not the first time I am asked to respond to him and it now seems pointless to reformulate my views. He states them quite succinctly in his abstract and calls them “logical fault lines”. In my vocabulary, “logic” pertains to the connections we make in our thinking, not to what we are thinking about. There is neither anything “logical” in the assertion that all men are mortal nor in its contradiction that all men are immortal - but if we then say that Socrates is a man, his fate within the given context is determined by logic.
Logic does apply to our use of words. Once we have defined them, it requires that we use them in ways that are consistent with our definition. If we write them in a text, we expect the reader to keep our definitions in mind. If, for instance, I defined “knowledge” in more than a dozen places as a commodity that is gathered, abstracted, or constructed by the knower from his or her experience, I am not saying anything about how this experience may or may not be related to the independent world to which David Johnson claims to have access through some windows. My “knowledge”, too, is about things, but they are experiential things and the ways in which I relate them. They are not unicorns or things-in-themselves (it would be useful to remember that Kant called the in-itself a “heuristic fiction”).
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