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1 FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE

2 EPISTEME A SERIES IN THE FOUNDATIONAL, METHODOLOGICAL, PHILOSOPHICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL, AND POLITICAL ASPECTS OF THE SCIENCES, PURE AND APPLIED Editor: MARIO BUNGE Foundations and Philosophy of Science Unit, McGill University Advisory Editorial Board: RUTHERFORD ARIS, Chemistry, University of Minnesota HUBERT M. BLALOCK, Sociology, University of Washington GEORGE BUGLIARELLO, Engineering, Polytechnic Institute of New York NOAM CHOMSKY, Linguistics, MIT KARL W. DEUTSCH, Political science, Harvard University BRUNO FRITSCH, Economics, E. T.H. Zurich ERWIN HIEBERT, History of science, Harvard University ARISTID LlNDENMA YER, Biology, University of Utrecht JOHN MYHILL, Mathematics, SUNY at Buffalo JOHN MAYNARD SMITH, Biology, University of Sussex RAIMO TUOMELA, Philosophy, University of Helsinki VOLUME 13

3 NICHOLAS RESCHER University of Pittsburgh FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Cognition D. REIDEL PUBLISHING COMPANY A MEMBER OF THE KLUWER ACADEMIC PUBLISHERS GROUP DORDRECHT / BOSTON / LANCASTER / TOKYO

4 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Rescher, Nicholas Forbidden knowledge and other essays on the philosophy of cognition. (Episteme; v. 13) Bibliography: p. Includes index. 1. Knowledge, Theory of. I. Title. II. Series: Episteme (D. Reidel); v. 13. BD161.R ISBN-J3: e-isbn-j3: DOl: / Published by D. Reidel Publishing Company, P.O. Box 17, 3300 AA Dordrecht, Holland. Sold and distributed in the U.S.A. and Canada by Kluwer Academic Publishers, 101 Philip Drive, Norwell, MA 02061, U.S.A. In all other countries, sold and distributed by Kluwer Academic Publishers Group, P.O. Box 322,3300 AH Dordrecht, Holland. All Rights Reserved 1987 by D. Reidel Publishing Company Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 1987 No part of the material protected by this copyright notice may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the copyright owner

5 For Kurt Baier in cordial friendship

6 TABLE OF CONTENTS PREFACE INTRODUCTION xi xiii ONE / FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE: MORAL LIMITS OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH 1 1. A Range of Positions 1 2. Regulation vs. Laissez Faire 2 3. Moral Limits Pertain to Different Aspects of Knowledge 3 4. Can Knowledge as Such be Morally Inappropriate? 8 5. Knowledge is Only One Good among Others The Enforcement of Morals Coda 15 TWO / TRUTH AS IDEAL COHERENCE The 'Continuity Condition' Relating a Criterion to the Definition of Truth Truth as Ideal Coherence Coherentism and Truth as Adequation Postscript: The Gap Between the Real and the Ideal 25 THREE / RATIONALITY AND CONSISTENCY Consistency: Initial Requisite or Ultimate Ideal? Linearly Inferential vs. Dialectically Cyclic Reasoning Ampliative vs. Reductive Reasoning Two Very Different Sorts of Acceptability: Qualified vs. Outright Belief Different Attitudes Towards Consistency The Place of Dialectics in the Human Sciences Must Inconsistency-Tolerance Be Motivated Epistemically? Consistency as a Cognitive Ideal 42 vii

7 viii TABLE OF CONTENTS FOUR / AN END TO SCIENCE? Is Scientific Discovery an Inherently Bounded 'Venture? Nature Might Exhibit an Unending Complexity of Physical Constitution Nature Might Exhibit an Unending Complexity of Lawful Comportment The Phenomena of Nature Might Be Unendingly Diverse The Basis for an Unending Prospect of Scientific Discovery Might Lie Wholly in the Character of Our Inquiry Processes The Regulative Rationale for Supposing the Cognitive Inexhaustibility of Nature 56 FIVE / ON rue PROBABILISTIC BEARING OF TESTIMONY Introduction The Reliability of Sources The Knowledgeability of Sources Some 'Variations A Survey of Probative 'Virtues The Taxicab Problem Hume and Laplace on Human Testimony Laplace on Testimonial Chains The Moral of the Story n SIX / rue LIMITS OF PROBABILISTIC EPISTEMOLOGY The Probabilist Program Probability Is Not Enough 79 SEVEN / rue rureefold WAY The Three Levels Some Examples Man as a Creature of the Threefold Way The Question of Legitimacy: The Utility of the Ideal 89 EIGHT / NUMBER IDOLATRY AND FALLACIES OF QUANTIFICATION 93

8 TABLE OF CONTENTS IX NINE / LIFE'S SEASONS: THE CONCEPTUAL PHENOMENOLOGY OF AGE-PERIODlZATlON The General Idea of a Life Cycle The Rationale of Human Age-Periodization Phase Transitions The Diversity of Age The Conventionality of Phase Transition Thought Experiments The Upshot Broader Vistas 111 TEN / PHILOSOPHICAL TAXONOMY AS A PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUE The Shape of Philosophy: Some Ancient Views The Middle Ages and Early Modern Times A Later Picture Taxonomic Dynamics The Post-Kantian Transformation Taxonomic Proliferation The Contemporary Situation The Problem of Progress The Dialectic of the Individual and the Community Conclusion 133 ELEVEN / IS PHILOSOPHY A GUIDE TO LIFE? Philosophy: The Problematic Guide The Problem of 'Applied Philosophy': Only One's Own Philosophy Can Provide Guidance What Philosophy Per Se Can Contribute Some Examples of 'Applied Philosophy' in the Public Domain The Limited Utility of Methodological Applications A Danger of 'Applied Philosophy' 143 NOTES 145 BIBLIOGRAPHY 151 INDEX OF NAMES 153

9 PREFACE This volume collects together eleven essays in epistemology, written during the past three years. They are mostly unpublished, just four of them having appeared previously (numbers two, three, four and eleven). Detailed acknowledgement of prior publication is made in the notes to the relevant chapters. I am indebted to the editors of the several publications involved for their kind permission to use this material. And I am particularly grateful to my friend, Professor Mario Bunge, for his interest in my work and for his willingness to include this sample of it in his 'Episteme' series. NICHOLAS RESCHER Pittsburgh, PA December, 1986 xi

10 INTRODUCTION The philosophy of knowledge covers a vast and enormously diversified terrain. Within this broad area, the essays that comprise the present book deal specifically with the following issues: 1. The moral dimension of inquiry - in particular, scientific inquiry into the ways of the world (Chapter 1) 2. The epistemic status of such cognitive 'values' of inquiry as - coherence (Chapter 2) - consistency (Chapter 3) - completeness (Chapter 4) 3. The cognitive bearing of probabilistic considerations (Chapters 5 and 6) 4. The epistemic status of certain ideal desiderata of cognition, such as - totality (Chapter 7) - precision (Chapter 8) - exactness (Chapter 9) 5. The methodology and the character of specifically philosophical inquiry (Chapters 10-11) The essays try to combine a hard-headed concern for the substance of rigorous inquiry with a traditionally humanistic concern for a valueguided appreciation of its broader implications. Although topically diversified, all of these studies involve the common objective of seeking to illustrate how the aims or goals of inquiry exert an effect on its products. In an era when fashion leads towards a monolithic 'analysis of knowledge' that regiments this conception into the format of a computational formalism, the book seeks to convey the idea that knowledge is something far more diversified, variegated, and complex than is generally acknowledged. A volume of essays has a point of advantage over a scholarly book as such - an advantage that can be of use to author and reader alike. Since its substantive unity is less rigid, it can give a somewhat freer play to xiii

11 XIV INTRODUCTION ideas, taking a larger and more diversified terrain into view. This facilitates a less didactic, more allusive mode of dialectic that invites the reader to enter into the discussion by making his own connections and drawing his own conclusions. In the present case, these inferential leaps will, it is hoped, move in one particular direction. For a common and unifying pragmatic perspective unites these many-sided deliberations. Our knowledge is a tool or instrument that enables a creature hungry for understanding to get a cognitive grasp on things. And any tool or instrument is bound to reflect in its make-up the uses its user proposes to make of it; it inevitably takes on a form that is coordinated by the ends and purposes for which it is designed. An impetus to idealism thus emerges through the fact that in inquiry as elsewhere process and product are inseparably interconnected.

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