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Thread: Santayana: Reality and First Premise

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    Post Santayana: Reality and First Premise

    Epistemology, or the study of knowledge, has dogged Western philosophy since ancient times. Attempts to establish absolute truths fall prey, time and again, to the subjective nature of human being. If knowledge of a thing is 'felt' through tactile senses and stored in imperfect brain, then we can not know a thing precisely as someone else knows the thing. Therefore, there is no objective truth of the thing.

    Many philosophers and religions make use of this and take it further to, essentially, destroy the world. We, poor creatures we are, can not know if we live in illusion of living. As with the popular movie, 'the Matrix has us.' It matters not what illusion is projected. It may be the Matrix, God's sandbox or merely a dream. We can not, they say, objectively establish existence as real.

    Another long-standing problem for Western epistemology is first premise. The Greeks bestowed this inheritance. Briefly, if we assert a fact, we must substantiate it with previous facts and those facts in turn must be justified, ad infinitum. Following a chain of facts we invariably arrive at a point, usually the nature of existence itself, where no further facts can be proven. This, too, cripples the potential for knowledge since all facts are ultimately groundless.

    In the opening paragraph of Novum Organum, Francis Bacon briefly considers the problem of absolute truth versus no truths at all. He shrugs off the problem as one of ridiculous extremes and opts for a middle road. He then proceeds to lay the foundations of modern science.

    But even science can not relieve the problem.

    "The laws formulated by science - the transitive figments describing the relation between fact and fact - possess only a Platonic sort of reality. They are more real, if you will, than the facts themselves, because they are more permanent, trustworthy, and pervasive; but at the same time they are, if you will, not real at all, because they are incompatible with immediacy and alien to brute existence." --- Santayana

    According to Santayana, every life including man, either in thought or by action, possesses an arational belief in the natural world which he calls "animal faith." It is from this arational basis that any claim of knowledge derives. Biology, even non-conscious biology, operates with this belief even though it is "radically incapable of proof."

    Another way of looking at Santayana's approach is to realize that while we can not by prior fact establish the basis for 'animal faith', we DO establish subsequent facts from that faith. Life acts 'as if' the physical world is true and possesses some set of laws of regularity.

    This gives rise to Santayana's unphilosophical-sounding, but necessary and appropriate, animal declaration "that there is a world, there is a future, that things sought can be found, and things seen can be eaten."

    Santayana's conclusion is not new. Bacon's pragmatic shrug is not far off the same mark and many others have said that the universe is simply what we have to work with. Perhaps of interest in Santayana's case is the separation and relation between the physical and life systems. It is through life that the physical reality of existence is established. And it is through our animal faith in that existence that all subsequent knowledge is born.
    Last edited by OnionPeeler; Friday, September 5th, 2003 at 10:42 AM.

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    I know this thread has been hanging around for a long time, but after a lot of thinking, I can't find a better explanation. Animal faith really is the only solution.
    All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream at night, in the dusky recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams, with open eyes, to make it possible.

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    Post Re: Santayana: Reality and First Premise

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack
    I know this thread has been hanging around for a long time, but after a lot of thinking, I can't find a better explanation. Animal faith really is the only solution.
    I don't think so - why assume there is a 'solution'?

    Your attempt to elaborate on Santayana's "animal faith" was hardly successful!
    See this thread;
    www.forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=6689
    Why are there beings at all, & why not rather nothing?
    [Leibniz/Heidegger]

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    Post Re: Santayana: Reality and First Premise

    I know Moody, I collapsed his argument. I think it's one of the best I've come across. Now, let's see - that post was made on December 1st of last year, the one you refer to was made on December 16.
    All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream at night, in the dusky recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams, with open eyes, to make it possible.

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    Post Re: Santayana: Reality and First Premise

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack
    I know Moody, I collapsed his argument. I think it's one of the best I've come across. Now, let's see - that post was made on December 1st of last year, the one you refer to was made on December 16.
    Precisely; as I implied, you took the suggestion of 'animal faith' from this thread and then attempted to elaborate on it in your own thread a couple of weeks later.
    It was my opposition to the notion which destroyed it. I would suggest this was because you had taken the idea from someone else [Santayana] without thinking it through yourself.
    Animal Faith was an orphan you had not the knowledge to defend.
    Why are there beings at all, & why not rather nothing?
    [Leibniz/Heidegger]

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