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The Integration of Knowledge

by Carlos Blanco (Author)
Monographs XX, 520 Pages

Summary

The Integration of Knowledge explores a theory of human knowledge through a model of rationality combined with some fundamental logical, mathematical, physical and neuroscientific considerations. Its ultimate goal is to present a philosophical system of integrated knowledge, in which the different domains of human understanding are unified by common conceptual structures, such that traditional metaphysical and epistemological questions may be addressed in light of these categories. Philosophy thus becomes a "synthesizer" of human knowledge, through the imaginative construction of categories and questions that may reproduce and even expand the conceptual chain followed by nature and thought, in an effort to organize the results of the different branches of knowledge by inserting them in a broader framework.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • PART I A Model of Rationality
  • 1. The Nature of Rationality, Knowledge and Thinking
  • 1.1 The General Concept of Rationality
  • 1.2 Postulates of a Theory of Knowledge
  • 1.3 The Meaning of “Thinking”
  • 1.3.1 The Association and Integration of Ideas
  • 1.3.2 Knowledge as “Justified Information”
  • 1.4 Truth, Completeness and Rationality
  • 1.4.1 A Critique of Solipsism
  • 1.4.2 Truth, Totality and the Noumenon
  • 1.5 Rationality and Human Psychology
  • 1.5.1 On Some Models of Rationality in the Social Sciences
  • 1.5.2 Global Rationality, Temporal Scope and the Opportunity Costs of Being Rational
  • 1.5.3 Objectivity, Subjectivity and Rationality
  • 2. The Form of Thinking
  • 2.1 The Scope of Logic
  • 2.1.1 A Priori and A Posteriori Elements
  • 2.1.2 Beyond the Transcendental Realm
  • 2.1.3 Fundamental Logical Principles
  • 2.2 Logical Consequence and the Idea of Causality; Mind and Thermodynamics
  • 2.2.1 Causality and the Exchange of Energy
  • 2.2.2 Human Logic and Natural Laws
  • 2.3 The Concept of Truth and Its Evolutionary Understanding
  • 2.3.1 Efficiency as Biological Rule
  • 2.3.2 Truth and Efficiency
  • 3. The Limits to Knowledge
  • 3.1 Analytic and Synthetic Limits
  • 3.2 Relativity, Uncertainty and the Possibility of Physical Measurement
  • 3.2.1 On the Notions of “Measurement” and “Frame of Reference”
  • 3.2.2 A World without Relativity
  • 3.2.3 Quantum Uncertainty and Relativity
  • PART II Ontology and the Natural Sciences
  • 4. The Epistemological Dimensions of the Scientific Enterprise
  • 4.1 Logical and Ontological Continuity in Nature
  • 4.2 Scientific Explanations as Models of Mechanisms
  • 4.2.1 Imagination, Reason and Experience
  • 4.2.2 The Design of Scientific Models
  • 4.2.3 The Process of Validation
  • 4.2.4 Explanations, Laws and Functions
  • 4.3 The Alphabet of Categories and the Condensation of Complexity
  • 4.3.1 Conceptual Atoms and the “Factorization” of Complexity
  • 4.3.2 Models, Systems and the Principle of Selection
  • 4.3.3 Complexity and the Fundamental Categories of Physics and Chemistry
  • 4.3.4 The Whole, the Parts and the Possibility of Reduction
  • 5. Mathematical and Scientific Laws: Rationality in Thought and Nature
  • 5.1 Mathematical Laws
  • 5.1.1 Mathematics as “Rationalized Imagination”
  • 5.1.2 Brief Historical Sketch
  • 5.1.2.1 The Rationalization of Infinity
  • 5.1.2.2 Logicism, Intuitionism and Formalism
  • 5.1.3 Axioms, Foundations and Presuppositions
  • 5.2 Physical Laws
  • 5.2.1 Patterns of Rationality in Nature: Elementary Particles, Laws and Constants
  • 5.2.2 The Laws of Nature
  • 5.2.2.1 The Character of the Laws of Nature and the Problem of Determinism
  • 5.2.2.2 The System of Laws of Nature
  • 5.3 Biological Laws
  • 5.3.1 The Principles of Variation and Selection
  • 5.3.2 Laws, Complexity and Emergence
  • 5.3.3 Towards a Definition of Life: Cells, Genes and Evolution
  • PART III The Human World
  • 6. On the Mechanisms of the Human Mind
  • 6.1 Philosophy and Neurobiology
  • 6.2 Brain, Complexity and the Qualitative Dimension
  • 6.3 Instruction, Competition and Cooperation
  • 6.4 From Molecules to Thinking
  • 6.4.1 On the Nature of Perception
  • 6.4.2 Towards a Neurobiological Theory of Consciousness
  • 6.4.3 The Concept of Consciousness
  • 6.4.3.1 The Problematic Definition of Consciousness
  • 6.4.3.2 The Conscious, the Unconscious and Subjectivity
  • 6.4.3.3 The Mind as the Limit of Matter
  • 6.4.4 Mind, Subjectivity and Freedom
  • 7. Creativity and the Bridge between the Sciences and the Humanities
  • 7.1 The Neurobiological Understanding of Creativity
  • 7.2 The Scope and Limits of Analogy
  • 7.3 Paradoxes, Incompleteness and the Nature of Human Creativity
  • 8. The Foundations of the Social Sciences
  • 8.1 Difficulties of the Scientific Method in the Social Domain
  • 8.2 Analytic and Synthetic Strategies
  • 8.3 The Social Sciences and the Problem of Agency
  • 8.4 On the Principles of a Social Theory
  • 9. Knowledge and the Development of the Human Mind
  • 9.1 Technology, Ideas and Social Change
  • 9.2 The Explanatory Value of Information
  • 9.3 Knowledge, Imagination and Mental Frameworks
  • 10. The Possibilities of Humanity
  • 10.1 Art, natura naturans and the Creation of Worlds
  • 10.2 Knowledge and Human Realization
  • 10.2.1 The Convergence of Knowledge and Ethics
  • 10.2.2 Automation, Work and Social Progress
  • 10.3 The Infinite Scope of Questioning

Acknowledgments

I want to express my deepest gratitude to all those from whose teaching, advice and support I have greatly profited over the last decades. They have planted many of the seeds that have grown in this book. Also, I am very grateful to Eoin Fagan for his valuable help in editing the manuscript.

Preface

If the universe had to be condensed in a single concept, I would choose that of reason. Reason suggests logic, mechanism, foundation, intelligibility, sequence, connection, order of ideas, etc. I cannot find any concept endowed with a higher intellectual power. And as soon as one contemplates the remarkable amount of knowledge and the wealth of ideas generated by humanity over the last centuries to satisfy our ardent desire for understanding, it is inevitable to pose the following questions: how is it all connected? What bridges can unite the different disciplines?

The present work aims to explore a theory of human knowledge, through a model of rationality combined with some fundamental logical, mathematical, physical and neuroscientific considerations. Its ultimate goal and overarching aspiration is to present a philosophical system of integrated knowledge, in which the different domains of human understanding are unified by common conceptual structures, such that traditional metaphysical and epistemological questions may be addressed in light of these categories. In summary, a system of categories that may reproduce and even expand, by virtue of its explanatory power, the conceptual chain followed by nature and thought (indeed, through the analysis of these categories philosophy could help find new and unsuspected connections between them). Hence, in this system of thought it must be possible to show ←xiii | xiv→the continuity between all domains of human knowledge and the reciprocity between the elements and rules of inference that compose them. The purpose is therefore to integrate knowledge in order to advance itineraries that may help us overcome the present limitations of our understanding; thus, to integrate in order to increase knowledge, to integrate in order to acquire a deeper consciousness of what we know, particularly in its fundamental character, thereby opening ourselves to new possibilities of broadening the scope of human thinking. For it is always easier to climb beyond a limit when we have a clear idea of where the frontier lies and how it has been reached.

Halfway between the amplitude of an essay and the rigor of a monograph, I have attempted to follow a plausible logical course in the exposition of the principal themes and arguments. Indeed, I have been guided by the conviction that the way in which the contents are ordered is itself a philosophical thesis.

Reflecting on the nature and limits of human knowledge represents one of the main tasks of philosophy. What is generally called “epistemology,” or “theory of knowledge” (Erkenntnistheorie in the German philosophical tradition), aims to address the problem of knowledge, that is, the question about how we acquire valid knowledge from sensory experience and rational thinking. Thus, an alternative formulation to this inquiry may be posed as follows: what features of the human mind (and, more specifically, of the way in which rational thinking works) make scientific knowledge possible in its most relevant manifestations, from logic, mathematics and physics to neuroscience and the social disciplines? Of the great challenges confronted by philosophical speculation, we shall probably not find one in which such profound and universal aspects converge. And, certainly, in the act of posing the question about the nature of knowledge, it is essential to examine concomitant problems, true touchstones for human reason, such as the nature of the world and the mind (sources from which we extract all possible knowledge), as well as, in more general terms, the nature of the human being, who undertakes the ambitious project of transcending the specific situation in which he finds himself, his spatiotemporal context, in such a way as to obtain knowledge of universal validity, suitable for revealing the most elusive and recondite details of the universe.

Thus, this work tries to systematize the basic conceptual tools of an ontology and an epistemology capable of adequately integrating knowledge, both in the natural sciences and in the disciplines that study the human world. Therefore, the following chapters can be seen as an attempt to explore the fundamental categories of reason in an effort to organize the results of the different branches of knowledge, inserting them in a broader framework.

←xiv |
 xv→

From a philosophical perspective, it would be legitimate to argue that this project has the purpose of testifying to the continuity that exists between all levels of reality and knowledge. Without pretending in any way to impose philosophical apriorisms on scientific research (which does not need any metaphysical endorsement in order to expand the cognitive heritage of humanity; indeed, philosophy is not the arbiter of science), our method can be conceived from a formal point of view and from a material angle. In the first case, it consists in identifying those notions endowed with greater explanatory power for each area of knowledge and thought; in the second, it appears as a vast logical and causal mechanism, which aspires to look for explanatory itineraries capable of manifesting the links of continuity between the different areas of nature. To use an analogy inspired by integral calculus, it can be said that the project of integration of knowledge can be visualized as a limiting procedure that approximates the whole “area” of human knowledge by summing over a potentially infinite number of explanatory elements, which nonetheless converge into a finite, and usually small, set of fundamental concepts or categories of explanation. Through them it should be possible to establish meaningful relations that enable to form an articulated system of knowledge, where all concepts, extracted from a diverse array of disciplines, can nonetheless be understood in a unified manner. Thus, if in its most elementary historical formulation a mathematical integral was the conceptual tool that allowed for computing the area described by a function, to integrate knowledge would entail the identification of the area (or space) of concepts that form a unified conceptual system. Hence, by understanding the implications of the truly fundamental concepts of each discipline it should be possible to draw its entire explanatory domain, or the space of concepts of varying degrees of extension and intension that it covers. Then, the goal would be to understand the whole space of spaces, or system of conceptual systems.

In the development of the appropriate formal instruments to undertake this task, the following expository sequence has been adopted. First, we shall discuss the conditions of knowledge. Initially, this section gravitates around the analysis of rationality, thought and knowledge as mental processes that lead to the acquisition and justification of new information. In these pages, the quest for first principles is harmonized with an empirical perspective on human reason. Furthermore, this section contains an exploration of the basic structures of human thinking. Its aim is to illustrate a theoretical framework for connecting the laws of thought and the laws of nature. Later, we shall delve into the ontological continuity that exists between material objects and the human mind. Here a paradigm is proposed for integrating scientific knowledge on the basis of some fundamental categories that ←xv | xvi→may link the relevant realms of research. Finally, we shall delve into the principal philosophical dimensions of human activity, beginning with consciousness as the enabler of a “human world,” and addressing a conceptual examination of the scope and limits of the social sciences. In this part, the study of “creativity” will be underlined as a category key to any approach to human action, and the human mind will be characterized by its capacity to formulate an ever-increasing body of questions about nature and thought.

So, we shall start from the mind (in its formalizing dimension) to return to the mind (in its condition of natural and historical object).

Regarding the material elements with which human knowledge is concerned, we have adopted an evolutionary and gradualist point of view. The goal is to link the simplest entities (the physical and chemical realm) with the most complex ones (the biological sphere and the human world, as a subset of the previous one), in such a way as to highlight the profound intertwining of all levels of nature.

This work is philosophical in nature, but our epoch questions the need for philosophical reflection. For many, the ancient metaphysical disquisitions played a precursory role towards the full development of rational thought, as initial gateways to the flourishing of a truly scientific worldview. However, according to this updated version of Comte’s law of three stages, at present the human mind could completely dispense with philosophical speculations, limiting itself to collecting empirical data and to harmonizing them in increasingly sophisticated theoretical models.

Indeed, no one can deny the intimate historical link between the natural sciences and philosophy. Not only did Newton include the term “philosophy” in the title of his opus magnum, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, of 1687, but also John Dalton, whose A new system of chemical philosophy, first published in 1809, paved the way for a revolution in chemical thinking through the elaboration of the modern atomic hypothesis. So did Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in his Philosophie zoologique (1809), which, beyond its biological mistakes, represents the first great landmark in applying evolutionary thought to natural history.

Nevertheless, the question refers not so much to such a distinguished history of interlacing premonitions and achievements between science and philosophy, as to the possible meaning of the philosophical enterprise for our days. For, what can philosophy mean today? What can it offer to the human pursuit of knowledge? Has it been entirely replaced by the children that it brought to life and initially nurtured, or does it still enjoy a certain degree of epistemological autonomy?

Absorbed by the progress of the natural and the social sciences, philosophical theories might have lost their legitimacy, given their inability to produce ←xvi | xvii→significant advances in knowledge. Entangled in inveterate discussions, fascinated by language and its uses, obsessed with the insatiable analysis of the opinions expressed by past thinkers, the power and richness of philosophical activity would have languished, and today it would not exhibit any clear signs of recovery. Indeed, encircled by the natural sciences on one of its flanks, which penetrate territories that used to be monopolized by philosophy, many may consider that its only redemptive horizon should lie in embracing artistic expression, to become a genre of literature (realistic or fantastic). Thus, once the high scientific pretensions that had been assumed by some of the most egregious thinkers of the past have vanished, philosophy would now be forced to inhabit a no man’s land, halfway between the sciences and the arts, without possessing any truly differential content.

Thus, the very notion of a “philosophical problem” will raise many suspicions. Are not these supposed philosophical problems pseudo-questions, which can be approached from a logical and scientific point of view? What is the object of study of philosophy? Its hypothetical difficulties, do they not actually respond to linguistic confusions or to conceptually incorrect perspectives? How should one explain the small progress made in the path towards its resolution?

With the probable exception of ethical problems, where the need for philosophical reflection seems incontestable (since it has not yet been possible to reduce the traditional philosophical examination to a procedure similar to that used by the natural sciences), a great majority of questions so far investigated by philosophy tend to be susceptible of a logical and scientific analysis. Discussing the nature of space, time and the mind—to mention some illustrious examples—is no longer the exclusive domain of philosophy. Sciences like physics and neuroscience have contributed more to the clarification of these mysteries than the countless philosophical speculations devoted to understanding them.

One must not forget, however, both the historical legitimacy of philosophy, which on many occasions has provided a vigorous stimulus for the development of logical and scientific thinking, as well as the persistence of problems that, due to their fundamental nature, their breadth and their interdisciplinary condition, can benefit from philosophical reasoning. This suitability of philosophy is highlighted in traditional problems of metaphysics and epistemology, where the capacity to criticize the assumptions and conceptual frameworks that underlie many scientific results represents an interesting source of value added to a purely empirical treatment. Indeed, the quality of a philosophy resides in its concepts, arguments and modes of articulating concepts and arguments, in order to offer a profound and innovative view of reality. With its combination of analysis and synthesis, with its fusion of the hypothetical and the deductive, with its pretension to connect ←xvii | xviii→divergent perspectives and reach the fundamental concepts, philosophy can and should contribute to the resolution of great problems that, given their extension or intension, may overwhelm the specific field of a particular science, so as to require a more integrative perspective.

In this sense, there are no exclusively philosophical problems, just as there is no method monopolized by philosophy. The convergence of creative rationality and empirical selection continues to be, as in the natural sciences, the quintessential strategy towards a reliable understanding of reality. Nevertheless, philosophy does not only aspire to understand, but to edify; it is therefore in understanding the meaning of scientific results for human life and the possibilities which they offer for improving the world where an important dimension of philosophical activity resides. It is, in short, in the totality of human experience where a genuinely philosophical interest shines that, far from being satisfied with contemplating, as separate parts, the different realms of world and history, pretends (naïvely or heroically) to provide an integrating synthesis.

Hence, and although I am fully aware of the deep and painful crisis that philosophy is experiencing, I believe that one of the most pressing responsibilities of what has traditionally been called “love of wisdom” is that of contributing to the synthesis of knowledge. Our knowledge is vast, but we do not always know how to integrate such an extraordinary wealth of knowledge; nor how to extract the appropriate consequences so as to build a more just and humane world. Indeed, I dare to say that this necessity of distilling the really essential elements from an overabundance of information, thereby promoting a spirit of synthesis in parallel to analytic progress, defines one of the major challenges of our age. And a philosophy capable of addressing this challenge will not only capture the spirit of its time, but it will also shape the spirit of the future, by setting a constant goal of exchanging and nurturing ideas and perspectives beyond academic disciplines and cultural traditions.

Information has grown at an astonishing rate in recent decades, but the fundamental principles, the truly revolutionary categories that propel authentic paradigm shifts, the notions endowed with unifying potential in the different domains of knowledge, can be condensed into relatively small sets. The long experience of philosophy in the treatment of profound and abstract problems is indisputable. Therefore, the “love of wisdom” cannot only underline open questions in numerous disciplines and even participate in some of its debates. Rather, it can also elaborate an overall vision that, even without adding new contrasted information (something that, in my opinion, can only stem from the correct use of the scientific method and logical-mathematical reasoning), will broaden at least the ←xviii | xix→radius of our reflection and help us to discover unsuspected links between realms of thought.

In this way, our method of philosophical research is in a certain sense antithetical to the so-called archaeology of knowledge cultivated by Foucault. In his own words, the French thinker proposed “an inquiry whose aim is to rediscover on what basis knowledge and theory became possible; within what space of order knowledge was constituted; on the basis of what historical a priori, and in the element of what positivity, ideas could appear, sciences be established, experience be reflected in philosophies, rationalities be formed, only, perhaps, to dissolve and vanish soon afterwards. I am not concerned, therefore, to describe the progress of knowledge towards an objectivity in which today’s science can finally be recognized; what I am attempting to bring to light is the epistemological field, the episteme in which knowledge, envisaged apart from all criteria having reference to its rational value or to its objective forms, grounds its positivity and thereby manifests a history which is not that of its growing perfection, but rather that of its conditions of possibility; in this account, what should appear are those configurations within the space of knowledge which have given rise to the diverse forms of empirical science. Such an enterprise is not so much a history, in the traditional meaning of that word, as an ‘archaeology’.”1 Our inquiry, on the contrary, does not look in the past for answers to the question about the meaning of knowledge; rather, these answers are sought in the present conditions of validity and in their prospects for future progress regarding the creation of a system of human knowledge, which in spite of its inevitable contingency may nonetheless tend to the highest possible degree of necessity.

Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that science allows us to understand the structure and properties of the universe, its past, its present and certain elements of its future, but little or nothing tells us about how be human world can and should be. Conceiving the future is one of the noblest commitments that philosophy can still assume. For this, the evocative combination of imagination and reason that has so often characterized the great philosophical developments stands as an inestimable instrument in this infinite race towards truth.

Beyond the technical complexities that persist in virtually every branch of human knowledge, what matters is the capacity to unveil principles and categories, as conceptually profound as to integrate a variety of facts into a clearly defined system of thought, based upon principles, rules of inference, boundary conditions and legitimately deduced consequences. The supreme triumph of human reason would therefore reside in the possibility of understanding the highest possible number of mental and material phenomena from a simple and small number of ←xix | xx→principles. And nowadays we live a renaissance of the possibilities of the human mind to acquire an integrated vision of the world.

In one of the earliest written documents of humanity, The Epic of Gilgamesh, we are told that the legendary king of Uruk was “the man to whom all things were known; this was the king who knew the countries of the world. He was wise, he saw mysteries and knew secret things, he brought us a tale of the days before the flood.”2 Today, this compelling metaphor of a “man to whom all things were known” resonates with new and vivacious lights. Knowledge may be potentially inexhaustible, and new mysteries will surely emerge before the future eyes of humanity, but the dream of achieving a system of concepts as complete as to encompass the richness and exuberance of the world will probably never fade from our consciousness. We seem destined to searching for unity and totality, dissatisfied with partial and imperfect answers to the greatness of our questions. Perhaps, this perennial questioning of reality will actually turn to be our most distinctive feature as human beings.

Notes

1. 1M. Foucault, The order of things, xxiii–xxiv.

2. 2Table I, column I of the Assyrian text; see Sanders, N. K. The Epic of Gilgamesh: An English Version with an Introduction. Penguin Books, 1960.

References

Foucault, M. (2005). The order of things. New York, NY: Routledge.

Sanders, N. K. (1960). The epic of Gilgamesh: An English version with an introduction. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

1
The Nature of Rationality, Knowledge and Thinking

1.1 The General Concept of Rationality

What is rationality, and what does it mean to say that actions or explanations are rational?

The project of integrating knowledge can be conceived as the design of a philosophical system in which all parts are bounded by a common pattern of rationality. It is therefore an attempt at fully “rationalizing” our view of the universe, in connection with the greatest developments in logic, mathematics and the natural sciences. Thus, the question about the meaning of rationality stands as a preeminent challenge for this endeavor.

Indeed, rationally acquired knowledge is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the human species, although its nature and scope still pose fundamental scientific and philosophical problems. Depending on the discipline in which one works, an economic decision is supposed to be rational if it satisfies the interests of the agent, and a product of the intellect is held to be rational if it fulfils certain patterns and rules that preserve a set of logical properties. For an economist, rationality therefore seems to be connected with the maximization of one’s own interests, whereas from a more epistemological perspective it bears relation to the formal structure of a proposition and the organization of a body of information. ←3 | 4→But in both cases, we are dealing with how the human mind is capable of treating information in the most efficient manner.

For the sake of simplicity, references to plausible manifestations of abstract reasoning and symbolic intelligence in other species of genus Homo shall not be the object of our discussion. Certainly, over the recent decades there has been a significant debate about the existence of these faculties (which seem for us, members of the human species, one of our most eminent characteristics) in Homo neanderthalensis. For example, some expressions of paintings in caves of Spain and Portugal might confirm the hypothesis that Homo sapiens has not been the only species with highly developed cognitive abilities, like the capacity for elaborating abstract representations. Only future research and the accumulation of new evidence will shed light on this intriguing—and indeed fascinating—possibility. Thus, the primary focus of this and the following sections will be rationality in its formal dimension, as it currently appears in a biological structure like the human brain or in a computational device. In any case, the analysis of the relationship with the way in which nature is organized shall also be present in this book. Moreover, it is important to remark that the terms “presupposition,” “assumption,” “postulate” and “premise” will be taken as synonyms for “initial tenets in a chain of reasoning.” The noun “axiom,” however, will be reserved for those initial truths that are universally taken as self-evident to a first approximation (even if a deeper analysis may show that they may be subject to a petitio principii, like Euclid’s fifth axiom).

At least to a first approximation, the optimization of a utility function—either in economic terms or in a purely logical sense—stands as a key element to any attempt at identifying a universal definition of rationality that may be valid for all domains of human activity.

Hence, rationality can be regarded as the general process of thought in which presuppositions, seen as primitive and irreducible tenets for reasoning, are taken to a minimal value. Or, in other words, rationality may be seen as a form of intellectual symmetry within a system of categories, understanding by symmetry an operation in which presuppositions are organized with the highest degree of efficiency, and no element is left to chance or arbitrariness. Thus, the number of presuppositions is drastically reduced with the goal of finding the optimal correspondence between the elements of information that need to be modeled and the minimal possible number of categories that must constitute the model.

In this way, the individual utility of exactly each presupposition behind the system of categories is maximized, and therefore any addition whatsoever of further elements to the system would leave the system invariant in terms ←4 | 5→of its explanatory value. Rational thinking then leads to the minimization of assumptions, to the elimination of epistemic privileges and unjustified premises (which would generate asymmetries within the system), even if the state defined by absence of assumptions cannot be possibly achieved in the course of a rational process, which is necessarily guided by some premises that are ultimately unfounded. Indeed, the idea that any presupposition should be excluded is itself a presupposition. Also, and while it is impossible to subtract our rationality from any premise, our premises can be constantly refurbished and new formal systems can be designed. It thus seems reasonable to admit a minimal set of efficient and flexible presuppositions, because the absence of presuppositions would condemn human thinking to ambiguity and obscurity, while an excess of presuppositions would succumb to dogmatism. Only a system capable of fine-tuning our initial assumptions, through a mechanism of creation and selection, can solve this paradox.

Following this line of reasoning, an enlightening analogy can be unveiled between some basic propositions of thermodynamics and the process that we have just sketched. Inspired by this heuristic analogy, a further analytical inquiry into rationality can be proposed, from which some interesting results emerge.

If the basic thermodynamic identity discovered by Boltzmann establishes that the entropy (metaphorically, a measure of the number of “useless assumptions”) of a thermodynamic process is proportional to the number of possible states that the system can adopt, it may be argued that rationality implies the minimization of the entropy of “an intellectual system,” or the prevalence of one state—that in which the number of presuppositions is minimized—over the others.

Details

Pages
XX, 520
ISBN (PDF)
9781433167195
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433167201
ISBN (MOBI)
9781433167218
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433167140
Language
English
Publication date
2020 (March)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XX, 520 pp.

Biographical notes

Carlos Blanco (Author)

Carlos Blanco is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Spain. He holds two Ph.D.s (in philosophy and theology) and a master’s degree in chemistry. He is the author of twenty books and over fifty papers dealing with epistemology, philosophy of science, history of ideas and Egyptology.

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Title: The Integration of Knowledge