Objects of knowledge

Objects of Knowledge

One should not be concerned with the refutation of idealism. The development of a coherent realistic system is of far more value, even from an argumentative point of view, than a continuation of the more or less dialectical struggle between idealism and realism. The strength of idealism has always lain more in the weakness of past realisms than in its own plausibility.

Many will be compelled to make many distinctions to meet the complexities of actual knowing, even going as far as to make a petition. There are different kinds of objects of knowledge and, corresponding to them, different kinds of knowing. One should indicate the status of these various classes of objects and adopt a terminology which will make their epistemological ordering clear.

The basic principle will be that an entity is made an object by the knower, that it is not an object in its own right. It is, however, an existent of its own peculiar kind in its own right. Being known, that is, being an object happens to entities and does not affect them, for it is a function of the knower.

Now there are different kinds of entities, and these are known differently according to their status. One large class can be given in consciousness and to awareness, while physical things cannot be so given. The chief epistemological puzzle has been with physical things which cannot be given to awareness and which yet are known and are, therefore, objects of knowledge.

In introspection, on the contrary, we note psychical contents while, in reflective thought, we examine entities such as mathematical characters and relations. It is becoming customary to speak of this latter class of entities as subsistent. It seems clear that we experience them, or they are given to inspection, in a way that does not hold of physical things.

At this point, we shall content ourselves with calling attention to the fact that it is generally admitted that it is only for physical objects that a casual rela¬tion is implied in the possession of knowledge. In the major part of this chapter, we shall concern ourselves with physical things as objects of knowledge.

Common sense view of knowledge-at the stage of common sense, knowledge is on the whole regarded as an intuition by the percipient of the things about him. He is aware of them; they are open to his inspection; they enter and pass from his field of experience. These given objects are regarded as things independent of this awareness. They are thought of as relatively permanent and executive. They are co-real with him, the organic individual who perceives them. It is within this setting and in relation to these meanings that the idea of knowledge is formed.

This structure of the field of experience, this sense of intuition and these realistic meanings are not mere accidents. They have their import and deep-lying causes. If physical realism is correct and there are physical existents affecting the percipient organism, we can readily understand why these realistic meanings have developed within experience.

Realism and realistic meanings imply each other. Modern psychology works on this assumption and is increasingly correlating mental processes with the adaptive behavior of the organism. For instance, the unit of psychophysics is the sensory-motor arc. What critical realism seeks to do is patiently and persistently to develop an idea of knowledge which fits in with the obvious position and circumstances of human beings, regardless of what online petitions are being formed (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/politics).

It seems therefore, the best policy to see what the plain man instinctively takes knowledge to be. We can then go on to modify it and improve it as a wider reflection demands. Logic and psychology can be called to our aid in this task of interpretation and refinement.

The assumption that knowledge is an awareness of objects independent of this awareness is an inevitable reflection of the structure of the individual’s field of experience.

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