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Carefully explain the conditions and the consequences of truth as a function of the sources of knowledge. What would omniscience mean if it were possible for any being? Explain your position.

asked Apr 06 '14 at 21:07

Avid%20Student's gravatar image

Avid Student

edited Apr 07 '14 at 12:13

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Omniscience would mean the same thing that it does even though it is not possible for any known conceptually based being.

(Apr 06 '14 at 21:22) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

This question reads as if it was a homework or exam question in a college philosophy class (or a parody of one, possibly by a student, undoubtedly one who is avid, if "Avid Student" is an accurate pen name). The professor who assigned it to his students (or who might have done so) is probably looking for a response from them showing that they understand the history of philosophical thought, especially the idea that all of man's knowledge is necessarily processed by the cognitive apparatus of his mind and is therefore man-relative, subjective, and consequently unreliable. The only alternative, according to this view, would be omniscience, which no one possesses. Therefore, man is trapped in an inherently distorted awareness that leaves man unavoidably cut off from any "real" knowledge of "true" reality. The best that man can do is explore areas of agreement or disagreement with others and seek some kind of approximate, continually changeable consensus among enough others to proceed to action. (This raises a key counter-question: how does one know this? How does one know that one exists, that others exist, that consciousness is conscious, that man is conscious, that conscious can err, etc.? How can the "trapped" perspective be claimed as knowledge if it is true, since it invalidates itself?)

I suspect Ayn Rand's response to the "trapped in a distorted awareness" viewpoint would be: you got it from Immanuel Kant. In terms of the DIM Hypothesis, this view is "D" -- disintegration. Kant wrote a whole book once as a "critique" of something that he misleadingly called "pure reason." Kant's book had enormous influence on subsequent philosophical thought.

If the question itself inherently expresses certain philosophical premises which Objectivism disputes and opposes, then an Objectivist Answer would not take the question at face value and attempt to answer it literally as posed. Rather, a proper Objectivist Answer would identify the question's erroneous premises and offer a more rational counter-perspective. The key concepts in the question are:

  • Truth
  • Sources of knowledge
  • Omniscience

Objectivism has a lot to say about these concepts. An overview on "Truth" can be found in that topic in The Ayn Rand Lexicon. Sources of knowledge, i.e., sense-perception and how man forms concepts, are the central subject of an entire book by Ayn Rand titled Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, especially the Expanded Second Edition. Numerous excerpts from that book and other articles by Ayn Rand can be found in various topics in the Lexicon. Refer also to OPAR. Most recently, Harry Binswanger has published a new book titled How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation. I have only just started reading this book myself and can't comment further on it so far. Dr. Binswanger also emphasizes that his book should not be regarded as part of the main literature of Objectivism in any case, since it wasn't ever seen, nor could have been seen, by Ayn Rand (since it didn't exist during her lifetime). From what I've read of the book so far, I find it well worth careful study by Objectivists and other adherents of reason.

Omniscience arises in the literature of Objectivism as something that man does not possess, and also as allegedly the only logical alternative (according to traditional philosophy) to the fact that man's knowledge on the conceptual level is "processed" knowledge and is fallible and volitionally acquired, in addition to not being omniscient. Objectivism maintains that the long-established assumption in philosophy that subjectivism and omniscience are the only possibilities is actually a false alternative, and that there is a third possibility as well, one that provides the crucial foundation for rational objectivity: the principle that all knowledge is contextual. Objectivism upholds what it calls "contextual absolutes." Elaboration of the third possibility can be found in OPAR, Chap. 5 ("Reason"), subsection titled, "Certainty as Contextual" (pp. 171-181). Elaboration can also be found in the Lexicon excerpts in the topics of "Kant, Immanuel," "Subjectivism," "Rationalism vs. Empiricism," and similar topics. Refer also to Galt's Speech in Atlas Shrugged (mentioning omniscience), and ITOE (2nd Ed.).

The question provides virtually no context by which to relate the question to anything else. In particular, I find that I am unable to confirm the accuracy of my "diagnosis" of the question's premises. The "diagnosis" I have presented is my "best guess" as to what the question appears to be projecting in a roundabout, indirect manner. Philosophy students in college might have more context, if they have been taking traditional philosophy courses and struggling dutifully (perhaps avidly) to assimilate the material.

answered Apr 09 '14 at 21:26

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited Apr 09 '14 at 21:31

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Asked: Apr 06 '14 at 21:07

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Last updated: Apr 09 '14 at 21:31