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Dictionary.com defines experience, under the philosophy category, as:

the totality of the cognitions given by perception; all that is perceived, understood, and remembered.

The term "experience" is often used in everyday discussion to communicate the idea that we all have different experience and therefore may draw different conclusions (although if there is significant overlap in our experience then we should draw very similar conclusions). Would it then be correct to say that we all have different context and therefore may draw different conclusions....

For example:

  • Bob, throughout his life, have observed only white swans. Bob draws the conclusions that all swans are white.
  • Steve, throughout his life, have observed many white swans and few black swans. Steve draws the conclusions that swans can be white and black.
  • Steve meets Bob and shows him the black swans.

Are these two sentences the same?

  • Bob experiences the observation of black swans and he adjusts his conclusions.
  • Bob's context expands due to his observation of black swans and he adjusts his conclusions.

asked Apr 06 '13 at 14:55

Humbug's gravatar image


edited Apr 08 '13 at 12:41

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Whether or not Bob adjusts his conclusions depends on Bob's volitional choice to do so or not, in response to the new evidence. The new evidence certainly represents an expansion of Bob's context of knowledge, in my understanding of the term "context" as used in Objectivism. For the Objectivist usage of "context," refer to that topic in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, and also to the section of OPAR titled, "Knowledge as Contextual" in Chapter 4 ("Objectivity").

It should be noted that "experience" has a verb usage (to experience something) as well as noun usages. Where the term "experience" appears in the literature of Objectivism, it seems usually to be either the ordinary verb usage (treated without any need for special clarification beyond the normal everyday usage) or a noun usage that is closely related to the verb usage (again without recognizing any special need for clarification beyond the normal everyday usage). "Experience" as a noun tends to be used in Objectivism as more or less equivalent to awareness or consciousness, whereas "context" tends to emphasize the conceptual level of cognition and its dependencies.

There is also one passage in the literature of Objectivism that refers to "experience" (in a philosophical context) as a "package deal" (FNI, Signet paperback edition, p. 31):

As a defense against ... Kant and Hegel, ... the Pragmatists ... declared that philosophy must be practical and that practicality consists of dispensing with all absolute principles and standards—that there is no such thing as objective reality or permanent truth—that truth is that which works, and its validity can be judged only by its consequences—that no facts can be known with certainty in advance, and anything may be tried by rule-of-thumb—that reality is not firm, but fluid and "indeterminate," that there is no such thing as a distinction between an external world and a consciousness (between the perceived and the perceiver), there is only an undifferentiated package-deal labeled "experience," and whatever one wishes to be true, is true, whatever one wishes to exist, does exist, provided it works or makes one feel better.

answered Apr 08 '13 at 00:57

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

Would it be valid to say that to a pragmatist, if they see that B is a result of solution A they will say that A causes B and when they see that B no longer result from A, they will just go looking for another solution? Their approach to solutioning is via trial and error rather than trying to identify the causal connection between solution and effect. That is, they confuses correlation with causation.

(Jul 25 '13 at 12:20) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

I'm inclined to agree with the description of pragmatists as operating by trial and error rather than by identifying cause and effect, and confusing correlation with causation, although those are symptoms rather than the essence of pragmatism. Refer to "Pragmatism" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon for some further, very illuminating description of pragmatism.

(Jul 27 '13 at 01:11) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

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Asked: Apr 06 '13 at 14:55

Seen: 764 times

Last updated: Jul 27 '13 at 01:11