Sunday, August 06, 2006

Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism Pt2: Epistemological Holism

From chapter four of Murphy's book, I'm learning about epistemological holism. Rather than our knowledge being based upon a foundation of direct common sense experience and propositions that build on that, a postmodern view is that there is a web of beliefs which connect to each other in various ways. Coherence is an important concept here. How these beliefs fit together must be coherent. When a report of a new observation occurs, it is attached to the web in a way that least disturbs a person's web of belief. Let me give an example I've been thinking about lately. For instance, let us suppose a new piece of data ostensibly supporting climate change is reported. How does a climate change skeptic deal with that? By a variety of strategies including questioning the data, questioning the motives of the publisher, adjusting previous beliefs to make the new data fit, conjuring up another mechanism for the specific item reported, etc. At some point such a skeptic might realize that their belief system can no longer be made to coherently fit all the data and experience. When it is realized that a new adhoc hypothesis must be contrived in order to accomodate each new piece of information, then it is time to change.

Now on to the remaining chapters.

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