Foundation Vexation

 Philosophy, Writing  Comments Off on Foundation Vexation
Aug 271990

Foundationalists have assumed a heavy burden. They seek to reveal the nature of sense experience. The focus of current debate amongst their ranks explores the viability of there existing some given in sense experience. There are those such as M. Schlick who seek some connection to the raw nature of that which the senses interpret. Others, notably N. Goodman, feel that seeking only some vague given is useless; only through interpreted sense experience can a coherent, derivable truth be found.

In order to decide which of the sensual theories contains the most truth, a understanding of their views must be gained. Schlick claims that, by streamlining one’s phenomenal language, one forges a link to the given in an experience. In making this claim, he implies that a solid, basic kernel exists prior to its interpretation and befuddlement by our sensory processors and our physical language. He calls for such streamlining to get past this interpretation and touch said kernel. Unfortunately, such streamlining also requires that the demonstratives generated be nontransferable. Our generalized and object-oriented linguistics fail us. To communicate my “red, here, now” experience/truth to you risks error and confusion of my new-found truth. It is even conceivable, if one carries the logic far enough, that I risk error in mentally noting the experience for myself, for my own use.

Fortunately, however, for the more practical and progressive, there is Goodman’s Minimal Foundationalism. He, like most other rational people, finds unutterable, individual truths quite useless in the practical world of science. He realizes that to know anything useful about the world, one must give up the dream of finding the essence directly. Therefore, Goodman proposes adopting a system of credible, although somewhat uncertain phenomenal reports. From these basic, yet not bare-bones, reports, a larger picture can be derived. If this picture is coherent, it can be accepted as truth. Goodman realizes the enormity of such an approach, but also rests assured of finding a useful truth.

In conclusion, Schlick’s observation reports, though they may give him some link to the basic truth behind the light and sound show dubbed “life,” he can bring no other in on his truth. Theoretically, others could link with the essence themselves; but then no one would get far towards utility in their lifetime. If any one person could get from “black, here, now” to basic arithmetic in the seven decades granted them, they would be quite successful. Goodman, on the other hand, does not offer immediate and virtually useless knowledge but long term traversal through the phenomina of the world. It may take more time than simply stripping away the kinks in our mental processes (along with everything else); but, because it is transferable, many could strive together to reach their foundation. Once there, they will have a truth with use because it has come from careful interpretation instead of being isolated from such analysis.