Noetics

2005-06-28

Uche reacts to my previous post on Alexander Baumgarten's definition of aesthetics, specifically my questioning of the contributions of logic to human knowledge:

... I think a large proportion of scientific pursuits are not agonistic, and isn't theoretical science as important as experimental science? Applying logic, mathematical induction and yes, even philosophy to abstract models from the comfort of the armchair or bicycle, is, I think essential to efficient construction of experimentation.

In part I was reacting against Baumgarten, who (as Uche points out) is a bit too pat about the superiority of logic over aesthetic, things known conceptually over things known perceptually, philosophy over art, and so on. I yield to no one in a deep appreciation for the power of concepts -- they are what make us human, whether clothed in language, mathematics, music, visual art, or code. Yet Baumgarten (an arch-rationalist) claims that conceptual knowledge is purely the object of (deductive) logic, and gives short shrift to induction from perceptual experience and abstraction from particulars. By no means do I claim that logic has no place in the clarification of human experience -- but it is only part of the mix, not the "superior faculty" of rationalist myth. (And yes, perhaps I react too strongly to rationalist myth because I was once a rationalist myself.)

As to the agonistic nature of science, I do think that good scientists restlessly explore the frontiers of knowledge, recklessly slay the dragons of the unknown, and greedily stake their claims to intellectual gold. Those "animal spirits" are what move humankind forward. Cold deduction of the kind displayed by the likes of Alexander Baumgarten can be edifying, but when you come right down to it reality is messy and the pursuit of truth is a hot, passionate, even agonistic quest.


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