Re: PHIL: Dynamic Optimism as a tool in logical reasoning

Date: Thu Jan 13 2000 - 14:01:06 MST

In a message dated 1/12/2000 9:57:04 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

> (2) Do not believe
> > anything without ''proof''.
> No, that's justificationalism. Science is about (see above)
> criticizing ideas. . . . Read Bartley's "Retreat
> to Commitment" . . .

I would also recommend Radnitzky and Bartley's _Evolutionary Epistemology,
Rationality and the Sociology of Knowledge_ Open Court Press. In paryticular
page 48, on "the selective elimination model of knowledge" that does not use
justification of facts or "proof."

Here is what I wrote to the sci.philosophy NG:
Epistemology is the theory of knowledge, why we believe what we believe.
To get around blind faith justification is: "simply _don't_ use justification
as the criteria for knowledge."

. . . In stead, as Sir Karl Popper wrote in his (1963 first ed., 1989 fifth
ed.) _Conjectures and Refutations_, scientific knowledge (such as theories)
are conjectures (hypothesis) and peer reviewed criticism. The wider the peer
review the better (as Kuhn suggested in his (1998) _Objectivity, Value
Judgement and Theory Choice_). The process is evolutionary. This idea grew
from a branch of non-justificational knowledge: Evolutionary Epistemology

Details of the EE concept:
A science theory starts as an informed guess (hypothesis: inductive or
deductive, rational-istic or empirical-istic) based on what is known at the
time (background scientific knowledge). Then, the hypothesis get combined in
a self-organizing web of knowledge during the peer review process of
criticism in the form of questions and tests the original author(s) then
answer (e.g., experiments, mathematics, logic essays) either satisfactorily
or not.

The surviving theories are inductively accepted even if the theories
themselves were deductively reasoned. The famous "problem of induction" is
still present, that even the survivors could be wrong and modified or
overturn someday. But, contrary to the "Greek styled Skeptics" theories are
not self-justified based on blind faith. Even more, theories are never fully
justified as "fact."

. . . But we _can_ look at if the theory is logically consistent,
self-contradictory, reproducible by empirical experiment, accurate, broad
scope for purposes of unifying knowledge (possesses the property of
"consilience" or "reduction" with other branches of science), consistency,
simplicity, and the ability to lead knowledge in new (hopefully better)

This non-justificational evolutionary epistemology is called: Pancritical
Rationalism (PCR) which is a synonym for comprehensively critical rationalism
(CCR) (see Bartley, _Retreat to Commitment_ below). Actually, I prefer the
name CCR, over PCR (because I am a microbiologist where PCR means polymerase
chain reaction, a procedure to amplify DNA and genes).

CCR derived from the work by Sir Karl Popper, William W. Bartley III and
Donald Campbell. You could say CCR emerged out from the ideas that EE
addressed, as a solution to the problems raised by the Greek Skeptics.

CCR needs both conjecture and criticism if our knowledge is to grow.

Before CCR, Popper had the first answer, called critical rationalism (CR).
The problem was that CR was seen as having an irrational reliance upon
rationality! Rationality is something most scientists take for granted, that
is that rationality is better than irrationality. However, once the
consequences are seen by choosing _both_ (rational and irrational) approaches
to science, one can be chosen rationally over the other (guess which one)
because one works better. (Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend would probably

However, the only way this choise can be made _without_ recourse to
justification (again), is through criticism of the choice! CCR must criticize
itself! Thus this is the answer to the NG postings conjecturing that "one
can not question one's own questioning." The answer is not only that "Yes
you can," but also that "Yes, and you must" (or more correctly . . . the
process of CCR _will_ force itself upon you and almost spontaneously) if you
are using non-justicicational evolutionary epistemology.

Example of self-criticism of CCR:
Can a critical argument discrimination between true and false without the
logical law of non-contradiction? I think any sane person would agree
non-contradiction is required for critical arguments (even the "value"
oriented Kuhn? and the anarchistic Feyerabend?). If one finds a
contradiction in an argument, it had better be corrected, explained
satisfactorily, or the other side of the argument gets stronger. Yet, in CCR
non-contradiction is conjectured to be essential to argument but _not_ a
self-evident "fact." This illustrated the big difference between
justificational and non-justificational philosophies. When the law of
non-contradiction is "peer reviewed" in CCR no alternate idea can beat it.
That is, anything else to replace is not accepted and non-contradiction is
accepted because it has (so far) survived over (selected over) the
alternatives. Everyone agrees to use it as a basis for deciding truth and
fallacy. It is a tool of evaluating criticism and choosing theories that are
"better." This can be done with every idea, so no blind faith justification
is needed.
Worked Cited:
Bartley, William W. III. _The Retreat to Commitment_. Second ed. Open
Court Publishing. 1984. This book seemed too religious for me at first
(i.e. it seem to be about the history of how irrationalism destroyed the
Protestant philosophy and the resulting ups and downs during the past 150
years. Yet, the real purpose of the book is to introduce CCR in the 1962
first edition (re-named PCR in the 1984 second edition). It is basic
evolutionary epistemology.
Radnitzky, G. and William W. Bartley, III. Eds. _Evolutionary Epistemology,
Rationality, and the Sociology of Knowledge_ Open Court Publishing. 1987.
This is a collection (anthology) of several evolutionary epistemology
philosophers, also some "cognitive" psychologists. This book shows how ideas
evolve by a kind of Darwinian natural selection and improvement over older
(e.g., refuted) ideas. I have not read this book but I get referred to it a

>From Internet references (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy):
"Karl Popper: Karl Popper is generally regarded as one of the greatest
philosophers of science of this century. He was also a social and political
philosopher of considerable stature, a self-professed `critical-rationalist',
a dedicated opponent of all forms of scepticism, conventionalism, and
relativism in science."

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