Philosophical Darwinism: On the Origin of Knowledge by Means of Natural Selection

By Peter Munz | Go to book overview

3

THE LURE OF SOCIOLOGY

I

Even if the arguments traced in the two preceding chapters had been more successful, we would be left with a sizeable problem. When we started from within, we managed to obtain either labelled states of mind or symbols and were able to reach the conclusion that the symbols amount to a picture of the world which represents our states of mind. This conclusion is the inverse of the old situation in which the states of mind were somehow allowed to represent the world. Labels, however, even at their best, we found to be only hypothetical. Symbols, we found, though more immediate in their meaning and less hypothetical than labels, did not stand any more than labels in an unequivocal relationship to the states of mind they mean. Either a symbol means too many different states of mind because it is lacking in precision; or a whole series of different but more precise symbols mean one specific state of mind. In symbolisation there is either lack of precision in the relatum or uncertainty in the choice of a referent. Either way, we had to conclude that states of mind can neither be labelled nor symbolised with certainty.

Without certainty of articulation, a state of mind, contrary to the expectation that our own state of mind is the one thing we are certain about and have privileged access to, is unstable and inauthentic. Autonomy of our states of mind is comparatively easy to achieve. All one needs for autonomy is a determination to say ‘no’ to every hypothetical label or to any symbol proposed. But authenticity requires a more positive conviction that any label or symbol is really and truly adequate. There are many different reasons for the difficulty of achieving authenticity. We know that people who are firm about their beliefs and convictions—who dogmatically and inflexibly cling to their labels and symbols—are people who are insensitive to the nature of their consciousness. For they mistake a belief which hypothetically labels or symbolises the inchoate feeling they are conscious of for the conscious feeling. The people who parade as the hard-headed, tough-minded realists are, in reality, soft-minded delusionists. Moreover, one of the commonest and most potent sources of both guilt and shame is the uncertainty we have

-103-

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Philosophical Darwinism: On the Origin of Knowledge by Means of Natural Selection
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction - Cognitive Conditions 1
  • 1 - Man’s Glassy Essence 28
  • 2 - The Dubious Credentials of Positivism 81
  • 3 - The Lure of Sociology 103
  • 4 - The Nature of the Mirror 137
  • 5 - The View from Somewhere 185
  • Notes 230
  • Index 246
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