Consequences of fallibilism
The overall aim of this thesis is to trace the consequences of fallibilism in certain important areas of human intellectual activity. An awareness of the absence of immutable beliefs has profound consequences for many areas; it might be seen as undermining our concepts of knowledge, justification, values, freedom, and indeed rationality and philosophy. The first problem considered is the relation between our theories and the world. General coherence and convergence epistemologies provide no answer. The solution whereby experience is subject to necessary, transcendental, conditions is also rejected, following detailed examination of an area where the expectation of such conditions being found is high- the nature of space. Further standard attempts to impose certain kinds of limits on our choice of concepts, from which metaphysical conclusions can be drawn are seen to fail. Then the function of presuppositions and concepts is examined in detail, and it is concluded that the logic of our talk concerning them is fundamentally muddled. Anti-realism is rejected as an unsatisfactory reaction to fallibilism. Further, it is shown that transcendentalism is an unavailing attempt to save anti-realism from vacuity. In the presence of general fallibilism the notions of knowledge, rationality and justification have to be re-thought. The question of whether we can countenance the possibility of intelligence quite unlike our own is affirmatively answered- a question the anti-realist and transcendentalist should answer negatively. A distinction between subsystems and the global system is introduced and the basis of rationality for the fallibilist is derived from a distinction between questions and answers which make sense within subsystems of concepts and inquiry, but which are senseless at a global level. A need for a fallibilist form of realism is given content through the subsystem and the eroding of a world/concepts dualism at the global level. The existence of knowledge as traditionally thought of is seen to fade under the impact of fallibilism; knowledge is, however, replaced by rational belief which does not require the satisfaction of truth-conditions. This intellectual perspectivism is supported by considering natural man, while the sceptic's position is seen to be as senseless as the assertion of absolutism. Philosophy is also deeply affected by fallibilism and perspectivism and the inevitable natural limits of our minds and language. To this extent we may be deceived in our formulation of problems, and we cannot assume that we are so formed as to be cognitively competent to comprehend all aspects of the world. Once we weaken the grip of an overarching singular rationality, which does not however accept that 'anything goes', philosophical discussion ceases to be stultified by its subjection to inappropriate standards; philosophy can again tackle the problems of value and meaning. This leads on to an examination of fallibilism on our concept of the free society; epistemic theories have real consequences.