The Nature of Knowledge


Principles

Invoking, "cause-and-effect," as the basis of principles, as Dr. Binswanger does, undercuts the entire nature of principles.

Dr. Binswanger writes: "Thus, one needs principles because they provide the overview, the road map outlining the kind of consequences that follow from choosing one way or another. Principles identify cause-and-effect relationships. Acting in defiance of a valid principle means pretending that there can be causes without effects or effects without their causes. Both attempts are inherently self-defeating." [Page 307]

Dr. Binswanger is right to emphasize the importance of principles, but it is more important than he says. Violating a principle is not in defiance of some idea of cause and effect, but a defiance of some aspect of reality itself which the principle describes.

Principles are not identifications of cause-and-effect relationships. [See the sections, "Beginning With Cause," and "Principles, Not Cause," in the chapter, "Cause, Induction, and Mathematics," and the section, "The True Meaning of Cause," in the "Dr. Binswanger's View of Cause," chapter.]

Within any field or context, a principle is a fundamental idea (proposition) that applies universally and absolutely to all relevant facts. The broadest of all principles pertain to the broadest possible fields: those pertaining to existence (reality) and our awareness of existence (consciousness).

Some examples of principles are those called axioms, postulates, theorems, and corollaries, all of which have been terribly misidentified by so-called philosophers.

Axioms and postulates mean those propositions which are self-evident or "true by definition or explanation." Axioms and postulates are true because to deny them is a self-contradiction, or a denial of essential facts of reality correctly defined by the propositions. Theorems and corollaries are logically derived from axioms or postulates and are true because to deny them would contradict the axioms or postulates from which they are logically derived.

[NOTE: "True by definition or explanation," means a proposition that correctly explains a fact of reality, such as an abstraction drawn to its ultimate simplicity." Examples are the geometric definitions of a point and a line, or the arithmetic description of a square root.]

Anything else called an axiom, postulate, theorem, or corollary, such as, "assumptions," premises based on consensus, tradition, usage, induction, authority, or "hypotheses," are not principles; when treated as principles they undercut all true knowledge and principles.

Principles are those propositions by which we understand the nature of reality: the existence we are part of and our own natures as rational, intellectual, volitional beings. Those principles might be called rules, generalities, formulas, relationships, equations, laws, or theories, but whatever they are called, if they are true principles, they are inviolable.

Reality—Immutable, Absolute, and Ruthless

The most important principles are fundamental truths. A fundamental truth is a proposition which correctly describes any aspect of the nature of reality upon which all other relevant facts or principles logically depend. Reality is immutable, absolute, and ruthless. Immutable means the nature of reality cannot be changed or ever be other than what it is. Absolute means reality is complete and unconditional; it is all there is and is not contingent on anything else. Ruthless means reality determines what is true and not true, and no human feelings, desires, choices, acts, beliefs, or wishes can change it. The principles that describe that reality are as immutable, absolute, and ruthless as reality itself.

[NOTE: To say the nature of reality cannot be changed does not mean there is no change in reality. Change is a fundamental attribute of reality, as are differentiation (existence is multiple existents) and relationship (every existent has some relationship to all other existents). What cannot change are the fundamental attributes of reality: there will always be change, differentiation, and relationships; every existent always has the nature it has which is its identity and physical existence itself is always that of which we are directly conscious, that is, the reality we directly perceive.]

To reduce principles to nothing more than the identifications of, "cause-and-effect relationships," misses entirely the nature of principles. Beyond the principles of physics, chemistry, biology, and electronics, the principles of life, the principles of psychology, the principles of knowledge, the principles of ethics, the principles of social relations, the principles of beauty, and the principles of love have nothing to do with "cause-and-effect." [By psychology I mean philosophical psychology, not the abomination that pretends to be a kind of medical science.]

All correct knowledge is held in the form, "within the scope of what is currently known." There are two principles of reality that must be recognized about all knowledge: the future cannot be known and no two entities or events are identical. Reality is infinitely complex, and except for principles, all other knowledge is limited by an individual's experience, knowledge, and reasoning ability. All principles are inviolable and absolute, but within the scope of those principles almost anything is possible.

The following are some of the kinds of principles by which reality is known and understood:

  • Metaphysics principles
  • Ontology principles
  • Philosophical psychology principles
  • Epistemology principles
  • Ethics principles
  • Aesthetics principles
  • Life principles
  • Love principles
  • Logic principles
  • Mathematics principles
  • Geometry principles
  • Language principles
  • Music principles
  • Graphics principles
  • Economics principles
  • Physics principles
  • Chemistry principles
  • Biology principles
  • Electronics principles
  • Medicine principles
  • Pharmacology principles
  • Architecture principles
  • Mechanics principles
  • Aeronautics principles
  • Oceanography principles
  • Navigation principles
  • Human relations principles

Here is an example of a principle, one of the most important principles of philosophy:

The limit of one's knowledge is the limit of one's life.

Here is what it means:
—Life is action. Life consists of what one does, not what happens to them.
—Everything a human being does must be consciously chosen.
—To choose correctly one must be able to think, to determine which actions will achieve desired goals, what the consequences of possible choices might be, and even what goals one ought to pursue.
—To think one must have knowledge, knowledge about the world one lives in and knowledge about one's own nature, knowledge of how things work, and knowledge about both short term and long term consequences.
—One must have all the knowledge about as many things as possible, because knowledge is all we have to think about, and knowledge is all we have to think with. That is why knowledge determines both the scope and effectiveness of one's thinking, and thus one's choices, and thus what one does, and thus one's life.

Such principles cannot be reduced to, "same cause, same effect."

The correct view is this. Every choice we make and every action we engage in has consequences. The consequences of any actions, psychological or overt, are determined by the nature of reality. It is by means of principles that the fundamental nature of reality is understood and by which correct choices and actions can be determined. Wrong choices are wrong because they are contrary to the nature of reality and of the principles that describe that reality.