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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Aug > Aug 17

Re: The van Gogh Fallacy

From: Gerald O'Connell <gac.nul>
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 18:00:54 +0100
Archived: Fri, 17 Aug 2007 16:36:07 -0400
Subject: Re: The van Gogh Fallacy

>From: Cathy Reason <CathyM.nul>
>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 06:59:06 +0100
>Subject: Re: The van Gogh Fallacy

>>From: Gerald O'Connell <gac.nul>
>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 16:56:52 +0100
>>Subject: Re: The van Gogh Fallacy

>>Although rationalism and empiricism are often (more through
>>tradition than anything else) seen as contrasting schools of
>>epistemology, there is in fact nothing at all contradictory
>>about the term I have used.

>It has nothing to do with tradition.

It has everything to do with tradition. The empiricist views of
Locke and Hume were contrasted with the rationalist positions of
Spinoza and Leibniz. Tradition within the history of ideas
characterised this contrast as a continuation and development of
that between the philosophical methods of Plato and Aristotle.
But Locke and Hume used the tools of the rationalist (as any
sophisticated thinker must), while the rationalists were,
generally, advocates of empirical scientific method. Tradition,
in an act of necrophiliac transvestism, has dressed all these
thinkers' corpses up in contrasting ideological costumes and
created the pretence that that they are battling away as
representatives of radically contrasting schools of thought:
schools and a contrast that the original protagonists themselves
would scarcely have recognised.

>Rationalism and empiricism
>just happen to mean quite different and contradictory things.

Different, but not necessarily, as I have pointed out, contradictory.

>>All rationalist thought must have
>>assumptions - more formally, any logical system must have its
>>axioms - and the empirical rationalist merely takes, wherever
>>possible, empirical data as the support for, or source of, those

>This is the method of textual analysis and literary criticism,
>not science.

I'm not quite sure what you mean here. Are you suggesting that
science has a different and privileged logical foundation? What
would be the distinction between such an assertion and

>Even in mathematics this sort of formalism has been
>discredited for over a century.

I know where you are coming from with this, but I don't know if
that road takes you where you want to go. For the past 150 years
mathematicians have experimented with the selective suspension
of various traditional mathematical axioms and postulates,
producing powerful and useful new mathematical systems and
insights in the process. At the same time it has been shown that
the key criteria of mathematical truth, consistency and
completeness, cannot be satisfied from within a single,
consistent set of mathematical axioms. But this does not mean
that we have to work without axioms, nor does it mean that the
mathematical or logical rules that we apply in working with them
are invalid. G=F6del's work depended on both in order to
demonstrate their limitations. The real lesson to learn from
this is that mathematics (like all forms of what we call
'knowledge') has to somehow pull itself up by its own
bootstraps, and, as a result, cannot deliver anything much in
the way of absolute certainties.

Anyway, to back to the original issue, I can't see that there's
anything at all contradictory about the idea of empirical
rationalism, indeed I would go so far as to say that it
underpins all good science and most worthwhile discourse. Taking
facts from the world around us and then using the tools of
reason in a coherent way to extend our understanding is all it
amounts to. It might not quite match up with a few distorted
dictionary definitions, but does that make it unReasonable?

Gerald O'Connell

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