Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Heart's Eye

The foundation of all knowledge is "empiricism". I see a swan so I assume swans exist. I jump in a lake so I assume that this lake exists. Many observations can lead to indirect form of knowledge like scientific theories.

But the huge corpus of human knowledge is all based on something so frail and fallible. Everything we humans claim to know comes from our senses. We attribute "Reality" to the observations of our senses but the truth is that these senses are far from infallible and we humans live in a world dominated by a persistent Cartesian doubt

There is another sense. Perhaps we can call it emotion. Feelings. Faith. Scientists generally reject such things as sources of truth. Just because you FEEL that you are Napoleon doesn't make you into a conquering dictator. Just because you FEEL that an invisible man gave you a holy book doesn't make a revelation at Sinai happen.

Or at least that's what the scientist will say.

But why are the impressions made on our senses any better than impressions made on our hearts. Why is the former a more valid source of truth in many people's eyes. Maybe I actually am Napoleon if I feel like it. Maybe God does exist if I feel it in my heart. If my eyes fail to confirm God perhaps my heart can.

Perhaps the feelings of the heart are just as much a window to this thing called "Reality" as the observations of the eyes. 

One obvious advantage of empirical observations vs. "emotional observations" is that empirical observations have proven themselves useful. The advance of technology, improvement of human living conditions, medicine, science all the foundations of modern society all come from accepting "empiricism".

Have the feelings of the heart proven as useful? That is a matter which needs further study.

But we have to keep in mind that it is the heart that originally validated empiricism. The human heart is certain that it is surrounded not by an illusion - but by something real - something with an independent existence. Philosophers can prattle all day about whether or not this world we live in is not some sort of solipsistic delusion. But even the most skeptical philosopher will go home to eat supper - unafraid that his home is but a delusion. But all of  this is merely a feeling an "observation of the heart". Before we had invented tools or dabbled in technology we did not know that empiricism would prove useful. But we felt that it was true. We felt that what we saw is what there is. Without questioning....

This is perhaps a variation of the lame blogger argument that can be summed up as "I don't know other people exist but I assume they do and same goes for God." Most people, myself included, have laughed at this argument. But perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye.

If you feel God exists. If your "heart's eye" literally screams that he is there watching you. Then is it any worse than believing that the car parked outside your house is actually there....


Josh said...

I sure hope it is a hoax, or I'd have to conclude that he's lost some  of the shilton over the sechel.

Ksil said...

What you feel is based on what you know and see. A baby brought up in a secluded room with no experiences, knowledge or sight of any of the things you know and see will not have those feelings of the heart. I guess i am trying to say that he foundation of these heartful feelings have some basis in our actual experiences(or brainwashing)


Shiltonhasechel said...


Let me begin by further explaining my position. The way I see it, when I say that something I see/observe is true I make two statements. The first is that I observe a given thing. I see this swan. I see this car. The second statement is my observation corresponds to some sort of external or independent reality - that it corresponds to what we call truth. It would be hard to deny the first statement. Right now I see a swan. There is no denying that. However the second statement is another matter. Who says that this swan that I see corresponds to an external reality?

One can make a similar statement when it comes to feelings. I feel that this swan exists without any empirical evidence. The next step is - does this feeling correspond to an external reality that we can call "truth".

>but I don't see how it has anything to do with separating truth from untruth.

I don't see why empirical observations have an inherent advantage over feelings in this regard. All empirical observations do is separate what you see from what you don't see. Attributing "truth" to them, seems to me just as arbitrary as attributing truth to feelings....

>But what is gained by following such a principle?

I think I made that exact point- that the only reason to adopt empiricism as a standard of truth is that it seems to work. But does the efficacy of empiricism rule out attributing a "Truth value" to emotions?

>If someone chooses to play such a game, I have no reason to expect to be able to argue him out of it

Nor should you... The heart speaks different things to different people.

Another advantage of empiricism as a standard of truth is it's OBJECTIVITY and it's COMMUNICABILITY vs. emotions, feelings etc. which are SUBJECTIVE and INCOMMUNICABLE. This is, once again, a PRAGMATIC consideration....

All pragmatism says that "if I decide that the swan that I OBSERVE is an external reality, then it will be useful for me. Because then I will be careful and not

However usefulness doesn't make something more true. All it does is make it a good idea to CONSIDER something "True"....

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