Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 33]

Methods and epistemological act

When different disciplines go beyond simple concepts and explore more complex objects such as cosmopolitanism and sovereignty it is relatively easy to foresee different and often opposite positions about the same issue making them more intricate than they are.

Consequently, the lack of peaceful and permanent resolution of some apparently never-ending problems such as territorial disputes is unsurprising.

The previous post characterized briefly different kinds of objects (i.e. ideal, natural, cultural and metaphysical) to offer a basic notion of each of them.

It is important to note that the same object of study may have to do with different realms. For example, “law” has to do with at least two realms: norms and facts.[1] Any reference to law and its basic defining elements immediately includes, for example, norms, human conduct, crime, punishment and a few others. Similarly, each of these elements exists in at least two realms.[2]

“Norms”, “human conduct”, “crime”, and “coercion” may refer to abstract legal terms, and may describe empirical entities or their attributes. Norms and facts have to do with law as a whole, and with each of its particularities. Yet norms and facts are not the same. Hence, using the term “law”, to refer either to an abstract concept or to factual elements of legal and political discourse, means applying the same term but relying on different meanings—i.e. using the same word to refer to slightly different conceptions. What appears to be a unitary concept actually invokes an ambiguity.

From the above brief account, therefore, it should different objects (ideal, natural, cultural and metaphysical) have their own peculiar characteristics. Moreover, the same object may exist in different realms and, consequently, be explored from different angles. The paragraphs below will introduce each individual kind of object and the particular method and epistemological act appropriate to them.

Ideal objects: Deductive rational (method) and intellectual intuition (epistemological act)

Truths concerning ideal objects such as in logic and mathematics are obtained by a deductive rational method. By deducing from one or more general truths these disciplines draw from them a particular truth. The truths of reason are consistent. In other words, they are not just the way they are.  But they cannot stop being like this, being impossible for them to be otherwise. For example, 1 + 1 = 2 and it cannot be otherwise. The truth is in fact assertive. That is to say, it is as it is only because this is how things happen. There is no contradiction, however, in thinking that it could have been different.

The act of consciousness or epistemological act with which the deductive rational method is constituted is called intellectual intuition or intuitive intellection.

There is sensible intuition (through our five senses) and intellectual intuition (through our intellect). When we talk about intuition as a way to apprehend knowledge, there is a direct and immediate contact between consciousness and the object to be known. This is a non-conceptual apprehension of the object so that it occurs not because the subject thinks about it. Rather, it happens because the object is “in front” of the subject. For example, a blind individual at birth cannot be made to know what blue is as such because this is sensible intuition. There is too and intellectual intuition when the object to be known is ideal. The subject apprehends the object not by means of his senses but his intellect. Sensible and intellectual intuition are something personal and, therefore, much incommunicable, not transmittable unlike the concept (meaning) that can be the same for all minds. For example, the concept of “mammal” or “angle” can be the same for all of us but the intuitive verification of that which is mentioned with these concepts has to be apprehended by our senses or intellect.

Natural objects: Inductive empirical (method) and explanation (epistemological act)

Natural objects, as studied by the various sciences of nature, have to do with truths obtained by the inductive empirical method. Induction is to start from the facts and obtain from them by abstraction and generalization a principle that is conceptual and general. This process goes from the particular to the general and from the concrete to the conceptual.  It is based on natural experience as a conformity with experience itself, which is something given and created once and for all, since all the variations and transformations that we observe in phenomena are the appearances of that identity and are known based on an invariable casual constancy.

The epistemological act or act of consciousness with which the medium of the inductive empirical method is constituted is called explanation. Explaining something is “disintegrating” the object in its elements by analysis. It is also referring to something as an effect of something else that is its cause. Explanation is a neutral act. The subject does not go into the object and takes no position about it.

So far, we have:

ObjectExistenceExperienceValuable (axiologically)MethodEpistemological act
IdealNoNoNeutralDeductive rational Intellectual intuition
NaturalYesYesNeutralInductive empiricalExplanation
CulturalYesYesPositive or Negative  
MetaphysicalYesNoPositive or Negative  

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Cultural objects, their methods and epistemological act

Author of:

Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020).

Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017).

Thursday 17th June 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] I leave aside intentionally and for future research the third realm: values, or the “axiological” side of law.

[2] I understand law as phenomena existing in three realms: norms, facts and values (deontology, ontology and axiology). I leave the study about values and law for future assessment.

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