Empirical Inquiry: Distinguish Useful Empiricism from Dogmatic Empiricism.

Warren Kinston 13. October 2012 11:00

Are the frameworks in the taxonomy, THEE, the product of empirical inquiry?

empirical inquiry

Yes—if you mean they are based on accumulating replicable observations of actual phenomena.  This is what empirical inquiry is about. 

No—if you mean they are developed via conventional sense perceptions of concrete physical objects.  This is what the prevailing materialistic ideology of science demands.

You are an unusual person if you haven't been thoroughly indoctrinated into scientific materialism.  You may not live by it, but when it comes to what counts as knowledge, then it is what you have been led to expect as essential.  As a reader of this blog, I believe you have doubts about materialism, and I would like to help you recognize that these doubts are valid. 

Philosophers may argue, but for practical purposes I take it that there is indeed an empirical world where materialist assumptions do work.  However, whatever scientism may assert, there is also the human creative world where they don't.

Let's do some empirical inquiry here and try to soothe your inner materialist.  Can you doubt that purposes exist?  Do you intend to keep reading this blog?  If you do, you have specified a purpose.  If you don't, you have specified a different purpose.  So purposes exist.  Do you think that, like most things that exist, purposes have properties of various sorts?  They do, but it takes observing them in use to see those properties.  Do you think that, like most things, purposes can «cause» or seem to cause events?  Your intention to read the blog certainly caused you to reach this sentence!

Given purpose is a thing, can it be weighed? seen under the microscope or with a telescope? or via an electroencephalograph (EEG) or MRI scanner?  Impossible.  The purposive biological state may be recognizable but that is not the purpose itself.  Of course there are neurophysiological correlates, but the purpose lies in the form of words, the social context, and more.

So far so good.  Purpose is an object that is non-physical.  If you refuse to see it as an object in its own right, then you will certainly never discover what it is like or how it relates to other non-physical objects—like meaning or willingness or feelings.  If you don't know the properties of a physical element (like copper or uranium) you cannot use it properly: the same naturally applies to non-physical elements.

Ideological rejection of the whole field of non-physical human things is a form of blindness: willful ignorance.  I'm sure you do not want to encourage that.  Let me help you explain to others by doing a little empirical inquiry now.  I want to show that it's not hard, abstruse or frightening.  

Have you ever chosen to pursue an outcome or end-result that was important for you and feasible?  Have you ever seen anyone else do that?  Have you ever written down that outcome to remind yourself or to ensure others agree and know what they are joining?  If this is so, we have a replicable observation: exactly what empirical inquiry requires.  The name for this sort of purpose in THEE is strategic objective.  I hope that name works for you, but you are welcome to choose your own name. 

Did you notice that when you tried to pursue your purpose (=strategic objective), there were much smaller purposes that were unimportant on their own but just had to be done to get the outcome you wanted?  The name for that smaller sort of purpose in THEE is tactical objective.  Again, you might want to choose a different name: feel free to do so.

So, we have discovered two distinctive things that are both purposes.  Let's investigate further and notice a couple of properties.

Did you become aware that your steps often needed deadlines because of sequencing or involvement of others, whereas the outcome could be left approximate?  The more you use deadlines for tasks, the easier it is to specify a convincing deadline for the strategic objective.  The reverse is impossible.  While the tactical objectives can be progressively subdivided so that deadlines are easier and easier, the strategic objective sits there demanding its achievement.  It is also apparent, isn't it, that you often alter, substitute or omit tactical objectives for efficiency or convenience.  By comparison, it is in the nature of the strategic objective that it is a commitment that you do not wish to alter unless forced to do so.

There's lots and lots more to say about these two forms of purpose: which are Level 1 and Level 2 in THEE's 6th Primary Hierarchy.  With persistence (or read my book) you will discover that there are 5 other primary forms of purpose.  Once you have a grip on those, you then find many more important purposive objects derived from those 7 (download the free Table of Contents to see these). But do you get the idea?  It's just a matter of patient persistent observation and testing against your experience and that of others.

Is the whole taxonomy an example of empirical inquiry?  Not an example, but a consequence.  THEE is more like the periodic table of chemical elements, or «standard model» in physics, which pulled together empirically generated knowledge.  In the same way, empirical inquiry leads to the development of frameworks i.e. specific hierarchies or typologies, while THEE pulls all these findings together in such as way as to enable prediction of new findings or falsification based on new discoveries.  THEE also creates a sense of pattern and order that is aesthetically gratifying.

I would like to think that my efforts, mistakes included, have been in harmony with the spirit of empirical science through the ages.  What do you think?


PS. As useful empiricism and dogmatic empiricism are both obvious psychosocial phenomena, where are they in THEE?  Useful empiricism is a genuine fundamental taxonomic element with its own unique formula: PH'2L1.  This places it as one of the 7 approaches to organized inquiryDogmatic empiricism does not have its own formula because it is a created example of a taxonomic element.  The relevant taxonomic element here is one that tells you what is important, gives order to understanding an aspect of life, and generates a tribal identity: in other words, dogmatic empiricism is an example of a value system (PH6L6). It seems likely that materialism, as a school of thought that is natural for us, probably does have its own taxonomic location: but I have not yet come across it.


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Warren Kinston is the creator of the THEE-Online website as an open forum for the further discovery and development of THEE. He writes this blog as an escape valve for the excitement and frustrations of the work. More info here.

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