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Thread: Criticalism

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    Senior Member Array reason's Avatar
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    Default Criticalism

    (note: The purpose of this short piece is to explain, as clearly as possible, what I call criticalism. Though it will be necessary to read this piece on justificationist first. I am interested in receiving feedback regarding anything part which is unclear and needs improvement. Thank you.)

    Criticalism is the presupposition that all knowledge is conjectural, and that no belief can be certified, verified, validated, confirmed or in other way be justified. To the criticalist, knowledge is not justified belief, and might not even be true belief. Instead, knowledge is understood as an evolving process which adapts to the selective pressure of criticism, and the current state of knowledge constitutes those conjectures which have so far most successfully survived criticism and tests. In this context, rationality consists of holding all conjectures, positions, beliefs, methods, habits, values, etc. open to criticism, including criticalism itself.

    It is important not to confuse criticalism with anarchism, the difference is subtle but important: both criticalism and anarchism reject the authoritarian's search for justified belief, but criticalism also rejects the presupposition that knowledge must be justified, whereas anarchism does not. In other words, anarchism is justificationist, because even though anarchists deny that any belief can be justified, anarchists agree that justified belief is necessary for knowledge.

    For the criticalist, the standard justificationist method of criticism, where any claim to knowledge can be criticised by asking for its justification, loses all force. If there are no justified beliefs, then we cannot choose between competing conjectures for being justified or unjustified. Further, this can be generalised to all expressions of doubt, possible falsity, or insufficient proof, since every conjecture is doubtful, possibly false and insufficiently proven. In other words, to effectively criticise a conjecture, it is necessary to actually form an argument or perform a test, not merely express uncertainty.

    In order to conduct criticism, standards must be adopted, but it is important not to confuse standards with authorities: what is rejected is the notion that some authority trumps every other, and that criticism must be conducted relative to that authority, as with the standard method of justificationist criticism. Instead the criticalist tentatively adopts standards, such as a preference for noncontradiction, empirical testability, economisation, or perhaps even agreement with The Bible, but the criticalist holds no standards beyond criticism.

    To the criticalist, the purpose of philosophical investigation is a search for truth, and not a search for justified belief. However, if there are no justified beliefs, then there is no criterion by which we can make certain that we have arrived at, or are moving toward, the truth. It follows that the criticalists search for truth is unending, since even should the truth be obtained, there is no criterion which can confirm it. Instead, the criticalist seeks critical preference, where conjectures are provisionally refuted, and a tentative preference formed for those conjectures that have best survived criticism.

    In contrast to the authoritarians and anarchists of justificationism, criticalists may be characterised as liberals, in the sense of classical liberalism, or modern day libertarians. it is unfortunate that almost all of western philosophy is dominated by justificationism, to such an extent that few recognise that they are justificationists. The criticalist tradition is marginalised, misunderstood and dismissed as a form of anarchism masquerading as something else, by the great many justificationist academics who dominate the halls of learning.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

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    Member Array Ferrus's Avatar
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    How is this different to good old fashioned skepticism?

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    It seems to me that what you call criticalism is a Ti focused form of thinking and justificationism is a Te form of thinking. Justificationism is inherantly social and criticalism is inherantly independent. By their natures you should expect the justificationists to marginalize the criticalists.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ferrus View Post
    How is this different to good old fashioned skepticism?
    I have never known a sceptic who was not a justificationist.

    In some cases, they may adopt the position that all knowledge is fallible, but are still concerned primarily with how we justify subjective beliefs, and which beliefs are rationally valid, legitimate, authorised, etc.

    If you do not undertstand the difference then you haven't understood, and if you understood you would recognise that half the philosophical "problems" which sceptics engage with arise only because they subsribe to the presuppositions of justificationism.

    I didn't expect to achieve much with this brief summary, and you could hardly be blamed for thinking it little, or no different, from scepticism. However, it hopefully will provide a good framework to develop into something more comprehensive.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    It seems to me that what you call criticalism is a Ti focused form of thinking and justificationism is a Te form of thinking. Justificationism is inherently social and criticalism is inherently independent. By their natures you should expect the justificationists to marginalize the criticalists.
    The vast majority of people, irrespective of their MBTI type (including NTPs) are justificationists.

    In fact you perfectly captured the justificationist way of thining yourself here:

    "It shouldn't be surprising that scientists are unlikely to believe in God. Science is the exact opposite of faith by definition. Faith is the belief in that which cannot be directly observed. Science is the belief in that which can be directly observed. It's basically taking all of the "faith deficient" people and putting them together in one category." - The_Liquid_Laser

    Ironically, you call this the "exact opposite of faith by definition," but what you describe is a "secular faith," a faith in science, a faith in observation, a faith in reason. (there are also some big logical problems, such as how do you expect anyone to directly observe a universal law which applies everywhere at all times?).
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

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    Member Array Ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nocturne View Post
    which sceptics engage with arise only because they subsribe to the presuppositions of justificationism.
    Perhaps, but logic cares not for the reasons why you engage in such questions, but the conclusions such questions evince. I'm not quite sure is criticalism is entirely possible either - we are all justificationalist by default, by the Kantian structure of our minds. Trying to think otherwise is perhaps impossible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ferrus View Post
    Perhaps, but logic cares not for the reasons why you engage in such questions, but the conclusions such questions evince.
    Actually, logic doesn't "care" about either.

    In fact, logic doesn't even concern about what conclusions we reach, only the logical form of the argument. However, it has nothing to do with the comparison I am making, logic is utilised by the criticalist and the justificationist alike (perhaps moreso by the former).

    I'm not quite sure is criticalism is entirely possible either - we are all justificationalist by default, by the Kantian structure of our minds. Trying to think otherwise is perhaps impossible.
    Not at all. Figure it out and you'll route the postmodernist, deconstructionist, nihilist, realtivist, etc.

    There is nothing logically inconsistent with criticalism, at least that I can discover, and it solves the selfdefeating problem of justificationism, as well as a host of connected philosophical problems. If you come to understand criticalism, and read Russell's Problems of Philosophy, or any similar book, you'll come to wonder what all the fuss was about.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nocturne View Post
    The vast majority of people, irrespective of their MBTI type (including NTPs) are justificationists.
    I'm not talking about types. I am talking about cognitive functions. Everyone has some ability to use each of the eight cognitive functions.
    If you look at some of the ways that Ti is described, wouldn't you agree that these are useful traits for a criticalist?
    Introverted Thinking

    Introverted Thinking often involves finding just the right word to clearly express an idea concisely, crisply, and to the point. Using introverted Thinking is like having an internal sense of the essential qualities of something, noticing the fine distinctions that make it what it is and then naming it. It also involves an internal reasoning process of deriving subcategories of classes and sub-principles of general principles. These can then be used in problem solving, analysis, and refining of a product or an idea. This process is evidenced in behaviors like taking things or ideas apart to figure out how they work. The analysis involves looking at different sides of an issue and seeing where there is inconsistency. In so doing, we search for a “leverage point” that will fix problems with the least amount of effort or damage to the system. We engage in this process when we notice logical inconsistencies between statements and frameworks, using a model to evaluate the likely accuracy of what’s observed.
    The sentences I bolded all look like useful traits that a criticalist would need. Ti allows a person to develop a mental framework, check for internal consistancies, and refine that framework independently of external standards.
    Wouldn't you agree that a criticalist would want these traits?

    On the other hand if you look at the definition of Te:

    Contingency planning, scheduling, and quantifying utilize the process of extraverted Thinking. Extraverted Thinking helps us organize our environment and ideas through charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, outlines, and so on. At its most sophisticated, this process is about organizing and monitoring people and things to work efficiently and productively. Empirical thinking is at the core of extraverted Thinking when we challenge someone’s ideas based on the logic of the facts in front of us or lay out reasonable explanations for decisions or conclusions made, often trying to establish order in someone else’s thought process. In written or verbal communication, extraverted Thinking helps us easily follow someone else’s logic, sequence, or organization. It also helps us notice when something is missing, like when someone says he or she is going to talk about four topics and talks about only three. In general, it allows us to compartmentalize many aspects of our lives so we can do what is necessary to accomplish our objectives.
    Extraverted thinking allows a person to challenge someone else's thinking based given facts. Extraverted thinking requires justification for how a person reaches their conclusions. When you describe justificationism you are basically describing the use of extraverted thinking.

    Now it shouldn't be surprising that justificationism is much more prevalent in academic circles than criticalism. Extraverted thinking is more conducive to sharing ideas than introverted thinking. (This should be obvious because it is extraverted.) Even if a person develops their ideas using introverted thinking, they will usually need to use extraverted thinking to effectively communicate the ideas.

    In academic circles a culture of accepted standards and procedures naturally develops because of this, and just like all cultures, there is a going to be a resistance to changing that culture. If a criticalist comes up and says, "there is too much emphasis on standards, and not enough emphasis critical thought", then most people are going to think they are wrong or maybe just making a big deal about something small. People who try to change well established structures are always marginalized. What you are describing is basically the social conflict between the use of Te and Ti.
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    Hmm. That was interesting. Long, but interesting. Let me see what I can ascertain. So, criticalism is basically believing that everything is potentially true until it's proven false, but developing a preference for arguments which have been the most difficult to dislodge according to whatever various standards it's been tested against? Do I seem to get it?

    I think that whatever philosophy is most useful for the subject at hand is the one that should be applied to that subject. I can see one approach being better in a field that is mostly understood, and the other being better in places we can't be as certain.

    But, I also think that which ever seems better to the individual is what that individual should believe, since that will be most fulfilling to them.

    You know, these concepts of yours seem to parallel an internal conflict for me. It's as though my Ni tends to look at things from a criticalist perspective, but my Fe wants more discrete justificationist beliefs to rely on, so neither is ever completely satisfied. I'm never certain that anything is true or false, but I'm certain of what I feel about something. So it's kind of like I'm always trying to justify my beliefs to others, even though I'm not sure of them myself, because they just seem right somehow. It's weird.

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    Aspie Idealist Array TaylorS's Avatar
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    Great thread. I generally follow Karl Popper's Critical Rationalist epistemology so I very much agree with the OP. There is no single foundation to our knowledge, there is no logically coherent way to justify assertions. Statements can only be falsified, never proved.
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