[OPE-L:2812] positing of presuppositions, or the "scorecard" revisited

From: Andrew_Kliman (Andrew_Kliman@email.msn.com)
Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 11:23:32 EDT

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A comment on Paul C's OPE-L 2808:

"I want to ask you whether you seriously believe in the positing of
: presuppositions?
: What on earth does this mean for a logical system?"

It has to do with the Hume/Kant problem of whether what we think is
knowledge IS indeed knowledge. (Of course, if you don't think logic
has to do with knowledge, which I guess is a legitimate view, then
this doesn't have any implications for logic.) Descartes thought that
his introspection afforded him a secure starting point for knowledge,
but he unknowingly smuggled in presuppositions (e.g., the self, "I")
that he didn't prove. This is much like the role that primitives and
axioms play. "Knowledge" is acquired by means of these presuppositions,
e.g., the category of causality. What we "know" thus seems to depend
on these categories. But the categories themselves are *our*
categories, as Hume showed -- so what makes them "right," and therefore
makes "knowledge" actually knowledge? Since the categories are our
categories, they are not a secure starting point, not a *foundation*
for knowledge.

It would thus seem that nothing can really be known, since everything
rests on an insecure starting point. But Hegel argues that knowledge
does NOT rest on the starting point. The demand to "know before you
know" -- to have a priori proof of the presuppositions -- is like the
demand to be able to swim before you can swim. You just do it. And just
as not knowing a priori how to swim doesn't make it impossible to swim,
not having a priori guarantees of knowledge doesn't make knowledge
impossible. The *result* is what substantiates (establishes, posits) the
presupposition. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If you
succeed in swimming, knowing, making pudding, replicating Marx's
theoretical conclusions by means of your interpretation, etc., your
starting point was right. If you drown, end up a fool, make slop, or
fail to replicate Marx's theoretical conclusions by means of your
interpretation, your starting point was wrong.

Andrew Kliman

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