The Post-Positive Age (Part I)


We can positively know things about the world, but can we know everything about the thing in the world?

The fuck am I talking about now?

Can more than one explanation account for a thing, and can multiple things account for an explanation?

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. But if there’s been a common theme with my last few posts, it’s been this: notions of progress are a human construction…things neither improve nor decline, they just change. (To get more specific with my personal philosophy, the mind is designed to seek flaws: whatever improvements we make gets exchanged for a new set of problems and conditions)

That’s all we can positively affirm in historical discourse.

Which seemingly makes Auguste Comte’s “three stages” of history (or social evolution) all the more nonsensical IF you misunderstand what I’m saying. Comte is essentially correct: how we come to understand the world changes. The mistake made is that he assumed the final stage, where we eschew the supernatural and metaphysical in favor pure positive knowledge (or science) would be a sort of “final destination”…where humanity didn’t need to advance any further.   In terms of how the “experts” assess modern questions…we are largely in a positive phase. Sure, we occasionally consult the priest or clergyman with life’s affairs, but to find factual or objective knowledge, we have to pursuit those knowledgeable in some form of inductive methodology…or in other words, people of science. Few people in the modern world would take the opinion of a priest over a scientist in the affairs of biology, meteorology, or most other -ologies (although MANY still do)

I suppose we could say that Isaac Newton ushered in this “positive” era (although Comte would have chosen a later era), where he was able to accurately uncover the principles of the universe without the use of theology (an -ology where positive knowledge WON’T help you). I suppose this turn in thinking would be what Thomas Kuhn called a paradigm shift. There was probably a paradigm shift towards the theological which fundamentally changed human thought at some point in history. As we are living in the “era” of Newton, there will be another paradigm shift in the future.

Despite the confidence in our abilities and knowledge, there will probably come a time when people will reflect on this era and say: “can you believe people believed that shit?”.

Scientific pluralism has something to do with this too, but I ran out of time. Which is why I’m posting this video below.

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