Knowledge Means Systematically Ordered Structures Originating In Social Or Mathematical Milieus

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As The Black Clientele Heads Turned In My Direction Silence Fell
Beer Garden Pool Hall

Beaufort, North Carolina

That night I camped in a pine forest just off the highway. The rays of the setting sun on the fallen pine needles created a mellow atmosphere, but in the middle of the night the rains came. With water dripping from my tent seams, I was faced with the stomach-churning dilemma– put my rain suit on and pull up camp, or, lie in my tent as it slowly fills up with water. Past experience had taught me that the latter alternative was a drag, but while I was pondering my decision, my tent fell in on me. The ground was soft to begin with, and with the rain, it was not a surprising outcome. After I packed up my soaked equipment and made my way back to the highway in the dark, I buckled down for what would be a long, lonely, wet, hike until dawn. At first, I walked my bike, but a fear of snakes and gators making their way across the two to three inches of water on the road convinced me to mount up and ride.

I came to a small town. On the edge of it was shelter–a coin-operated car wash. I got out of my wet clothes and spread out all my wet gear. I even managed a couple hours of uncomfortable sleep (well maybe an hour). 7 a.m. found me packing up my still wet gear (but not as wet), and heading north. 9 a.m. found me sitting under an abandoned fruit stand, waiting out the downpour. 1 p.m. found me in Beaufort, North Carolina, miserable, wet, and hungry. I had had it. I was only a half days ride from where I would board the ferry for the outer banks. The forecast was 70% chance of rain for the next two days, and on the outer banks I wouldn’t find much shelter, so I checked myself into Mike’s– Beaufort’s hotel– the best $10. ever spent.

Inside my room I spread out my wet gear, and then jumped in the shower—the best shower of my life. Beaufort was a small coastal town. It had no laundromat, and, since it was Sunday, there was no place to buy beer. As I was discovering that fact, however, I happened upon a small pool hall that, through the window at least, appeared to be serving liquid refreshment. When I walked inside, the heads of the all black clientele turned in my direction, and the place got very quiet. I looked at the black bartender and ordered a draft. The atmosphere was uptight until the guy on the adjacent barstool turned to me and said, “What’s happening brother!” Everything seemed to return to normal after that. I stayed for a couple of beers and then went back to my hotel and ate a dinner of fresh caught flounder in the downstairs restaurant.

Back in my hotel room, the TV weatherman told me that 3.4 inches of rain had fallen in the last twenty-four hours and more was expected. Another disheartening piece of news was the bug bites that covered my arms, hands, and legs. I was beginning to feel as if this whole trip was a bad idea. I was not out to martyr myself. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I decided to enjoy myself while I could. With my bag of potato chips by my side, let it rain; who cares!

I settled in for a night of TV in my warm comfortable room.

Richard Nixon Was From Another Planet

My Room Beaufort Hotel

May 25, ‘77

Morning coffee, and I didn’t have to bicycle to get it. Great! It was a good movie last night, too, but the highlight of the evening was David Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon. I was glad I at least caught one of his interviews. I couldn’t believe Nixon was our President, or maybe I should say that I did believe the office of the presidency concealed the man. Unless the President wanted to reveal himself, he could remain completely obscured by the pomp and circumstance of the office. Nixon was a rheumatoid. He lived in a make-believe world. He told Frost the reporters on the news program Sixty-minutes were out to get him. He said most of their reporting was fabricated, but he also said that he had only watched the program once in his life. What a jerk. He lived in the dark ages. He probably kept Machiavelli’s book, The Prince, at his bedside. I once told my Philosophy professor, jokingly of course, that I thought Nixon was from another planet. After listening to him last night, that joke was not so obvious. But, then again, as I remembered it, I thought that that old professor of mine was from another planet, also. He talked as if he was, anyway.

My professor didn’t believe in the practice of “common sense,” or at least that was what he told the class. Maybe he was right! If Nixon could get elected to the most powerful office in the world, and in the process, rain terror down upon all those he labeled un-American, then maybe we didn’t live in a world that practiced common sense after all. To be fair, though, I think I understand better now what Dr. Gill was aiming at when he told the class he didn’t believe in common sense. Back then, however, I didn’t understand him at all. To me, back then, he even sounded like a space alien. What he was trying to get into our heads was that a large part of what was being taught in school was wrong. In particular, the “common sense” notion that John Locke popularized was wrong.

Locke, who was a member of Sir Isaac Newton’s inner circle of friends, popularized the work of astronomers and physicists of his day. Newton’s discoveries showed that the planets moved by mechanical principles. And, since mechanics characterized the objective world at the time, Locke was able to make the distinction between the “real empirical world of objective reality” and that much more individualistic world of our
subjective impressions. Locke turned this empirical worldview into his theory of knowledge. Not only did Locke’s theory account for the celestial mechanics of his time, it also produced enlightened ideas on religion and politics—the same ideas that later served as the foundation for the
American Republic.

Locke could not be faulted for his conclusions, especially the ones that followed directly from his conception of a deterministic universe. After all, he was only drawing conclusions from the science of his time. Religion, for Locke, became a personal, individual, subjective matter, while science dealt with objective fact. The science of mechanical determinism weeded out all teleological explanations of purpose in nature. Any explanation that had anything to do with purpose became bad science. Following up on this reasoning, Locke developed his theory of knowledge.

All knowledge, according to Locke, came from sensation; consequently, according to Dr. Gill’s interpretation of Locke: “In order to produce science, three different kinds of reality were involved. A fact consisted in 1) the material object as it sent out rays of light that 2) struck the sensory organs that communicated with the brain that in turn, 3) created an idea corresponding to the original object. Truth consisted in a point-for-point correspondence between the mental idea and the original scientific fact.” With that set of conditions in place, Locke gave us our empirical understanding of the “real world.” The difficulty with that view, however, was that (as we now know from today’s physics) the first step in that process has been eliminated. The real object–the material out of which objects are made– as well as the space in which they are located, are all constructs. In this new reality, facts are known only in terms of the highly developed theories of which they are part. What that meant for Dr. Gill, (as far as I can tell so far), was that when things were seen correctly, they were seen scientifically, but seeing things correctly did not necessary mean seeing things the way they actually were. It simply meant seeing things in the most informed way possible. Dr. Gill believed objectivity was itself “an internal, subjective, developmental discovery, as was the real world out there.” In other words, Lock’s “common sense” notion of science and scientific discovery, according to Dr. Gill, “had blurred, on a significant level, our lived interior and exterior boundaries.”

Gill’s Answer To Locke-Science Is About Method And Logical Structure Not Objectivity

Dr. Gill told the class that that method of seeing—scientific seeing, was first discovered by the Greeks, most notably by Pythagoras and Plato, and then reached its fruition in the geometry of Euclid of Alexandria. Later, Archimedes of Syracuse also made some important contributions. And, when Medieval artisans and craftsmen, in the pursuit of artistic growth, combined geometry (theorems and axioms) with their own experimental methods, the scientific method as we know it began to take shape. That method matured in the work of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler.

In order to see how scientific results were produced through the application of method and analytical thought, “one only had to look at how Kepler” according to Gill, “cast his solution to the problem of Mars in geometric form, or how Galileo extended the methods of Archimedes (his work in hydraulics and mechanics) to the dynamics dealing with momentum and gravity.” Newton’s Principia was also written like a geometry text, and that also was an instructive example of how method and analytical thought worked together to produce scientific results. According to Gill, knowledge meant structure; “systematically ordered structures originating in social or mathematical milieus.” The formal sciences with their axiomatic deductive arrangements demonstrated that idea. But, so too did human behavior.

According to Dr. Gill, action and knowledge shared a natural unity. Actions expressed knowledge, not as the “sum of accumulated facts,” but more as a form of developed action. “Education,” Gill was fond of saying, “totally over estimated the importance of gathering facts.” The empirical disciplines were based on the mistaken assumption that their methods were scientific. Because of that assumption, the “hard sciences” became separated from the humanities by bottomless abyss. By throwing out the worldview of “common sense,” Dr. Gill was reestablishing science and the humanities on same “playing field.” Once all was on equal footing, he was free to pursue his pet project—applying analytical tools to ethical behavior. His mission, academically speaking, was to take ethics and morality out of “the circus sideshow antics of the moral relativists,” and put them squarely back where they belonged—in the rarified air of logical necessity.

Well I’m not going to settle that debate here. Whose morality are we talking about anyhow– the guy’s with the “biggest stick,” or the guy promising eternal life? Most likely our ex-President, Mr. Nixon, would say, “Hit first, and be ethical latter!” Dr. Gill would say that doesn’t make sense, and would jot down a few theorems to prove it. The debate goes on!


7 Responses to “Knowledge Means Systematically Ordered Structures Originating In Social Or Mathematical Milieus”

  1. Beverly Says:

    I can’t believe I just sat here and read your blogs, all seven of them. Some of it went whoooshhhhhh…..right over my head. OK a lot of it. Still, I couldn’t stop. It’ s like an undiscovered country, you have to keep on exploring. What does it all mean? And how does it feel to get your first comment?…..even if it is from someone who admits they don’t even understand much of it?

  2. dave Says:

    Wow–concerning your comment. It feels really great! Actually, in the year or more that I have been posting my story you are the second person to contact me. Like before, I don’t have much to say. However, I do enjoy answering questions. I can’t tell you what it all means yet. It’s like dissection, you start at the surface and go deeper. My blog picks up where my journalscollected group postings leave off. Ultimately, my message is universal–everybody contributes, everybody is included (but still there is right and wrong). A lot of people don’t like that message and I understand that. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion! No problem! I will keep posting anyway. Thanks for your comment.

    Take care,

  3. Beverly Says:

    Hey Dave, I’m glad my comment made you feel great! I gathered they were journals from the seventies, and I live in South Carolina and know some of the places you talked about. And I loved your journal entries, I could picture you inside your tent, in the rain, with the bugs………even that snake, all of it. What I could not picture was someone making journal entries with so many details like yours sitting in a tent. Somehow I could not get my head around bicycling that many miles in one day….in South Carolina heat. I’ve been over the old Cooper River Bridge many times over the years, and when I tried to picture you on a bike….you were either very brave or very reckless, maybe a little of both, you are lucky you’re alive, it wasn’t that much fun to drive over in a car and the semis were just as scary. When I was a young girl and my dad took us down to Charleston and we went over that bridge, the old one, my older sister actually cried, she was so scared. All I can remember is thinking “Please God make Daddy slow down before we all get killed”. I’ve been on the new one too, gorgeous and much more pedestrian and bike friendly. If you go to settings on the top menu bar and click on that, it will give you some options… save and continue and it will take you to another page where you can choose everyone on 360 or friends, whichever you prefer, but if you say friends, no one will be able to write you unless they are on your friends list, or even add you as a friend. Beverly

  4. dave Says:

    You are so right, it was scary, but I didn’t know how scary until I was in the middle of scary in the middle of the bridge. The gift of survival, however, was given to me while biking in the New Jersey and NYC area. That’s in my next blog entry I think.
    I’m not computer savey. I did what you told me to do. I even changed one of my identity boxes, but pressing save/continue only brought me back to where I started. How did you find my blog anyway? My blog hunting is limited to what yahoo puts on my page for me to look at. Inviting people to read my stuff feels uncomfortable to me, but if they happen to find it on their own, and like it, well, that’s a good feeling, a real good feeling. Thanks for that!

  5. Beverly Says:

    Hey Dave, for now this seems to be the only way to communicate. (I don’t know morse code or how to do smoke signals, so this will have to do for now). I’m trying to re-construct the scene of the crime…..I am thinking I saw a comment you made to Just A Crazy Woman, although I could be wrong. When you add a friend, like me, then you can go to my page and see all my friends. And then all the friends of their friends. And on and on and on. As you add more friends…and more friends add you, then more people can read your blog. Right now, you are still an undiscovered country (except for me and a couple of others). I’ve never actually invited anyone to read my blogs, I guess they just see me on a friend of a friend’s page and read my blogs. I don’t get many comments compared to some bloggers I’ve seen. But that’s OK. I am not writing for anyone except myself and the pleasure I get out of writing. I have had a couple of people tell me my blog made them smile……and that made me feel on top of the world. I’ve seen some people with lots and lots and lots of friends, and that’s OK for them. I prefer to have quality over quantity. And you are so welcome Dave….I’m glad you have a good feeling about my finding your blog. Beverly

  6. Beverly Says:

    The picture is fascinating, what is it? I keep trying to figure it out. At first glance, it reminds me of a winding staircase, but that can’t be right. All I know for sure is that I like it.

  7. dave Says:

    Hi Beverly. The above picture (and others like it) is a product of the computer generated graphics of fractals. (You can download them off the web. I don’t know the address). Fractals, I believe, are based on a mathematical formula (Mandelbrot set) that describes meandering coastlines. No matter how closely examined, meandering coastlines always have finer levels of structure, which, consequently, are impossible to describe in a finite way—thus the word, fractal.

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