Can we be clear about our assumptions?


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Can we be clear about our assumptions?

Why is it important for us to be clear about the ideas that we assume to be true as we analyze how we think?

All reasoning must begin with some idea that is assumed to be true. These assumptions affect the rest of our thinking about the matter in question; these assumptions are what we accept as being true.

Often we make more than one assumption, in which case these two or more assumptions must be consistent with one another. I suspect most errors in thinking result from assumptions that are accepted with little or no reflection, analysis or comprehension.

Even philosophers must make assumptions.

When written history began five thousand years ago humans had already developed a great deal of knowledge. Much of that knowledge was of a very practical nature such as how to use animal skins for clothing, how to weave wool, how to hunt and fish etc. A large part of human knowledge was directed toward how to kill and torture fellow humans. I guess things never really change all that much.

In several parts of the world civilizations developed wherein people learned to create laws and to rule vast numbers of people. Some measure of peace and stability developed but there was yet no means for securing the people from their rulers. I guess things never really change all that much.

Almost everywhere priests joined rulers in attempts to control the population.
Despite these continual wars both of external and internal nature the human population managed to flourish. Egypt was probably one of the first long lasting and stable civilizations to grow up along the large rivers. Egypt survived almost unchanged for three thousand years. This success is attributed to its geographical location that gave it freedom from competition and fertile lands that were constantly replenished by the river overflowing its banks and thus depositing new fertile soil for farming.

Western philosophy emerged in the sixth century BC along the Ionian coast. A small group of scientist-philosophers began writing about their attempts to develop “rational” accounts regarding human experience. These early Pre-Socratic thinkers thought that they were dealing with fundamental elements of nature.

It is natural for humans to seek knowledge. In the “Metaphysics” Aristotle wrote “All men by nature desire to know”.

The attempt to seek knowledge presupposes (assumes) that the world unfolds in a systematic pattern and that we can gain knowledge of that unfolding. Cognitive science identifies several ideas that seem to come naturally to us and labels such ideas as Folk Theories.

The Folk Theory of the Intelligibility of the World
The world makes systematic sense, and we can gain knowledge of it.

The Folk Theory of General Kinds
Every particular thing is a kind of thing.

The Folk Theory of Essences
Every entity has an “essence” or “nature,” that is, a collection of properties that makes it the kind of thing it is and that is the causal source of its natural behavior.

The consequences of the two theories of kinds and essences are:

The Foundational Assumption of Metaphysics
Kinds exist and are defined by essences.

We may not want our friends to know this fact but we are all metaphysicians. We, in fact, assume that things have a nature thereby we are led by the metaphysical impulse to seek knowledge at various levels of reality.

Cognitive science has uncovered these assumptions that they have labeled as Folk Theories. Such theories when compared to sophisticated philosophical theories are like comparing mountain music with classical music. Such commonly accepted assumptions seem to come naturally to human consciousness.

The information about Folk Theory comes from “Philosophy in the Flesh” by Lakoff and Johnson