Ontology of Knowledge: An Introductory Inquiry

November 03, 2011
Posted by Administrator

Lately, I have been giving a good deal of thought to what is needed to exist in order for us to know reality. For it seems that how I can know something depends at least upon what that thing is. How I would know the truth of the law of non-contradiction, say, is different than how I would know how a Starbuck’s Vivano chocolate smoothie tastes, due to what kinds of things they are. It also seems to depend upon what kind(s) of things I am.
Of course, this topic also raises the issues about the mind-world “nexus,” and how we could know reality. I have been studying a long history of constructivist thought, starting with Descartes and following, & there are interesting ontological themes that keep surfacing, ones that play into the debate about the “myth of the given” & also about the “taken.” Can we know reality if we only have access to what we take to be the case? And, what are the ontological issues associated with this debate?
When I had a class in grad school with Dallas Willard on phenomenology & constructivism, I found it interesting that we ended with John Searle, a leading naturalist. That fascinated me, because to me, one of philosophical naturalism’s greatest perceived strengths is that on the basis of what it says is real, we can know truth. After all, that seems to be part of the philosophical basis behind the present fact-value split – on science (and not just any science, but naturalistic science), we uniquely have knowledge of truth.
I am exploring these ontological issues for epistemology in a new philosophy of religion book coming out in early 2012 with Ashgate, Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality: Testing Religious Truth-claims. I also have been probing that topic in my two recent essays in Philosophia Christi (in 12:2 & 13:1).
For now, I’d like to kick around a question: what is needed ontologically for us to know reality? What do you think?