Sunday, March 7, 2010

NokInquiry1 Prolegomenon: Preliminary Escapades

A Contribution to An Inquiry into the Nature (and Understanding) of Knowledge

Table of Contents:

Table of Contents:    1

I. Prolegomenon: Preliminary Escapades    1

I.1 Personal Perspective    2

I.2 Professional and Political Conjectures    5

II. Some Fundamental Considerations    7

II.1 What Is Knowledge    7

II.2 Three Types of Knowledge    8

II.2.1 Recursive or Operational Knowledge    9

II.2.2 Descriptive or Attributional Knowledge    10

III. The Architecture of Inquiry    11

IV. Pursuant of the Fundamentals    13

V. Some Political Implications    14

VI. Bibliography: Itemizing Primary Sources    15


I. Prolegomenon: Preliminary Escapades

". . . as soon as we think that we correctly perceive something, we are spontaneously convinced that it is true. . . . if . . . it is impossible for us ever to have any reason for doubting what we are convinced of, then there are no further questions for us to ask: we have everything that we could reasonably want. . . ."

-- Rene Descartes, quoted by L. Newman

I propose to start with the purely subjective observation that for anything that I consciously decide to do, there is an associated purpose and a concomitant motive which propel me to do it. If this sounds pompous and outlandish, being in the subjective realm, I can nevertheless claim it to be indisputably true.

I.1 Personal Perspective

For reasons I hope will very shortly become self-evident, by way of an introduction I deem it appropriate to reproduce in its entirety, grammar mistakes included, my email to Joan Swirsky which was composed and sent today, Tuesday, 2-Mar-2010 (9:26am EST, emphasis added):


I missed you.  You are one of the unique rare souls generous enough to indulge my whimsy.  I pray all is well with you, and I mean every aspect of your being.


My February was consumed in a medical sabbatical.  I spent the first half being aware that something was not right with my body but could not quite figure out what.  I landed in the ER on the 15th with a TIA.  I got discharged on the 18th with Cobalt-Chromium stents on all four of my cardiac-arterial grafts.  I'm back at my computer to recuperate.  I submitted my latest article to Frank yesterday.  Frank said it's queued for tomorrow's posting.  I suspect something is amiss when you did not reply.

Today I embark on an ambitious project which I labeled "Inquiry into the Nature (and Understanding) of Knowledge."  It is provoked by my umbrage at the
Oval Office spearheading the marketing and funding of Global Warming initiatives despite the fraudulent nature of the knowledge behind the GW narrative

This about covers everything.  Here's hoping I hear from you real soon.

Live long and prosper,


With a song in my heart: regards & carpe diem,

Constancio S. Asumen. Jr.

Being connected  makes all the difference!
(You may call me Stan, if that makes it easier)

631-868-0083 {home/fax}
631-721-5225 {mobile/office}

Admittedly, this may fall into what I elsewhere dubbed, albeit in a different context, "The Fallacy of Exhibitionism." I consider Joan to be my spiritual Rabbi and inspiration in the realm of authoring. She has been very generous and critically forthright with her opinions. How we got connected is a narrative that deserves, nay, demands to be told. It is instructive of the nature of communication in the age of the internet. It can be revealing of the internet's pitfalls and immeasurable benefits.

The quasi-saga started on the night of Sunday, 25-Oct-2009. Coming home from work, I heard on the radio a replay of an interview with then candidate Obama pompously deploring the U.S. Constitution as a proscriptive constraint on governance rather than a prescriptive sanction for governance. This was rudely and inadvertently cut off when I parked on the driveway. I promptly proceeded to Google-search for the text string "Obama, U.S. Constitution."

The first item in the hits list returned by my search propelled me to send the following email:

Dear Ms. Swirsky,

I stumbled onto your column when I googled for the keywords "Obama, US Constitution".

You are exactly the kind of columnist/journalist/author we need more of in the U.S.  I regret that I did not stumble onto your work sooner.

If you have some kind of a mailing list for your articles, kindly include my email address in it.

I thank you very much.

With a song in my heart: regards & carpe diem,

Constancio S. Asumen. Jr.

Being connected  makes all the difference!
(You may call me Stan, if that makes it easier)

631-868-0083 {home/fax}
631-721-5225 {mobile/office}

Since then the volume of our correspondence through four hours ago (9:52 am EST) tallied 36 in my inbox and 63 in the sent folder. In range of subject matter and wealth of substance, this is rivaled only by my correspondence with a graduate school colleague, through the Spring of 1973, who wrote me last on 1-Feb-2010. She is the only acquaintance from my college days who keeps me posted albeit on a less than regular basis.

Joan and I seemed to have been yapping away in barely three months (February '10 being a hiatus) as if we have known each other forever. She has that uncanny effect of bringing out of me what she dubbed "a wealth of memories screaming to be told." What I find piquantly remarkable is the near-certainty that she would not recognize me from a hole in the wall if by a confluence of circumstances, we bumped into each other wherever people bump into each other these days.

{Any one of the following locations could be my favored venue for such an accident: the Intermission cocktail lounge at the New York Metropolitan Opera House, ditto the Carnegie Hall, the 18th Green grandstands at Augusta National during the Masters, or St. Andrews Old and Ancient during the British Open, ditto the Pebble Beach Golf and Country Club during the U.S. Open. I don't have the vaguest idea what genre of venues Joan may happen into, and there is no point speculating about them. There is no such thing as speculative knowledge.}

Joan, having posted her facial likeness on her website, I most definitely have a slight advantage as far as such a scenario goes. I would not bet the mortgage on it, though. Years of trying to stay under the radar somehow rendered my facial recognition skills somewhat jaded.

Herein lies the relevance of this quasi-saga to the project at hand: should such a fortuitous event come to pass, the only things we may know about each other are those which are true of who each one of us is. What we may not know about each other is for the time being essentially unknowable. To know that you don't know does not constitute any kind of knowledge, as it does not make you know what you don't know. At best, it may only make you want to know what you don't know.

I.2 Professional and Political Conjectures

As I write, I will never know the content of the conversation that might ensue from such an encounter. Yet I'm certain I would find it, to paraphrase Spock one of my favorite characters, fascinating to eavesdrop on. For reasons I cannot explain, and I hope she would not take offense at, I confess that contemplating on the above scenario in part inspired me to embark upon this project.

Finally, it behooves to touch on the political angle to my motivation. For this I invoke Patrick J. Buchanan's, quoting H.L. Mencken, conclusions to a recent column on "Global Warming" and "Theory of Evolution" with the following indictment of the powers that be, especially the purveyors of information:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Both Darwinian Theory and moderate-period global temperature fluctuations were topics covered by An Introduction to Historical Geology, a course I used to teach to college juniors. Professional decorum compels me to think that an inquiry into the nature of knowledge with due diligence may help, in however minor way, exterminate those hideous hobgoblins, from the national polity. I am acutely aware that ideologues in the corridors of power, e.g., the Oval Office, both houses of Congress, the 'main stream media,' etc., have their designs to the contrary.


{Next Installment: II Some Fundamental Considerations, etc.}


Projected scope of the opus:

(See Table of Contents on Page 1)

Suggested Keywords:

Inquiry, Knowledge, Understanding, Darwinism, Global Warming, Swirsky, Buchanan, Mencken,

Historical Geology, Oval Office, Obama, U.S. Constitution, Spock

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