Philosophy Proper

Eclectic Empiricism

I often wonder at the intuition of man. By intuition, I’m not referring to an impression made upon the mind without rationale. Quite the contrary, I refer to an impression made upon the mind, the rationale of which is not immediately apparent; one which is drawn from several sources of experience and formed into a singular impression, upon which one believes and acts. This intuition is similar to Aristotle’s sensus communis, his “common sense” which refers to the unifying capacity of man to trace impressions from his various senses into coherent wholes of intelligiblity. Yet, the intuition I’m speaking of here is even deeper than the sensus communis (though it includes the notion). Rather, it is the ability of the rational soul to apprehend and “hold together” all forms of information available to him in order to make judgments, be formulated, and guide his life. This eclectic intuition is, therefore, able to account for truths derived from emotions, as it systematizes emotions. It is also able to account for past experience, seeing as it contains the memory. Yet, it is also able to account for coherent reason within experience (personal logical inconsistencies, theorizing, and ext). In this regard, the eclectic intuition is of ordered priority to explicative reason (the provision of a rationale for any given assertion or belief) because without it the desire and ability to “give a reason” would be impossible. Intuition precedes rationale.

I am also amazed at the ink that has been spilled in the history of Philosophy regarding the “rationally explicable” faculty of man as the source of knowledge and certainty; it seems to me, rather, that the discursive, deductive, explicating, and ordering, “consciously mental” faculty of man is always secondary to his rational capacity to intuit using all his capacities as a rational soul. Yet I don’t find as many philosophers insisting on the primacy of intuition which to me seems to be a key resolver of some of the problems of certainty, practical living, value theory and the like. If the doubting soul accepts eclectic empiricism, it seems to work toward the resolving of the problem of “transcendental” certainty in their daily lives. If they accept it, the “problem” of seeking certainty is turned on its head into a methodology; intuitive psychological certainty seeking mathematical certainty (Aristotle seeking after Descartes as a method, not a Lord).  I think it is due to a fast and loose reading of Philosophers like Descartes and Bacon that a lot of people beginning in Philosophy live their lives in perpetual doubt and uncertainty a lot of the time, most particularly when they begin to reflect and philosophize (As did I). Philosophic certainty, in general, is a delusion of grandeur by pompous systematists (I am a systematist. I love systematists). In other words, contingent, derived, fallible beings shouldn’t live their lives expecting deductive certainty in most matters; certainty, rationally construed, is not in every way necessary for psychological, mental peace regarding action and life. In a lot of matters, I don’t even think an “absolute epistemic certainty” is preferrable. Remember friend, it’s the Progressives that think they should rule the world by their absolutely certain and objective “science.” It’s the Conservatives which admit of the utter finitude of man and hence revere custom, tradition, order and the like. Purported “epistemic” certainty, at many times, is the mother of oppression, though it clothes itself as a virtuous good.


In this regard, my thoughts as to the epistemic priority of man as a totality – mind, heart, emotion, sensation, memory, systematization – and his capacity to “hold” all of these together in singular intuitions – is a brand of Empiricism not Rationalism. In every way, the subjective apprehension of truth is formed primarily (if not exclusively) by experience; it is important, though, to state at the outset that this “experience” is not simply sense experience – rather, it is all forms of experience, sensation, memory, systematization, emotion, and ext. Ultimately, whether all knowledge begins in such an experience, I don’t claim to know (though I am very skeptical of the idea of innate ideas), but I can claim to know that priority for rational justification, as to living our lives,  epistemically, seems to be at what I call the eclectic intuition, not any one of the purported faculties of experience (reason or emotion). Sure, some men prefer to speak and talk about sense experience, others rational systems, and others emotions – yet in all their actions, there exists a harmonious (or disfunctional) interplay between the whole; and it is on the sum total of this whole that they actually act, believe, and value.

If this is true, it obviously has an impact on the type of “reasoning” which is valued by the persons who believes as I do. Preference isn’t given to “deductive” reasoning in the majority of cases, nor slow-hearted experiential “empiricism” on the other; Descartes and Bacon are both out when it comes to daily life (though either method may be adopted as a method, like they did, for certain purposes – though I would strongly advise curtailing your Cartesianism along Thomistic lines; one Catholic over another as it were). Rather, abduction is seen as the actual structure of personal epistemic life in the broad contours of his mental life; abduction is the ability of the rational soul to make judgments based upon various sources of information. As I see it, abduction is the faculty of the rational soul, working on various sources of apparently unified sources of knowledge (intuition) in order to formulate a singular “impression” (belief) regarding the whole, from which he then goes on to explicate the parts and the whole (reason). In this regard, it cannot be maintained that such an abduction is the abduction of a scientist dyadically “acting” as though he is passionately disinterested from the object at hand; rather, the relation is triadic, the individual’s self interest is always “tied up” with his perception of facts; and both of those also relate to his own “explicit mental conception” (the story he tells himself about what he believes) and these three, the individual’s self-interest, the subjective and explicit thought-world, and the facts are always at play with one another in any given act of the rational soul. Mind over matter; no (Plato). Mind in the service of matter; no (Hume). The totality of all faculties working in relation to itself harmoniously or non-harmoniously; yes.  

Again, for the sake of clarity I make a distinction regarding eclectic empiricism; when I posit that in the majority of your life you live by intuition as I’ve defined it here – the rational substructure of which is abduction – I am not stating that such a way of living and thinking is what, for the majority of time, you talk about, think about consciously, or what pleases you; I’m saying it’s what you’re doing and the structure of how you’re doing it mentally (thus I’m not denying the reality of habit nor the vegetative and animalistic aspects of man. Quite the contrary, I’m affirming aspects about the rational faculties). Many men love to talk of practical reasoning and sense impressions, others prefer the study of the humanities and of books, still others enjoy more than these conversational intercourse with others, yet some others prefer aesthetics. All well and good, I am not here referring to personality nor pleasure preferences, I am referring to the mental structure of the rational soul of man in the world in general; and I am positing that he acts in his volitions, thoughts, and values as a unity (or a disunity in unity in the case that various informational capacities disagree yet still relate to one another within one person). I am also arguing that though man puts on various methodologies (Cartesianism, Baconianism, Scholasticism, Existentialism), he acts in the greater whole of his life, according to unified intuitions and as a unified person (though, as stated, he may be disunified in this unity of relation). We tend to overlook this unity of man and focus on personality preferences because the unity we share is so normalized to us; what is abnormal is someone who focuses to a large extent or degree on any one of his given faculties more than the majority of other persons within his community (which is what we refer to such a person as an individual with a “personality” – the bookworm isn’t a bookworm because he doesn’t act, in the majority of his life, as other men do but mentally; rather, he is referred to as a bookwork because he acts, in regards to books and learning, more particularly in that regard than most men do. Yet when he acts, even as a bookworm, he acts as a totality and primarily according to abduction).  

Another facet of my theory (I call it a theory because I believe I have evidence) is that it is intimately related to another epistemic notion which I think is practically beneficial and resolves some Theological conundrums that I, at-least, wrestle with. It posits the general epistemic reliability of the person; more particularly, it posits the general reliability, epistemically, of mankind. Even more particularly, it posits the general reliability, epistemically, of fallen mankind. The general I use here is very general. Men are everywhere afflicted by and afflicting epistemic blunders; Bacon talks about it in his idols, any given logic textbook can tell you about the various errors that humans make; yet even our ability to find errors really proves my point. If our race is able to understand it’s errors in a consistently reliable way, then it proves that general reliability in matters pertaining to our lives is preferable to generally erroneous. Biblically speaking, in Romans 1, if you recall, Greek idolaters are representative of mankind in their right and true and rational perception of God, yet are given over to a debased as a consequent to their idolatry. Yet, in order to be guilty in an epistemic sense, they must first know. And if they know, their faculties have to be at-least generally reliable in terms of the perception and understanding necessary to render them guilty. Thus, it is proven from experience and revelation that man is generally reliable at-least in the general course of his life, epistemically. Again, the general I speak of is very general; any given man might be terrible on any given matter (indeed, you should expect such), yet the general reliability of man’s rational soul should not be doubted; totally depraved, but not absolutely foregone. Mentally corrupt, but not inept.

Lastly, I want to explain what I believe to be another legitimate deduction contained within the brand of Empiricism here stated. Personalistic Empiricism, an Empiricism which views the entire human person, and the totality of his experiences, as adequate to epistemic justification, is inherently democratic. I don’t use the word democratic to refer to a political party but as an analogy to the manner in which knowledge is apprehended, which, in the vast majority of humans (exempting invalids for example) is substantially one. Thus the distinctions we make regarding the “intellectual” ability of one man to another is really vastly overstated in my view; to be a human means you’re a rational animal. To possess rationality means you possess the same “faculties” as the man who you regard as “smarter” than yourself. Thus there is a fundamental equality between you, the clergy, the scientist, and the mathematician, regarding the vast majority of knowledge about life. Sure, one man may study and focus on mathematics, another philosophy, and another cars, but these humans are really not all that different. Their eccentricities are only noted by us because they are predicated on such a regularity of uniformity; the irregularity is only noted because of a substantial regularity, which is actually, in my mind, more ultimate (though I have a hunch sometimes that there is a total equity and interplay between unity and diversity within the world, predicated ultimately on the Trinity). What I’m really driving at is that this epistemology is a working system for Protestantism; since it affirms the general equity of mankind epistemologically, it preserves for the individual the right to interpret the Scriptures for himself. Lords, Popes, and capital T teachers are a facade utilized by the devil in order to control; helpful ministers, lower t teachers, and others who differ from us not so much as to the form of their reasoning but as to their dedication to the craft and their propensity toward certain information, that’s what differ the Theologian from the layman. In my experience, those who get regarded as “smarter” than other people are people who spend alot of time studying the source material and educating themselves as to the grammar of their subject. I don’t actually think my favorite discipline, philosophy, is unable to be comprehended by the common man. I believe that the common man doesn’t care much to learn the grammar of philosophy and utilizes the excuse that he is “incapable” of learning it, when really he is just, generally, lazy (there are, though, some people who really cannot learn or grasp some philosophical concepts. I’m not here referring to them. I’ve read Hegel. I can’t understand all of Hegel). The same thing goes with the judgments of councils, creeds, individual elderates and presbyteries, husbands and wives, and ect. In principle, they have no infalliblity and all parties before they are separated according to their various stations are united in their common rationality a humanity. In principle, one man can stand with the truth against an entire array of men biased towards evil.

Though in the preceding I’ve written more musings than a scientific exposition I will end with more philosophic clarity (less popular level perspecuity). As to the epistemic question of origins of knowledge, I am uncertain but I am inclined to think that knowledge begins in experience and is related to the self through the maturation process. In this regard, I don’t believe in a doctrine of “innate ideas” in the Platonic or Leibnizian sense. I am more inclined to the Aristotelian notion that man is a “rational soul” who is endowed with an epistemic “apparatus” which is concurrent with the world he lives in and through which, eclectically, he come to true knowledge. Thus I believe innate forms, not innate ideas. I don’t believe man is a “blank slate,” but that through experience he learns of his own forms which are innate (logic, for example). As such, I reject the primacy of deduction and induction respectively, when it comes to the majority of life; deduction and induction refer to systems of reasoning, the likes of which are utilized by the totality of the rational soul. Thus induction and deduction are both valued, but are subservient to a total abduction in the majority of affairs. Such a statement, epistemically, is, in my mind, a correlate to a properly “Critical Realist” philosophy which believes in and rationally justifies our true conception of our world and in that finds a deeper form of peace than in Idealism and Naive Realism. Idealists tend to favor deduction (Plato, Hegel, Leibniz) whereas Empiricists tend to favor induction (Bacon, Locke). A Critical Realist would logically value both induction and deduction seeing as he really believes that his knowledge of the world is true knowledge, but that his belief in his senses can be justified, critically by reason. Thus, his form of reasoning is logically abductive and eclectic, not deductive or inductive principally. Further, ethically, such a position yields, practically and epistemically, a form of psychological peace with regard to beliefs, but not a dogmatic impositionalism (as in Fundamentalism); yet it does not deny, at times, that men know things certainly, at other times they have a hunch, and at other times they’re sure but not philosophically certain – in fact, it posits that the majority of time, their philosophical “beliefs” fall in that latter category. As it stands, my position is somewhere between Aristotle, Pyrhonnian Skepticism, James and Kant – It is Realist (with Aristotle), critical (with Kant), open to new information (with the Pyrhonnians), and pragmatic as it is an epistemology for life (with James). Yet, unlike Aristotle I find justification for my belief in the intelligibility of experience within the Christian Scriptures (thus it is transcendental), unlike Kant it affirms that Idealism and an absolute antithesis between subject/object is irrational (thus it is Realist), unlike the Pyrhonnians it affirms the potential for real, true, and certain knowledge of Metaphysics (thus it is, in part, dogmatic), and unlike the Pragmatists it is concerned to justify the apparent, rationally.

PC: James L.W.

2 comments on “Eclectic Empiricism

  1. David Hall

    Very well written article, useful and deep. Where, in the scope of this concept of experiential intuitiveness or learning using whole systems, does inquisitive nature of humans fit in ? I thought of this as I was reading the final paragraph, and maybe man’s inquisitive nature is part of that “rational soul”. It seems that, to acquire knowledge, any knowledge, their must be an inquisitive element to our being. As soon as a human is born, experience begins, and that experience sparks the collection of experience that forms knowledge, either actively or passively – it will occur. I like the way you frame this process. Now, if a person was born completely void of an inquisitive yearning, would that person learn anything ? I’m guessing that this inquisitive nature is part of what it means to be a rational soul; without which you would not be a rational soul. Where does this curiosity come from, and is it separate from life itself ? I know this is not really addressing anything in your article, but it caught my fancy while reading it, so I thought I’d mention it. Thanks for the great article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patrick Steckbeck

      Interesting thoughts. I think I spoke in the post about my preference for thought forms – patterns of right reasoning – which are implanted within us. What you’re talking about seems to me to be just as basic – you’re talking about basic, fundamental habits – particularly, the habit of inquiry. The fundamental question which is, essentially, the form of every question is “why?” And I think you’re right in saying we’re inquisitive by nature bexause we were created to ask why and thus created to know the truth. Thank you for interacting brother!


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