Elements Of Epistemology~Chapter 1
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  • 1. Elements of Epistemology
    Epistemology (Gk. episteme knowledge) is a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin and nature of human knowledge. Visual statistics consists of methods and algorithms for collection, analysis and visualization of quantitative and qualitative information that can help us to obtain a rational view of our world.
    Saint Thomas refused to believe in resurrection until he saw and felt the wounds of Jesus Christ. The story, as told by John, goes as follows:
    The other disciples said to him, we have seen the Lord. But Thomas said 'except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.' Then came Jesus and said to Thomas 'touch here with your finger, reach here with your hand, and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas said to him 'My Lord and my God'. Jesus said to him,
    'Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed:blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
    This story is of interest, as it illustrates a cornerstone of epistemology that of belief vs. doubt.
    The religious tradition asserts the superiority of belief over doubt while the opposite observed within the tradition of the science.
    Epistemology began in classical Greece with philosophers asking whether objective knowledge is possible.
    Chapter ISocrates and Plato
    Socrates by Jacques-Louis David (1787)
    About Socrates  
    Plato describes Socrates' (c. 9550 HE, 450 BCE) shabby appearance and tattered clothes. Socrates was appreciated by few and hated by many, as he sought the intellectual and moral improvement of society that, he thought could be achieved by humanistic education.
    This collided with doctrines of religious moralists who want to improve society by religious indoctrination and by punishments meted out by the law. This ideological conflict was resolved not by a Socratic dialogue, but by a judicial decree. Socrates' teachings were judged as corrupt and Socrates was executed.
    Over two millennia later, Socrates is still remembered, as his accusers did not realize that a better strategy would have been to accuse him of moral turpitude, and drug addiction. After all, he chose to drink hemlock, didn't he?
    Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
    Socrates' Core Thesis
    Socrates maintained that humans do not knowingly act evil. We do what we believe is the best. Improper conduct is the product of ignorance. The way to achieve a better society is through education.
    The opposing view is that a better society must be maintained by punishments. This line of reasoning rests on the assumption that God gave us the free will to choose between good and evil. To restrain the evil; freedom has to be taken away from the guilty by incarceration or by the termination of life. To prevent the evil, freedom must be curtailed by pressures toward the moral rectitude by an elaborate system of rewards and punishments. The core postulates of this system are in the belief in God and in the belief of an afterlife. Thus, this system of rewards and punishments can include promises which fulfillment does not require tangible expenditures and cannot be verified, extended into eternity and intensified by fantasies of bliss in heaven and of suffering in hell. Within this cognitive framework, there is no escape, not even by suicide, which lands you in Hell. However, inflicting death upon others, as in a jihad, earns you into paradise plus the seventy-one maidens’ bonus.
    Samson killed about 3,000 persons.
    Number of persons killed during the air raids on the U.S. territory within the framework of some of the air raids by the U.S. on the territories of others.
    Samson and Delilah 
    During one of the numerous wars between Israelites and Philistines, the leader of Israel was Samson (Judges 16:31). Delilah was a Philistine woman, paid over a thousand shekels to seduce Samson and deliver him to the hands of his enemies. Philistines, happy that 'our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who lay waste our land and multiplied our slain,"  displayed captured Samson in the temple.
    This Biblical story ends as follows.
    The temple was crowded with about three thousand men and women. When they stood him among the pillars, Samson prayed to the Lord, reached toward the two central pillars and pushed with all his might. The temple collapsed, killing all the people in it.
    Religious justifications of terrorism can be found in both the Qur'an and the Bible. The Bible also includes a remarkably close estimate how many people can be killed by collapsing a large building.
    The Play of Shadows 
    The shadow play was introduced to the West by travelers who witnessed it in China. The play of shadows is a form of
    Puppetry in which flat cutout figures are held against a translucent screen and illuminated by a lamp from behind.
    The Chinese also perfected the making of tinted translucent materials used to produce colored shadows. Sometimes, the figures had grotesque shapes and ornamentation.
    The art of shadow puppetry followed the Silk Road to Turkey, where it spread to Greece, reaching across the North Africa into Spain and France.
    The famous French silhouettes, popular before photography became generally available, were influenced by the shadow play.
    Parable of the Cave  
    bears a marked resemblance to the shadow play. It was narrated by Plato (c. 400 BCE), a student of Socrates.
    This parable follows an interesting course: Imagine prisoners in an underground cave with their necks chained so that they can only see before them.
    Behind them, a fire is blazing at a distance. Between the fire and the prisoners, there is a raised way.
    In front of the prisoners, the prisoners see the shadows of events taking place on the raised way on a wall.
    To them, the truth is literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
    The Knowledge will set You Free   
     One of the prisoners’ escapes, returns to the cave, and tells the others about the world above.
    After prisoners leave the cave, they initially think that the shadows are truer than the visible objects, only gradually grasping the reality.
    The meaning of this allegory is that mediated images are the world of those who live in the cave.
    To be free, we have to ascent upwards, into the world that could be correctly perceived and interpreted.
    Among the tasks of social sciences is to lessen the irrationality of the society, to improve critical thinking of its members, and to enable us to see issues and events as they are and not as the puppeteers would like us to believe.
    To dispel shadows and to cast the rays of light.
    Chapter 2 will follow soon…
    Trinity
    18.9.09