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A Foolish Consistency; A Wise Inconsistency

Consistency is not the highest epistemic virtue.

Why?

Because a thinker may have two clumps of consistent beliefs each of which captures an aspect of reality. He or she could broom one of these clumps of beliefs and achieve greater consistency but at a loss of whatever the other beliefs were accomplishing.

Examples:

a)viewing the world as a network of causes versus belief in rational agency

b)viewing world as nature vs. viewing it as a meaningful production (the Greek Hebrew mash-up)

c)Confucianism vs. Taoism

They are always easier to see in somebody else than in ourselves.

Why would we give up consistency? For other epistemic virtues — depth maybe or success.

It seems like there has to be some sort of executive intellectual virtue that let’s us know when consistency is important and when it isn’t. Would that have to be consistent? I don’t see why it would.

A related issue: is the inconceivable conceivable? Well, there is a concept “conceivable”. So it seems like we can somehow grasp what inconceivable means. Does that mean there is a higher order set of things which are not concepts — modes of coping maybe, or paths through the forest of being?

Maybe. Maybe not.

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2 thoughts on “A Foolish Consistency; A Wise Inconsistency

  1. Mental Mouse says:

    Consistency is an ‘epistemic virtue” because it’s what binds together a body of functional knowledge. We know from observation that nature is terrifyingly consistent — any time we think it isn’t, it turns out we didn’t know all the rules.

    The problem you’re noting is that we’re not capable of producing a single body of knowledge that “makes sense of” all our experiences, so we frequently need to take the world in parts — especially, dealing with the natural world with one system of knowledge, but using another to deal with the human world, or other “epiphenomenological layers”.

    The interesting thing is, it may not be possible to encompass the world in a single body of knowledge — there are various incompleteness proofs (all controversial): Notably, there’s one to the effect that we cannot prove all true statements in mathematics, nor disprove all false ones (the famous Goedel’s Theorem), and a lesser-known one that we may not be able to determine all the physical laws of our universe. Certainly, the layers of complexity added to the world by life and intelligence add their own rulesets and other “stuff to know about the world”, and it’s not clear that layering has a real limit.

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