Touching The Limits Of Knowledge

Cosmology and our View of the World


Discourse and Difference, Lead: Nick Copanas & Jared Troutman


Summary by Aaron Sommers:

Discourse and Difference

The discussion began with a short film clip of a Monty Python sketch. In it, there were an array of rooms in an office building, where a young man was searching for the "argument" department, he kept finding himself in variations of this concept, and never found his goal. It was humorous and was meant to display the miscommunication that can occur between humans who search for answers, although I myself find British comedy banal.

Nick initiated the talk with an explanation of what philosophers, as people who concern themselves with discourse, strive for in their disciplines. We were told that they attempt to transcend the rigid areas of axioms that scientists sometimes encounter. Since every discourse has a history, it is heuristic, like science, and can therefore be enriched by further investigation and scrutiny. Dr. Moebius pointed out we do not want to box in every discipline and a cross-cutting approach will benefit everyone who seeks enlightenment.

One student brought up an interesting question. He said that in the past one hundred years, science has become ever so progressive, and has improved the lives of millions with the advances in medical technology and the sorts. But what, he asked, has philosophy given society? Where are the results? To this, a great number of famous philosophers were mentioned, including, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, but no answer was given. As a matter of fact, it appeared after this discussion that philosophy has gone backwards, actually regressed, and has disposed of the important concepts of ethics that Spinoza had perpetuated, by replacing them with egoistic nihilists like Nietzsche and Sartre. Paul Brockelman has also mentioned that Sartre was not a good philosopher.

The point that philosophy is a meta-science was expounded and later refuted by others. It does not appear to have the same obligations it once did. Although some philosophers like Bacon were scientists, the parameters of disciplines have changed as specialization has ousted philosophy as a science.

Wittgenstein was brought up again. In his work, Meaning and Understanding, he talks about the importance of the study of language and relating them to objects. Dr. Davis questioned what we mean by the study of "things". What exactly, he asked, is "thingness" and where does it begin and end. Until this is answered, he was skeptical of what we would get out of this whole discussion. After this, more of the interconnectedness, or weaving of language was mentioned, paraphrasing Wittgenstein once again, and this confused the group as well as myself.

At the conclusion, we had said that language between humans is a complicated and flawed medium. However, it is necessary to have information being transmitted form one discipline to another, as well as one age to another. Discourse allows us to do this in an organized and coherent matter. Although philosophers have a tendency to intellectualize, expound, and complicate their objectives, we find ourselves learning from any difference in our approaches to the daunting study of cosmology.

April 8, 2002