Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The hierarchy of knowledge - a coherent metaphysics

From highest to lowest...

Imagination --- attained by Intuition
Rationality --- attained by Reasoning, including Logic ( 'Philosophy')
Empirical Evidence ('facts') --- attained by Observation, including Experiment ('Science')

(Note: an older division, before the development of Science as a separate domain, combined Rational and Empirical as Natural Philosophy

The above hierarchy is, I think, the only coherent set of metaphysical assumptions for arranging these types of knowledge - in the sense that 'facts' depend on reasoning, and reasoning is validated by intuition.

What, then, validates 'Imagination/ Intuition'? The further assumption of divine revelation - which needs to be both internal and external - we need to have something divine within in order to respond to divine revelations from without.

Once these assumptions, and this scheme, is in place - then everything necessary seems to follow.

Any other arrangement of the elements seems to be self-refuting.

1. Imaginative knowledge can be tested by reasoning and observation (tested to some extent, although almost-never conclusively so) - but imaginative knowledge is primary.
2. Facts need to be tested by their coherence with other facts - i.e. by reasoning - and also and ultimately by imagination (although this imaginative test cannot be forced; the answer may come slowly or not at all; and at any cross-sectional point in time, intuition is likewise variable in validity and reliability).
3. Reasoning needs to be tested by imagination - since we are very prone to errors in reasoning, and correct reasoning is not fully and un-distortedly known in any explicit and reliably-transmissible fashion.


  1. I wrote about this in an article on "mythic imagination," which is I think what you describe here. Like causality itself, at some point, reality becomes synchronous in that both parties must converge; this applies to human knowledge of God. Kant was instruction in this by pointing out (1) that the root of knowledge was intuition and (2) that what we know of the world is heavily filtered, based on our brains assigning recognizable form to what is otherwise much more complex. Great post, and I hope you write more on this topic.

  2. Just translated it into spanish.