Five Dialogues on Knowledge and Reality

Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin (1972)
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This dissertation investigates that which can only be known with the following criteria of knowledge: (i) it is unchangeable; (ii) it cannot be mistaken; (iii) it is identical with its object. It begins by addressing the following questions: what can and cannot exist in solely this sense? Can anything exist in this sense? A further thesis it explores is that the split between the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge which has given rise to the unexplained and inexplicable residues in the solutions to epistemological problems which have been propounded by Western philosophers. These residues have been a breeding ground for a skepticism which casts doubt on the validity of the philosophic enterprise. It is hoped that this thesis might play some role in indicating a pathway through which faith in the philosophic enterprise may be restored. The approach taken is multi-leveled, at once transcen¬dental, metaphysical, phenomenological and empirical. It is transcendental in that the question is always ‘how is knowledge possible?’ It is metaphysical in that the focal point is always that which is, and not that which seems to be. It is phenomenological in that it is confined to the data of consciousness and makes no attempt to go beyond consciousness. It is empirical in that the final court of appeal for any argument is always pure experience. It is demonstrated that, given the separation of the subject knower from the object of knowledge, knowledge is an impossibility. Separatist views of knowledge are taken up and analyzed, among which are: knowledge as caused by objects; knowledge as the knowledge of an object; knowledge as the correspondence between ideas and objects; knowledge as an act; knowledge as a possession. All these views leave untouched the basic questions: what is knowledge? How is the object of knowledge known? How can knowledge arise in the first place? The existence of the object is then shown to be purely dependent on the existence of the subject, and vice versa. An analysis of experience reveals that no difference between subject and object is ever detected and detectable. The breakdown of experience into subjects and objects is shown to be a purely theoretical interpretation of experience, unjustified and unjustifiable in actual experience. It is finally shown that it is impossible to legitimize ideas of difference, either from the world of objects or from the mind of the subject knower. That there can be an appearance of plurality is demonstrated to rest upon the reality of space and time, existences which prove to be purely ideal. A re-integration of subject and object into the experience from which they have been dirempted provides an explanation of the possibility of know¬ledge, knowledge which is at once certain and of the real. An application of the perspective of non-dualism is suggested to offer philosophic solutions to such epistemological impasses as the relation of language and meaning and the universal and the particular. The relevance of an epistemological inquiry for action is indicated in such a way as to bring knowledge and existence into harmony with each other. The broader aim of the dissertation is to legitimize the philosophic enterprise as a pathway to unchangeable, unmistakable, and unitary knowledge.

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Robert E. Allinson
Soka University


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