Thursday, 19 February 2009

Wittgenstein and Lonergan on correcting our certainties

"Further experiments cannot give the lie to our earlier ones, at most they may change our whole way of looking at things." (Wittgenstein, On Certainty ??)

Like the shift from the geocentric to the heliocentric way of looking at things. After someone accepts that the earth goes round the sun, rather than vice versa, nothing changes in the way things appear. The sun still appears to rise in the east. And we still go on speaking of sunrise and sunset.

Lonergan says: From the point of view of description, the sun rises in the East. From the point of view of explanation, the sun does not rise; it is the earth that goes round the sun. Each point of view is correct in itself. But if we were to say: from every point of view, the sun rises in the East, then we would be mistaken.

But of course we don't usually go around talking like this. And yet we understand what Lonergan is trying to say.

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