The article, a contribution to the Common Knowledge symposium “Fuzzy Studies: On the Consequence of Blur,” analyzes the metaphysical assumptions behind the valorization of “clear and distinct ideas,” apodictic knowledge, and definitiveness, and it suggests alternatives derived from Daoist sources, where a different model of knowing prevails. That model undermines the idea of purposive willing in the service of goals known in advance, and undermines as well the bases for any human or divine activity designed to achieve definite ends. If purpose is not privileged either metaphysically or ethically, the concomitant notion of unambiguous fact is also shaken. In the absence, even in principle, of any form of knowing, human or divine, that is unambiguous and apodictic, there is no reason to grant ontological privilege to the paradigm of “unambiguous potential objects of knowledge.” This article concludes by asking and in part answering what the world looks like, what sort of human cognition and activity is most appropriate, in the absence of clear purposes, definite knowledge, and unambiguous facts.
Brook Ziporyn; ON SORT OF KNOWING: The Daoist Unhewn. Common Knowledge 1 January 2013; 19 (1): 111–130. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-1815755
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