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Stages of Knowledge and Creating an Integral Society — 2 Comments

  1. As always, Gordon displays excellent scholarship and judgment.

    His discussion of stages of knowledge and moral development evokes some additional sources, for example Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral stages, and August Comte’s hierarchy of knowledge – Religion, Philosophy and Science. I am not sure that Gordon would agree that, as a source of knowledge, Religion is “inferior” to Philosophy, which in turn is inferior to Scence. Anyway, that was Comte, the founder of Positivism.

    About Nietzsche and post-modern relativism: You are right. That’s the problem today. “Absolute relativism,” to coin a phrase. We have lost our way.

    However, another, related concept comes to mind: Pragmatism. This has been a very American perspective for a long time, at least since William James. Americans have always been more interested in what WORKS, than in what is “metaphysically true,” in an absolute sense. I must confess, I have seen merit in this.

  2. “Pragmatism” is an excellent response to this problem. “What works” can be said to be approximate truth. For example, Newton’s billiard ball universe allowed approximate answers to bodies in motion, even though it was not necessarily and absolute or exact formula. Similarly, we can say the lessons of history can tell us things that work. For example, the U.S. Constitution was based on a study of political systems and incorporated what was known to work, combined with guesses about the uncertai9n.

    However, pragmatism has to understand the entire system. For example, it may be “pragmatic” for Pfizer to lobby the government for corporate welfare, or Halliburton to lobby for war. However, that contradicts what is pragmatically necessary to keep a society sustainable.

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