Page:Avenarius and the Standpoint of Pure Experience.djvu/23

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I admit that the point of view I here defend uses the word knowledge in a novel way, which may be a little confusing. But the habit of declaring that knowledge must be knowledge of outer fact, and then to say that epistemology investigates knowledge, is to declare an important problem solved by a mere fiat before beginning. Or put differently, there must be a transubjective object of knowledge, otherwise there would be no knowledge for epistemology to investigate; but we have epistemology, therefore we have knowledge, therefore we have the transubjective objects of knowledge. Perhaps we have, but it is to beg the most fundamental of questions to assume the transubjective objects in our definition of knowledge. We have cases of experience which we say are cases of knowledge. As types of experience, they must be distinguished by experience qualities. These experience marks are precisely what they are, whether there is any knowledge of transubjective things or not.

I quote a few sentences from Professor Seth for the sake of stating more clearly what I think epistemology ought not to be. He says: “Epistemology may be intelligibly described as dealing with the relation of knowledge to reality.”[1] Again: “This reference of ideas to a world of reality beyond themselves is what is meant when knowledge is contrasted with reality.” Also: “Now it is the essential function of epistemology to deal with this very relation,—to investigate it on the side of its validity, its truth.”[2]

All this is, I think, what epistemology should not try to be, at least at the beginning. It all follows, however, from including a metaphysical validity in the definition of knowledge. It should not be forgotten that our total data are experience characterized one way or another, and that when we speak of truth and error as something secured, we can mean only certain types of experience. But any piece of experience is properly described by pointing out its own positive characters, and not by a subsequent estimate of its value. Actual cases of knowledge are cases of experience characterized as cognitive. And to the experience which said, ‘I am knowledge,’ subsequent observation can always say, ‘You were error.’ But from the point of view of a strictly empirical account, the experience now called error was, so long as it retained the cognitive character, a genuine case of knowing something.


No doubt I seem to have mixed up experience and knowledge in a confusing way. I began by speaking of objects of experience,

  1. Philosophical Review, Vol. I., p. 133.
  2. L. c., p. 136.