To Accept or Reject the Risk of Error

Topics: Epistemology, Scientific method, Science Pages: 4 (1276 words) Published: April 5, 2005
"To accept anything as true means to incur the risk of error. If I limit myself to knowledge that I consider true beyond doubt, I minimize the risk of error, but at the same time I maximize the risk of missing out on what may be the subtlest, most important, and most rewarding things in life". That was on page three of E.F. Schumacher's A Guide for the Perplexed. It was included on the third page on the text because it is one of the most important reoccurring themes throughout the book.

Schumacher means that if we only consider things of proven fact then we would be missing out on the rest of the world. If we only concentrate on what is proven then we will miss out on what is unproven thus far but could eventually be proven. Schumacher stresses his point by using the philosopher Renee Descartes. Schumacher says, "Descartes limits his interest to knowledge and ideas that are precise and certain beyond any possibility of doubt, because his primary interest is that we should become ‘masters and possessors of nature.' Nothing can be precise unless it can be quantified in one way or another" (9).

Descartes means that humans are the Supreme Being reining the earth and we should know everything about it. We should only accept the facts that are precise and clear cut. Everything has a reason, and it is our job as humans to know what that reason is. Schumacher takes this discussion further by analyzing the ideas of the philosopher Immanual Kant. In talking about Kant, Schumacher said, "Neither mathematics nor physics can entertain the qualitative notion of ‘higher' or ‘lower.' So the vertical dimension disappeared from the philosophical maps, which henceforth concentrated on somewhat farfetched problems, such as ‘Do other people exist?' or ‘How can I know anything at all?' or ‘Do other people have experiences analogous to mine?'" (11).

Vertical dimension is clarified on page 12 where Schumacher states, "The loss of the vertical dimension meant that it...
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