In previous post (It’s About Time) I put forward conjecture that time and space may be merely a faculty of our mind dedicated to inception of comprehensible narratives about sense perceived abstract class entity(es) called “matter” or more widely, material reality(es). But before we could proceed into our metaphysics of reality, risking of loosing my reader, I suggest that we pause a little to inquire more sincerely upon our transcendental mind, which underlies the above question.
This seemingly simple question has surprisingly profound depth in it. It reaches into obscured realm, beyond realm of epistemology alone. It reaches beyond fundamental question of what do we really know, after we learn something but not before. This post is mostly foundational, but not just cut/paste recitations of dead philosophers. I am obviously relying on past philosophical works but I am not following them in any consistent way except for utilizing some of their useful terminology in least obfuscated way I’ve found possible. Unfortunately, only few quasi-circular references that may somewhat resonate with common human experience could be used here. I have to admit that, it isn’t easy getting there without a touch of insanity. So bear with me.
The big part of what we know before we learn anything is referred to, in philosophical circles, as transcendental knowledge. It sounds bizarre but it has nothing to do with supernatural premonitions or religious ecstasy, but it is simply knowledge that transcends (rises over) our sense perceptions. In other words transcendental knowledge exists “in our mind” prior to any sense perception (a-priori) or perhaps even prior to any sense detection. We need transcendental (a-priori) knowledge to acquire our regular (a-posteriori) knowledge, which commonly process sense perception and conceptualization of perceptions into comprehensible narratives about outside world. Transcendental knowledge is a “proto-knowledge” we are born with but we’re never conscientious about until we begin to sense world around us and then, only in rare moments of self-reflection.
To shed little light on sense perception, which play important role in discussing knowledge itself, let’s illustrate how we think we might be interacting with outside world. We assume that our senses (smell, taste, hearing, vision, touch, heat/cold, pain sensitivities etc.), conceptual organs located in our brain, are not firing at random but are driven somehow by reality of outside world. We cannot prove it in general, though. This is just a conjecture. We also are somewhat in dark on how exactly senses are driven by sense-detectors input stimuli processing and what “outside world” really means.
The process of perception of an event can be construed as a process of acquiring acute sensitivity of particular sense(s) within noise of incoming sensual stimuli and grouping them into a perception(s) i.e. an object(s) or phenomenon(a). Process of grouping/categorizing perceptions could be called acquiring experience. Structured sets of perceptions i.e. experiences of cognition, building blocks of a-posteriori (regular) knowledge, are formed through process called conceptualization. The reverse process, in which sensations are “induced” by our internal cognitive processes without external input stimuli are often entangled into feedback loop, complicating formation of perceptions. The conceptualization of sense perceptions would be impossible without applying our built-in transcendental knowledge.
So what do we really know, before we learn? Or what do we need to know before we learn anything?
From lack of better alternative, rather then due to principle of “sufficient reason”, we’re “compelled” by our mind to apply our transcendental knowledge, consciously or unconsciously as a particular mode of perception of ourselves in unity with our own reality.
Transcendental knowledge is knowledge of how our mind works. It’s about thought process, its rules and limitations, it’s about intuitions, it’s about aesthetics, it’s about logic, it’s about methodology of conceptualization, it’s about categories and instruments of thought, it’s about inception and development of ideas, it’s all about the way we think and not what we think about.
Suffice to say that we know very little about of our mind. We cannot proof that our mind, as a structured entity of our own thoughts, thing in itself, even exists, or that our mind is a carrier of our identity and/or source of our conscientiousness. It is obviously, extremely difficult task to embrace our mind with thoughts (or words), to conceptualize originator of concepts of entities that could be never sense-perceived. The philosophers call such entities noumena in contrast to sense perceived entities called phenomena.
Many colossus-es of philosophy tried and failed to grasp essence of metaphysics of transcendental mind. Against all odds, I will try to join them in their failure, and humbly make an attempt to define metaphysics of knowledge conceiving “Transcendental Mind” as amalgamate of :
- a-posteriori (regular) knowledge understood as a structured set of comprehensible narratives about the “outside” world, (our worldview) on which we chose to rely in our “objective” rational decision making process, and,
- a-priori (transcendental) knowledge understood as a method of structured set of intelligible narratives about our “inside” mind, (our sophy) on which we chose to rely in our “subjective” innate moral judgment process.
If it’s all about ultimate choice, there may be no possibility of “absolute” truth about our transcendental mind, outside our own mind since concept of truth exists only a-priori any thought or experience. However, our moral judgments may yield innate “absolute” truths, axiomatic truths that are always true because we conceived them as true and judged them to be true, and accepted them as the truth into our worldview. Throughout our lives we are straggling to maintain our worldview unified and complete, filled with (a-posteriori) knowledge if we can but if we can’t (or if we won’t), filled with concepts, products of our mind, using methods of a-priori knowledge i.e. intuitions and innate moral judgments.
Our worldview is being built ad infinitum from our continuously updated a-posteriori knowledge using methods and concepts of our “static?” a-priori knowledge through process of learning. The process of early learning could be understood in terms of expanding and shaping our worldview mostly via conceptualized sense-perceptions and perhaps via innate, non specific, internal language. The late learning however, could be understood in terms of disrupting our already constructed worldview. The new worldview, defined more and more by our newly acquired (a-posteriori) knowledge, predominantly via methods of cognitive abstraction mostly carried by externalized, specific language of interpersonal communications, and not necessarily via “trustworthy” sense-perception as it was before. In many cases, sudden, dramatic revision of our worldview, leads to crises of identity, especially when it’s already shaped by our a-priori knowledge i.e. innate intuitions or moral judgments. The challenge or purge of established elements (concepts) of our worldview is frequently associated with mind driven reverse sense stimuli liken to “emotional outbursts” and depressed outlook. What’s more important that, our worldview stemming from a structured set of comprehensible narratives, is much more sensitive to removal or replacement of some special, foundational elements then non-critical others. This enhanced sensitivity, sometimes results in cascading effects of further disruptions of internal homeostasis of mind/body, deepen negative outlook or even rejecting learning process as a whole.
All this seems trivial, you may say, but what it has to do with anything, especially with answer to title question. Well, you may be right, but what’s clearly obvious is the answer itself. What we need to known, before we learn anything is to know how to learn and this knowledge is embedded into transcendental mind and not in school instructions. I hope, we are here to try to attain enough courage to challenge foundations of our own “truths and beliefs”, to challenge our worldview by learning from our mind how to learn better.
So let’s search for and challenge. This time it will be… our reality. Stay tuned.