It has occurred to me for some time that I don't have anything resembling a coherent epistemology. I set about trying to formulate one, with its own set of tenets, and this is the first of them. I knew what I didn't want: poststructuralism, deconstructionism, or any of that ridiculous "Everything is opinion, everything is fluid" folderol, because it occurs to me that that sort of thing is dangerous. If am riding in a vehicle with someone, I certainly don't want someone driving who believes that all of existence is perception. Those types of people tend to drive off of cliffs to see what will happen (I'm half-joking).

This first maxim makes some core assumptions. The first is rationality and the superiority of Aristotelian logic. The second is a leap of faith, which you must excuse me for, and it is that of the existence of absolute truth. Being humans, we can only ever approximate this, but it exists. The third is causality which, to me at least, implies Determinism, Quantum Mechanics notwithstanding. Given the same set of variables, down to the molecular and sub-atomic level, two identical events will proceed in exactly the same way in every case. The fourth is strict Materialism, not a very fashionable idea these days. The universe is that which is part of the physical world.

These initial assumptions lead to the caveat that if they are true, then an individual that possessed all of the variables could predict how something would eventually progress, with impeccable certainty. This is my concept of what one might call God. An entity that is omniscient, and can therefore see the future.

So getting down to it: Based on these assumptions there is no such thing as opinion. This might seem to be only tenuously connected, but hear me out. If causality is in fact the mechanism of the universe, then your affinity for a certain bit of music, or the palatability of a particular dish is the result of your senses, which act in predictable ways. The existence of absolute truth leads to a bifurcation of beliefs: those that are true, and those that are not.

This is all pie in the sky for now, so let us put this into some sort of context. Say you are going to a dinner party. You are sitting on the edge of your bed, in the master bedroom, in the universal putting-on-socks-while-wearing-formal-attire position (unless you are one of those of the old school of dressing, who put on socks and undergarments first). You are preparing for a black tie affair, something for a disease or malady of some sort. You considered not going, but Cunningham (your nemesis) will be there, and you have a feeling that he is going to inform the commissioner of the phone call he received from a woman claiming to be your daughter (you were young and stupid, and Prague really is the city of love). Camilla, your wife of fifteen years, twirls out of the closet. That is something that normally makes you smile, those silly things that she does, but you are preoccupied with too many things to devote anything more than a half smile to this new bit of fancy.

She stops herself before hitting the antique Davenport, and catches you not laughing. "What's wrong, Darling?"

"Oh, nothing." You lie, waving the second sock in front of you, causing it to unravel. "I had another meeting with Jamie Cunningham this afternoon, and he told me that he was going to block my membership bid. Said my credentials were 'Less than impressive.'"

Camilla's face sours. "Cunningham!" She say, groaning. "What is his problem?" She walks off to the adjoining bath, retrieving a pair of earring, and returns. She slips on a pair of sleek black shoes, supporting herself on one of the bed posts. She then steps back, and asks "What do you think?"

It may seem she is asking for your opinion, but she is asking for your approximation of truth. When probing a little further, this seems a Herculean task, requiring precise knowledge of the decor, current fashion, the lighting scenario employed by the hotel, the interaction of your wife's body type with the cut of the fabric, a gestalt evaluation of each article of clothing taken as a unified whole, how she looks when standing, sitting, laughing, possibly dancing in this ensemble, perceptions of the other guests regarding dresses in this price range, of this design, ad infinitum. What she should ask is "Based on your knowledge, is this outfit going to produce positive impressions in the majority of guests (taking in account that she believes that some guests are more important to impress than others. If the Queen of Whales will be in attendance, she is really asking "Will the Queen like it?"). This is not opinion, as we are led to believe. Opinions can't be true or untrue, but the existence of absolute truth precludes the existence of such things.

My question is, who has thought of this before? Who says all of this, but better? You are the only one that I can think of who might know.

In any case, enjoy your spring break.


Garland Grey
Hopeless Rationalist

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