Thursday, 19 February 2009

Why Empiricists are contrary Marys.

You know the phase that children go through, aged around 10 when every response to their parents becomes ‘why?’
Parent ;‘It’s time for bed now’……child; ‘why?’ parent; ‘because you’ll be tired tomorrow’…child ‘why?’…parent; ‘because you won’t have had enough sleep’…child ‘why?’ etc. etc.
When I, as a delightful 10 year old would play this world renowned game with my mother she would say ‘Because I say so contrary Mary’ and send me to my bedroom without further ado.
I feel this behaviour can be likened to that of an empiricist. By nature, an empiricist is required to ask ‘how?’ and demand proof of every fact presented to them. Surely this can become inextricably tedious?? ‘it’s time to go Chris’
‘how do you know?’….‘because we have to be there at two’…. ‘how do you know?’….’because Brian told me’….. ‘how does he know?? Etc etc

How can an empiricist not make their own lives and the lives of those around them hell? by constantly requiring physical evidence.
Kant draws to my mind a sensible conclusion. A metaphor he uses to illustrate his conclusion shows perhaps an initial need for proof; A child may use marbles when first learning mathematics he can see (with his own eyes) that when he places two marbles next to another two marbles, it leaves him with four marbles. Nevertheless once the child has grasped the idea that two and two equal four, he no longer requires the marbles in order to prove it each time he adds up his toy cars. He has then an A-priori understanding that two and two equals four.

I do not believe in God and were someone to try and convince me of his existence, I would undoubtedly use the lack of proof as a defence for my belief. On other hand if Josh told me that we had no lectures next week, I would be inclined to believe him...because he is a friend and with an establishment of friendship comes a level of trust. In the first instance, I am an empiricist, demanding proof of a higher power that I don’t believe exists on the other hand, I’m quite lazy and am happy to believe Josh’s (perhaps unreliable) information if it means I can have a chocolate bar and read the paper as opposed to running around looking for Horrie to check my information.
I think as a journalist is important to have an empiricist view point to avoid getting into libel suits, as a human I think it is important not to be too cynical. So perhaps to be like one of my favourite comedians, Bill Bailey says ‘a relaxed empiricist’ is a happy medium. Bailey says whilst he demands proof for some things, if someone he knows well tells him a fact, he’s inclined to believe him.