Epistemology: The Musical 

So my dear nonexistent reader, you know I like to use this blog to sketch sometimes imaginary, sometimes plausible but shelved, projects. Today I’d like to sketch another imaginary, and in this case quite impossible, project. I do this because I need to get somethings out of my system, so to speak, so I can keep doing somethings that annoy me which I believe I must nevertheless endure for one reason or another.

I’m taking an epistemology course this semester that I am generally greatly enjoying. There are, however, some stuff that I find insufferable, like the seemingly incessant formalism I run into quite often in the readings.

Take the so-called traditional analysis of knowledge:

In order for a subject S to know a proposition P;

1. P must be true,

2. S must believe in P,

3. S must be justified in believing P. 

There seem to be almost infinite variations of this theme with same/similar form as every once in a while there emerge arch villains like Gettier, the famous troll of epistemology, who seems to have proven that these three clauses are insufficient to account for knowledge. Then ensues a biblical influx of Ss and Ps in different scenarios, tweaking one aspect of the definition or other, some keeping all the premises in some form while maybe changing some of the words (substituting evidency for justification for instance) and adding new clauses (like the absence of a defeater), some getting rid one or more of the conditions (and perhaps yet adding new conditions).

My first idea was to extract only the S and P portions of the articles I have read so far, list them under one another then read them a la Diamanda Galas (my goddess, my liege) but more like bad slam poetry meets exorcism, and then post the resulting audio mess here. I think this pastiche would show how ridiculous this endeavor can feel sometimes.

But then that would require some work and last night I was feeling very lazy. So I just pushed the record button and tried to read just one of the S and P passages which, to my surprise, swiftly turned into song form. Operatic at first, jazzy later.

Then it occurred to me that what we have here is an impossible love story between the Subject S and the Proposition P, a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. S yearns to believe P, to know P. And P, in turn, wants to be true to S, to be evident to S and so on. Yet it seems that no condition is ever necessary or sufficient to allow the union of our star-crossed lovers. Along comes this philosopher character, an epistemological match-maker, a witch doctor armed with endless counterintuitive and unnatural scenarios, to help our lovers. The philosopher, while they mean well, seems utterly incapable of achieving this, however.

It seems, on the contrary, that with each intervention of the well-meaning match-maker, our lovers seem to drift further and further apart. S is always on the verge of universal skepticism whereas poor P is on the verge of complete and utter obscurity. It is almost as if there is some supernatural force, some kind of divine decree, against their union. If this is not the stuff of genuine tragedy, I don’t know what is.

So then I began to fiddle with some really sad songs about the Misadventures of S and P in the Land of Epistemology. I even have a preliminary song list the image of which I am attaching here with much glee.









Just so you have an idea about what may be forthcoming, the one called Necessary and Sufficient on the playlist is a very short spoof of the jazz standard You’re the Cream in my Coffee with changed lyrics:

You’re the cream in my coffee

You’re the S to my P

You will always be my necessity

I’d be True Belief without you

I don’t know what, if anything, will come out of this or whether I want to subject my nonexistent readers to this shit. That remains to be seen. It will most likely remain fragmentary (and very silly) and perhaps I will share some of the fragments here.


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