The First Presumption Of Inquiry


The first and fundamental presumption of Formal Inquiry is the accepted convention, the unstated conviction, of the presence of an inquiring Subject ‘Independent and Separate’ from the investigated Object.

Every known ‘First Principle’, in Philosophy, in Logic, in Language, in Science, in Art, takes life atop this platform.

It is meaningless to talk of ‘Inquiry’ if the Subject is conjoined with the Object of Inquiry. But then, the word ‘Meaning’ itself is predicated on the presence of a ‘Me’.

[Nature rebels at zero correlations; try and find one. But anoint yourself ‘Independent’ and you’ll be granted this exclusive lie. There is no such state as ‘partially independent’. I hear this thrown around a lot. The correlation is either Zero or Non-Zero.]

We can spend decades testing an academic assumption that underpins a trite theory. But skip out on testing this first presumption that precedes the posit of Theory itself.

The Tradition of Formal Inquiry declares that among equally valid explanations, the one with the least assumptions wins. And he who needs the additional assumption gets to defend it. The burden of proof rests with the claimant.

Especially on one as bizarre as this, the claim to an: ‘Independent and Separate Observer, Self, Subject’. But we shall not quibble. And we shall not whine.

This Parsimony Principle goes back to before Aristotle in the Western Tradition. The most recent variant is ‘Occam’s Razor’, very popular with intellectuals who revel in obscure Latin inserts: Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

Unlike its ancestor the Monastery, every subject taught at a Modern University begins with implicit, mostly unstated ‘First Principles’.

They range from the thoughtful to the fearlessly flippant. [Most Inquiry however cheerfully begins well-past all ‘First Principles’]

All ‘First Principles’ however carry legitimacy only when mounted on the critically important ‘First Presumption’ that there is an ‘Independent and Separate Observer, Self, Subject’.

The professors are unlikely to remember what they are; ask the lady at the front-desk for the ‘First Principles List’ and wreck her day.

Methods of Inquiry that have immediate credibility to the modern-ear begin with the early Greek philosophers.

Inquiry must begin, they said, with the assertion of Axiom, the investigative analogue of the atom. [You can’t prove an Axiom. Bad idea. The idea of ‘proof’ itself is rooted in an Axiom. But people try all the time.]

But in most cases we have to settle for the Assumption. In a fogged-in world it is the reasonable man’s truth. We carry around a head-full, inherited, acquired, imposed. And often our deepest convictions begin in the flimsiest of assumptions.

An Assumption unlike an Axiom, ranks way down on the conviction-meter. This is the world of Belief. You can believe, partially believe or disbelieve an idea. You can never be sure of how true it is. Beliefs go along with Assumptions; where you find one, you’ll find the other.

Experts know a great deal. The sage knows less and less, as his assumption base keeps getting chipped away. Wisdom digs down. Expertise builds up. [No, I would not have the sage fix my stalled refrigerator.]

A good [not to be confused with ‘Higher’] education gives you the confidence to systematically look your Assumptions and Beliefs in the eye. And not because you can now locate Sudan on a map.

[To elaborate breezily on Model as an ‘Interpretation’ and equate a Modeled-Reality to an ‘Interpreted Reality’ is to miss the point. The very notion of ‘Interpretation’ is a Modeled-Idea. As is the notion of ‘Model’. [Fresh Academics and Deconstructionists are the most su

Shūnyam is not a Model. It does not mount on assumptions, nor take life in ‘Belief’, is not extended in binary divides, is not a concept, is not an idea.

[Christopher Hitchen’s the late, lucid polemicist had a more contemporary take on the Parsimony Principle designed for his style of diatribe: ‘What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.’ There are others floating around. It’s a powerful, oft-ignored requirement and dismissing it is the first step to sophistry.]