The Archaeology of Delusion

The Unknown Known (2014), Written and Directed by Errol Morris — Suppose I replace Moore's ‘I know’ with ‘I am of the unshakeable conviction’? -- Wittgenstein, On Certainty §86 Twenty-five hundred years of thinking about it and we are hardly closer to a definition of knowledge. We can't even decide whether it should be a noun or a verb, metaphysical or metabolic, particulate or discursive. But at least we know this: the worst thing you can do, maybe ever, is confuse knowing with believing, with certainty. According to Socrates, and Plato on Socrates via Vlastos, knowledge is something which, and only which, survives repeated testing in the process of elenctic inquiry. Me using you as a whetstone. True beliefs and certainties, in … [Read more...]

Excavating the Tell

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald by Errol Morris, 2012 Ulysses, it is said, was so full of guile, was such a fox, that not even the goddess of fate could pierce his armor. Perhaps he had really noticed, although here the human understanding is beyond its depths, that the Sirens were silent...   – Kafka At the heart of all forensic science there are questions of epistemology which are often taken for granted. How can things be proven to have happened or not happened? How can memories be verified? What if something that looks like a duck and quacks like a duck was never a duck? All modes of inquiry are both predicated on and forever problematized by the relationship between ourselves and the world, as … [Read more...]

Forensic Epistemology

Believing Is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography), by Errol Morris, (2011) The question of knowledge and what can be known is as old as literature itself. Even before the concepts of physos and kosmos [1], observations of pattern in the natural world were hatching in Babylonian omens and Sumerian riddles. Western philosophy has incubated these questions ever since, but their growth has been bounded by the problems of studying our perceptive organs with our perceptive organs. The problem of the reliability of perception and how we approximate the welt extends the epistemological current into the hearts of jurisprudence, aesthetics, semiotics, and even physics, deepening their lines and muddying their waters. Thankfully, … [Read more...]