The Pursuit of Knowledge

According to Karl Popper, ontologically and epistemologically, there are three worlds; World 1, 2, and 3.

World 1 is the objective, physical realm. It exists without us. It’s existed since the Big Bang and will exist until the end, regardless of our human existence.

This objective physical World 1, however, is elusive. For, such physical realm from the Big Bang to the end, strictly speaking, is our hypothesis. It is what we assume so.

World 2 is our reaction to World 1. At least we know that we exist and live in this physical World 1. How do we know? Our mental feedback tells us so.

This reaction would not be limited to us. Dogs also almost instinctively know that they live and exist in this World 1 as their response tells themselves. And dogs’ World 2 is different from our World 2.

To some extent, there are areas and layers that both dogs’ and our reactions could overlap. Hence, intersubjectively, both dogs and we could agree that both of us live and exist in the same physical World 1, though dogs’ agreement is almost instinctive.

In the same manner, various reactions are depending on each non-sentient and sentient beings from sub-atomic particles to molecules to viruses to bacteria to plants to insects to animals to humans to even other ethereal existence if any, there are many World 2 reactions.

In short, World 2 is the realm of reactions; thus, it can’t exist without the responses of these reacting subjects.

Even if I die, the physical, objective World 1 would continuously exist. On the other hand, at the moment of my death, this specific World 2 of my reaction would disappear.

World 1 is physical and objective. World 2 is reactive, subjective, and intersubjective; and perhaps for those higher subjects, it could be emotional, mental, physiological, but not yet metaphysical.

Here, World 3 emerges. Popper calls it the realm of Objective Knowledge. If there are only two; Word 1 and 2, then our universe would be so fragmented.

In the layer of consciousness, accompanied by the sophistication of knowledge domain (sings, symbols, myths, languages, and theories, etc.), for those higher subjects who could manage this knowledge domain, World 3 must be available.

It is not only the reaction to World 1 but the intention of understanding and controlling both World 1 and 2, and even self-reflection of World 3 itself.

It is a meta-perspective.

In this World 3, our intention to understand and control the physical World 1 could be the domain of natural science. And our effort to reflect on the reactive, mental, World 2 could be the domains of natural, social, and human sciences, even art.

And all these sciences and art in World 3 could be be objective, communicative, sharable, and open-endedly progressive.

We can never see the real face of the physical World 1. We could merely assume that it’s started from the Big Bang and would exist until the end. That is what we think so. It is, however, different from our mental reactions of World 2.

Even though partial and limited, it is the result of our articulation, that is to say, the fruition of World 3 as far as the limit of our knowledge for now is concerned.

We used to understand the physical World 1 differently. It was more mythological and superstitious due to our limitations at that time. As Popper asserts, World 3 is objective and progressive by itself.

For example, we come up with one theory. But if we find errors in this given theory, then we can eliminate them for futher improvement. And again, the same error elimination process would continue. And Popper calls this process falsifiability.

Gradually and surely, we would come to see the more accurate and truthful face of physical World 1 and World 2 in World 3, or even World 3 itself in World 3. And this World 3 of objective knowledge is open-ended and never-ending. Pooper described it with this simple formula.

PS 1 >>> TT 1 >>> EE 1 >>> PS 2

PS 1 stands for problem situation 1 on how to see both World 1 and 2, or even World 3 itself in its reflexivity. Upon which, we come up with TT 1, that stands for tentative theory 1 for PS 1. But then, there must always be errors to be corrected and eliminated. EE 1 stands for such error elimination process 1.

After EE 1, can we end it? Of course not. Another problem situation must emerge even out of such EE1, which is PS2. And then there would be TT2, and EE2, and more. This process will go on and on.

Both World 1 and 2 would be elusive. Nevertheless, or because of that, World 3 of our meta-perspectives should move forward.

We tend to be nihilistic in facing the impossibility of our pursuit of truth (objective World 1), beauty (subjective World 2), and goodness (intersubjective World 2). Neverthless, we could continue to search for them in the World 3 of knowledge. Facing such cloud of unknowing, we must move forward for our pursuit with a sense of awe.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

Image by Nino Carè

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