Monday, November 03, 2014

Facts and Experiences

As a rule, modern philosophers accept that all human knowledge comes from experience but without asking what experience is.Is experience perhaps facts? Facts alone cannot constitute experience because until facts are known by me they are, relative to my knowledge, non-existent.Nor can experience be taken to mean facts known to me. If this is the meaning of experience, we would have to inquire about the kind of knowledge under discussion. It would be absurd to maintain that experience is facts known by sense alone. When I say that I know a fact by sense alone, I have removed all thought from the fact. In such a case, facts are sensations and nothing more; there is no contact between them, no connection of any kind. These facts known by the senses alone - an incorrect expression if ever there was one - can neither be written or spoken about, because language does not have individual words suitable to express them and because, if I connect them to some sensible sign to make them speakable, I would have to reflect upon them. But this runs counter to the assumption that they are known to me through sense alone, and nothing else. Experience, therefore, will be facts which are truly known; this inevitably brings in the intelligence which endows them with some universality by considering individual facts in relationship to being and, in being, in their relation to one another. This kind of experience can and does produce our cognitions. But if this is the experience we mean when we assert that all our cognitions come from experience, we first have to discover the nature of our intellective knowledge of facts and the nature of the intellect which we use to form or, at least, complete this experience.

Antonio Rosmini, A New Essay Concerning the Origin of Ideas, Volume 1, Section 4, Chapter 3, footnote 225.

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