Discourse on the Zetetic Method

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Lord Wilmore

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Discourse on the Zetetic Method
« on: June 06, 2011, 01:19:46 PM »
Preface

    Within this community of great minds and thinkers, I have always regarded myself as a scholar rather than a scientist; a man of theory rather than experiment, of the study rather than the laboratory. It is of course the practice of Zeteticism by figures such as James McIntyre, John Davis and Ichimaru Gin that constitutes the core work of our movement, and which shows that the Flat Earth Society remains a force for truth in the 21st century. Yet I cannot but be dismayed at the lack of theoretical discourse regarding the Zetetic Method itself, and the absence of any clear or concise attempts to identify the defining characteristics of the methodology or the scope of its potential application. It is in our methodological dispute with globularist science that Zeteticism first takes form and meaning, yet in the one hundred and thirty years since the publication of the revised edition of Samuel Birley Rowbotham's seminal treatise Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe, no serious attempt to discuss the theory's distinctions and merits has been made.


    For truth be told, such an attempt is long overdue. Rowbotham's original critique of globularist science in Zetetic Astronomy is insightful and penetrating, and as a whole constitutes a devastating assault on the methodology that underpins the sphericist cult. However, his outline of the Zetetic Method itself is extremely brief and rather vague - most of the methodological substance is condensed into just a few lines. Rarely has a thesis been in such sore need of analysis and interpretation, yet to date there has been almost no scholarship devoted to Rowbotham's methodological principles. It is this lack which I wish to address.


    I say wish, as I am painfully aware that what I am writing now is little more than a preface to a preface. I do not expect that my discourse will be an absolutely sufficient account of the Zetetic Method, nor that it will be received without dispute or query by my peers, nevermind by our opponents. I only hope to provoke a much needed debate about our methodology; about what Zeteticism is and what it is not. If I can achieve that much, I will consider this essay to have been a success. So to friends, colleagues and critics, I say this: what I seek is the path to truth, but I care not whether I find it myself, or am lead there by others. At this point it seems fitting to conclude with a quotation from Rowbotham's own preface to Zetetic Astronomy, as its counsel is particularly apt:


      I advise all my readers who have become Zetetic . . . not to look with disfavour upon the objections of their
      opponents. Should such objections be well or even plausibly founded, they will only tend to free us from
      error, and to purify and exalt our Zetetic philosophy. In a word, let us make friends, or, at least, friendly and
      useful instruments of our enemies; and, if we cannot convert them to the better cause, let us carefully
      examine their objections, fairly meet them if possible, and always make use of them as beacons for our
      future guidance. (Rowbotham vi)


IN VERITATE VICTORIA


- Michael N. Wilmore, Munster, 2011 C.E.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2012, 08:26:50 PM by Lord Wilmore »
"I want truth for truth's sake, not for the applaud or approval of men. I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular. I should rather be right and stand alone than run with the multitude and be wrong." - C.S. DeFord

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Lord Wilmore

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Re: Discourse on the Zetetic Method
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2011, 01:20:00 PM »
Discourse on the Zetetic Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason, and of Seeking Truth

    Zetetics often make the point that a house is only as strong as its foundations, and that the epistemological weakness of the scientific method is the source of the great and cataclysmic error that is globularist astronomy. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that a great deal of ambiguity surrounds the precise nature of our own methodology as expounded by Samuel Birley Rowbotham in his seminal work, Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe. Though the epistemological strength of the Zetetic Method is often lauded by its practioners, to my knowledge the methodology itself has never been adequately articulated, and nothing of substance has been advanced beyond Rowbotham's terse description in Zetetic Astronomy. The purpose of this essay therefore is to suggest an interpretation of Rowbotham's original writings, and to discuss briefly the relevance of subjective methodologies such as Neozeteticism in that light.


    In Zetetic Astronomy, Rowbotham's explicit description of the Zetetic Method is confined to two paragraphs. He first declares that "[n]one can doubt that by making special experiments, and collecting manifest and undeniable facts, arranging them in logical order, and observing what is naturally and fairly deducible therefrom, the result must be more consistent and satisfactory than the contrary method of framing a theory or system" (Rowbotham 1). The three core elements identifiable in this description are as follows:

i) Experimentation and the collection of facts

ii) Their arrangement into a logical order

iii) Drawing conclusions on that basis

The meaning of the first element is elucidated by several other of Rowbotham's statements, in which he refers to "observation and experience" (Rowbotham 1) and again to "observation" (Rowbotham 2). The precise meaning of these phrases I will consider later, but for now it is sufficient to say that they clearly indicate some kind of empirical data or experience. The second and third elements go hand in hand, and are described in a far more explicit manner. Essentially, Rowbotham appears to say that empirical data must be collected, and that logical conclusions must be deduced from these empirical premises. These are the core concepts of Rowbotham's methodology; let us then examine the precise role of empirical data and logic within the Zetetic Method, and its resulting epistemological structure.


    The Zetetic Method seemingly owes a debt of inspiration to the Kantian synthesis of empiricism and rationalism, as Rowbotham advocates the use of logic and reason to mediate empirical data. He seems to view logic as part of our a priori conceptual framework, and argues that we can only attain truth by subjecting the objects of experience to the scrutiny of that framework. Rowbotham believes that we must assemble incontestable empirical data in an impartial manner, and using deductive logic arrive at the truth. Where a logical inference is not possible based on empirical data or inferences soundly deduced from empirical data, knowledge is not possible. We cannot simply reason our way to the truth, but nor can truth simply emerge from empirical data. Instead, we must use logic to elucidate the truth. For Rowbotham, empirical data and logic must be the basis for any epistemologically sound methodology.


    Having clarified the methodological structure of the Zetetic Method, we are now in a better position to see just how much it differs from the scientific method. Scientists compare empirical data with the previously conjured products of their imaginations, "[s]upposing, instead of inquiring, imagining systems instead of learning from observation and experience the true constitution of things" (Rowbotham 1). In other words, our best guesses are compared with reality, and if there is an apparent correspondence, the theory is approved. In contrast, Zetetics deduce logical consequences from empirical data. No speculation or guesswork is involved; instead the synthesis of empiricism and rationalism whereby logic is correctly applied to experiential data leads inevitably to the truth. Moreover, the Zetetic Method specifically advocates the use of deductive logic as opposed to inductive logic. Conclusions must be deduced from "manifest and undeniable facts" (Rowbotham 1). If feasible, this would mean that the Zetetic Method largely avoids the problem of induction, which has so plagued the scientific method over the centuries. These features allow the Zetetic Method to avoid becoming the prisoner of guesswork and speculation, the twin demons of globularist science.


    It must be granted that among Zetetics some speculative accounts of certain phenomona are occasionally proposed where insufficient evidence presents itself, and many globularists cry 'hypocrisy' when this occurs. However, this is quite unfair. It is of course in man's nature to speculate, and minds large enough to recognise the epistemological strength of the Zetetic method are of course equally capable of bold thought and great feats of imagination. They cannot be expected to simply 'turn off' the instinctively speculative aspect of the mind. Furthermore, in the absence of sufficient empirical data upon which to draw logical inferences, such speculation is of course permitted, as long as we recognise that such speculation is not in accordance with the Zetetic Method. For an explanation to hold up to scrutiny, it must logically procede from empirical data.


    At this point I must return to an issue I left unresolved earlier, as I wished to lay out the largely incontestable aspects of my thesis first. I have mentioned "evidence" and "empirical data" several times in the last few paragraphs, but the former is a highly ambiguous term, and the latter is never used by Rowbotham himself. The most explicit phrase he uses to describe the kind of data required by practioners of the Zetetic Method is "experience and observation" (Rowbotham 1), and even this description is so vague as to require interpretation. I believe that the use of the word "observation" indicates that Rowbotham means something quite different to traditional globularist notion of 'empirical data', which includes photographs, fanciful accounts and all manner of 'evidence' that may not have been observed nor experienced by the person 'verifying' the imaginative theory that has been constructed.


    In contrast, that Zetetics "[learn] from experience and observation" (Rowbotham 1) implies that they make logical deductions based on data they have themselves experienced or observed, and that there must be a direct connection between the data and the person drawing logical conclusions from it. Otherwise, Zetetics would not be making logical deductions on the basis of "experience and observation", but rather from reported experiences or reported observations. In short, the Zetetic Method requires that logical deduction be based upon direct sensorial evidence. This is what separates 'observation' from the globularist notion of empirical data, and it accords with our intuitive understanding of Zeteticism, which sees individual Zetetics conducting experiments and drawing conclusions on that basis, rather than making assumptions or accepting as given the opinions of those with vested interests.


    This requirement also has a sound philosophical basis, as it addresses the epistemological problem of solipsism, which I have outlined before but will recapitulate here. In The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer describes the problem of solipsism:


      Theoretical egoism, of course, can never be refuted by proofs, yet in philosophy it has never been positively
      used otherwise than as a skeptical sophism, i.e. for the sakeof appearance. As a serious conviction, on the
      other hand, it could be found only in a madhouse; as such it would then need not so much a refutation as a
      cure. Therefore we shall regard this skeptical argument of theoretical egoism, which here confronts us, as a
      small frontier fortress. Admittedly the fortress is impregnable, but the garrison can never sally forth from it,
      and therefore we can pass by it and leave it in our rear without danger. (Schopenhauer 104)


By 'theoretical egoism', Schopenhauer means solipsism, the skeptical theory that the conscious self is all that exists. His point is that although solipsism is a powerful and indeed irrefutable argument, it is of essentially no consequence. Granted, theoretically we can never trust our senses, but to deny their disclosive capacity would be a counter-intuitive and unsustainable course of action. In essence, to be consistent we must regard our senses as reliable. Indeed, in our day to day lives we do this all the time, and rightly so. However, if we must assume that what our senses tell us is correct to trust them to any extent, then we must do this always. We cannot pick and choose when to regard our senses as reliable or trustworthy. One might argue that there are situations where we may have apparently conflicting sensorial experiences, and that this presents a problem for those who advocate the primacy of direct sensorial evidence. However, Rowbotham's emphasis on sequential logic solves this problem. The Zetetic Method permits the observer to draw logical inferences based on these observations, conflicting or otherwise, empowering the seeker and privileging their experiences in the quest for truth. As such, Rowbotham's methodology, which requires that we rely exclusively on direct sensorial evidence (or 'observed data'), exhibits a philosophical integrity wholly absent from the scientific method.


    The role of the observer is therefore at the heart of the Zetetic Method, which requires us to seek the truth ourselves. Indeed, it is easy to see why Rowbotham chose to christen it the Zetetic Method, as the word 'zetetic' is derived from the Greek verb zeteo, meaning 'to seek'. Just as observation requires an observer, so seeking requires a seeker. The individual's journey towards truth is central to his philosophy, as are their experiences. The Flat Earth theorist John Davis has often spoken of Neozeteticism, a fledgling methodology the defining characteristics of which he describes as having "a much heavier hand on pluralism in science and the consequences of post modernism on scientific thinking" and legitimising "[that which] we can observe personally . . . [and] is not accountable to validation . . . us[ing] that as a building block to [determine] that which is valid and true" (Davis). However, I believe that Rowbotham's emphasis on "experience and observation" (Rowbotham 1) means that the Zetetic Method already accomodates and recognises the centrality of the observer. This is not to say that Neozeteticism is redundant - clearly Zeteticism does not concern itself with postmodernism. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Zeteticism does not suffer from a "fundamental failing" as Davis claims. Rather, we need to build upon the robust methodology left to us by Samuel Birley Rowbotham, using Zeteticism as the foundation for a methodological renaissance in inquiry and philosophy.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2012, 08:28:58 PM by Lord Wilmore »
"I want truth for truth's sake, not for the applaud or approval of men. I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular. I should rather be right and stand alone than run with the multitude and be wrong." - C.S. DeFord

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Lord Wilmore

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Re: Discourse on the Zetetic Method
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2011, 01:20:20 PM »
Works Cited

Parallax, and George Davey. Earth Not a Globe. Tennessee: Kessinger, 2010. Print.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Representation. Trans. E.F.J. Payne. New York: Dover Publications, 1969. Print.

John Davis. 'RE: On the Notion of a John Davis Comment.' The Flat Earth Society Forum. The Flat Earth Society, 4 March 2011. Web. 6 June 2011.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 11:37:09 PM by Lord Wilmore »
"I want truth for truth's sake, not for the applaud or approval of men. I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular. I should rather be right and stand alone than run with the multitude and be wrong." - C.S. DeFord