Hypo - thesis (under - stand/place)
An hypothesis allows us to advance while in ignorance, and as part of the scientific method it is a necessary component of scientific activity. But, what is an hypothesis? Tonight we will explore that question.
In elementary school, hypotheses were guesses we would make at outcomes. That is, we already had certain possible outcomes set before us, and the hypothesis was something of a choice between them. In this way, it may seem problematic why hypothesis is such an important step: why guess? Just do the experiment and get the result. If this is really how an hypothesis works, then how do we understand something proved ex hypothesi (by hypothesis): how does a guess show anything?
Instead of seeing hypothesis this way, I want to venture this: that hypo-thesis (placing under) is a way of proceeding in answering a question while in ignorance. The hypothesis changes or constrains (the way we think of) the environment. When we place something under something else (hypothesis, place under) we allow it to stand on new ground (a new foundation) or alter how it looks (change the sort of contrasts it has); by this procedure, we also cover other things up.
In Plato's Meno, the interlocutors fail to understand what virtue is, but, ex hypothesi, they come to understand that virtue cannot be taught. Some people balk at this conclusion while overlooking that the conclusion depends upon, and should be restricted to, its hypothetical basis. What are the limits on such a hypothetical foundation?
In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant disallows all hypotheses - he tries to have a new science without hypothesis allowed. What does this mean? By not constraining the environment with hypotheses, Kant attempts to let things be simply what they are, and tries to perform an analysis on how things 'give' themselves to us. This is the birth of Critical Philosophy, as well as the soil for Phenomenology. Also, by removing all hypothesis, Kant sets the stage for those nihilists and existentialists who will wonder if the removal of all hypothesis (showing how things 'really are' themselves) reveals a great abyss which must lead to the despair of humanity and reason, or to demand faith as a foundation.
What other activities do we humans do that also operate analogously to hypothesis? Painting, for example, gives us a new way of seeing an object, or the entire world. How does this relate to hypothesis?
As a 'tool', does hypothesis develop out of some more basic kind of activity? Is this related to the possibility of language: the already organized character of the way things are 'given'?