Our survey of obstacles to inquiry has dealt at length with blocks arising from its formal aspects. On the other hand, I have cast this project as an empirical inquiry, proposing to represent experimental hypotheses in the form of computer programs. At the heart of that empirical attitude is a feeling all formal theories should arise from and bear on experience.
Every season of growth in empirical knowledge begins with a rush to the sources of experience. Every fresh-thinking reed of intellect is raised to pipe up and chime in with the still-viable canons of inquiry in one glorious paean to the personal encounter with natural experience.
But real progress in the community of inquiry depends on observers being able to orient themselves to objects of common experience — the uncontrolled exaltation of individual phenomenologies leads as a rule to the disappointment and disillusionment which befalls the lot of unshared enthusiasms and fragmented impressions.
Look again at the end of the season and see it faltering to a close, with every novice scribe rapped on the knuckles for departing from that uninspired identification with impersonal authority which expresses itself in third-person passive accounts of one’s own experience.
A turn of events so persistent must have a cause, a force of reason to explain the dynamics of its recurring moment in the history of ideas. The nub of it’s not born on the sleeve of its first and last stages, where the initial explosion and the final collapse march along their stubborn course in lockstep fashion, but is embodied more naturally in the middle of the above narrative.
Experience exposes and explodes expectations. How can experiences impact expectations unless the two types of entities are both reflected in one medium, for instance and perhaps without loss of generality, in the form of representation constituting the domain of signs?
However complex its world may be, internal or external to itself or on the boundaries of its being, a finite creature’s description of it rests in a finite number of finite terms or a finite sketch of finite lines. Finite terms and lines are signs. What they indicate need not be finite but what they are, must be.
The common sensorium.
The common sense and the senses of common.
This is the point where the empirical and the rational meet.
I describe as empirical any method which exposes theoretical descriptions of an object to further experiences with that object.