On the art of being wrong: An essay on the dialectic of errors

Journal of Philosophy of Education 43 (4):573-588 (2009)
Abstract
This essay attempts to distinguish and discuss the importance and limitations of different ways of being wrong. At first it is argued that strictly falsifiable knowledge is concerned with simple (instrumental) mistakes only, and thus is incapable of understanding more complex errors (and truths). In order to gain a deeper understanding of mistakes (and to understand a deeper kind of mistake), it is argued that communicative aspects have to be taken into account. This is done in the theory of communicative action, which adds to our knowledge of errors the notion of communicative mistakes: mistakes as obstacles for sincere communication. However, to overcome this still purely negative judgement of errors, two processes are examined in which mistakes are best regarded as developmental steps, that is, steps not only meaningful in their own right (as containing some truth), but also as necessary preconditions for further progress. This would suggest that truth is born out of errors. But if so, one has to understand the wrongness of such errors; how is it that they are erroneous if they (somehow) contain the truth? At the end of this essay, a tentative answer to this question is given.
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