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Thread: What do you think of this approach?

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    Super Moderator Torin's Avatar
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    What do you think of this approach?

    We all arrive at adulthood with two classes of beliefs:

    1. Knowledge
    2. "Stuff we've heard"

    Knowledge is something we can show to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt. That is, we have firsthand evidence, or firsthand arguments, demonstrating the belief in question to such a degree of certainty that no reasonable doubts remain. There will always be gratuitous, absurd doubts (e.g., "maybe you're in the Matrix"), but these don't count against something's status as knowledge in the mind of a reasonable person.

    Knowledge can pertain to probability. That is, we can know that something is possible, or slightly more likely than not, or highly probable. However, certainty is still necessary in a sense for probable knowledge, since the judgment of probability must be secured beyond a reasonable doubt for such beliefs to count as knowledge.

    "Stuff we've heard," by contrast, consists of the enormous body of beliefs we all hold that we've picked up uncritically. "Stuff we've heard" is very useful, and we all rely on it in most areas of our lives for practical matters, but it is not knowledge.

    An example of "stuff you've heard" might, if you're like most people, be the claim that manmade climate change is occurring. Most people don't really know whether or not that claim is true firsthand, it's just something they've picked up uncritically and heard various arguments for and against without really bothering to sort it all out. (If you do know firsthand that manmade climate change is occurring, more power to you - this is just an example.)

    One of the goals every responsible adult should have is to lessen the number of beliefs they hold that are merely "stuff they've heard" and increase the relative proportion of knowledge that they have.

    One important thing to do during this process is to first, without doing any further kind of research or reading, start by sorting out the arguments and evidence that you know of right now and figure out where they point. This might take a number of hours by itself. If you find that your position isn't supported by the arguments and evidence that you know of right now, abandon your position and investigate without any particular preposition. This prevents bias during investigation.

    Thoughts? Am I missing something?

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    Yes, you're missing the reality of it, entirely.

    What you call "knowledge" here is in fact entirely stuff you've heard. For example, if you study science, you will come to believe what you hear the professor say. Stuff you've heard... Exactly.

    Not one student has the time, the financial resources or the technical means, to say nothing of the brain, to verify the stuff so heard. Most of them take it on trust without a trace of scepticism. Indeed without even thinking scepticism could be an option.

    The reason it's called knowledge is trivial. Students have to learn their lessons and they do end up with knowledge of a kind. Not knowledge of the real world, but knowledge of the theory which is supposed to be about the real world.

    Over time, the bright shining minds of this world just got all mixed up, taking the real but trivial knowledge of their lessons for an actual knowledge of the real world. In French, we talk of "savoir", i.e. knowledge of things like lessons and theories and ideas, knowledge that you have to the extent that you have the ideas and theories in mind. And then we talk of "connaƮtre", which is supposed to be actual knowledge of some real-world state of affair.

    Do you know that the Sun moves in the sky? Yes, because you directly experience what you call "the Sun" do something you call "move" in something you call "the sky". Actual knowledge. 100% subjective.

    Do you know that the Earth turns around the Sun? No. It's stuff you've heard, something humans repeat since Copernic. You know the theory, presumably, not the fact (not least because it's not even true). Stuff you've heard. Stuff people hear since Copernic. How many people got to verify this by themselves? Very, very, very few and even less. Stuff most people can only hear and take on trust. Definitely not actual knowledge.

    The bright minds of this world get confused because of the impressive successes of our civilisation seemingly based on technological and scientific knowledge. But 2,500 years ago, most Athenians probably similarly believed they knew the word of their time, and for exactly the same reason, yet without the science or the technology of our time.

    The crucial point is that it is possible to believe you know, and without any good reason for that. We don't have actual knowledge of the physical world. We have only beliefs but this is enough because our nature does the job. Look at ants. How would you say they managed to survive for 150 million years? You think they have professors of nuclear physics or something? You think they have books to record their scientific knowledge of the world? If ants survive without science, why would humans need science? And a bacterium? And metallic atoms? Who really needs actual knowledge? Beliefs are enough.

    Your perspective is politically motivated. Your piece is typical of the ideological perspective in which it is crucial to make the distinction between people who have knowledge and people who don't because they only believe whatever stuff they hear.

    What I say here is understood since Ancient Greece and was broadly the position of most empiricists at the time of Descartes. Maybe it's time to wake up?

    Still, most people here should agree with you, to some extent.
    EB

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    Sounds reasonable as a generalization.

    You could create a hierarchy but the I think you would end up debating semantics and meaning. Objective knowledge vs say circumstantial evidence or knowledge.

    There is knowledge inferred from objective measurable observation but may not be directly known. Theory tells us how the sun works, but we can not demonstrate it. The observable behavior of the sun matches the scientific model, but we do not know with objective certainty what goes on in the sun.

    Is philosophy knowledge in whole or part? A moral philosophy IMO is not objective knowledge.. It is a belief that one 'hears'.

    I'd say the meaning of knowledge is contextual.

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    Veteran Member Treedbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    ...
    I'd say the meaning of knowledge is contextual.
    That's precisely what it all comes down to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    ...
    I'd say the meaning of knowledge is contextual.
    That's precisely what it all comes down to.
    That is what philosophical debate comes down to when disusing concepts and not physical reality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    ...
    I'd say the meaning of knowledge is contextual.
    That's precisely what it all comes down to.
    That is what philosophical debate comes down to when disusing concepts and not physical reality.
    LOL.

    Our scientific civilisation is essentially based on the empiricists spending a long time discussing concepts, from Hume, Locke and Bacon, not to mention Aristotle, and indeed Descartes himself.

    You should read them.
    EB

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    Quote Originally Posted by Torin View Post
    One of the goals every responsible adult should have is to lessen the number of beliefs they hold that are merely "stuff they've heard" and increase the relative proportion of knowledge that they have.
    It's a nice goal, although for many the 'stuff they've heard' serves more of a purpose than knowledge. When your mistaken beliefs get you into a network of people, knowing what's really going on hurts more than it helps. But those people don't have the means to control their acquisition of knowledge, so what's happening is just an automatic thing.

    While those who are intent on learning, if the truth is actually important to them they can't get around that either. So that knowledge, in your definition, can certainly be helpful, but correct beliefs can be a problem too. So these people need to do a bit of pretending.

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