Is knowledge something you have...

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Doreen, Jan 4, 2010.

  1. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

    Sorry, I think you misunderstood. I meant that some architects had great know about the design of the buildings, good buildings, ....but they couldn't build them themselves. So all that knowledge did them nor anyone any good ...UNTIL... they found someone with the knowledge to build the design.

    Yes, there are some architects who CAN build, but we're not talking about them, we're talking about the ones with only the design knowledge and NOT the construction knowledge.

    I agree, I think, with your ideas about "continueing" education and accumulation of knowledge. But let's talk about one thing at a time.

    Baron Max
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  3. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    No, I understood.

    I mean, we live in a specialized world where many skills are useless without other skills, skills that are often separated between people. So I think that is a different issue than the one I am getting at where you have knowledge but cannot apply it. I would say that architects can apply their knowledge concretely. They can produce drawings that people with other skills can use. My point was what would it mean if there was an architect you knew correct answers and yet designed flawed houses. That's a closer analogy to the point I was making.

    But I think your point is interesting. Since much knowledge today requires other people. Of course that goes back in time a long ways, but the further back you go the more people had independent knowledge and skills.
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  5. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Well, if knowledge isn't something related to behaviour, I can't think of what else it might be,.....

    Ah; well, I was getting at the 'other minds' problem.
    As long as you don't mean 'know', as in, 100% absolutely correct, then fine, I will concede to yes.

    No joke at all.
    I actually thought that what you said here was relevant. I know you were just making a comment regarding procedure, but I think that your comment itself reveals something about presuppositions. Namely, I believe that the "abstract' cannot yield any knowledge whatsoever, as it doesn't exist, beyond a metaphysical conceit of our own design. All knowledge begins from the concrete.
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  7. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    I agree and I am sure that is no surprise, given my emphasis on praxis in all things, it seems. But then the way we talk about knowledge, generally, implies it is something static. As if we have a library in our heads. The ones with the bigger libraries are more knowledgable.

    So how do you determine this? How do we get at determining if someone has specific knowledge and what might make us decide they do not.

    Where is Wes when you need him?
    I do, in a sense, agree with you, in terms of gnosis. But in praxis terms, I disagree. IOW when discussing an idea, or fleshing it out yourself, you can move from the abstract toward the concrete and come up with new stuff. Regardless of whether that abstract knowledge ultimately is founded on the concrete itself. I think back on my disagreement with Dwydder (sp?) where you said that logic/math could provide new facts. We recently extended that argument a bit.
  8. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    OK. But then. Go in water almost drown, rescued from bottom, resusitated. Knowledge: going in water leads to near death states.
  9. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I'm with the "Knowledge = justified true belief" camp... albeit with justification needing to be sufficient and rationally leading to the truth value.
    In this way, knowledge is something held - it is not an action.
    It is related to behaviour - but behaviour springs from knowledge, tempered with guesses, irrationality, unknowns etc - i.e. it is just one thing that might drive our behaviour.

    So taking the "justified true belief" definition / understanding...

    Imagine the scenario: you are in a work office and someone asks you if there is anyone in the room next door.

    You guess "yes" without looking. Is this knowledge? Even if it is true? I would say no. Because until it is confirmed there is the possibility of error.

    So you go and have a look and see what looks like someone sitting at the desk.
    So you come back and say "yes - I know there is someone next door".
    Do you have knowledge?
    You have a belief, sure, that the room is occupied.
    It is justified, as there appears to be someone sitting at the desk.
    Is it true? Well, what if the figure at the desk is merely a mannequin? If so then you do not have knowledge, right?

    But - what if the figure at the desk is a mannequin but there was actually someone else in the room but out of view that you never saw. So the truth is that the room is occupied.
    You would seem to have a belief that is both true and justified - but do you still have knowledge?
    I would again say no - as the justification is not related to the cause of the truth value.

    Anyhoo - that's my take on knowledge - or at least the surface of it.
    There are many grey areas of what constitutes justification, though.

    As for how we can know if someone else knows... Imagine Bob knows X - or at least claims to know X.
    He tells us "X is true".
    We can now choose to believe "X is true" and "Bob knows X" - but both these are merely beliefs, not knowledge.
    In order to turn these beliefs into knowledge we must have justification (as described earlier) AND these beliefs must be true.
    If we assume we have established the veracity of X, we can check Bob's justification for claiming that X is true - and thus we can establish if indeed Bob actually had knowledge.
    It might be, for example, that Bob was merely guessing that X is true - and that he had no justification for his claim.

    If you accept weak justification as sufficient then knowledge is easier to come by and hold... e.g. if you read it in a text book, you could claim that this is sufficient justification to "know" something. Of course, just by reading it in a textbook you won't know of it's truth value - which can only be assumed until observed directly.

    Which leads me to a conclusion of sorts that knowledge can only be held by first hand observation - not second hand.
    Knowledge imparted by someone else must be ratified by first-hand experience - otherwise one can not know whether the other's or even one's own claim of knowledge is indeed knowledge.

    I would concur, I think.

    But this strictly is not true - so not knowledge.
    One has to be precise with what knowledge one derives from any given observation.

    In your scenario, your knowledge would be "going in water CAN lead to near death states" in its most vague form - or more precisely something along the lines of "fully submerging and getting water in the lungs, being resusitated (etc) leads to NDE" or some such.
    With my usage / understanding of what knowledge is, in your example the derived claim is not sufficiently justified from the observation to be considered knowledge - and further it is just not true - as any swimmer will tell you.

    Much of what we think we know we don't.
    Most is merely a claim of knowledge - it might be justified but the truth value is at best assumed - and thus the justification will be insufficient, in my view, to allow for true knowledge.
    By this I am referring to what we read in textbooks, newspapers etc.
    We assume the truth of what we are reading - and we use this as (insufficient) justification.

    Further, we can not know something that has a probability (when the claim of knowledge is made) of being false, even if it subsequently turns out to be true.
    E.g. you can not know that a die will land on a 6 before it is rolled, even if it subsequently does land on a 6 - unless it is rigged to be 100% certain that it will land on a 6.

    But in casual parlance rather than philosophical, I would say that "knowledge" is used differently and has a weaker connotation - one of assumed truth and one that is probably reliant on logical fallacies (appeals to authority) etc.
  10. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

    I agree! And we see this so much in history books historian uses the unknowable speculation about something that happened in history. A subsequent historian, writing about the same happening, will use the previous book, referencing the original speculation, and build his own ideas for what happened. That scenario goes on for so long that soon the original "wild speculation" is now taken as factual info. And we call it ...knowledge?

    As I get older, and with time now to reconsider many issues, I'm coming to realize just how little I actually "know". Oh, sure, I can spout a lot of "info", but is any of it true? And how in hell do I know for sure?

    How many people here learned things from books? How many of those books were written using info that the author found in other books? And so on, back through the history of books. So, it all true? ...just because it's written in books?

    Baron Max
  11. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    You have to look at what I wrote in context. I was responding to CT's example, which, as written, can be critiqued in similar ways you critiqued my example. Because it (seems) obviously true, we may skip over that.

    You have fleshed this out in one way, but I am interested in how he or she does. My example may be fairly simple to flesh out since it was based on a one off experience. In a sense I gave an example of a PSTD conclusion. But given that our environments are heavily human controlled, separating out knowledge from beliefs may be tricky.

    But let's see how he or she responds.

    I agree. I think a lot of people here think that the know things because other people 'probably' do. They confuse other people's justification with their own. Another way to put this is they do not realize how much intuition has gone into the formation of what they consider their knowledge. Intuition that may or may not be skilled.

    As far as your ideas about belief and first hand experience it would seem, for example, that very few people have knowledge of evolution - and note, I am not heading towards some defense of creationism or assault on evolutionary theory. I happen to believe in the theory of evolution. I am, however, skeptical about people's knowledge, in a wide variety of areas, including related to various aspects of science. The dichotemy between knowers and believers seems a lot more complex to me than a browse through the Religion forum here might indicate and the rather strong statements you made actually give me some sense you might agree.
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member


    Maybe - but I think it is more complex than that - in that there is no confusion, but that their justification is that X is stated in a book as being true, and they have learnt from experience to trust that type of book as providing truth.
    So while I agree that this is not them having knowledge (as I understand the term) I think it is not so much a confusion of justification but merely an insufficiency of justification - at least as I would see it.

    Others, including one previously vociferous person on this site, would claim that knowledge is just a belief that is true - i.e. requires no justification at all.

    Again I see you trying to use the term "intuition". Please can you clarify what you mean by that term? Thanks

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    If being strict about what "knowledge" is, then yes, I'd probably agree. But I would hesitate before using casual parlance of the term as an example.
    In normal usage I see the term "knowledge" as a far weaker proposition. So one must be careful to judge the term in the context of the discussion.

    Sure. I do to an extent.
    But bear in mind that belief ranges from "as certain as I can be without actually knowing" to "weight of evidence leads me to believe it" (such as it might rain tomorrow) to the bottom of the scale of "zero evidence that rationally leads to conclusion of X, but I believe X anyway" - which is how I see most beliefs in God (a separate discussion, no doubt)

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    Most people will start to use the term "knowledge" rather than "belief" at a far lower level while speaking in casual parlance than they strictly should from a philosophical p.o.v., I would say.

    Meh - I've probably been waffling too long.

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  13. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    See, I was waiting for days for someone to bring this up. Thank you good sir.

    I am completely in agreement with you. I've been entrenched in said camp for many years...

    Alas, here I disagree [though, this could be a quibble on the semantics of "held"].
    All knowledge is dynamic;, never static. As such, it can only be knowledge [as identifiable as such..] in its being used. Thinking is always an action....

    Again... I think the cause of our seeming disparity here surrounds the notion of "held" or, more generally "possession".....
  14. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member


    Sure. But that's simply the way we speak about something, which doesn't necessarily have any bearing on what it is...
    My point being that, we do speak of knowledge in this way because it's convenient, and useful to do so...

    Simple: the principle of verification.

    Oh, he'll show up.. if he's around. He can't avoid such a topic..

    Even in praxis it is generally understood [caveat: by rational people..] that, while we may make use of the Abstract, it is little but a useful fiction.
  15. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    It does have splendid views, does it not.

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    Knowing might be dynamic, the way that thinking is (always an action). Knowledge, however, is surely akin to a thought. "Once had, forever held, until forgotten" - or some such nonsense.

    But I'm happy to chalk it up to semantics... for now...

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  16. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Isn't the 'true' portion redundant if your epistemology only allows beliefs in the liklihood of something?

    It implies there is justification over here
    and then we test for truth over there.
  17. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Of course, mine doesn't, so all is well...
  18. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    See, to me, Glaucon, the above two sentences are rather coy. Instead of saying that way of speaking about them is wrong or misleading, you say that the way we speak about things is not necessarily the way things are. I think you can tell from what I said that I already assume this. The next sentence says it is useful to do describe things this way. So clearly you disagree with Wittgenstein on meaning is use. It is useful even if not true. If you do agree with Wittgenstein that meaning is use then it seems to me that language is not a mirror but a tool for eliciting experiences - ones that will be helpful in navigating other experiences.

    In a sense I am prodding you to take a full stand on the issue.

    Further, of course, my point was not that our language necessarily reflects the truth, but rather that our language reflects the way we think.

    Me using mirror metaphors for truth.
    For example.

    LOL. Your sense of the set of rational people must be that it is very small. Shall I browse the forums here for you. I promise, I'll only choose scientists.
  19. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    So you believe in 100% certainty about some things?

    Does this include anything inductively arrived at?
  20. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member


    Of course.
    Yes, we've gone over this before...

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    It can, though not necessarily so.
  21. Pipes75 Registered Senior Member

    Knowledge comes in many forms.

    Experience give us knowledge.
    Awareness of any kind gives us knowledge.
    Information gives us knowledge.
    Evidence gives us knowledge.

    If the resource we use is untrustworthy, sometimes we think we have knowledge when we really have misinformation.

    Knowledge in the physical is pretty easy to find and verrify, as their is generally evidence and/or something testable.
    Knowledge in spiritual things usually comes from within ones own mind, and since we are still unsure how to find evidence in the spiritual, it is difficult to trust others knowledge in the spiritual, unless you already know through experience.
  22. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    So the biologists her realize they do not have any knowledge of the Big Bang, for example. I am rather skeptical.

    In a sense I do not have to define it. We can call it black box processes. It really doesn't matter. If a lay person - or scientist out of her field, for example - reads a text book entry about ___________.... Then reads a couple of journal that seem to confirm the text book entry....and then decides that __________ is likely true, they are weighing evidence in an intuitive way.

    I figure that a textbook is very, very likely to be correct because......
    If this journal which I heard is very respectable says__________then...........

    Call whatever their weighing process is, conscious, unconscious, whatever intution may be granting them too much. All I can say is that it is not first hand experience, it is weakly deductive at best and involves estimations of a huge variety of factors.

    Call it whatever you like.

    The contexts shift here all the time, me thinking of sciforums as an example. But one would get the impression that lay believers in Evolution - even such a bulky term should set off some warning bells, see their beliefs as knowledge, given the kinds of epistemological rigor they are expecting of others.

    Well, you have no first hand experience.

    This is my reaction overall to your post. You took a strong stand about what knowledge is. When I agreed with this, you got concerned that a door had opened that you would rather have shut and now it will seem like we must disagree.

    Why can't we all be humbled by a rigorous definition of knowledge. Or do we really have to get into logical analysis of very floppy terms as 'as certain as I can be without really knowing'. The term itself screams of an epistemology with some foundation in qualia, feelings, intuition...etc.

    I agree with what you said above the waffling. sentence, here.
  23. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    What does BELIEF mean?

    I am thinking of justified true beliefs.

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