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Bii
06-04-2007, 08:21 AM
I have been reflecting on the question of whether there is anything you can truly know, or whether all knowledge, at least in part, is founded on belief? Where is the line between knowledge and belief - i.e when or can a 'justified belief' be considered 'knowledge'?

I'll give you an example.

I have been to Spain - this is my knowledge. However:

1. Does Spain exist?
2. I left my home, went on an aeroplane, and arrived in a place which purported to be Spain. How do I know that it was, in fact, Spain?
3. What is Spain?
4. Was it a dream? If not, how do I know it wasn't? (I have some pretty vivid dreams!)

As I examine my 'knowledge' in depth, I find that this knowledge requires a number of assumptions or 'beliefs' on my part.

Take a more theoretical example (apologies if I've picked this up from someone elsewhere - it feels familiar)

At 5pm on Sunday you witness a crime taking place. An old woman is robbed on a street corner by a tall bald man with a black beard. You recall that it was 5pm as you had been out for the day and were returning to the car park to pick up your car before the ticket expired at 5:10pm. You observed your watch moments after the robbery took place. It was summertime and still daylight.

You report the robbery to the police. The next day the police visit you and caution you for wasting police time. When you protest they take you to the police station. The street corner in question is covered by 3 CCTV cameras, all of which were recording at the time. Watching the footage it appears that no robbery took place. But you remember it.

Is it possible that you have a 'false' memory? If memory can be false, how can you know anything for certain?

linz
06-04-2007, 09:18 AM
Beliefs are most often used to make knowledge more specific. Such as the quotes of Buddha or the Parables of Christ. Any person who takes Christ words strictly and without symbolism is a fool. A person might eternally be judged according to his reasoning; This seems to me what both the wise men mentioned were getting at. People who ponder over whether a particular thing they've felt, seen, and tasted existed at all, is ludicrous. 'What you think you become' - Buddha: But according to Christ, 'By what measure you judge, it will be judged to you'. (That is scary to me, as Christians often account sinners with hell, when most are being hypocrites, 'How do you think they'll be judged?') I love Beckett and Camus as much as the next man, but if you pay close attention to Beckett, you find all his character boiling over with religious knowledge, which quite frankly many of his readers don't have. :lol:

Bii
06-04-2007, 10:01 AM
[FONT="Palatino Linotype"]Beliefs are most often used to make knowledge more specific. Such as the quotes of Buddha or the Parables of Christ.

I note your comments relate to religious belief, but belief as a concept extends beyond religion. The purpose of the thread is to explore how far belief extends into the realms of knowledge, and whether it extends so far that knowledge, effectively, does not exist.

I was not looking for a religious debate here (if so would post this in the religion forum).

A MM
06-05-2007, 08:06 AM
Bii wrote

"I'll give you an example.

I have been to Spain - this is my knowledge. However:

1. Does Spain exist?
2. I left my home, went on an aeroplane, and arrived in a place which purported to be Spain. How do I know that it was, in fact, Spain?
3. What is Spain?
4. Was it a dream? If not, how do I know it wasn't? (I have some pretty vivid dreams!)

As I examine my 'knowledge' in depth, I find that this knowledge requires a number of assumptions or 'beliefs' on my part."

I have never been to Spain. However, if I made a trip, and had questions such as the ones posed here, I might want to ask some other people who also went to Spain and compare the experiences. If a sufficient number of people had comparable experiences, we call that "knowledge" of Spain. The rest of what I know about Spain may be my opinions, impressions, memories and so forth.

Even what I have confirmed as knowledge of Spain may be inadeqaute from the point of view some one who lives in Spain.

There may also be some things about my trip to Spain that I don't want anyone else to know about.



Also important: my credit card company won't let me question, whether I made the trip or not.

Bii
06-05-2007, 08:25 AM
So, by canvassing opinions you gain knowledge? But doesn't that mean you have to believe the opinions of others? Imagine your confirmation came from an unreliable source, would that still be knowledge, or belief?


Also important: my credit card company won't let me question, whether I made the trip or not.[/COLOR][/FONT]

He he!

XY&Z
06-05-2007, 10:27 AM
I would say that knowledge is based more on a experience and belief on willingness to believe.
Ether you accept the facts or not. Two people experiencing the same thing won't have same conclusion depending on their previous knowledge and interpretation of their beliefs.

Lote-Tree
06-05-2007, 10:43 AM
I have been reflecting on the question of whether there is anything you can truly know, or whether all knowledge, at least in part, is founded on belief? Where is the line between knowledge and belief - i.e when or can a 'justified belief' be considered 'knowledge'?


We should only accept Verifiable Truths. Rest is just subjective experience of the individual.

Pelican King
06-05-2007, 10:46 AM
Hi, this is my first post on this forum as you can tell, so hopefully it's fairly constructive.


I have been to Spain - this is my knowledge. However:

1. Does Spain exist?
2. I left my home, went on an aeroplane, and arrived in a place which purported to be Spain. How do I know that it was, in fact, Spain?
3. What is Spain?
4. Was it a dream? If not, how do I know it wasn't? (I have some pretty vivid dreams!)

This is the kind of problem Rene Decartes tackled in his book Meditations on First Philosophy. He wondered how he could tell he was never dreaming or how he could tell that there was never some 'Evil Demon' deceiving him, creating a false reality. He ultimately concludes that due to there being a benevolent God, he must be able to trust his senses. But let's see if we can do a little better. If you are to doubt your senses about Spain, why not doubt your sitting at a computer reading this website? If we're to take doubting as far as possible, we must conclude that nothing is real. The pragmatic answer seems the most correct, that we must trust our senses when they consistently prove to be correct. I'm sure when you landed at the airport, and were greeted with signs saying "SPAIN", that would of been the first indicator of you being in Spain. Along with the abundance of people speaking Spanish and any landmarks you saw, there is no reason for you to doubt that you were in Spain.
Another counterargument is, do you have to be able to prove something to know it? If you can never prove with absolute certainty that your awake, should you always think your dreaming? This philosophizing on knowledge usually ends up confessing "well, i may as well believe the existence of entities until sufficient reason causes me to suppose otherwise".

Mr. Dr. Ralph
06-05-2007, 04:56 PM
Hi, this is my first post on this forum as you can tell, so hopefully it's fairly constructive.



This is the kind of problem Rene Decartes tackled in his book Meditations on First Philosophy. He wondered how he could tell he was never dreaming or how he could tell that there was never some 'Evil Demon' deceiving him, creating a false reality. He ultimately concludes that due to there being a benevolent God, he must be able to trust his senses. But let's see if we can do a little better. If you are to doubt your senses about Spain, why not doubt your sitting at a computer reading this website? If we're to take doubting as far as possible, we must conclude that nothing is real. The pragmatic answer seems the most correct, that we must trust our senses when they consistently prove to be correct. I'm sure when you landed at the airport, and were greeted with signs saying "SPAIN", that would of been the first indicator of you being in Spain. Along with the abundance of people speaking Spanish and any landmarks you saw, there is no reason for you to doubt that you were in Spain.
Another counterargument is, do you have to be able to prove something to know it? If you can never prove with absolute certainty that your awake, should you always think your dreaming? This philosophizing on knowledge usually ends up confessing "well, i may as well believe the existence of entities until sufficient reason causes me to suppose otherwise".

Quality. You'll find it's quite rare for someone to cite a philosopher in a reply.

To the original poster: A popular argument of this type is generally called the "brain in a vat" problem. It is a thought experiment where you consider that your entire life is not what you'd consider 'reality' and all the thoughts and self-awareness you have are products of electrical signals sent to a brain in a jar while kept in a laboratory. The scientist is in complete control of what you think and therefore you haven't thought anything at all, but instead been told what data to sense since your first memory. It is pretty much the same as Descartes' Evil Deceiver.

To follow up on the earlier post, Descartes claims that if he knew one thing to be certain, he could show that his other knowledge is certain. He noted that he is certain of his self-awareness and writes "Cogito ergo sum," I think therefore I am. He then builds the rest of his philosophy on this, including a prove for the existence of a righteous God. Unfortunately, his argument doesn't follow very well and was shamed by Spinoza, but I can't blame him for trying. Around 200 years later, Schopenhauer showed that all ontological arguments are no good.

To directly answer your question, you can't really know anything for certain except things which are logically true, i.e. which don't depend on your perception of them; a triangle must have three sides, the unit circle, things like that.

Unbeliever
06-05-2007, 05:06 PM
I used to think that certainty could only be approached asymptotically, but that we could never quite achieve it. But I've since come to agree with Decartes that I can know, of a certainty, that I exist. "Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum." (I doubt, therefore I think; I think therefore I am)

I divide knowledge into 3 basic realms, primary, secondary and tertiary.

Primary knowledge is my direct experience of my concious mind and my awareness of self.
Secondary knowledge is my experience of my physical body.
Tertiary knowledge is that which I garner, through my senses, of the world external to my physical body.

I think only primary knowledge can be considered certain. My knowledge of my body can be false, e.g., when amputees still feel their missing limb.

Knowledge of the external world is the trickiest of all, since our evolution hasn't equipped us to view the universe as it truly is, but, as Paul said, we "see through a glass, darkly." Through the use of instrumenation we've been able to see much more of the universe recently than our naked senses will allow, but we still have too many dark spots in our scopes.

Much (if not most) of our knowledge of the external world must be inferred from what we percieve and what we've experienced in the past. Secondary and tertiary knowledge are the kind that can only be approached asymptotically.