Can we 'know' anything?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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dparrott
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Post by dparrott » February 10th, 2012, 6:53 pm

cynicallyinsane wrote:Jesus didn't leave any writings behind. We only have what other people say.
Niether did Socrates.

Drs
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Drs » February 10th, 2012, 7:59 pm

We can know, without a doubt, that something is happening. Beyond that, doubt is possible.

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dparrott
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by dparrott » February 11th, 2012, 10:00 am

Can "we" know anything? I'm not sure about "we" but I can know anything. Meaning, I have the potential to know.

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Ramshackle_Psyche
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Ramshackle_Psyche » March 2nd, 2012, 4:52 am

It's illusory to break it down into simply "knowing" and "not knowing". Knowledge exists on a spectrum. Our knowledge of the world varies depending on our level of verification. We can perform all kinds of wonderful experiments and compare our observations against other people's observations, and thus triangulate in on "the known". But that doesn't mean we ever arrive at truly knowing. Knowledge is an ideal that we strive for, but it's a slippery thing. With each new thing that we learn, a thousand new questions are opened up to us. And this goes on for infinity. Suddenly you've opened Pandora's box. So perhaps trying to know is like those scientists who are trying to find that one fundamental, indivisible particle that is essentially the stuff that we are all made of. So they spend millions of dollars designing these incredibly powerful instruments. But the more powerful their instruments get, the smaller the particles get, and so the scientists build even more powerful instruments—supercolliders and whatnot—and they find even smaller particles, and this also goes on for infinity. So it seems that knowing is a process of continuously falling down the rabbit hole while the bottom is racing away from you, constantly escaping your fumbling attempts to pin it down. And the more you do it, the more obsessed you get with trying to get there, because you're always on the brink of catching up. You can almost taste it. I believe this is called 'chasing the dragon'. And no one ever catches the dragon. There will be no grand revelation. And I'm fine with that. Who ever said that there had to be a known in order for there to be knowing? In the words of Alan Watts, these are rules of grammar, not laws of nature.

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HexHammer
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by HexHammer » March 2nd, 2012, 5:55 am

cooltodd109 wrote:Socrates famously said that the only thing we can know is that we know nothing.

Can we truly know anything? Do we really know nothing?

If we do know something, how can we be sure that we aren't mistaken?
It's a bunch of nonsens what he said, and it should be very selfexplanatory.

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Kingkool
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Kingkool » March 2nd, 2012, 11:31 am

We can't know anything. If there is an argument against anything, no matter how nonsensical, it is not a fact, but an opinion. If I feel hungry, that could be a hallucination, and therefore I don't know if I am actually hungry. If I think 2+2=4, but someone else says 2+2=fish because god says so, I now cannot know what 2+2 equals, because I don't know if there is actually a god. I can only strongly believe based on logic that 2+2 does indeed equal 4.

-- Updated March 2nd, 2012, 10:31 am to add the following --
Drs wrote:We can know, without a doubt, that something is happening. Beyond that, doubt is possible.
Unless you are hallucinating.
“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”- Douglas Adams A Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy

Drs
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Drs » March 2nd, 2012, 12:12 pm

Kingkool wrote:
Drs wrote:We can know, without a doubt, that something is happening. Beyond that, doubt is possible.
Unless you are hallucinating.
If I am hallucinating, a hallucination is happening.

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Kingkool
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Kingkool » March 2nd, 2012, 11:15 pm

Drs wrote:
Kingkool wrote: Unless you are hallucinating.
If I am hallucinating, a hallucination is happening.
Yes, but you believe it isn't a hallucination, or else it wouldn't be a hallucintion.
“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”- Douglas Adams A Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Drs » March 3rd, 2012, 12:24 am

Kingkool wrote:
Drs wrote: If I am hallucinating, a hallucination is happening.
Yes, but you believe it isn't a hallucination, or else it wouldn't be a hallucintion.
I've had plenty of hallucinations that I believed were hallucinations, and a few hallucinations that I believed weren't hallucinations. Regardless, this does not refute my point that whether I am hallucinating or not, something is happening.

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Belinda » March 6th, 2012, 4:37 am

I liked what Ramshackle Psyche wrote , #34

So knowledge is like joy, or God. It's always flying away from us. Maybe this is why mathematicians like maths, because here, knowledge of a sort can be pinned down like a dead butterfly.

*****************************

Drs. wrote:
"Something is happening". Could Drs please contrast this fact with "I think therefore I am"?
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Drs » March 6th, 2012, 8:01 am

Belinda wrote:I liked what Ramshackle Psyche wrote , #34

So knowledge is like joy, or God. It's always flying away from us. Maybe this is why mathematicians like maths, because here, knowledge of a sort can be pinned down like a dead butterfly.

*****************************

Drs. wrote:
"Something is happening". Could Drs please contrast this fact with "I think therefore I am"?
This claim is more basic than cogito ergo sum. As demonstrated in the previous posts, it nicely handles skeptic questions about whether I am thinking or whether something else (god, imps, hallucinations, whatever) is putting these things called thoughts into my mind. While it is possible to doubt that I am thinking, it is impossible to doubt that my phenomenal experience isn't static, therefore it is impossible to doubt that something is happening.

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Fiveredapples
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Fiveredapples » March 7th, 2012, 8:48 pm

If we do know something, how can we be sure that we aren't mistaken?
This is probably the most popular and most confused question I've seen on philosophy forums.

If you were familiar with the notion of 'knowledge', you wouldn't ask this question.

The definition of knowledge (as warranted true belief) says nothing about anyone, even the person who has knowledge, determining when someone does or doesn't have knowledge. This is how I know right off the bat that the person asking the original question is confused -- he's confused about the notion of knowledge.

Ultimately, whether someone has knowledge or not is determined by the world. That is, the truth criterion within the definition of knowledge settles the matter. There is no question of someone checking to see if it's true or not. We may check, but our checking plays absolutely no role in whether someone has knowledge or not -- no matter what results from our checking.

For example, you step outside your house and feel and see what appears to be rain falling. You form the belief that it's raining. You're justified in believing it's raining given the circumstances under which you acquired your belief. So, do you have knowledge that it's raining? The answer is 'Yes if it's raining' and 'No if it's not raining.'

The question "How can I be sure I'm not mistaken?" arises because people aren't satisfied with the response "Yes if it's raining' and 'No if it's not raining.' They want the matter settled, and they want to be able to settle it. But that's not how knowledge works. I suppose the response leaves them uneasy, having to walk around unable to say "for certain" that they know this or that, or anything. I get the impulse to want to be certain, but the philosophical notion is silent about certainty -- and for good reason; namely it wouldn't be knowledge anymore, it would be something much stronger and completely different. Certainty is an extremely robust and powerful notion. Let me give an example of just how powerful by comparing it to knowledge.

Say you're taking a voyage across the Pacific Ocean. You're miles and miles away from land, there's only water on every horizon, it's a particular clear and calm day, and then I throw you overboard. Nobody else notices that you're overboard and our ship sails on by, leaving you there treading water. Sometime in this period of time, you formed the following belief: I'm in water. Remember, you're in the middle of the ocean, just having been thrown overboard by me, and you're treading water to survive. Think of how confident you can be that you're indeed in water. What possible test is there, or could there be, to bolster your confidence that you're in water? I mean, you're as sure as you're going to get. Yet all you have is knowledge, not certainty. Those who ask for 'certainty' don't realize what they're asking for. You're asking for something beyond our cognitive ability, which is why certainty is a logical notion and knowledge an epistemological notion. Truth, by the way, is a metaphysical notion.

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Scottie » March 11th, 2012, 8:35 pm

What if you have a fever of 106F and you're utterly delirious? During your delirium you convincingly hallucinate that you've been thrown overboard from your cruise ship because you have a persistent memory of your mother's having told you you were adopted and your brother was her natural child while you were on vacation when you were young?

Eddie Rickenbacker, in his autobiography, tells of a near death experience while in a hospital recuperating from a plane crash. He repeatedly hallucinated fruit hanging above him while delirious. He writes about it in hindsight but admits that it was totally convincing. What did he "know"?

What about people who experience delusions? They are convinced of their reality even though it does not square with some aspects of the shared experience with others. Sure, they're "sick" but what do THEY know?

What about people who experience altered states of consciousness from ingesting hallucinogens? What do they "know"?

So. . . can we be convinced as convinced can be of our experience yet be totally wrong concerning facticity?
There is no smiley. . .

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Fiveredapples
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Fiveredapples » March 11th, 2012, 8:50 pm

All of your questions can be answered in one sentence: Knowledge has nothing to do with how convinced anyone is.
"Some people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so" -- Bertrand Russell

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HexHammer
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by HexHammer » March 11th, 2012, 9:18 pm

Fiveredapples #42
Surely you are kidding. In the middle ages true knowledge was that the earth was flat and it was the center of the universe, it was even written in the holy book, therefore it was unquestionable.

Indeed you are very shard, but I don't agree with your logic in most of your posts.

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