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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Bohm2
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Bohm2 » March 28th, 2014, 12:29 pm

cooltodd109 wrote: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?
How about Descarte's: "I think, I exist"?

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H M
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by H M » March 28th, 2014, 1:41 pm

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?

We can discern, identify, and describe a countless number of items. Getting hung-up over whether or not those thoughts are "truthful" representations of some perfect ontological domain is sort of like worrying about a distant planet billions of light-years away you can never visit (much less confirm even exists). The bottom line is that our symbolic systems have worked well enough for our survival in the course of tens of thousands of years. Which is to say, we have a good handle on the world featured by our knowledge; and any world of pure existence or non-representation can take care of itself after we die. If the extinctivists or anti-panpsychists of materialism are correct, then such a supposed "true nature of being", devoid of the distinguishings and appearances of emergent consciousness, would itself be a "nothing" that lacks even the descriptive cognition or interpretative conception [knowledge] of be-ing a total absence of everything. I.E., we ironically are incapable of actively knowing "nothing" since it would mean we're no longer around / conscious [though we might call a missing gap in memory such if we were brought to life again).

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Lacewing » March 28th, 2014, 2:34 pm

Although this topic could be considered a main theme of my philosophy over the years... I’m just now reading it here. Fun to read.
selfless wrote:Here is what we know. Nothing! Here is what we feel. Everything! We really don't know, but in our desire to feel significant we attach belief in our ability to define or measure creating ourselves in time and space...
Thoroughly enjoyed your response to this topic!

Our desire to feel significance and purpose tangles us up so well in our own mental creations and rules. Freedom is actually very scary. It’s like we need to be able to attach to things... like barnacles on the hull of the great ship of illusion! Ha ha.

When considering these concepts (which might challenge our identity and seem to discredit or threaten all we have built up), I think it helps to love and accept ourselves (and everyone else) for being human, along with all of the limitations associated with that. Meaning, “letting ourselves off the hook”. (Having some understanding for basics that help us function is different from thinking we have to know.) We don’t have to know everything... or anything. And it’s actually very insightful (probably) if we don’t think we do! But it’s also okay to think we do, and spin and spin our web for years, until we poke our head out and say, “Okay, enough of that.” Hopefully, then though, we have compassion for other web-spinners, rather than ridiculing them and ourselves for being spinners.

I’m guessing that... We all struggle with this stuff (no matter how advanced we think we are) and it’s ALL part of being human. Whatever we think we are now, there’s SO MUCH MORE than we’re currently aware of or even could be aware of. There's ALWAYS more beyond where we are. That can be exciting and fascinating, rather than threatening. We decide.
selfless wrote:When one can let go of separation, then there is no me and there.
There was a time in my life when this sort of statement would have scared the crap out of me. Unless, of course, my filters were kicking in to ignore it and keep my brain from short-circuiting. But this kind of thinking is now what surfaces a lot in my life... and this is what brings the moments of feeling that I’m flowing in a bigger current. I stop being “me” and I “get out of the way”... and WOW! The way stuff happens in that bigger current is amazing!

Yes, it requires that the ego has to sit in the back seat. It’s never far away, though. Kinda like a noisy little kid endlessly asking/demanding, “Are we there yet?” And the calm answer: There is no “there”. Hee hee.
thestateimin wrote:It may seem like we know something, but science seems to correct itself quite frequently.
I’ve thought about that too... and I think it’s very telling. When this happens, I actually wonder why more people don’t seem to stop cold and say, “Oh my gosh, we probably don’t know the reality of ALL KINDS of things! Hmm. Maybe we’re missing things BECAUSE of what we’re so sure of!” Instead... it's almost as if we say, "Now I REALLY know!"

We want to think we know. Otherwise, (we might say) what’s the point of all of this? Well... that’s what I think a lot of us might be missing. It’s not all about us. It’s like being an artist and creating a beautiful piece of artwork (of which we are a part) with an incredible collection of materials and methods for us to use -- and creating the artwork is what it’s all about, which involves flowing/evolving/experimenting more than accumulating a bunch of ideas about “absolute knowing”. Ego can be part of the art, I guess, but... compared to other colors and textures... I see it as a big blob of brown down in the corner of the canvas... like someone was cleaning their brush. (Ha ha... I'm cracking myself up.)

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Greta » March 28th, 2014, 5:27 pm

What does it mean to have a highly evolved brain? Breadth of knowledge. We higher order animals have a broader information base than lower order animals. So we obviously know something, even if we think what we know doesn't matter because we don't know the ultimate context.

Note that broader does not mean larger; each organism can only take in 24 hours of impressions, be it learning neuroscience or experiencing what it feels like to be a worm eating bacteria. All of this is ultimately part of the Earth's accumulated information that affects its future phases and manifestations.
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Present awareness » March 28th, 2014, 5:39 pm

We know that we think. We feel that we are alive. It is now. the rest is mere speculation.
Even though you can see me, I might not be here.

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Thethingitself » April 2nd, 2014, 8:17 pm

I will be honest and at the same time arrogant here while I am talking about such an important issue. My honesty might be illusive even to myself but it makes my arrogance negligible for those who believe it is true of me. For that reason, I firstly have to say what I ought to say in the end: I am doubtful about "knowledge".

I think, when we want to analyze our knowledge of anything or what it is to know something we need to analyze its relation to the belief about that thing. It seems that there is an ambiguous relation between knowledge and belief. The ambiguity reveals from such propositions if we consider them as true:

-Considering modality, we must give a reason for how we do know such and such if we want to know the reason behind the knowledge of such and such, but there is no necessity to look for a reason for why we believe such and such. I think that's why we can believe irrational things in the world while what we has a knowledge about must include some rationality.

-Knowledge takes us to doubt whereas belief takes us to certainty. It seems that all our assumptions based on scientific truth that constitutes our most "secure" knowledge about the world is the source of the skepticism about the world whereas we can not believe the truth of something we doubt and consequently we can not be skeptic about what we believe.

-If knowledge is the source of the skepticism about the world, then as long as there is always something to know more about the world, there is another to be doubtful about. Because the contents of our knowledge makes us doubtful about the contents of our beliefs. Thus, since we will always believe something beyond our knowledge about the world, we will always have something to be skeptic about.

-When we talk about knowledge of something or to know something, we must be aware of that what we are trying to dealing with is the 'meaning' (the semantic content and functioning) of both the predicate "to know" and the word "knowledge". If we know something that is the case, we must believe that is the case. But it seems very complicated to decide whether we believe something that is the case since we know something else that is the case or we know something that is the case since we believe that is the case. However, there are many things we believe that is the case and do not know whether they are true of the world.

-There are two kinds of knowledge which have been investigated throughout the history of philosophy. One is a priori and the other is the a posteriori knowledge. The possibility of the latter is not open to any controversy at all while the former is still controversial. It seems to me that we feel more "secure" about the latter since its constitution is based on the confirmation of sense data, which must always give the same result whenever it is tested to be so whereas the former seems to be acquired by the verification of naming of the objects of such a knowledge and consequently by the meaning of such objects. (I use the word "object" in the sense that Brentano takes it)

-To sum up, When I say that "I know that I exist", this proposition seems to me quite meaningless even though it makes sense to me to say that "I believe that I exist" no matter whether the content "I exist" does make sense or not.

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Bohm2 » April 2nd, 2014, 10:56 pm

Thethingitself wrote:To sum up, When I say that "I know that I exist", this proposition seems to me quite meaningless even though it makes sense to me to say that "I believe that I exist" no matter whether the content "I exist" does make sense or not.
Maybe I'm philosophically naïve but I find Descarte's "I think, I exist" as a case of "knowledge" as I can't see how I can be mistaken about that. Assume some deity is trying to deceive me or that my senses might be false. Math and logic might be false. All the world and all the people around me might be just an illusion, etc. I can't see a way that I can convince myself that I don’t exist. Because the moment I try to question whether I exist or not, I know I must exist. Because there must be “me” doing the questioning. I've come across a few skeptical arguments but I found none of them particularly convincing.

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Thethingitself » April 3rd, 2014, 10:07 pm

Bohm2 wrote:
Thethingitself wrote:To sum up, When I say that "I know that I exist", this proposition seems to me quite meaningless even though it makes sense to me to say that "I believe that I exist" no matter whether the content "I exist" does make sense or not.
Maybe I'm philosophically naïve but I find Descarte's "I think, I exist" as a case of "knowledge" as I can't see how I can be mistaken about that. Assume some deity is trying to deceive me or that my senses might be false. Math and logic might be false. All the world and all the people around me might be just an illusion, etc. I can't see a way that I can convince myself that I don’t exist. Because the moment I try to question whether I exist or not, I know I must exist. Because there must be “me” doing the questioning. I've come across a few skeptical arguments but I found none of them particularly convincing.
Well, it is about my particular attitude towards the meaning of the words like "to know" or "knowledge". I think I understand your concerns which actually touch a good point. There might be a point about what I said above: I did not say I do not exist for I believe that I do or maybe it can be said that I know that I exist. But my point is this: application of the predicate "to know" onto seemingly "obvious" contents -e.g., that I exist or water is h20 ..etc-, found to be that it makes such states "factive", seems to be silent about the meaning of such contents. What do I know when I know that I exist? Well, it is at first glance plausible to say that I express a fact such that I have a knowledge about my existence when I say "I know that I exist". But I do not know what I understand when I say the proposition in the most pure (metaphysical) sense of the words "know" or "knowledge" because each words occurring in the proposition "I know that I exist" does not have any proper meaning for me to understand what it is to mean knowing my existence unless I sacrifice metaphysics for the sake of ontology of objects of which such a knowledge a part.

I think Kant was right to claim that " I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith."

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Pharmakon » April 11th, 2014, 9:13 pm

The question is 'what is it to know?'. To know some 'thing' is to delineate a region of experience in accordance with some intended relation to that region. Only what is compatible with the agency of knowing is knowable. The world or reality is conducive to multiple compatibilities. Knowing and being are two moments of a more complex order.

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Belinda » April 12th, 2014, 4:10 am

Pharmakon wrote:
Only what is compatible with the agency of knowing is knowable. The world or reality is conducive to multiple compatibilities. Knowing and being are two moments of a more complex order.
I cannot understand this. Could you please open it out a little more?
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Cogito ergo sum » August 20th, 2014, 4:55 pm

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?


I like to think that we really cant know anything. We can have concepts and ideas that might feel right or fit but that doesn't really mean that we know them. For example I can say I know stealing is wrong. Well were did I get that notion? from someone else, I was taught not to steal. And where did that person get that notion? from someone else I assume. So where do you go from there? You can either just except that you can never be certain of anything and just live the most flourishing life possible for yourself, or you can be the person who assumes they know something and try to push their viewpoint onto other people. I prefer the former.

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Sunkith » August 21st, 2014, 10:01 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?
I know my experience is happening. I am not 100% sure about the other.

There is no solution for ultimate skepticism. For a start, we have to assume the reason we are using is valid.

A good strategy is to make hypothesis, test it, use it until we accept a better hypothesis.

Like scientists, they give up the goal of knowing in an ultimate sense and they know a lot. Of course there is some possibilty that what we all know is wrong. But what else can we do?

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Belinda » August 21st, 2014, 5:59 pm

Sunkith wrote:
I know my experience is happening
Something happened but you don't know to whom or to what it happened. You were presuming that there is an "I" just like Descartes did.
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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Misty » August 22nd, 2014, 8:39 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?
Socrates's clarity is sketchy. How would one know that what one knows is nothing if they have not experienced knowing something?

One can think one knows love....until another proves them wrong through deceit, betrayal. This is when one realizes one was mistaken about what one knew.
Things are not always as they appear; it's a matter of perception.

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post by Uriahharris » August 22nd, 2014, 9:48 am

There is no truth only theories, which is a theory.
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