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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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cooltodd109

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Can we 'know' anything?

Post Number:#1  PostFebruary 28th, 2007, 10:27 pm

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?

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captain_crunk

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Post Number:#2  PostMarch 1st, 2007, 6:09 pm

To me it seems pretty obvious that we do know some things, but that the problem lies in how we know that we know them. I mean, no matter what we can pretty much question how reliable any source of information is.

For example. I KNOW that I'm posting something on a philosophy discussion forum right now. How do I know? I'm seeing it happen before my eyes. But how do I know that my firsthand account of this is a reliable source? Sadly I don't. I just sort of have to...trust it I guess. Dunno.
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Bk2Kant

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Post Number:#3  PostMarch 1st, 2007, 11:30 pm

Can we know anything? I'm sure we can, I am also sure that we may never know for sure what we know accuratley or not. I think Knowledge is in fact some form of JTB (justified True Belief) but I don't think we can ever know for sure if our so-called justification is accurate. That is to say I think we can think we are justified in our belief but we will never be able to confirm is it is true only that it is probable at best. In summation...I think we can have knowledge but i do not think we can know that we for which of our beliefs are knowledge and which are not.
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Arvy

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Post Number:#4  PostMarch 1st, 2007, 11:40 pm

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

Define what it is to know, then you will know.

If I were to deny the notion that the world I perceive is real, could I deny that, I too am real? But then how could I, not existing, come to even consider this? through this I conclude that because I doubt, obviously I must exist. So even if I can never truly be certain that this world I perceive is real (Nothing is real; I "know nothing"), I can be certain that I am real, because I doubt. In fact, any thought of any kind proves to me that I exist, though those thoughts may refer to "flawed realities" (everything I believe in/know may be false). But doubt, that is 100% real and irrefutable. Hence, "The only thing we can know is that we know nothing".

If we do know something, how can we be sure that we aren't mistaken?

We can't be. We rely on our senses to form our knowledge, and our senses are flawed and limited, and therefore can fool us. We can only question our perceptions and confirm them to a reasonable certainty, but never absolutely.
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Bk2Kant

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Post Number:#5  PostMarch 2nd, 2007, 12:03 am

Like I said before, I think knowledge is just a belief that is acurate but I think the truth about reality and those things beyond reality are beyond our grasp so while we may think we know something we can never be sure, allthough we may in fact know it. As far as the DeScartes stuff goes and the "I think therefore I am" I would agree if I didn't thikn that there was at least a little chance that i do not in fact think, that I am nothing more than a construct or an extention of a higher power. It's a little trippy but I do always have the sceptic in the back of my head shouting "beleive nothing!" And right now you are thinking..well you're believeing something and beleiving is a form of thinking and thinking implies consciousness and possibly free speech but I don't know I get a little sketchy on epistimology and I often wanna just through up my hads say "I don't know" and accept that my existence and life are a trust in faith that my sensation and perception of the world and my being in it is accurate. Fin.
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sergioakaskyler

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Post Number:#6  PostMarch 2nd, 2007, 5:28 pm

Lots of Descartes...
True, I know I exist because i think. But in matters of 'knowing' things, as the initial topic asked, asking the question already implies the person's knowledge of his or her's own existence.
Knowing we each exist to ourselves, because thought is self-aware does not necessarily mean we exist to each other. Nor does it mean anything else around us exists to us. So, and I've seen the word trust mentioned, the distinction between thinking we know something and knowing something, is simply complete trust in the source. Seeing as how we seem to have enough trouble trusting ourselves as a 'first-hand account', it is unreasonable to expect to have complete trust in anyone else's account. Of anything.
So we each have truths that exist to ourselves. Now, is there truth that is evident to everyone? We could definitely never find, and ask every living being in the universe about even one single simple truth, to make sure we all agree.
So in order for universal, or absolute truth to exist, an omniscient consciousness must exist. (a god of some sort). Otherwise, we all must be satisfied we thinking we know.
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BlackFire88

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Post Number:#7  PostMarch 3rd, 2007, 12:51 am

I think it depends on how you define "knowing" something. do you define knowing something to be true if you can see it, smell it, hear it, taste it, etc? Or do you believe you can only know something that is absolutely real and true on every level of existence? I mean i would say that I know that if i put two jelly beans on the table with two other jelly beans (sorry for the stupid examply, i'm eating jelly beans lol), there will then be four jelly beans on the table...based on past experience with the physical laws that we observe the world working under, it's a reasonable assumption. but you can never prove that one time you will add two and two and you will not get four. the way probability works, i can be 99.999999 9s forever percent sure...but the probability of something happening will never reach 100 percent because you can always test it one more time....in that sense, no, you can't really KNOW anything because you are only familiar with this physical world...you can't be sure that everything isn't completely different somewhere else, or that the physical world we observe is even truly reality. so in theory, no, you cannot know everything...

all the same, i don't think i'm going to start doubting that 2+2=4 because of it...
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MindFreeza

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Post Number:#8  PostMarch 3rd, 2007, 4:47 am

Sure, I know lotsa' stuff....I'm real smart!:lol: But seriously, it may be impossible to ever completely be sure of what you know because you would have to disprove every single thing contrary to what you know, and that is impossible. For example, I know that I am typing these words on a keyboard, but I can't prove that I'm not really dreaming or being subjected to some kind of mind-control which causes me to think I'm typing on a keyboard. I am sufficiently convinced of the reality of what I am doing, and that degree of confidence is sufficient for me to consider it "knowing".
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MyshiningOne

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Re: Can we 'know' anything?

Post Number:#9  PostMarch 9th, 2007, 10:14 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 think it gives us comfort to think we know things,
but we're not really sure if we know them or not.
If we know about something, such as factual information, do we technically know it or are we just adhering to facts that someone else has laid out
before us?

We may all know everything, or we may all know nothing. I don't really know the answer to this because I really can't tell you if I know anything or not! It's my word against everyone else's!
We can memorize factual information, but can that be classified as knowledge? Some people say that this is
the case, but I don't think this goes deep enough. Anyone can read a book...
It's not what you know that makes
you smart, it's knowing what you don't know.
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DanteAzrael

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Post Number:#10  PostMarch 13th, 2007, 8:04 pm

I think the debate on "Can we really know anything" has become so completely ridiculous...even in the branch of philosophy. The idea that, because we MAY NOT actually know for 100%, we automatically cannot know anything except that we cannot know. The problem with this entire idea is that it is throwing out rationality and logic. How can we really know anything? We do our research. We're not going to know 100% on supernatural things, or things that are right now outside of our reach, or even if the theories made are truth. But, what one can do, is rationally and logically look at what is presented and them and determine it. Do you know nothing? Yet know that you know nothing? What a contradiction. If one cannot know nothing, then you cannot know that you cannot know nothing. But, unfortunately, you still realize you know nothing. The fact is that you would know...and it would counteract the statement. The statement itself proves that we are able to know, but that knowledge is not something that will be clear, cut, and dry when presented to us and that it is up to us to do our research...and to rationally and logically determine what is real and what is not real.

It's the same silly argument (at least I find it silly) of people wondering rather they exist or not, and then wondering if what is outside of themselves exists or not. To even question rather it exists or not, it must first exist. The same goes with knowing. To question whether we can know anything or not, you must accept that one can know...because if you cannot know anything...but you know that you cannot know...it ends up in one big contradicting circular debate.

Knowledge is for us to find...not for us to just instantly know.
When a man declares: "There are no blacks and whites [in morality]" he is making a psychological confession, and what he means is: "I am unwilling to be wholly good—and please don't regard me as wholly evil!" - Ayn Rand
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MyshiningOne

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Post Number:#11  PostMarch 13th, 2007, 10:31 pm

DanteAzrael wrote:I think the debate on "Can we really know anything" has become so completely ridiculous...even in the branch of philosophy. The idea that, because we MAY NOT actually know for 100%, we automatically cannot know anything except that we cannot know. The problem with this entire idea is that it is throwing out rationality and logic. How can we really know anything? We do our research. We're not going to know 100% on supernatural things, or things that are right now outside of our reach, or even if the theories made are truth. But, what one can do, is rationally and logically look at what is presented and them and determine it. Do you know nothing? Yet know that you know nothing? What a contradiction. If one cannot know nothing, then you cannot know that you cannot know nothing. But, unfortunately, you still realize you know nothing. The fact is that you would know...and it would counteract the statement. The statement itself proves that we are able to know, but that knowledge is not something that will be clear, cut, and dry when presented to us and that it is up to us to do our research...and to rationally and logically determine what is real and what is not real.

It's the same silly argument (at least I find it silly) of people wondering rather they exist or not, and then wondering if what is outside of themselves exists or not. To even question rather it exists or not, it must first exist. The same goes with knowing. To question whether we can know anything or not, you must accept that one can know...because if you cannot know anything...but you know that you cannot know...it ends up in one big contradicting circular debate.

Knowledge is for us to find...not for us to just instantly know.


That is true. However, some contradictions are there
to emphasize what is hidden. And the question is this: Can we know anything, or do we just know
about things? Research and things like that are a mark of what we know about... We are studying things that have already been addressed, and we are using that information to reinforce what we know about.
To know something is a much deeper requirement.
It can't clearly be defined. Can we know anything?
The question remains open. Of course, we can know
about things. That's where knowledge comes from.
But to know something is another ball park.

Or maybe it isn't...
It's not what you know that makes
you smart, it's knowing what you don't know.
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DanteAzrael

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Post Number:#12  PostMarch 14th, 2007, 8:25 pm

MyshiningOne wrote:
DanteAzrael wrote:I think the debate on "Can we really know anything" has become so completely ridiculous...even in the branch of philosophy. The idea that, because we MAY NOT actually know for 100%, we automatically cannot know anything except that we cannot know. The problem with this entire idea is that it is throwing out rationality and logic. How can we really know anything? We do our research. We're not going to know 100% on supernatural things, or things that are right now outside of our reach, or even if the theories made are truth. But, what one can do, is rationally and logically look at what is presented and them and determine it. Do you know nothing? Yet know that you know nothing? What a contradiction. If one cannot know nothing, then you cannot know that you cannot know nothing. But, unfortunately, you still realize you know nothing. The fact is that you would know...and it would counteract the statement. The statement itself proves that we are able to know, but that knowledge is not something that will be clear, cut, and dry when presented to us and that it is up to us to do our research...and to rationally and logically determine what is real and what is not real.

It's the same silly argument (at least I find it silly) of people wondering rather they exist or not, and then wondering if what is outside of themselves exists or not. To even question rather it exists or not, it must first exist. The same goes with knowing. To question whether we can know anything or not, you must accept that one can know...because if you cannot know anything...but you know that you cannot know...it ends up in one big contradicting circular debate.

Knowledge is for us to find...not for us to just instantly know.


That is true. However, some contradictions are there
to emphasize what is hidden. And the question is this: Can we know anything, or do we just know
about things? Research and things like that are a mark of what we know about... We are studying things that have already been addressed, and we are using that information to reinforce what we know about.
To know something is a much deeper requirement.
It can't clearly be defined. Can we know anything?
The question remains open. Of course, we can know
about things. That's where knowledge comes from.
But to know something is another ball park.

Or maybe it isn't...


I stand firm on with a few others...on the idea that contradictions cannot exist. I stand on the side where it is one or the other. You cannot not know...and then know at the same time.

Some my try to point out that...an individual may be able to know one thing...but not know the other. Unfortunately, it is different situation and context. The fact that one has the ability to know would trump the context that it is used in.

The same goes for this. Because people may not be able to know 100%, does not mean they do not have the ability to know. It doesn't have a deeper requirement. It's only requirement is a rational and logical mind able to think and discern truth from lies or distorted material.

I think the idea of "We cannot know anything" comes from the idea that everything is gray. That there is no right or wrong, no truth or lie, etc. Basically, it's philosophical agnosticism. Instead of recognizing the ability of people to know, it denies the ability...while recognizing the ability in people knowing that we cannot know. A contradiction like this cannot exist in a rational mind or anywhere else. It has to be...You can know...or you cannot know...It cannot be split into two differences by "Can you know? Can you know about?" There's no difference. If you know, you know about something. If you know about something, you know. The contradiction is just silly and the idea, to me, is even more.

(I'm not trying to be insulting...sorry if I am v.v)
When a man declares: "There are no blacks and whites [in morality]" he is making a psychological confession, and what he means is: "I am unwilling to be wholly good—and please don't regard me as wholly evil!" - Ayn Rand
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selfless

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Post Number:#13  PostMarch 14th, 2007, 10:35 pm

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; which allows the concept of movement as a way of connecting the created concept of self from the unknown whole. Past, now, future are conceptually known through the mind attaching meaning to them in relationship to our own existence dettached from the whole.

There is no knowing as the whole, there is no self separate to define the notion of time and space. It is only in the belief in separation that thoughts of time and space materialize as knowable. Change is the by produt of this belief in separation.

Just as humility which comes into being when there is total ending of conceit and vanity; but then one will never know what it is to be truly humble. For a man who knows what it is to have humility is a vain man first. A man will never know no change being a man of change because to say there is no change is to first define there is change.

How does one know change unless at first they understand the truth of no change?

The answer is to create change where there is none. The act of knowing is the creation of known. These concepts of knowing are based on sensing or "feeling" what is believed out there. We know what our sentient mind interprets to be there or not us. There is space in the imagination of me here, it there.

When one can let go of separation, then there is no me and there. There is no more opportunity to imagine a known. In this there is no out there, no in here, there only is. This is what I mean by no change as the foundation or source of change. One first must be aware of stillness to understand movement and movement to understand stillness. How does one know the quality of being infinite without defining a point of being? How does one know the point exist unless it has the ability to define what it is not?

If you were an infinite ineffable unconditional formless is; how would you know? If you didn't know; wouldn't that limit define condition and form what is not. Only in knowing and not knowing does one truly define infinite. In our parts we define what is not defined or unknown and what we are not defines us as parts of knowing.

We are change and this change defines everything that we know. What is the source of this change; is the question that goes farther into the unknown than our mind can imagine or know. I don't know the source of change, but I am guessing it is its opposite and this means that in truth there is no movement or change as an absolute, only the imagination or illusion of it, to define what no change means.

Do I really know, hell no! But, that's how I feel.
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MyshiningOne

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Post Number:#14  PostMarch 15th, 2007, 5:29 pm

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; which allows the concept of movement as a way of connecting the created concept of self from the unknown whole. Past, now, future are conceptually known through the mind attaching meaning to them in relationship to our own existence dettached from the whole.

There is no knowing as the whole, there is no self separate to define the notion of time and space. It is only in the belief in separation that thoughts of time and space materialize as knowable. Change is the by produt of this belief in separation.

Just as humility which comes into being when there is total ending of conceit and vanity; but then one will never know what it is to be truly humble. For a man who knows what it is to have humility is a vain man first. A man will never know no change being a man of change because to say there is no change is to first define there is change.

How does one know change unless at first they understand the truth of no change?

The answer is to create change where there is none. The act of knowing is the creation of known. These concepts of knowing are based on sensing or "feeling" what is believed out there. We know what our sentient mind interprets to be there or not us. There is space in the imagination of me here, it there.

When one can let go of separation, then there is no me and there. There is no more opportunity to imagine a known. In this there is no out there, no in here, there only is. This is what I mean by no change as the foundation or source of change. One first must be aware of stillness to understand movement and movement to understand stillness. How does one know the quality of being infinite without defining a point of being? How does one know the point exist unless it has the ability to define what it is not?

If you were an infinite ineffable unconditional formless is; how would you know? If you didn't know; wouldn't that limit define condition and form what is not. Only in knowing and not knowing does one truly define infinite. In our parts we define what is not defined or unknown and what we are not defines us as parts of knowing.

We are change and this change defines everything that we know. What is the source of this change; is the question that goes farther into the unknown than our mind can imagine or know. I don't know the source of change, but I am guessing it is its opposite and this means that in truth there is no movement or change as an absolute, only the imagination or illusion of it, to define what no change means.

Do I really know, hell no! But, that's how I feel.


Boy, did this come out of your brain? This
is pretty smart! Change is a part of everything, and
without it we cannot know about how there is
a way for change to come about. Without stillness
there cannot be movement. Without evil, there
cannot be goodness... A man cannot really know
true happiness if he is never experienced sorrow
in his life...I get what you're saying.
Amazing insight!
It's not what you know that makes
you smart, it's knowing what you don't know.
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thestateimin

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Post Number:#15  PostMarch 15th, 2007, 5:47 pm

It may seem like we know something, but science seems to correct itself quite frequently. Gravity, for example, was accepted by every day citizens for hundreds of years. As of the past 50 years ago, we're not quite sure if gravity is even valid. Einstein believed gravity did not exist, but that the force we witness is really just the bending of space-time. Even more contemporary theoretical physicists believe the string theory may hold the answers to the simple phenomena of something falling when one lets it go.

The second something seems positive, I feel as though a new discovery is made in some feild that refutes it. In this way, I believe Socrates theory holds some weight.
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