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How does one find True Knowledge?

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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How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by RJG » November 21st, 2018, 5:06 pm

How does one find True Knowledge?

There seems to me to be two methods to finding "true knowledge".
  • A. Descartes "clean slate" method (which he failed at), and
    B. Removing 'logical impossibilities' from our pool of contaminated knowledge.

A. Descartes "clean slate" method.

Descartes's goal was to arrive at one item of truth that could serve as the starting-point and foundation for all knowledge. His starting point was his famous statement "I think, therefore I am". As Descartes explained, "We cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt …" Descartes asserted that the very act of doubting one's own existence was proof of the reality of one's own mind; there must be a thinking entity; a “self”; a “mind”, for there to be a thought.

According to Descartes, "I can doubt anything. But when I doubt, I am thinking, and as long as I am thinking, I exist. Thinking is inseparable from me. Thus I have a clear and distinct idea that I am a mind, or intelligence, and my nature is a thinking thing. On the other hand, I have also a clear idea of body as an extended and non-thinking thing." He concludes that res cogitans and res extensa are two independent entities. This dichotomy is the foundation of Descartes's dualism. “For all that I am a thing that is real and which truly exists. But what kind of a thing? … A thinking thing (res cogitans).”

Descartes errors --
  • Firstly, Descartes commits the logical fallacy of "begging-the-question" (pre-assuming the conclusion in his premise) in his famous "I think, therefore I am" quote. Notice the two occurrences of "I". He pre-assumes the existence of "I" in his premise, "I think", to then conclude it's existence in his conclusion "therefore I exist". Descartes has committed the logical fallacy of "begging-the-question". Similar examples include:
    • 1. God answers prayers, therefore God exists.
      2. Ghosts are invisible, therefore ghosts exist.
      3. X does Y, therefore X exists
      4. I think, therefore I exist (...Descartes flawed logic)

    Secondly, Descartes, like most most people, automatically (and falsely!) conflate the "experiencing of thoughts" with the "thinking" of thoughts. Instead of Descartes immediately stopping and proclaiming to the world, “I EXPERIENCE THOUGHTS!” as his starting premise to derive all true knowledge, he instead takes a blind leap of faith, and falsely proclaims “I THINK!” as his fateful (and flawed) starting premise.

    The experiencing-of-thoughts and the thinking-of-thoughts are not necessarily the same thing. One is a passive experience (the hearing of a constant monologue voice in one’s head), and the other is an action (the authoring/creating/constructing of those thoughts that are then experienced). Descartes falsely equivocates the two as one-in-the-same in his "I think" premise.

    Descartes doesn't (can't) really know "with certainty" that he "thinks", for all he can really know "with certainty" is that he "experiences thoughts". He can only presume that he is the “thinker”; the author/creator/constructor of these thoughts. Although the “I experience thoughts” versus “I think” may seem to be a minor nit-picky technicality, it is nonetheless ultra-critical, ...especially if this ("first principle") starting premise is to serve as the 'seed' to derive all 'true' knowledge.


    Thirdly, Descartes did not go back far enough. If one’s goal is to find the true starting point of knowledge, then the starting premise is of utmost criticalness. This starting premise needs to be ‘absolute and undeniable’. Descartes premise “I think” does not meet this level of certainty. Descartes should replace the “I think”, with “I experience”, or to be truly accurate, he should replace it with “Experiencing exists”. Since the “I” has not yet been determined with absolute certainty, it does not belong in this starting premise. For this critical first premise, the ‘experiencing’ itself is the only true absolute/undoubtable thing, and therefore is the only thing that belongs in this starting premise.
So to help Descartes reach his original goal of a "clean slate" method, I have re-written his logical statement that satisfies his original goal:

“Experiencing exists, therefore I (the experiencer) exist.”

But this of course, shoots down his dualistic position. “I” is just the ‘experiencer’ of thoughts, (and feelings, and sensory experiences); "I" is just a "res extensa", and is NOT a ‘mind’, nor a 'thinker of thoughts' entity; not a "res cogitans".

And from this point, we can begin to logically derive "true knowledge"!


*************
Next: Part B. Removing 'logical impossibilities' from our pool of contaminated knowledge.

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by Eduk » November 22nd, 2018, 12:08 pm

What is the difference between experiencing thought and thinking?
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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by RJG » November 22nd, 2018, 1:05 pm

Eduk wrote:What is the difference between experiencing thought and thinking?
Experiencing thoughts are 'passive'. Thinking is an 'action', which implies the 'active' constructing (creating/authoring) of one's own thoughts (to then be experienced).

One is possible, the other is not.

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by Eduk » November 22nd, 2018, 1:17 pm

If experiencing is passive and thinking is active how can I passively act? As in how do I passively experience active thinking?
One is possible, the other is not.[/qoute]
Which one isn't possible? I assume thinking? So if you define thinking as a round square then you should be surprised that you can't think? Perhaps it is your definition that is at fault?

I'm genuinely interested in your response by the way. I'm not trying to catch you out or anything.
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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by Fooloso4 » November 22nd, 2018, 4:02 pm

RJG:
Firstly, Descartes commits the logical fallacy of "begging-the-question" (pre-assuming the conclusion in his premise) in his famous "I think, therefore I am" quote. Notice the two occurrences of "I". He pre-assumes the existence of "I" in his premise, "I think", to then conclude it's existence in his conclusion "therefore I exist".
The only way in which Descartes could consider the truth of his existence is if he exists. He does not "pre-assume" his existence, it is a necessary condition, what Kant and later Husserl call a transcendental condition, that makes possible his ability to ask the question and consider possible answers. If he pre-assumes anything at all it is only on condition of his existence.
Similar examples include:
None of these examples are similar because they are about the existence of something else, not of the thing that thinks about or posits or questions its existence.
Secondly, Descartes, like most most people, automatically (and falsely!) conflate the "experiencing of thoughts" with the "thinking" of thoughts.
Only something that thinks can experience thought. Those experiences are experiences of thinking.
Instead of Descartes immediately stopping and proclaiming to the world, “I EXPERIENCE THOUGHTS!”
It is his thinking that leads to the conclusion that he exists. His thinking is an activity not a passive experience.
The experiencing-of-thoughts and the thinking-of-thoughts are not necessarily the same thing. One is a passive experience (the hearing of a constant monologue voice in one’s head), and the other is an action (the authoring/creating/constructing of those thoughts that are then experienced). Descartes falsely equivocates the two as one-in-the-same in his "I think" premise.
These are not two separate things. As the author of his thoughts he knows what he is thinking. He does not have to experience or hear what he is thinking in order to know that he is thinking or what he is thinking.
Descartes doesn't (can't) really know "with certainty" that he "thinks", for all he can really know "with certainty" is that he "experiences thoughts".
Even if one were to grant the distinction, only something that exists can experience. You have not eliminated the "I" or "he".

We need to attend to his definition of what it means to be a thinking thing:
What is a thing which thinks? It is a thing which doubts, understands, [conceives], affirms, denies, wills, refuses, which also imagines and feels. (Second Meditation).
RJG:
He can only presume that he is the “thinker”; the author/creator/constructor of these thoughts.
Whether he is the author or the recipient it is only as a thinking thing that he can presume this.
Thirdly, Descartes did not go back far enough. If one’s goal is to find the true starting point of knowledge …
That was not his goal. His goal was to find something that cannot be doubted.
“Experiencing exists, therefore I (the experiencer) exist.”
This is covered by what he means by thinking.
But this of course, shoots down his dualistic position, “I” is just the ‘experiencer’ of thoughts, (and feelings, and sensory experiences); "I" is just a "res extensa", and is NOT a ‘mind’, nor a 'thinker of thoughts' entity; not a "res cogitans".
There are problems with his dualist position, but according to Descartes, feelings and sensory experiences are modes of thought not extension. Whether we accept or reject dualism, his starting point, his existence is beyond doubt.

The force of Descartes argument lies in the rejection of theological authority and secures the authority of reason.

Descartes notion of knowledge, indubitable, infallible, certainty, is not what is generally meant by knowledge today. If this is what you mean by “true knowledge”, you will not find it.

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by RJG » November 22nd, 2018, 6:11 pm

Eduk wrote:If experiencing is passive and thinking is active how can I passively act?
You can't. "Passively acting" is an oxymoron.

Eduk wrote:As in how do I passively experience active thinking?
You can't. We can only experience 'experiences' (effects), and never the 'causers' themselves. Causers are only presumed to exist.

Since it is logically impossible to experience non-experiences, we therefore can't experience "thinking" (the supposed causers of the thoughts that we experience).

Eduk wrote:So if you define thinking as a round square then you should be surprised that you can't think? Perhaps it is your definition that is at fault?
It may be that our definitions are different, though I don't suspect so. From your view, is there a distinction between "experiencing thoughts" and "thinking thoughts"? Isn't one 'passive' (an experience/effect) and the other 'active' (an action/causer)?


*** I notice Fooloso4 also responded to this post. I will respond back to you later tonight or tomorrow.

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by Belindi » November 22nd, 2018, 6:46 pm

Performing a skill is experiencing true knowledge.

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by Eduk » November 22nd, 2018, 8:14 pm

What I'm trying to say rjg is that if thinking is active but experiencing is passive how can I experience thinking.
It seems to me that it wouldn't be possible?
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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by RJG » November 22nd, 2018, 8:23 pm

RJG wrote:Firstly, Descartes commits the logical fallacy of "begging-the-question" (pre-assuming the conclusion in his premise) in his famous "I think, therefore I am" quote. Notice the two occurrences of "I". He pre-assumes the existence of "I" in his premise, "I think", to then conclude it's existence in his conclusion "therefore I exist".
Fooloso4 wrote:The only way in which Descartes could consider the truth of his existence is if he exists.
But he can't 'know', or claim he exists until 'after' he experiences the thoughts that he exists.

The "begging-the-question" still stands nonetheless. As his conclusion still claims what the premise already pre-assumes. This is classic begging-the-question.

Fooloso4 wrote:He does not "pre-assume" his existence, it is a necessary condition, what Kant and later Husserl call a transcendental condition…
Not so. He can't possibly know he exists until he first has thoughts; and specifically has the thoughts of logically deriving his own existence; -- i.e. has the thoughts, "without an experiencer, experiencing could not happen/exist, therefore "I" the experiencer exist!

A lot of of stuff must happen before one can know they exist. Self-existence is not self-evident; undeniable; absolute. It requires thought and logic to derive it.

RJG wrote:Secondly, Descartes, like most most people, automatically (and falsely!) conflate the "experiencing of thoughts" with the "thinking" of thoughts.
Fooloso4 wrote:Only something that thinks can experience thought. Those experiences are experiences of thinking.
Not so. One can only experience experiences (effects), not causers. It is thoughts that one experiences, and never the "thinking" (causation/creation) itself.

Fooloso4 wrote:As the author of his thoughts he knows what he is thinking.
Does he know his thoughts before he is conscious of them?

Fooloso4 wrote:He does not have to experience or hear what he is thinking in order to know that he is thinking or what he is thinking.
Then how does he know what he is thinking?

1. We can't/don't know what we think until after we thunk it (become aware of it).
2. It is not logically possible to 'create' a thought without first 'experiencing' it. And once it is experienced, then it is too late to create it!

Eduk wrote:What I'm trying to say rjg is that if thinking is active but experiencing is passive how can I experience thinking.
It seems to me that it wouldn't be possible?
Correct. Thinking itself is impossible. We are only left with "experiencing thoughts".

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by Fooloso4 » November 22nd, 2018, 9:36 pm

RJG:
But he can't 'know', or claim he exists until 'after' he experiences the thoughts that he exists.
You may know that you have had the experience of the thought that you cannot know what you are thinking until you experience what you are thinking, but that does not mean you know that you cannot know what you are thinking until you experience what you are thinking.
The "begging-the-question" still stands nonetheless. As his conclusion still claims what the premise already pre-assumes. This is classic begging-the-question.
That he thinks is not a premise, it is an activity.
He can't possibly know he exists until he first has thoughts …
He can’t possibly have thoughts if he does not exist. He can’t possibly know he has thoughts if he does not exist. He cannot experience thoughts if he does not exist. Therefore he exists.
A lot of of stuff must happen before one can know they exist. Self-existence is not self-evident; undeniable; absolute. It requires thought and logic to derive it.
And none of this stuff can happen if he did not exist. That is self-evident.
Does he know his thoughts before he is conscious of them?
It is not a two-step process. One does not think and then become conscious of the thought.
Then how does he know what he is thinking?
Because thinking is a conscious process.
1. We can't/don't know what we think until after we thunk it (become aware of it).
That is an assertion, and one for which you have not supplied any evidence.
2. It is not logically possible to 'create' a thought without first 'experiencing' it. And once it is experienced, then it is too late to create it!
And this should be a good reason to question your assumptions.
Thinking itself is impossible.
I don’t think so. You should try it.

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by RJG » November 22nd, 2018, 11:24 pm

RJG wrote:The "begging-the-question" still stands nonetheless. As his conclusion still claims what the premise already pre-assumes. This is classic begging-the-question.
Fooloso4 wrote:That he thinks is not a premise, it is an activity.
Descartes premise = "I think"
Descartes conclusion = "Therefore I am"

RJG wrote:He can't possibly know he exists until he first has thoughts …
Fooloso4 wrote:He can’t possibly have thoughts if he does not exist.
This is only true from our (external) perspective, but not from his.

RJG wrote:1. We can't/don't know what we think until after we thunk it (become aware of it).
2. It is not logically possible to 'create' a thought without first 'experiencing' it. And once it is experienced, then it is too late to create it!
Fooloso4 wrote:That is an assertion, and one for which you have not supplied any evidence.
All we need is simple logic (not "evidence") to disprove the possibility of thinking.
1. Do you agree X<X is logically impossible?
2. Do you agree that one cannot know their thought before they are conscious of it?
3. Do you agree that once one is conscious of their thought, that it is then too late to create it?

RJG wrote:Thinking itself is impossible.
Fooloso4 wrote:I don’t think so. You should try it.
“All that I know about anything comes from my thoughts. Though, my thoughts are not my own. They are given to me. I become aware of them when they come to me, and not before. There is no other way, as it is not logically possible for me to pre-select those thoughts for which I am then to become aware of. I am only the receiver of my thoughts, not the giver. For if I could truly give, or pre-select, my own thoughts, then I would certainly select happy, pleasurable thoughts all the time.” --RJG (2010)

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by Fooloso4 » November 23rd, 2018, 1:03 am

Descartes premise = "I think"
Descartes conclusion = "Therefore I am"
The argument is that he cannot be deceived about his existence, because he must exist in order to be deceived. In order to see this he must be thinking, and he cannot be thinking if he does not exist.
He can’t possibly have thoughts if he does not exist.
This is only true from our (external) perspective, but not from his.
It is from his perspective as a thing that is thinking that this must be true.
1. Do you agree X<X is logically impossible?
I have to think about that in order to determine if it is logically impossible … yes.
2. Do you agree that one cannot know their thought before they are conscious of it?
I have to think about that as well. There may be subconscious thoughts.
3. Do you agree that once one is conscious of their thought, then it is too late to create it?
In each case, in response to your questions, I have to think about it. That is something that I am doing. I do not do it and then become conscious of what I am doing. Thinking a thought is creating that thought, even if the thought is not original to me. No one can think it for me. They can tell me the thought but cannot think it for me. What it means, whether it is true, and so on is something that I work out for myself.

As Wittgenstein said:
No one can think a thought for me in the way that no one can don my hat for me. (CV)
Someone can put my hat on but if they do it will not keep my head warm. Think about it.

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by Eduk » November 23rd, 2018, 4:17 am

Sorry rjg I just can't follow you. You can experience thought? But not thinking?
How do you get from thought to thinking if you can't think but can only experience thought?
Can you please give some examples or analogies?
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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by RJG » November 23rd, 2018, 9:53 am

Eduk wrote:Sorry rjg I just can't follow you. You can experience thought? But not thinking?
How do you get from thought to thinking if you can't think but can only experience thought?
Sorry Eduk, I suspect my usage of "thinking" may be causing the confusion. When I say "thinking", I mean the active, knowing construction of our thoughts. We don't build/construct/create/author (i.e. "think") our thoughts, we only 'experience' them when they pop into our head (into our awareness). We are not privy to the construction (thinking) of our thoughts, but only to its 'presentation'.

Eduk wrote:Can you please give some examples or analogies?
For example,
-- when you experience the sight of the tree outside your window, you didn't create it, right?
-- when you experience the itch on your arm, you didn’t create it, right?
-- when you experience the thought that pops in your head, you didn't create it, right?

We experience thoughts in the same manner that we experience any other bodily reaction. Being conscious of (knowingly experiencing) our bodily reactions/experiences, does not mean that we caused/created them.

It is this false assumption that we create our thoughts (i.e. being the thinker of our thoughts) that resulted in Descartes flawed dualistic position (bodily experiencer entity AND a thinking entity). There only exists the experiencer of thoughts, not a conscious creator of thoughts.

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Re: How does one find True Knowledge?

Post by chewybrian » November 23rd, 2018, 10:17 am

RJG wrote:
November 23rd, 2018, 9:53 am

-- when you experience the sight of the tree outside your window, you didn't create it, right?
-- when you experience the itch on your arm, you didn’t create it, right?
-- when you experience the thought that pops in your head, you didn't create it, right?

We experience thoughts in the same manner that we experience any other bodily reaction. Being conscious of (knowingly experiencing) our bodily reactions/experiences, does not mean that we caused/created them.
You might have planted that tree or rolled around in poison ivy. You also might have planted the seeds of your thoughts today by decisions in the past. It's a complicated mess, and you don't always control what 'pops' into your head. Yet, you can choose to actively consider what to have for lunch today, or how to solve a puzzle. Further, you can work on your attitudes and judgments of events over time such that the ideas that 'pop' up over time tend to come up in new ways. Think of the addict who went through rehab and actually no longer desires to get drunk or high again, for example. Go through anger management with honest effort, and you won't be as easily angered in the future by the same events. Those angry thoughts were not just popping up, but you were greasing the rails for them with your opinions.


I'd say it's too simple to say that we control all our thoughts, but also too simple to say that we never control them. Our consciousness seems to force concerns down below the surface once it knows how to handle the issue. We walk without actively thinking about it, until we trip, perhaps. But, at some stage it took all our focus to get across the living room. I think our brain is always trying to free up space for us in this way to handle new things coming at us, letting the old stuff simmer on autopilot.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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