What do we REALLY know?

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Gary Wassner, Aug 22, 2008.

  1. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Okay, we know lots of things. Or we think we do. But what do we REALLY know? Let's hear your thoughts?
     
  2. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    Nothing. Every piece of knowledge is provisional.
     
  3. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Do you really KNOW that?
     
  4. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    No, I REALLY believe that reality is a working hypothesis subject to further revision. I come to this conclusion from personal experience. Everything I have ever been taught is absolutely true has turned out to be absolutely true under the correct circumstances. For example, when I was taught plane geometry I interpreted it as a plain geometry and no teacher managed to discover and correct this mistake. This allowed the axioms of plane geometry to appear to me to be truth incarnate. I was not devastated but I was disappointed when I discovered that it is possible for triangle to have more than 180 degrees, just not in plane geometry.
    I was taught that Newton's Law of Gravity accounted for the motions of all the planets. A year later I encountered the three-body problem.
    I was taught that democracy is the finest form of government possible and at 18 years of age I encountered a coup d' etat in South Korea, teaching me very quickly that it ain't necessarily so since the putative democracy had treated the people a whole lot worse than the new dictator.
    I'll spare you the details of my religious upbringing and the contradictions encountered.
    I encountered S.I. Hayakawa's linguistics in the 70s and then Chomsky's in the 90s.
    I read the history of Einsteinian physics and the history of quantuum physics and the history of string theory and I patiently await the next revelation.
    I read Campbell's take on mythology and then discovered professors such as Elizabeth Vandiver who informed me Campbell ain't necessarily so.
    Every field of 'knowledge' including and fascinatingly so philosophy has posited truth only to have that truth over-turned and a new truth posited.
    Concluding that all knowledge is a working a hypothesis subject to further revision including this hyphothesis.
     
  5. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    So let's start with the simpler things. What do you really know about your self, in the epistemological sense, not the psychological sense?

    A la Wittgenstein if you will....
     
  6. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|:

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    Define "we."

    Then, and only then, can the question be examined. As I am not you and you are not me, do we constitute the "we" in question? Whom do we include in this nebulous "we"? If "we" choose to render the plural in singular, have "we" over generalized?

    In an argument that's based on semantic hair-splitting, "we" must determine the mathematical limit of the thinnest possible hair.

    Planck's Hair?
     
  7. kahnovitch

    kahnovitch Kiss my axe!

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    Slightly paradoxical question Gary.

    "I know nothing"

    "But do you really know that?"

    That's like looking up the meaning of "epistemological" on wikipedia!
     
  8. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    Why does that sound obscene?:D
    The basic question of philosophy: what can we know?
    For myself, I can construct three possibilities:
    (1) I am the figment of another entity’s imagination equipped with a body occupying space/time and a conscious continuum ranging from totally incompetent at birth to practically competent as an adult,
    (2) I am a unique entity in the cosmos consisting of a body occupying space/time exhibiting a conscious continuum ranging from totally incompetent at birth to practically competent as an adult,
    (3) I am a symbiote consisting of a body occupying space/time and an externally supplied conscious continuum ranging from totally incompetent at birth to practically competent as an adult.
    Since I cannot prove or disprove any of the three until I can answer the question how it is I think and determine that it is, in fact, me doing the thinking then functionally, it doesn’t matter which, if any, actually pertains as it does not change anything about the way I conduct my life. Psychologically, one is more satisfying than the other two.
     
  9. CMBillett

    CMBillett New Member

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    One of the most important things I have learned over the last few years is to question everything. It gets me into a lot of trouble. Ha. But, the, I see the people who don't, and who blindly follow without thinking about anything like this, and I'm encouraged. I don't ever want to be like them!
     
  10. hell1991

    hell1991 ebony falls

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    this thread reminds me of descartes' quote "i think, therefore i am"

    meaning that for example, the only thing i can be know is that i exist, because even though what i see may not be real, the fact that i AM seeing means that i'm real (apparently). but i cant be sure that anything i am seeing/hearing etc is real.
    so that still really means that you cant really know anything...

    just thought i'd throw that in there :p i dont know if it's completely relevent.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2008
  11. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Totally relevant!

    That's my point. Do we really know anything at all? I guess I need to qualify what 'to know' means here, so let's say it means 'To know something with certainty'.

    What does it mean to be certain then?
     
  12. hell1991

    hell1991 ebony falls

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    does being certain mean not having any doubt about whatever it is youre certain of?

    even that doesnt really help...i could have no doubt whatsoever that tomorrow the sun will rise, and yet for some bizarre unknown reason it might not (not a great example i know)
    so even if you believe you know something with certainty, you might not

    :confused: i hope that made sense
    this is a very hard thread to answer haha
     
  13. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Hard? ;)

    We assume we understand what it means to be certain about some things....until we question what we're really saying.

    Today many scientists are claiming that free will is an illusion. That we aren't making the decisions we think we're making, but that we're recognizing them as our decisions after the fact.

    When it comes to knowledge, we depend so much upon words, and words often bestow meaning and certainty. Tell me what 'now' means? Is there such a thing as now? Yet we are certain when we use the word that we're talking about something real and understandable.
     
  14. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    No, we're certain we are saying something comprehensible which is a different world altogether from "real" and maybe from "understandable." When dealing with beliefs and certain knowledge -which is another name for beliefs - we are not concerned with what's 'real' but in provinding a communication that is comrephensible.
     
  15. falcon57

    falcon57 Registered User

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    Who dies early is longer dead!

    > What do we REALLY know?

    You can be dead certain that you will be dead some time in the future.
     
  16. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Really? Define dead for me?
     
  17. Aurian

    Aurian Dragon Lady

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    Well, as numerous sci-fi books have explored, death may be overcome in many ways. Immortality nanos, new robot bodies, existing as conciousness in a computer, etc.

    Taxes will probably always be a constant though. :p

    What do I know? I know what I think I know. I think I know because I absorb various observations and facts through my senses, filtered through my conciousness/mind/personality. There are things I know that I cannot prove "The universe started with a Big Bang because scientists tell me that.", there are things I know I can prove "gravity makes things fall down. I can throw a ball to prove this. No matter how hard I throw it, it will always come down unless interfered with by an outside force (like a dog catching the ball :p)" and there are things I know that I cannot prove "I know I am here."

    What you know is what a person thinks is true, but what we know is subjective, perhaps flawed and many things are outright wrong. The things we know today may prove to be the jokes of tomorrow ("You mean they belived in a Big Bang? HA HA HA HAH AH!"). Just like we look back and wonder how they could have once believed in the four humours or the sun revolving around a flat Earth. :eek:
     
  18. falcon57

    falcon57 Registered User

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    > Really? Define dead for me?

    Please spare me to describe the process of dying. I just wanted to point that our bodies change from state alive
    to state dead. This is rather precise when you restrict it to physical bodies. It becomes very speculative when you
    try to explain the state change of your soul/spark of life/consciousness/spirit etc. I mean we are hard pressed to
    explain what alive is even if we have experience in it but to explain dead is even harder.

    Most explanations I've heard is IMO whishfull thinking, reward of the good, punishment of the bad, that style.
    The state that comes somewhat close to death is (dreamless) sleep and most people are not afraid to sleep so
    I hope that death is similar to that.

    Definition: Death is when nothing happens to you ;-)
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2008
  19. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|:

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    I thought Clinton killed the "define is" style of debate once and for all... :cool:

    In an argument where the words used in the argument themselves are up for debate, how can we hope to make any progress? It's completely defeatist.

    And I know that. ;)
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2008
  20. Monty Mike

    Monty Mike Journalist

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