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  1. #1
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    What do we REALLY know?

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

  2. #2
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Nothing. Every piece of knowledge is provisional.

  3. #3
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Do you really KNOW that?

  4. #4
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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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. #5
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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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. #6
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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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. #7
    Kiss my axe! kahnovitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Do you really KNOW that?
    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. #8
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fung Koo
    Planck's Hair?
    Why does that sound obscene?
    Quote Originally Posted by GW
    What do you really know about your self, in the epistemological sense, not the psychological sense?
    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. #9
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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. #10
    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 by hell1991; August 25th, 2008 at 12:15 PM.

  11. #11
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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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. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    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?
    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

    i hope that made sense
    this is a very hard thread to answer haha

  13. #13
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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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. #14
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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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. #15
    Registered User falcon57's Avatar
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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.

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