Tuesday, October 6, 2009

13e What is knowledge? An answer.....

It is about time that we come up with an answer on the question "What is knowledge?" And today I'll give one. The first step is a discussion of a philosophical assumption,

namely the idea or belief that there exists one ultimate truth, and that it is the task of philosophy to reveal this fixed point, We call it truth or absolute certainty, somthing that is epistemologically beyond any doubt.

This belief has been supported for a long time. Especially philosophers of the Wiener Kreis, the Logical Positivists. are a modern example of it. But where does this belief come from, or is there someone who even dares to say that we KNOW that there is absolute truth?

I am on the side of science and of rationality, but I am against those exaggerated claims for science that have sometimes been, rightly, denounced as scientism .

I am on the side of the search of truth and of intellectual daring in the search for truth; but I am against intellectual arrogance, and especially against the misconceived claim that we have the truth in our pockets, or that we can approach certainty.

It is important to realize that science does not make assertions about ultimate questions - about the riddles of existence, or about man's task in the world.

The fact that science cannot make any pronouncements about ethical principles has been misininterpreted as indicating that there are no such principles; while in fact the search for truth presupposes ethics.

When I began with "I am on the side of...." you were reading my words, but it was Karl Popper (1994+), on of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century, who wrote them down in his article "Natural selection and the Emergence of Mind" (1972?)

Thence we may conclude that it is an irrational belief that we are able to KNOW the absolute or ultimate truth, or have undubitable certainty, but this does NOT automatically imply that skepticism or relativism are right, or that is everything just a matter of conventions.

The means which we have to estabish knowledge, even allthough it is in a provisory sense, is our rationality and our logic. So what we call knowledge is the totallity of our beliefs, which have stand the test so far. And this is not just some arbitray matter.

Take for instance the 5 Minutes thesis: the thesis that the earth and everything in and on it came into existence just five minutes ago. Even with the most acurate logic this is irrefutable.....that is...logically.

If we take that belief as rational and would add it to all our other scientific beliefs/knowledge, then we have to drop a huge amount of beliefs in regard to time and space and time and history as irrational.

This cant be our intention, so we decide that it is more rational to ignore the 5 Minutes thesis, then to drop our beliefs about time and space and history.

The position we have arrived at is something like this: scientific theories, and any other claims to knowledge, can and should be rationally criticized, and (if they have empirical content) can and should be subjected to tests which may falsify them.

Thus claims to knowledge may be contrastively, normatively evaluated. They are either falsifiable and thus empirical (in a very broad sense), or not falsifiable and thus non-empirical. Those claims to knowledge that are potentially falsifiable can then be admitted to the body of empirical science.

And so we have arrived at an epistemological position, which is closely related to critical rationalism. Let me end with a nice quote from Wiki:

Critical rationalism rejects the classical position that knowledge is justified true belief; it instead holds the exact opposite: That, in general, knowledge is unjustified untrue unbelief.

It is unjustified because of the non-existence of good reasons. It is untrue, because it usually contains errors that sometimes remain unnoticed for hundreds of years.

And it is not belief either, because scientific knowledge, or the knowledge needed to build a plane, is contained in no single person's mind. It is only available as the content of books.

The Discussion

[13:23] herman Bergson: So much for today :-)
[13:23] herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks....^_^
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: well i always that was true through all the discussions
[13:24] herman Bergson: You seem disappointed?!
[13:24] Abraxas Nagy: wow total silence
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: no
[13:24] Myriam Brianna: nah, full ack
[13:24] Abraxas Nagy: WOOOOOOOO
[13:25] herman Bergson: Finally a philosophicla agreement :-)
[13:25] Alarice Beaumont: well
[13:25] Abraxas Nagy: lol
[13:25] Frederick Hansome: Well, could it all be simply summarized?
[13:25] herman Bergson: Amazing..we even dont need to vote :-)
[13:26] herman Bergson: Well..the most interesting point is, that there is a claim for the objectivity of knowledge
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:26] Abraxas Nagy: mmmm
[13:27] herman Bergson: that is what is meant that skepticism nor relativism have won
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: but I never accepted that
[13:27] herman Bergson: And another closely related philosophical view is that of realism...
[13:28] herman Bergson: the idea that there really exists a reality independent of our mind
[13:28] herman Bergson: that is is not our mind that creates reality
[13:28] herman Bergson: but that it is an interaction with something 'outthere'
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: mmmm I dontadhere to that
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: its easy to prove
[13:28] Alarice Beaumont: difficult.. there is a reality which every person experiences differently
[13:29] herman Bergson: That is easily said Alarice but the facts are against it...
[13:29] herman Bergson: if that really were the case science wouldnt be possible
[13:29] Frederick Hansome: Why don't you adhere to that. Abraxas?
[13:29] Abraxas Nagy: I think reality is not independent
[13:30] Abraxas Nagy: from the mind
[13:30] herman Bergson: well, Abraxas...
[13:30] herman Bergson: Will the world still exist when mankind is extinct?
[13:30] Abraxas Nagy: nope
[13:30] herman Bergson: what do you think?
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: oh dear
[13:30] Frederick Hansome: Did the world exist before mankind?
[13:31] herman Bergson: yes...we have proof of that Frederick
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: noone can experience it,,, so its not there
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: I wonder if that is what the dinosaurs thought
[13:31] herman Bergson: that are two different ontological categories Abraxas...
[13:31] Myriam Brianna: ah, but that is something else.
[13:32] Abraxas Nagy: ah
[13:32] herman Bergson: the existens of experiences and the existence of that IT
[13:32] Abraxas Nagy: ah i see what u mean
[13:32] herman Bergson: We have paleontological proof that the world existed before the mind emerged
[13:33] Abraxas Nagy: ah but that proof comes from the mind
[13:33] Myriam Brianna: but there was of course a time when no mind experienced it
[13:33] Alarice Beaumont: and it surely will exist afterwards... logical thinking?!
[13:33] herman Bergson: or what do we experience when we look into that prehistoric past where man did not exist?
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes..but experiencing an environment doesnt give it reality
[13:33] Myriam Brianna: but it is nonsense to chain experience and existence to each other
[13:34] herman Bergson: it gives reality to sense experiences
[13:34] Myriam Brianna: that was a fashion, when misunderstood quantum physics hit the shelves, but it does not follow
[13:34] herman Bergson: yes Myriam....but it has along history in philosophy
[13:34] Abraxas Nagy: but then... why dont people all experience the world in the same way
[13:34] Abraxas Nagy: they dont
[13:35] herman Bergson: I think that that is a rather rude generalisation Abraxas....
[13:35] Myriam Brianna: because your semantic environment, your nervous system form your emic realitiy as opposed to an hypothetical etic one
[13:35] Frederick Hansome: because we experience the world based on our own unique experiences, thus differently
[13:35] Abraxas Nagy: maybe I'm a rude guy
[13:35] herman Bergson: the stone that falls on my and your head is experiences as painfull..definitely...
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:36] herman Bergson: No crude is the word I guess
[13:36] Abraxas Nagy: ah
[13:36] Abraxas Nagy: maybe I over simplify
[13:36] herman Bergson: but the pain experience is subjective....the stone and the response of our nervous system is a factual thing
[13:36] Alarice Beaumont: yes
[13:37] herman Bergson: we both end up in the hospital :-)
[13:37] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:37] Alarice Beaumont: lool
[13:37] herman Bergson: so the proposition that everyone experiences the world differently I would describe as not rational
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmmm
[13:38] Frederick Hansome: I don't agree herman
[13:38] Lovey Dayafter: some people enjoy pain
[13:38] Abraxas Nagy: right
[13:38] herman Bergson: or actually even empirically falsified....we both are in the hospital Abraxas :-)
[13:38] Abraxas Nagy: :D
[13:39] Myriam Brianna: it is true, but that doesn't point to a world that is created/dependant by/to cognitive states
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes Lovey..but even tho Abraxas loved his fractured skull he had to be treated like me in the hospital :-)
[13:40] herman Bergson: No Myriam...our cognitive states dont create reality..
[13:40] oola Neruda: if one has to qualify a response... then can it be taken as an abosolute
[13:40] herman Bergson: indeed
[13:40] herman Bergson: what do youmean oola?
[13:40] oola Neruda: well ... to eliminate other possibilities... and say... in this situation this happens
[13:41] oola Neruda: that leaves a lot of other situations unadressed
[13:41] Frederick Hansome: our cognitive states do not create reality, but they certainly creted our PERCEPTION of reality
[13:41] oola Neruda: that overlap
[13:41] herman Bergson: I would say it in an other way oola...
[13:41] Frederick Hansome: thus creating our reality for all practical purposes
[13:41] Myriam Brianna: and btw, there's an ethical reason not to subsribe to non-falsifiable beliefs. There's no way to disproof them, but they catapult your right out of rational discourse
[13:41] herman Bergson: in fact that is what every scientific theory does....give the 'absolute' answer.....
[13:42] herman Bergson: or actually open the doors wide for falsicication
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Frederick..to some extend we create a subjective reality
[13:43] herman Bergson: but it is always put to the test...
[13:43] herman Bergson: and then we discover that we have to re-evaluate our ideas about our reality
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: hallo hello hi holla
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: rodney
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes Myriam..the pursuit of knowledge actualy presuposes ethics
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:44] herman Bergson: Qwark!
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: ssory
[13:44] Myriam Brianna: If one decides to believe in something because of its emotional appeal without any (apparent) evidence that would justify this particular belief, s/he gives up any basis for a rational discussion. Take e.g. someone who, against all inter-subjective evidence and probability, chooses to subsribe to strong dualism.
[13:44] Alarice Beaumont: Hey QWAKR!!
[13:44] Abraxas Nagy: Hey Qwark m8
[13:44] Myriam Brianna: Now confront this someone with a racist, claiming that "the Aryan" is a superior race and chosen by nature to rule. How would our dualist argument this claim?
[13:44] bergfrau Apfelbaum: lol this hallogesture
[13:44] bergfrau Apfelbaum: huhu quark :-)
[13:44] Qwark Allen:Helloooooo!
[13:44] Qwark Allen: Hey!
[13:45] Qwark Allen: sry delay
[13:45] Alarice Beaumont paid you L$100.
[13:45] herman Bergson: You are running too fast here Myriam...:-)
[13:45] Myriam Brianna: He can not, without appearing hypocritical, point to the fact that it doesn't correlate in any way to the world - as we percieve it - since he himself gave up this as a possible justification to believe in something when he took up dualism. In short: The integration of unrealistic assumptions into one's world-model has ethical implications, and those are not comfortable.
[13:45] Myriam Brianna: sorry ^^
[13:45] herman Bergson: and read the rules of the class :-)
[13:45] Qwark Allen: it seems i'm taking the place of rodney, by getting here late
[13:46] herman Bergson: They will rezz soon behind me..you couldnt know, Myriam :-)
[13:46] Myriam Brianna: yeah, the 3 lines *g* - I hope a single transgression is forgiven ;)
[13:46] herman Bergson smiles
[13:47] herman Bergson: I understand what you say but it is a bit too much all together
[13:47] herman Bergson: I mean...you already have discarded dualism...
[13:48] herman Bergson: for those who dont know what is meant by that..
[13:48] herman Bergson: In fact Descartes invented it....there is a mind and a body...two different entities
[13:49] herman Bergson: some say no....mind and body are manifestations of one substance...say molecules of the body
[13:49] herman Bergson: we just use two different languages...a psych language and a physical language , but they refer to the very same relaity....matter
[13:49] Lovey Dayafter: can they be two and one at the same time?
[13:50] herman Bergson: Well Lovey....elementary logic forbids that....one can not be one and two at the same time
[13:50] Lovey Dayafter: where does the soul fit in?
[13:50] Qwark Allen: how are you
[13:50] herman Bergson: it isnt a settled debate at all...
[13:51] herman Bergson: we have a mind and a body.....or do we only have a body?
[13:51] herman Bergson: Where I even leave out people who assume that we also have a soul
[13:52] Lovey Dayafter: some people could have a body without a mind I guess
[13:52] Frederick Hansome: the mind is the function of the body (brain portion) like digestion if the function of the intestines
[13:52] herman Bergson: but what means function Frederick?
[13:52] Frederick Hansome: thin king, feeling behaving
[13:53] herman Bergson: is the mind the result of the working of the body?
[13:53] Frederick Hansome: those are functuions
[13:53] herman Bergson: means function purpose?
[13:53] Frederick Hansome: many agree that there can be no mind without a living brain
[13:54] Myriam Brianna: and the debate about strong dualism I see as settled. I mean, I could subsribe to Epicurean physics for aesthetic reasons (and my claims are, in the end, not falsifiable), but again I would be way off ^.-
[13:54] Frederick Hansome: function and purpose are different
[13:54] herman Bergson: yes..I agree to that
[13:54] herman Bergson: I agree Myriam..:-)
[13:55] herman Bergson: Maybe the relation mind body could be seen as the relation between a candle and it s flame
[13:55] herman Bergson: the flame can not exist without the candle
[13:55] Violette McMinnar: hmmm
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: at this point it is possible to see the changes in the brain when one is thinking ... they show where the mind is working in the brain
[13:56] Lovey Dayafter: which one is the flame?
[13:56] herman Bergson: Yes Gemma, they know where the rationality and the irrationality are located in the brain
[13:56] Myriam Brianna: but we do not see the "mind", because there is nothing to see. It is an emergent phenomen that disappears when you dig for it (in my opinion, that is)
[13:56] Violette McMinnar: what if the brain reacts to minds thoughts?
[13:56] herman Bergson: The mind would be the female Lovey
[13:57] Lovey Dayafter: why not the other way?
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: it does
[13:57] Violette McMinnar: so they are not the same
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: scientists wire people and then give them stimuli and located the reaction in the brain
[13:57] herman Bergson: because the candle can exist without the flame like the body can exist without the mind
[13:58] Violette McMinnar: can the mind exist without the body?
[13:58] herman Bergson: But I think we are a bit drifting away from our main theme of today...
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: ah but the flame gives it purpose
[13:58] Frederick Hansome: no
[13:58] Lovey Dayafter: how can the body exist without the mind?
[13:58] Violette McMinnar thinks YES
[13:59] Frederick Hansome: how can the mind exist without the body (brain)?
[13:59] herman Bergson: So it think that we leave the mind body controversy for another long series of lectures ^_^
[13:59] Alarice Beaumont: hihi.. surely can... at least with some peoople i sometimes have the impression
[13:59] Violette McMinnar: mind is not the brain ;p
[13:59] Abraxas Nagy: then what IS it?
[13:59] Alarice Beaumont: hmmm
[13:59] herman Bergson: The main point of today is that all our knowledge is in fact belief
[14:00] Lovey Dayafter: the brain is part of the body, mind is not
[14:00] herman Bergson: could we drop that subject?
[14:00] Alarice Beaumont: well.. that has to be discussed lol
[14:00] herman Bergson: plz
[14:00] Frederick Hansome: except that which can be empericaly established
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: so the mind exists outside the body?
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: i think not
[14:00] herman Bergson: You really are a subborn class ^_^
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: lolololol
[14:01] Lovey Dayafter: hahaha
[14:01] Lovey Dayafter: we listen so well
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: you always knew that
[14:01] herman Bergson: I know the mind body problem is a big issue..
[14:01] Alarice Beaumont: do you put it on the shedule??
[14:01] herman Bergson: And I love to do a series of lectures on that subject too..
[14:01] herman Bergson: definitely
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: great... cause that will be interesting...
[14:02] herman Bergson: We can ad it to the options of future projects
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: lol like everything we discuss here
[14:02] herman Bergson: It is becoming hard to choose
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: has the choice been made for the future lectures?????
[14:03] herman Bergson: no...I didnt..
[14:03] Gemma Cleanslate: ??? we voted
[14:03] herman Bergson: But the Mind-Body theme is a nic eoption :-)
[14:03] Gemma Cleanslate: well we voted!!!!!!!!!
[14:03] Myriam Brianna: a very nice one
[14:03] herman Bergson: yes but that vote was rather inconclusive
[14:03] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmmm
[14:03] Gemma Cleanslate: why
[14:03] Alarice Beaumont: it wasn't on the board ... was it?
[14:04] Gemma Cleanslate: no
[14:04] Gemma Cleanslate: how could it be inconclusive
[14:04] Gemma Cleanslate: was there a tie?????
[14:04] herman Bergson: well only a few voted so far and soem voted both options :-)
[14:04] herman Bergson: kind of yes..
[14:04] Frederick Hansome: The mind body connection will be the topic at Platos's Academy on October 19
[14:04] Lovey Dayafter: I vote for Brain-Body, not Mind-Body
[14:05] Frederick Hansome: A LM is my picks
[14:05] herman Bergson: ok Frederick...willnit be just one lecture?
[14:05] herman Bergson: or a series?
[14:05] Frederick Hansome: not a lecture, just an open discussion
[14:05] Gemma Cleanslate: oh dear
[14:06] herman Bergson: yes Gemma....
[14:06] Gemma Cleanslate: open discussions are a riot
[14:06] Alarice Beaumont: lol voice or wirtten?
[14:06] Frederick Hansome: but yes, only one session
[14:06] Abraxas Nagy: so they are fun
[14:06] herman Bergson: Well this shows again the difference...this is a class not an open discussion...
[14:06] Gemma Cleanslate: exactly
[14:06] Frederick Hansome: the moderator is in voice, participants in voice or typing
[14:06] Abraxas Nagy: true
[14:06] herman Bergson: No voice here...
[14:07] herman Bergson: typing gives you time to think
[14:07] herman Bergson: for instance..you type a reply...reread it and think..no...wrong response and cancel it
[14:07] Gemma Cleanslate: many times lolololl
[14:07] herman Bergson: in voice it was already public...
[14:08] Alarice Beaumont grinning..: sounds like me lol
[14:08] Abraxas Nagy: and me
[14:08] Alarice Beaumont: ,-)
[14:08] herman Bergson: Yes we all now and then refrain from pressing the ENTER
[14:08] herman Bergson: I think this is a special quality of this kind of communication
[14:09] herman Bergson: and it is good for you health..all that physical activity...even when it are only your fingers..:-)
[14:09] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye
[14:09] Gemma Cleanslate: all see you tuesday I hope
[14:09] Alarice Beaumont: oh yes.. bye Gemma :-)
[14:09] Myriam Brianna: bye Gemma :)
[14:09] herman Bergson: Yes..I think it is time to end our discussion :-)
[14:09] Abraxas Nagy: bye Gemma
[14:09] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye :-) Gemma
[14:10] Alarice Beaumont: I need to go too.. nite nite everybody!
[14:10] Lovey Dayafter: bye everybody
[14:10] Abraxas Nagy: nite Alarice
[14:10] Qwark Allen: night
[14:10] Qwark Allen: lol
[14:10] Abraxas Nagy: bye Lovey
[14:10] herman Bergson: so Class dismissed :-)
[14:10] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation

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