• T Clark
    4.2k
    The meaning of “knowledge” and “knowing” get discussed here a lot. I always find those discussions unsatisfying. Thinking about it now, I see that’s because the knowledge that we talk about isn’t the knowledge I experience. So, I’d like to talk about how knowing feels to me. From watching other people talk about and use knowledge, I don’t think my experience is unusual, although I don’t claim that everyone experiences it the same. I hope others will share their own experiences.

    So, I’d like this thread to be about the experience of knowledge, not theories or rules. No justified true belief please. If you want to mention that type of thing in context, I won’t object, but I would really appreciate it if we don’t go off on a tangent.

    For me, knowledge is not something formal or logical. Just like all my other mental experiences, it has thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories all mixed together. I rarely just know something. The knowing is almost always in the context of action, of figuring out what to do about something. Normally, the only times I have known things in isolation are while taking tests, arguing here on the forum, and playing Trivial Pursuit.

    Just about everything I know I know in the context of a body of knowledge. I don’t know facts, I know patterns, structures with many interlinked pieces. I’ve been an environmental engineer for 30 years. I know the technical aspects of the work I do from school, reading, and experience. I’ve worked on several hundred jobs in dozens of different states and a few foreign countries. On a lot of projects, I find myself seeing how things will proceed almost from the beginning, although that can sometimes be dangerous. It’s one of the great things about getting old – having seen most things before.

    A body of knowledge has a feeling to it. It’s almost like I can hold it in my hands in front of me and look at it. I’m sure that’s my own idiosyncratic way of seeing things. Bodies of knowledge fit together into larger bodies. I have an image of a master BoK. I’ve described this on the forum before. I see a cloud in front of me, amorphous and …cloudy. It has everything in it – quarks, galaxies, electricity, God, love, porcupines, my children, everything. This is important – nothing is missing, the entire universe, my entire universe, is there, external and internal. The parts I know well are in focus, the parts I know to a certain extent are a bit fuzzy, and those I don’t know at all are completely out of focus. There are also parts that don’t fit into the structure I’ve created. When I become aware of them, the cloud will have to expand and change shape.

    The most important thing about knowledge to me is its relation to its BoK. We talk about justification, but the most important justification does not come from testing propositions in comparison to observations. It comes from holding up an idea to the BoK and seeing if it fits. New facts can make parts of the BoK come into better focus. They can cause me to change how things are connected. In extreme cases they can cause me to restructure the whole system.

    This is been a stream of consciousness post for me. There may be inconsistencies in what I’ve written and things that don’t make sense. I’ll try to work those out as we go.
  • Gnomon
    139
    T
    I'm currently reading LOGOS, by physician/philosopher Raymond Tallis, in which he explores "the mystery of how we make sense of the world". He is trying to go beyond physical empirical-based theories, into the realm of personal experience that is metaphysical. He notes that Knowledge is not isolated particular facts, but must be "networked" into a "web of beliefs" (your "body of knowledge"). The non-empirical mystery of knowledge is how we go from direct perception of real things & events, to the feeling of knowing that is sometimes described as "aboutness". His primary concern is with "making knowledge visible", like a sensation. He says, "at the heart of the difference [known vs knower] is explicitness". Which he calls "Thatter" as opposed to Matter.

    The book is fairly technical, but if you persevere, you might see Knowledge (Logos versus Mythos) from a different perspective. It's probably not exactly what you are talking about, but it should be worth looking into.

    Gnomon
  • Gnomon
    139
    A body of knowledge has a feeling to it.T Clark

    I suspect the feeling of knowing may be the internal sensation associated with the certainty of belief. Absolute positive certainty is blind faith. But most ordinary beliefs are not that strong, and are subject to skepticism, and open to correction. In Tallis' terms, when your belief is strong, you don't just know "what", but you know "that", which is more precise and assured.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    He notes that Knowledge is not isolated particular facts, but must be "networked" into a "web of beliefs" (your "body of knowledge"). The non-empirical mystery of knowledge is how we go from direct perception of real things & events, to the feeling of knowing that is sometimes described as "aboutness". His primary concern is with "making knowledge visible", like a sensation. He says, "at the heart of the difference [known vs knower] is explicitness".Gnomon

    Sounds interesting. I looked the book up on Amazon and Tallis up on Wikipedia. The book is on my list for future reading. Thanks.

    I suspect the feeling of knowing may be the internal sensation associated with the certainty of belief. Absolute positive certainty is blind faith. But most ordinary beliefs are not that strong, and are subject to skepticism, and open to correction. In Tallis' terms, when your belief is strong, you don't just know "what", but you know "that", which is more precise and assured.Gnomon

    For me, the important part is that it is a coherent, comprehensive experience. There is a feeling of fullness, completeness to it. There is still plenty of room for uncertainty, but that is buffered by the interconnections, and that's appropriate because our decisions don't normally depend on one fact. They typically require a comprehensive understanding of conditions analogous to the BoK I am describing.
  • Artemis
    1.4k


    Just recently I read a line in Tom Wolf's Tobias Wolff's "Old School" that some knowledge is felt in the back of your neck.

    Also, Harvey Siegel talks about the critical thinker being appropriately moved by reason, and goes on at length about what he means by "moved" in his book "Rationality Redeemed".

    Especially Siegel relates to what you're getting at here, in case you're curious.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Especially Siegel relates to what you're getting at here, in case you're curious.Artemis

    I took a look and ordered from Amazon. I'll see if he has any insights that will be helpful for me. Thanks.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    This is a very good topic.

    I had some knowledge of American history. The oldest layer (and framework) came from elementary and secondary school lessons. In 1400 and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue; the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock; One if by land, two if by sea; Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence; Lincoln freed the slaves and was assassinated; Teddy Roosevelt; Teapot Dome; FDR; WWII.

    Much of what I learned in school was more myth than knowledge. I didn't know that at the time. I thought I was getting the straight dope. In a different sense of the word, dope, I was getting straight dope.

    I got by for a long time on myth-history. Myth works, really, as long as one isn't trying to critically examine one's life or one's country or one's world. It wasn't until later adulthood (way way after college) that I began to read material that was more knowledge, less myth, and sometimes not myth at all.

    The pieces of mythic history fit together with delusions based on myth, so how can one tell that what we had been given and what we had gathered was not all that true? Was, in fact, bullshit?

    It's a process, not an event.

    It takes time. First, one hears contrary information -- maybe at a demonstration. Maybe one reads contrary information in a free Newspaper, or a cheap one, anyway, like The Militant, or The Body Politic (gay paper from Toronto) -- NOT the New York Times. Or one goes to a study group. One hears stories on NPR (at least one did in the good old days), or PBS. One sees an eye-opening film like The Fog of War, about Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who escalated the Vietnam War.

    Then one starts seeking out contrary information, and one finds that it too fits together, and decidedly doesn't fit the myths on which one's delusions were based. Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent was a wedge (like a log splitting wedge) that broke open a large hunk of history.

    Many books, talks, magazine articles, films, discussions, etc. later, I have a new history that much better accounts for reality. A book on the history of advertising, marketing, and the creation of desires goes a long ways in explaining how I got some of the myths and delusions that are still deep in my memory.

    Not only are we deluded, we have been deliberately and elaborately deceived. Somebody will say, "well that just your new myth". No, it fits too many other pieces in too deep a way. So, knowledge about history doesn't necessarily feel good -- I don't like knowing "I drank the Kool Aid willingly".***

    ***Historical Factoid: drinking the Kool Aid™ references the mass suicide of the cult led by Jim Jones in Guyana in 1978. It means swallowing all sorts of stuff.

    Kool Aid, Kool Aid, tastes great
    Wish I had some, Can't wait.

    Jingle for Kool Aid.

    Kool-Aid is a brand of flavored drink mix owned by Kraft Heinz based in Chicago, Illinois. The powder form was created by Edwin Perkins in 1927 based upon a liquid concentrate called Fruit Smack. Smack is now, at least, another name for heroin; the word is Yiddish, meaning 'sniff' (but not snort). It's a word the Yiddish lists do not eagerly embrace (unlike "schlong").

    Tom Wolfe wrote a book, "The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.

    Kool Aid is the official soft drink of Nebraska.

    DO NOT DRINK THE KOOL AID!
  • Janus
    8.5k
    I can relate to what you wrote there. Knowing is, like everything else, primarily an experience. I've long thought that knowing that is a form of knowing how, and that knowing how is one kind of knowing by familiarity. An example of knowing by familiarity, which is experience, feeling, is the Biblical "...a man shall know his wife" and "they shall become as one flesh".

    There is another way I like to think about knowing. too. We know with our bodies, we know with our feeling, we know with our intuitions, and we know with ideas, conjectures and investigations. So, knowing is knowing with. There are many, many ways to know the world with our bodies, our feelings, our intuitions and our ideas, conjectures and investigations.

    "Hypotheses are nets: only he who casts will catch". Novalis
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Not only are we deluded, we have been deliberately and elaborately deceived. Somebody will say, "well that just your new myth". No, it fits too many other pieces in too deep a way. So, knowledge about history doesn't necessarily feel good -- I don't like knowing "I drank the Kool Aid willingly".Bitter Crank

    Your narrative feels like what I was describing, the development of a body of knowledge, in your case a political/historical one. It had a visual feel to me, I saw flashing images of history. Layer on layer. All you have to do is not die and you can't help but get wise, maybe, but at least knowledgeable. Mine feels similar, although you have a more cynical view of our society than I do. Maybe "cynical" isn't the right word, maybe disappointed, betrayed.

    Like many others, the events that constituted my political awakening were the Watergate hearings. I wasn't cynical before or after, but that was the first time I was really exposed to that kind of information. It took place when I was living away from home and college for the first time. I had a great job in a book warehouse full of communists, gay men and women, feminists, socialists, black power supporters, and bikers. I was pretty naive.

    Now, all my life feels like it is happening at the same time. Everything that has ever happened to me, that affected who I am, is happening now. That's part of the feeling of knowledge I was describing. I feel the weight of that experience every minute.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    I can relate to what you wrote there. Knowing is, like everything else, primarily an experience. I've long thought thatknowing that is a form of knowing how, and thatknowing how is one kind of knowing by familiarity. An example of knowing by familiarity, which is experience, feeling, is the Biblical "...a man shall know his wife" and "they shall become as one flesh".

    There is another way I like to think about knowing. too. We know with our bodies, we know with our feeling, we know with our intuitions, and we know with ideas, conjectures and investigations. So, knowing is knowing with. There are many, many ways to know the world with our bodies, our feelings, our intuitions and our ideas, conjectures and investigations.
    Janus

    Yes, and, for me, the important part is that is it is all happening at once. It's not one little fact and one little observation - it's everything I've ever learned or known happening now. It's the fitting that matters - new stuff has to fit in with the old stuff or 1) the new stuff doesn't work or 2) the old stuff has to change.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    All you have to do is not die and you can't help but get wiseT Clark

    Not dying is insufficient. Wisdom does not necessarily grow with age. There are stupid, arrogant senior citizens who were stupid, arrogant junior citizens. Look no further than our esteemed maximum leader!

    No, I don't think I am cynical. But one definition of a cynic is "a disappointed idealist". I have an idealistic streak, and I am even now shocked--shocked!!!---to find that events were made to happen by various operatives. Nope -- not a conspiracy theorists -- I don't think 9/11 was a government plot or that the CIA killed Kennedy. But 9/11 is a good example of a splendidly engineered event.

    The person who might well think of conspiracies is Al Gore, the way he lost the presidency in what certainly seemed like a rush to judgement in Florida, then to the SCOTUS. I really don't know how Gore managed to endure. I'd have dissolved into a puddle of bile.

    The Gulf of Tonkin business was engineered. Watergate! Nixon was very actively trying to engineer a crooked outcome.

    But the biggest example of being shocked was to discover that American consumer culture was not the result of Americans merely having extra cash to spend, and lots of stuff to buy. I was shocked to discover that the culture of consumption was engineered in the latter part of the 19th--beginning of the 20th century by retailers, public relations firms, housing companies, and so on. Consumption as a way of life was a radical change from the previous centuries of thrift, production, and minimal consumption. It's been the new normal for 120 years, and it required a lot of industrious labor to get people to change their behavior that much.

    I was shocked to discover that many of the manners and habits which get described as "middle class" (and references the petite bourgeoisie) and may or may not have anything to do with the middle class, were introduced and encouraged by manufacturers, magazine editors, retailers, in a very deliberate effort to shape future consumption. A lot of people's material and experiential aspirations are the result. Mine too, to some extent.

    Every time I read a new book about gay history, like a recent title on Chicago's "fairyland" I am shocked and annoyed to discover that 'they' were doing stuff that 'we' 1970s people thought was scandalously revolutionary 40 years (or more) before Stonewall. What all they were doing was suppressed after prohibition. Crackdowns all over the place. Which underlines one of my theories about progress: it can always go into reverse, so we should not think that todays gains are forever.

    I never worked in a book warehouse, but a guy I know did, and he also loved the job.
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    We talk about justification, but the most important justification does not come from testing propositions in comparison to observations. It comes from holding up an idea to the BoK and seeing if it fits.T Clark

    I've got a few broad areas to compare this to. One is professional skills - I'm a contract tech writer and doc systems guy who works in many different workplaces. There are heaps of knowledge demands in those environments - first of all, the systems you're meant to be writing instructions for (currently for example a CRM for a health insurance company); but then the knowledge of all the tools that you need to turn out the knowledge, and also knowledge of the systems you need to publish/make available what you write.

    In the case of publishing systems, you need to know how to make it work to satisfy a requirement. If it doesn't do that, and you can't figure it out, then you don't know how to do it. You might need to immerse yourself in online learning, hang out on tech forums, or even delve into books. But your activities are guided by an outcome, something you have to deliver, produce or make work. If you can make it work, then you know it. It's not 'fuzzy' or warm feelings or anything of the kind. It's an outcome and you know how to make it happen or you don't. (I guess there's also a certain degree of tacit or implicit knowledge also. Like, people like me don't write code, so don't think like programmers, but at the same time I've been working in the tech sector for 30 years so I have a background understanding of networking, databases, connectivity, protocols, and many other things. But I also know a lot of my knowledge is only so deep, and there are other people who know hugely more. )

    But then, the other areas in my life are philosophy/spiritual practice (which are interlinked in my case) and musicianship. They're both disciplines that are kind of vocational, i.e. you have to devote yourself to them for years or even your whole life, and you get to plateaus, ridges, troughs, depressions, deserts, and so on.

    Like, musically, it takes a lot of work to master an instrument and idiom to the point of being proficient, and when you finally start to get there - woo hoo. But then there's music freely available through 10 billion devices, falling out of shopping centre ceilings, there are millions of musicians in the world, and besides the public taste in music is often execrable - boo hoo. You know if you put in hours more blood sweat and tears you could be vastly improved - but who would notice? Yoo hoo. (Sorry couldn't resist the wordplay.)

    As for philosophy - in my case, it's linked to the search to understand what Eastern philosophy calls 'liberation' which is a state of being or state of mind. There, you learn things also, but the outcomes are not nearly so certain. Well, in one way they are, because your 'internal climate' changes considerably over time, there's a certain sense in which the path you're on lets you know that you're coming along. But there's also a lot of uncertainty, although a large part of this discipline is learning to live with that. But that also informs the way you read the subject. I've noticed that engineers will read it like engineers. Language scholars will read it through that perspective. Nothing wrong with any of that, just an observation. In any case, this is the BOK that definitely has a feeling to it - a feeling hard to describe, 'great compassion', is one description from a Buddhist POV.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Not dying is insufficient. Wisdom does not necessarily grow with age. There are stupid, arrogant senior citizens who were stupid, arrogant junior citizens.Bitter Crank

    Yes, of course, but I did say "or at least knowledgeable." And with knowledge often comes some perspective at least, even among bozos. But then, I think maybe I like people more than you do, even with you Midwestern communitarian background. That's probably not true. Maybe I'm just more patient.

    No, I don't think I am cynical. But one definition of a cynic is "a disappointed idealist". I have an idealistic streak,Bitter Crank

    I have a friend, about our age, whom I worked with for a long time. Both of us came in to work early and we would have discussions about politics and social issues. We had a reputation for being cynical. When he mentioned that, I told him he and I were the least cynical people I know. I think you fit into that pattern. We believe what we've been taught about the way things are supposed to be.

    Crackdowns all over the place. Which underlines one of my theories about progress: it can always go into reverse, so we should not think that todays gains are forever.Bitter Crank

    Please don't see this as an attempt to stifle where you're taking this discussion. I'm enjoying it. Can you try to tie this in, briefly is fine, to the feeling of knowing/body of knowledge theme a bit.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    I've got a few broad areas to compare this to. One is professional skills - I'm a contract tech writer and doc systems guy who works in many different workplaces. There are heaps of knowledge demands in those environments - first of all, the systems you're meant to be writing instructions for (currently for example a CRM for a health insurance company); but then the knowledge of all the tools that you need to turn out the knowledge, and also knowledge of the systems you need to publish/make available what you write.Wayfarer

    Yes, this ties in with my discussion of the BoK I've developed with my work. That is my primary effectiveness as an engineer. I see connections that others don't. Everything I know is one single unified whole. I started to write "unified hole."

    But then, the other areas in my life are philosophy/spiritual practice (which are interlinked in my case) and musicianship. They're both disciplines that are kind of vocational, i.e. you have to devote yourself to them for years or even your whole life, and you get to plateaus, ridges, troughs, depressions, deserts, and so on.Wayfarer

    Yes, and I think this is in line with what @Bitter Crank is getting at. Values, morals, feelings, skills, talents, preferences, loves, spiritual experiences, and peace/ liberation are all part of my body of knowledge. Yours too I guess. In my career, my responsibilities as an engineer and as an advocate for my clients permeates everything I do. One of the reasons I've loved the forum is the chance to hone one important part of my intellectual life - bring it more into focus as described in the OP.
  • uncanni
    273
    Hello, and thanks for that great post. I like that you wrote that knowing "has a feeling to it": I agree with that statement. Knowledge for me brings with it many feelings--of expertise, self-confidence, relief (when I come to know something about myself that was unconscious previously), euphoria (when my knowledge produces the results I was seeking), and delight when I see that someone else has understood the knowledge I shared.

    Knowledge for me has everything to do with feeling. They are inextricably bound together.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Knowledge for me brings with it many feelings--of expertise, self-confidence, relief (when I come to know something about myself that was unconscious previously), euphoria (when my knowledge produces the results I was seeking), and delight when I see that someone else has understood the knowledge I shared.

    Knowledge for me has everything to do with feeling. They are inextricably bound together.
    uncanni

    I think the things you mention are part of the fullness I was talking about.
  • Gnomon
    139
    the most important justification does not come from testing propositions in comparison to observations. It comes from holding up an idea to the BoK and seeing if it fits.T Clark
    Years ago, I had an extended snail-mail correspondence on the general topic of religious belief. When asked how she knew her scriptures were true, she would reply with some variation on "it just feels right", or "it has the ring of truth". Her body of knowledge was in accordance with her "experience" as a lifelong conservative protestant Christian. But it did not "fit" with the BoK of other sects of religion.

    In evolutionary terms, the positive feeling associated with knowledge and truth is "adaptive". It is a reward for being on the right track toward your goals (survival, reproduction, love, etc). Unfortunately, that feeling of certainty may sometimes reward maladaptive behavior --- as in the dilemma of fanatical faith in one scripture versus another. Which is the true guide to salvation : obedience to Allah, or love for Jesus? Both sides on this question feel confident that they are on the correct course toward their heavenly reward (survival of the fittest). But at least one of them must be wrong --- and maybe both.

    So a reliable (adaptive) body of knowledge must have some validation beyond the subjective intuitive (dopamine) feeling of fitness. That's why scientists are supposed to test all proposed new facts with a skeptical challenge. So they can see if the new knowledge corresponds to (fits) the real (objective) world, or just their personal BoK. Religions tend to give preference to the "tried & true" facts engraved long ago in their immutable tablets of stone. But Science has learned that bodies of knowledge quickly become outdated, as new facts (observations) come to light, that don't fit into the old paradigm.

    The BoK of Faith is immutable. The BoK of Skepticism is adaptable to changing conditions. Which is the better resource for truth depends on whether the world is evolving or static.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    In evolutionary terms, the positive feeling associated with knowledge and truth is "adaptive".Gnomon

    I'm not sure if you are proposing it, but I am extremely skeptical of evolutionary biology or sociobiology. Looking for correlates between specific genes and specific behaviors seems wrongheaded to me.

    Unfortunately, that feeling of certainty may sometimes reward maladaptive behavior --- as in the dilemma of fanatical faith in one scripture versus another. Which is the true guide to salvation : obedience to Allah, or love for Jesus? Both sides on this question feel confident that they are on the correct course toward their heavenly reward (survival of the fittest). But at least one of them must be wrong --- and maybe both.Gnomon

    I don't think many people's bodies of knowledge, including committed religious believers, are made up only, or even primarily, of religious elements. There are religious scientists, engineers, doctors, plumbers, philosophers, cashiers. Religious people care about baseball, cooking, their families, politics. One of the problems, challenges as the cliche goes, of living in a heterogeneous society is trying to find common ground. I've never found that to be particularly hard. In my experience, it's harder here on the forum than it is out in the world.

    So a reliable (adaptive) body of knowledge must have some validation beyond the subjective intuitive (dopamine) feeling of fitness.Gnomon

    Maybe you've misunderstood my use of the word "fullness," which seems close to your "fitness." It's intellectual, perceptual, spiritual as much as it is emotional. It all fits together.

    Of course a body of knowledge can't be unconnected from the outside world. A small portion of what makes up the structure comes from science. The great majority does not, including things we think of as facts. I knew about gravity before I ever knew about "gravity." I knew about philosophy before ever knew about "philosophy." That doesn't mean that news of the detection of gravity waves isn't interesting and may not change the way I think about the world. Then again, it probably won't change it that much. My day to day life is lived at human, Newtonian, scale.

    The BoK of Faith is immutable. The BoK of Skepticism is adaptable to changing conditions. Which is the better resource for truth depends on whether the world is evolving or static.Gnomon

    I think that's a very, very oversimplistic way of looking at things. Even though I come from science and engineering and have no particular religious beliefs, there are aspects of my BoK that have more in common with religious believers than with so called "rational" or "scientific" believers. I guess maybe you'd call them spiritual understandings, although I wouldn't. I see them as just as intellectual and justifiable as pi * r^2.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    Can you try to tie this in, briefly is fine, to the feeling of knowing/body of knowledge theme a bit.T Clark

    Reading better history than what we were given in high school (and college too, for that matter), I gained a more granular understanding of "what happened" in Russia under the dismal Romanovs as well as the dismal Bolsheviks; in Germany the brief Weimar years and the Nazi years; in the United States the promise of abolition, emancipation, and reconstruction followed by decades of retrogression through legal and extralegal suppression of black people; the history of the labor movement reveals how good theory and practice led to solid progress for workers, but was followed by weaker strategy and a very determined effort on the part of Capital to suppress labor rights, and so on.

    Several years of focused reading on these topics (in the last decade, mostly) is responsible. There is a lot of hand-wringing over the rise of populism in Europe and the U.S., as if populism was equivalent to fascism. It isn't; but there is some common ground they both occupy. For the "leftish politicians" populism is a retrograde movement. Remainers in UK must feel a sharp sense of disastrous retrograde movement as the conservatives (and whoever the hell voted for Brexit) decided to negotiate their way out of union with the continent and now, under Boris & Co., crash out.

    40 years ago I wasn't very familiar with the long term objections to Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid of the conservative wing of the Republican Party (and the 1% masters). I became aware of court and legislative challenges to each of these programs, and enduring objection to what most people would call progressive programs. Unless there is a significant change in Congress, the conservatives will produce a retrogressive decay in these programs, not by frontal attacks in the courts, but by simply starving the programs at choke points. The IRS has been subject to this kind of choke-point retrogression.

    I read maybe 20-25 books about Detroit, Chicago, and Baltimore. Detroit and Baltimore, in particular, were places that were once considered among the best cities in the country -- prosperous, forward looking, great architecture, colleges and universities, beauty, and tons of industry. Lots of pollution too, of course, but working factory smoke stacks = money and jobs. The greatness of those two cities was turned to humiliation with remarkable swiftness. I won't go into it now, but their humbling was caused by quite understandable economic change and very deliberate policy. Chicago has been surpassed by Los Angeles in population, but it still is a competitive "Second City". Chicago had the advantage of not depending on a single industry (autos) like Detroit did.

    The motives and strategies of regression have become part of my body of knowledge about history that once upon a time I didn't have. I figured Social Security and Medicare were here to stay forever more, world without end, amen. It now seems possible, even a bit probable, that they won't, not because the country is going broke, but because of specific policies held by particular groups.

    When I graduated from college in 1968 I would not have been able to teach anything better than the shoddy product I received. Now I could teach a much, much better course.

    When I graduated from college I would not have been able to teach an English Literature or composition class as good as what I had been taught. At 22, I was woefully lacking in the BoK called life experience to appreciate the pile of literary stock English majors are supposed to be knowledgeable about and love. Now, 51 years later, I've had enough love affairs, funerals, severe disappointments & glorious achievements (exaggerating a bit), mourning and celebration, religious enthusiasms and disappointments, financial progress and regress, conflict and cooperation, etc. to actually GET much more of what literary characters are experiencing. Boswell was once boring; now he's a contemporary.

    So now that there is about zero chance of it happening, I have at my command a fairly cohesive body of personal experience, literary and historical reading, and much broader interests, that I would make a very good teacher.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    So now that there is about zero chance of it happening, I have at my command a fairly cohesive body of personal experience, literary and historical reading, and much broader interests, that I would make a very good teacher.Bitter Crank

    I tell people I've gotten to a place where I'd finally make a fairly successful 17 year old. Which is good, since that's the place where my personality has hid out for 50 years. I kept trying till I got it right. I still wouldn't make a good teacher.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    I am extremely skeptical of evolutionary biology or sociobiology. Looking for correlates between specific genes and specific behaviors seems wrongheadedT Clark

    It is wrong headed, because specific genes evolved long before the specific behaviors arose that we most like to dwell on.

    Some people like to gamble (roulette, poker, farming, real estate, see what is going on in dark alleys, etc.). The set of genes that enable some people to comfortably gamble (take real risks) arose long before poker, farming, and dark alleys came into existence. 100,000 or 200,000 years ago, risk takers must have had some advantages, or they would have died young without progeny. Perhaps they were more successful hunters than the nervous nellies who hung back. Perhaps they were willing to see what lay over the next mountain as they explored the world, and found fertile valleys.

    We wouldn't have evolved genes for academic success because academies appeared just 5 minutes ago. But organized thinking must have been an advantage a million years ago, granting H. erectus, H. habilis, or H. heidelbergensis a big of better life.

    A principle of evolution that seems to me true is that "new features do not appear from nowhere." If batters can hit a little ball moving at high speed, it is because genes were developed a very long time ago for vision and body movement coordination. What mammal doesn't require that kind of capacity?

    But I agree with you -- there is no poetry gene, no leather scene gene, no civil engineering gene, no Formula 1 gene.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.3k
    For me, knowledge is not something formal or logical. Just like all my other mental experiences, it has thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories all mixed together. I rarely just know something. The knowing is almost always in the context of action, of figuring out what to do about something. Normally, the only times I have known things in isolation are while taking tests, arguing here on the forum, and playing Trivial Pursuit.T Clark
    Well, taking tests, arguing on the forum and playing Trivial Pursuit are all actions too, but it seems to me that I can just sit here and know things - like Paris is the capital of France, or the acceleration of Earth's gravity is 9.8 ms^2. When I hear a news story about something that happened "in Paris", I can establish that connection with France, which is then another connection to a location on the planet - thanks to my geographical knowledge. It is about having categorical relationships established in the mind. I can recall this information, so knowing, or knowledge is more like memories of prior patterns that produced fruitful outcomes - whether it be getting an answer correct in Trivial Pursuit, tying one's shoes, fixing a computer, or understanding relationships (like knowing what someone means when they say "in Paris").

    Knowledge seems to come in degrees as there are some with more knowledge in a subject than others, but does that mean that the others really don't know the subject?

    What does it feel like to have thought you have knowledge of something but now realize that you were wrong? How do you "know" that you ever possess "knowledge"?
  • Gnomon
    139
    I'm not sure if you are proposing it, but I am extremely skeptical of evolutionary biology or sociobiology. Looking for correlates between specific genes and specific behaviors seems wrongheaded to me.T Clark

    No. I was not referring to any genetic determinism interpretation of evolution. I was just noting that "emotions" and "feelings" are internal motivators that urge you to keep doing the fitness maximizing stuff, and to quit doing the stuff that is not in the interest of your "selfish genes" (it's just a metaphor). But humans are able to overrule those urges when necessary, as in bravery despite the fight or flight feelings of fear.

    People's belief systems (BoK) may also encourage them (via a feeling of certainty) to ignore adaptive behavior for the real world in order to adapt themselves to a future ideal world. The question is "how do you know which is more important, the here-&-now, or the utopia-to-come? One way to answer that question is to compare various belief systems and to weed out the bits of "knowledge" that are mutually contradictory.

    The "oversimplistic" closing remark was intended to cut through the BS surrounding feelings; not to be a complete overview of empirical knowledge versus "spiritual understandings". :smile:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reward_system
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Well, taking tests, arguing on the forum and playing Trivial Pursuit are all actions too, but it seems to me that I can just sit here and know things - like Paris is the capital of France, or the acceleration of Earth's gravity is 9.8 ms^2.Harry Hindu

    Sure, and I acknowledged that. I also said that is not the normal way knowing works, at least not for me. It's not the important way that knowing works.

    What does it feel like to have thought you have knowledge of something but now realize that you were wrong? How do you "know" that you ever possess "knowledge"?Harry Hindu

    That's one of the reasons I don't like to think of knowledge as a collection of facts that you know or don't know. As if Newton didn't know gravity because he didn't understand the physics of black holes. Thinking of knowledge as a structure allows you to incorporate change without having to throw the whole thing out and start over.
  • TheMadFool
    4.1k
    A very enlightening observation. To answer your question on what knowing feels like I'm reminded of Archimedes who, having discovered the law of buoyancy, ran naked through the streets shouting "Eureka!"

    I haven't had such ecstatic moments for I'm not so gifted in the intellect but I've substituted that with something Christopher Hitchens calls "vicarious redemption". It's much like spectators of a game. A goal by your favorite player feels as real as if you'd done the scoring yourself.

    If one takes a reductionist approach all of philosophy and almost everything else may be reduced to a chemical dance of hormones and neurotransmitters. That is humbling for we are animals after all but it's also incomplete because the mental world has it's own objects and rules. A married man with a child must be both a husband and a father.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    No. I was not referring to any genetic determinism interpretation of evolution. I was just noting that "emotions" and "feelings" are internal motivators that urge you to keep doing the fitness maximizing stuff, and to quit doing the stuff that is not in the interest of your "selfish genes" (it's just a metaphor). But humans are able to overrule those urges when necessary, as in bravery despite the fight or flight feelings of fear.Gnomon

    I don't want to be pedantic, so I'll let @StreetlightX do it for me. Here is a portion of the OP from a discussion he started a couple of years ago. It changed the way I thought about genetics and evolution. The whole discussion is really interesting.

    It's a common misunderstanding among the lay public that individual genes, or rather particular sequences of DNA, simply 'code' for particular individual traits. The idea is that there is a one-to-one correspondence between gene and trait (in a slogan: "DNA makes RNA. RNA makes protein. Proteins make us"). For a variety of technical reasons, this is not quite the case. In general terms, the main reason is that the exact process of 'gene expression' (the process by which gene gives rise to trait) matters a great deal to the 'finished product', such that a single gene may in fact give rise to multiple outcomes, depending of the dynamics of the actual process of expression.StreetlightX

    See, Streetlight, somebody does pay attention to you.

    The "oversimplistic" closing remark was intended to cut through the BS surrounding feelings; not to be a complete overview of empirical knowledge versus "spiritual understandings".Gnomon

    Well, ok, but there was definitely a whiff of the rationalist condescension people use toward spiritual or religious ideas in your response.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    A very enlightening observation. To answer your question on what knowing feels like I'm reminded of Archimedes who, having discovered the law of buoyancy, ran naked through the streets shouting "Eureka!"TheMadFool

    You don't have to be Archimedes to have a sense of the comprehensive experience of knowing. I don't think it's an issue of intelligence. It's an issue of awareness. Knowledge is not all that simple - somehow connecting a phenomenon with a truth statement. It is worth some introspection.
  • StreetlightX
    4.3k
    Without having followed the thread, one quick remark on emotion and evolution: emotion may well have developed as adaptive feature of our psychic lives, but that doesn't at all mean it stayed that way. One of the hallmarks of evolutionary development is the repurposing of novel traits to ends other than which they adapted for. And this is nowhere more clear than with emotions, which can be ruinous to the human aninal. Addiction, obsession, depression, neuroticism and so on can be seen as, among other things, emotions de-coupled from their life-preserving function and rerouted into autonomous circuits that can lead to horrible things like suicide. Psychoanalysts lovingly called this the death drive.

    Evolution is simply the survival of the good-enough, not the fittest. And the good-enough can be incredibly fucked up. Anyway, off topic.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    I think I agree with @Wayfarer's characterization --

    It's not 'fuzzy' or warm feelings or anything of the kind. It's an outcome and you know how to make it happen or you don't.Wayfarer



    Which is to say that my instinct is to say there is no feeling to knowledge. My feeling says that knowing feels the same as believing falsity. But perhaps this is off topic?
  • Harry Hindu
    2.3k
    I also said that is not the normal way knowing works, at least not for me. It's not the important way that knowing works.T Clark
    So this is another of your threads where you are only interested in promoting your version of things and all other versions aren't normal or important. No thanks.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    So this is another of your threads where you are only interested in promoting your version of things and all other versions aren't normal or important. No thanks.Harry Hindu

    Maybe it would be best for you if you avoided my threads from now on.
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