• How should we define 'knowledge'?

    No, I don't think you get what I mean. 1) You are interested in propositions. I do not know what they are. I am interested in statements. I couldn't give a formal definition of those, but they do include the idea of speech-acts as an important part of understanding "he knows that p". 2) you are interested in truth and falsity and "informational content". I am also interested in what a speech-act does or conveys.

    "He is justified in believing that p" does not convey that I have proof that he has a proof. It does not convey that p is true, only that it might be true. It conveys that I have evaluated his justification and believe (but do not know) that his justification is, indeed, a justification, but not necessarily a sufficient justification. "He is justified in believing that p and p is true" nearly conveys that he knows that p, but, by using "believe" rather than "know" I do not commit to his justification being sufficient.

    When one witness says that p, one has evidence. When two witnesses independently say that p, one has more (stronger) evidence. And so on. When the police turn up and provide forensic evidence, the game changes and the evidence gets yet stronger. My endorsement of our subject's claim adds to the evidence (provided that it is independent), even though it does not necessarily change the truth value of p or its informational content; it gives reason for the jury to trust the evidence.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    No apology necessary. Everyone has an off-line life to live.

    So, you are saying that the truth criterion of the JTB definition is evaluated from the standpoint of the speaker, regardless of the subject of knowledge? That is, if I say that someone else than me knows something, then the truth criterion applies to the proposition that I am stating?Ø implies everything

    The answer to the first question is Yes. The answer to the second question is No. The truth criterion applies to the proposition known - to the "that.." clause.

    You say: -
    He knows p = He is justified in believing p and this proposition is true/known by meØ implies everything

    I say: - He knows that p = He is justified in believing that p and p is true.

    There are two issues in what you say after that.

    First, you assume that "justify" means "conclusively justify". That's not obvious and not universally accepted. I waver somewhat on this.

    Second, you are assuming that there is only one proof for each proposition. That's not the case. The justification (whether conclusive or not) available to the S (the person who knows or doesn't) may not be the same as the truth-conditions available to the speaker. In any case, in practice endorsement by the speaker provides additional reassurance to the audience. Even if the S's justification and the truth-conditions available to the speaker are the same, endorsement by the speaker strengthens the testimony. "Believes" can never do this.
  • Thoughts on the Meaning of Life

    I've never understood why the mere fact of being created by God confers any meaning on this universe, whether It created it or not.

    There's another issue that is raised by the second question in the post:-
    Then what do our experiences mean? We all have one fleeting moment after another and then we simply die.jasonm

    The implication is that meaning must be enduring - preferably life-long if not permanent. I don't buy this. There are some things in my life that I would call meaningful and have endured. There are other things that haven't. But that doesn't make them meaningless. I'm glad they happened, I shall treasure them as long as I have a memory. Moments that people treasure are part of life. That they are moments does not detract from their meaningfulness.

    At least, that's true by my understanding of meaningfulness. In a sentence, something is meaningful if it is intrinsically valuable. That is, I don't feel any need to find any further justification for it. The arts provide many examples, but so do the sciences and even philosophy; one can find other examples everywhere in life. There's no problem with finding it, if one is looking for it - but not too hard because that spoils the effect. Asking whether something is meaningful is a good way of wrecking it as well.
  • The tragedy of the commons of having children

    I'm sorry to be picky. I do, of course, agree that the new-born should be protected. But what's the point of protecting them for the first year or two and then abandoning them to their fate. To be sure, as they grow up, one can expect them to be more independent and they will demand that. But appropriate support should be provided until they are.

    Which suggests to me that in some cases, some support may be needed for a long time or even for life. But enabling people to function as independently as possible is probably cheaper, as well as more humane, than clearing up the disasters that result from not supporting them.

    You do say "at least". You are right to do so. I'm just reinforcing that.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    If you agree that for non-skeptical accounts of truth, truth is a redundant criterion of knowledge in the first person case, then you also agree that it is redundant for the nth person case.Ø implies everything

    We obviously misunderstand each other. This is starts from the grammatical structure of verbs. There are only three persons in the singular and three in plural forms of any verb, including "know". "I know that p", "You know that p" and "He/She knows that p". The plural forms are "We", "You" and "They", but we don't need to consider those for present purposes.

    We need to consider three roles in speech situations - the subject, that is, the person who knows, or doesn't, the speaker, who asserts that the subject knows and the audience, who are being addressed by the speaker (or at least are within earshot).

    In the case of "I know that p", since the speaker and the subject are the same person, the truth clause is redundant (with some potential qualifications).
    In the case of "You know that p", the audience and the subject are the same person. The truth condition is not redundant, but conveys the information that the speaker endorses the subject's belief that p.
    In the case of "She/he knows that p", speaker, subject and audience are all distinct from each other. The truth condition is not redundant.

    Now, as for my definition of belief as emotional and knowledge as justified belief; what else do you propose?Ø implies everything

    I propose to continue to use both terms with the meaning attributed to them by any good dictionary.

    First, some options are imagined.Dfpolis

    Could you clarify whether this is an action and, if so, a rational action?

    Far greater wounds are suffered in battle and may pass unnoticed because attention is not focused on one's body, but on something else.Dfpolis

    I would agree. But I would not believe that I chose to focus my attention elsewhere.

    Doubts can only affect our commitment to the truth of what we continue to know.Dfpolis

    How does doubt affect our commitment to the truth of what we know if it does not undermine it.?

    Will is a power that allows us to value and so choose.Dfpolis

    We have the power to value and to choose. Why do you posit anything over and above those powers?
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    Still, given multiple conceptual possibilities (lines of action), one needs to be actualized. That actualization is a specific kind of intentional act.Dfpolis

    Could you please explain how that the requirement of a specific kind of intentional act before any action doesn't give rise to an infinite regress?

    Because objects act on the senses to inform the nervous system, thereby presenting themselves for possible attention. When we choose to attend (focus awareness on) to them, we actualize their intelligibility, knowing them.Dfpolis

    I've no doubt that there is a causal chain from what is called the external world to our brains. I agree that sometimes we choose to attend to things. But I also think that sometimes we do not. When I burn my fingers on a hot stove, I do not choose to attend to the pain.

    Doubts question his commitment to the truth of what he continues to know and believe.Dfpolis

    Ah, so knowledge does also require commitment. Thank you for clearing that up.

    Since both knowledge and belief require commitment, how is it possible to continue to know or believe things that one is not committed to? Do you really mean to say that one knows something that one doubts?
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    I am calling this power (which is not a thing) "will."Dfpolis

    I'm sorry if I led you to believe that I thought that "will" is a thing (object/state?). But my criticism was not about that. Your belief that all actions of whatever kind stem from a single power is a distortion through over-simplification. Your description of how we need to balance our values shows that there are different kinds of action which stem from different needs and wants and desires - and habits and customs.

    My preferred language is to call the neural modification induced by the action of the object on our senses a "presentation."Dfpolis

    I find it hard to see why you want to call something a presentation when it is never presented to anyone or anything.

    He knew he was in his chamber, writing, but chose to believe he might not be.Dfpolis

    If Descartes thought he might not be in his chamber writing, one might have expected him to be rather alarmed and to stop writing while he worked where he was and what he was doing. But he never stops believing that he is in his chamber writing.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    Thus, if you know that John knows P, you also know P, because if P were false, then John does not know P, which means you do not know that John knows P, which contradicts the premise.Ø implies everything

    But if I know that John knows that p, I do know that p is true. If p had been false, I wouldn't have known
    that John knows that p. What's the problem?

    Going from JTB to JB does not make knowledge into belief, by definition of JB as "justified belief", in which a belief is merely an emotional conviction, whereas "justified" (not "justifiable") is an emotional conviction that the belief is correctly supported.Ø implies everything

    Then either you are changing the definition of belief. The differential of belief and knowledge is normally thought to be that a belief is still a belief even if it is false. This is perfectly compatible with some beliefs being justified and some not. Emotion does not justify a belief unless the emotion is justified. If that is the case, the justification of the emotion also justifies the belief. You are also changing the definition of knowledge, by allowing that it might be false and still be knowledge. Your argument about John presupposes that if p is false, p is merely believed, not known.

    There are theists who exemplify the state of feeling that one's conviction is true, yet simultaneously not feeling that it is justified. That is, these theist have, in their own eyes and others', unjustified beliefs.Ø implies everything

    I think you misunderstand "God exists". It is what is called a hinge proposition, like an axiom. Everything is interpreted in the light of this. Justification starts from that, and it would be inappropriate to try to justify it.
  • The tragedy of the commons of having children
    Providing as they would, an impoverished environment/context for their children.boagie

    I'm surprised that you don't draw the obvious conclusion that it is in the interest of any society to support parents and ensure that a good social and physical environment is made available for families - not out of charity or even justice, but out of self-interest. There's an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Too many parents and children don't have a village - a city is not the same thing.
  • Progress: an insufferable enthusiasm
    The 'disruption' is a bogeyman.Isaac

    Your case study (thought-case study) is persuasive. But I had in mind people losing their jobs and even careers. The new jobs are often lower paid, lower status, somewhere else and so on. It is serious. It may still be worth it, but it needs good, sympathetic management, which doesn't usually seem to be provided - not even by those who profit from the change.

    It's pathetic that the left can't even muster enough solidarity to make a dent.Isaac

    Tell me about it. It seems to be part of the left-wing personality that compromise in the name of solidarity is regarded as betrayal. Although to be fair, I have noticed similar tendencies in the right wing as well.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    If you read my first comment on this thread, you'll see how adding the criterion of truth introduces a different, more damaging weakness, in the event one has a skeptical account of truth.Ø implies everything

    But I don't have a sceptical account of truth!

    Your first comment, if the software is working correctly, includes:-
    Whether we are dealing with the former or latter depends on the relationship between truth and justification, according to the user of the definition. Either, a justified proposition is always true (1), or it is not always true (2). In the latter case, justification may have the capacity, if sufficiently strong, to prove a proposition true (2a), or it may never have this capacity (2b). In the event of 2b, justification like plays the role of increasing the probability of a proposition being true; it's simply that this probability will never reach 1.Ø implies everything

    I inferred from the first sentence that you were considering "I know.." as a speech act. It seems that I was wrong to conclude that. We both agree, I think, in the first-person statement, the truth condition is clearly redundant. "I know.." is cognitively identical to "I believe..". It's meaning, if any, is purely rhetorical. But if we abandon the truth condition, as you seem to want to do, "know" becomes indistinguishable from "believe".

    In the case of third- and second - person uses, there is a point to the truth-condition. Without it, "know" again collapses into "believe", as I pointed out here: -
    I'm afraid that doesn't quite cut it, because if P is false, (1), (2), and (3) will still be true and hence it will still be true (on your definition) that Sally knows that P.Ludwig V
    It is true that, in a sense, the most that I can convey is that I (the speaker) also believe that P. But the truth condition is also a commitment to abandon my claim if p should turn out to be false.

    Belief is an act of will: committing to the truth of some proposition.Dfpolis

    There’s a great deal packed in to your first post. But your starting-point is
    Belief is an act of will: committing to the truth of some proposition.Dfpolis
    So I shall start with that. There are a couple of points from your second post at the end.

    I’m not a fan of the concept of “the will”. I don’t understand what it means. It seems to be an attempt to sweep up into one category all the various beginnings of action. But our actions are very various and have many different beginnings. Moreover, while it seems reasonable to suppose there is a beginning to most beliefs, it isn’t clear to me that that all actions have the same beginning or that the beginning can be called an action of the same kind as cooking a meal or starting the car.

    Coming to believe that p is often simply accepting or recognizing that p is true. Nothing more is needed. It is true that other considerations may affect that process, usually sub- or un- consciously. As you note, “Sadly, what we know does not always elicit belief. There are many examples of people committing to what they want to be true, rather than what they know to be true.” But you are taking a partial view here. There are also many examples of people accepting a situation that they very much do not want to be true.

    Coming to believe something is very seldom like making a commitment, in the way that choosing one sandwich rather than another or accepting God into your life or getting married are commitments. We can, it is true, decide to believe p rather than q. But that is only an appropriate description if p and q have the same or similar weight of evidence. “Deciding to believe” would be a misdescription when I find out that p or notice that q.

    Descartes is astonishingly casual in introducing his suspension of belief, and I’m not at all sure that I really understand it. Clearly, he did not suspend his belief that he was holding a pen and writing on paper. We have the evidence of the text he wrote.

    However, it is true that sometimes people don’t accept the conclusion of what looks like a conclusive argument or conclusive experiences. It is a paradoxical situation. Perhaps we could say that the scintilla of doubt that there might be some mistake or get-out clause is relied to delay acceptance of the inevitable.

    the consequent changes of neural state, which are our visual representation of the object,Dfpolis

    No brain state is our visual representation of the object. We can't see it, and if we did, we would not know what we are looking at.

    That we can continue to know while suspending belief shows that belief is not a necessary condition for knowing.Dfpolis

    Suspending belief isn't the same as ceasing belief. I'm required to suspend disbelief while hearing or reading or watching a fictional story. That doesn't mean I stop believing anything, any more than it means I start believing that the story is true. One interpretation of the phrase that has been suggested elsewhere, (but I'm afraid I've forgotten where) is that we are asked to consider "what if.." Alternatively, Banno suggests that Descartes' project consists of
    modal musings,Banno
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    I don't see how the third person is relevant here.Ø implies everything

    I don't follow your iff sequences at all. Let me explain how the third person is relevant.

    Let S be a person who knows something. Let p be the something that S knows. Let R be a person who wants to report to a third party that S knows that p. Let the third party be A.

    S = subject (of S knows that p). p=proposition, known by S. R = person reporting that S knows that p. A = person to whom R is reporting (Audience)

    "S knows that p" informs A that 1) p is true; 2) that S has the information and reason to believe it; and 3) that R accepts that both 1) and 2) are true.


    I say that Sally knows P if

    (1) Sally believes P
    (2) Sally can justify her belief in P (according to current norms)
    (3) I also believe P
    green flag

    I'm afraid that doesn't quite cut it, because if P is false, (1), (2), and (3) will still be true and hence it will still be true (on your definition) that Sally knows that P. Clause (3) has to be "P is true". It may make no difference at first sight, but this clause means that anyone who claims that Sally knows that P has to withdraw that claim if P turns out to be false.

    At what point does the criterion of truth become necessary?Ø implies everything

    One can be justified in believing something even if it is false. The criterion of truth prevents that weakness from being passed on to knowledge.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    As you say, we can't limit ourselves to infallible flag

    That's right. And ordinary or natural language has a way of dealing with claims that are not true. We are expected to withdraw them, on pain of lying or misleading people. That applies to knowledge claims just as much as plain assertions.

    Knowlege is experience, through which meanings are gained though fallible.boagie

    I think that the practice or skill of drawing conclusions from experience, which I call reason, plays a part. Don't you think?

    Experience isn't a given, as it usually seems to be. There is a great deal of (unconscious) interpretation that has gone into processing the data before we are aware of it and more can be (consciously) done after we become aware of it

    Thus, in all cases, the criterion of being true within the JTB definition is either redundant, or, it makes the definition quite useless.Ø implies everything

    I don't find much wrong with your analysis. Considered in the abstract, justification and truth are connected, so it seems that only one process is needed. But you are forgetting that in the third person, there are three people involved in the definition - subject, speaker and audience. If I say that she or he knows something, I need to know that it is true; but I also want to know that she or he is not guessing or basing the claim on some false or irrelevant evidence. This point gets obscured because we so often fall into thinking about "I know". Certainly justification and truth overlap in that case, which is why "I know" has little more than rhetorical impact.

    "Know" as differentiated from "belief" has a very useful function, which "believe" cannot fulfil. It passes on information with an endorsement and a source, so there is some reason to trust it. "Believe" cannot do that, because (in the second or third person) it is compatible with the belief being false and so does not endorse it.
  • Progress: an insufferable enthusiasm
    So a technology for which we can see we'll run out of the main fuel, or run out of capacity to hold the waste product, is a technology that doesn't work. Back to the drawing board.

    Un-foreseeable lack of sustainability is obviously going to be part of any technological innovation in a complex world, but we're dealing, in the most part, with completely foreseeable issues.

    You're right about both of these. I hate to make things complicated, but you don't mention a third category, issues that are foreseeable but not foreseen. For whatever reason.

    In your first case, it depends when the limitation is recognized. If it is recognized before the technology is introduced, back to the drawing board is not too hard. Yet, even then, and certainly after it becomes well established, people may prefer kicking the can down the road to the inevitably disruptive process of re-design.

    It's solidarity that's the problem. Hence the main focus of any institution of power is to divide.Isaac

    Certainly that's a popular tactic. It gets more complicated, though. Power structures can fall apart because of internal disunity. They need their own support to remain united.
  • Progress: an insufferable enthusiasm
    What you describe is classic Western dualistic thinking and this bifurcated view of reality is, I agree, unproductive.Tom Storm

    I agree. I agree also that you were careful to make the status of your interpretation (or perhaps quasi-interpretation?) clear.

    I had no intention of commenting on Aboriginal ideas about human nature. I'm not remotely competent to do so. I'm sorry if I gave a different impression.

    I thought (perhaps wrongly) that a protest against that dualist thinking was relevant because still it infects Western (European) ideas about progress and a reminder of what many others have said seemed appropriate.

    It is easy to advocate for social justice and fairness and prosperity for all as an ideal; the actuality may be far less appealing to the side that currently enjoys the prosperity.Janus

    Yes. So it shouldn't have been a surprise when large corporations started to fund (and manipulate) anti-climate change research. On the other hand, it looks to me as if at least some capitalists are realizing that there is money to be made (which should have been obvious all along). To be fair, there have always been a few prosperous people who were able to recognize the importance of the issue and supported it because it is necessary rather than for financial reasons. So there are some ways to get the more prosperous to join in the project.

    I think it's more a case of disagreement over how to get there than disagreement over what they mean.Janus

    H'mm. I'm not sure about that. There is indeed plenty of room for disagreement about how to get there. But there's also room for disagreement about where "there" is.

    For example, I was taken aback when I realized that my modest circumstances would count as riches in what is still hopefully called the developing world. Realizing that I might count as enjoying prosperity and consequently be liable to a decline in my standard of living was somewhat alarming. I can't help hoping that I can at least maintain my current standards. I'm sure many people who are better off than me have exactly the same hope.
  • Progress: an insufferable enthusiasm
    I think this is the harm of 'the myth of progress'. It takes progress as the primary objective and sustainability as a kind of 'nice to have' icing on the cake. But sustainability, and equality, should be the constraints on any progress bar none, meaning no 'progress' which doesn't meet these criteria should take place.Isaac

    I agree with that.

    In a way, sustainability enforces itself. Unsustainable activity can't last forever. When the crash comes, there is turmoil and after a while, we start again. Maybe we avoid some of the mistakes that caused the crash. We will certainly make some new ones.

    Equality is a different matter. It may well be ideal, but I suspect that the best we can expect is tolerable inequality. "Tolerable" requires the power elite in a political system to recognize when they need to bend with the wind of popular discontent. The example of Bismark's State socialism is instructive. See Not that I'm recommending oligarchy.

    Taking sustainability and equality seriously means remaining in our apocryphal 'mud huts' for ten thousand years if necessary until we innovate the centrally heated, air conditioned bungalow in a form which is available to everyone, regardless of their status, and does not take more from its environment than it can sustain in its lifetime.Isaac

    You're right. That's a tough sell. I think that some compromise will be necessary.

    an openness to goodness as a dimension of how we were created.Tom Storm

    There is a tendency to polarize ideas of human nature; either it is a Good Thing (Rouseau) or a Bad Thing (Hobbes). But either view is mistaken. Our crises have not been created by some evil force, but by the limitations of our understanding of what we have been doing for, say, the last two hundred years. We know more now, but it is safe to predict that our understanding is still limited. We'll find out what we have not thought of eventually.

    Would many people deny that progress in the sense of social betterment, fairness and justice and greater prosperity for all is desirable?Janus

    Very few would deny that. But there would be different and competing interpretations of what they mean. People will always defend what they have and usually look for improvement from where they are.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    So, why speak about propositional knowledge at all then, why not speak about more or less justified propositional belief instead, thus dissolving all the attendant paradoxes, and saving us from going over and over this same old boring ground ad nauseum?Janus

    I think it is very hard to let the idea of knowledge go, because it carries a promise of certainty. Even if we did speak only about justified belief, we would still argue about what counts as justification. It is not an unimportant idea.

    Sadly, every philosopher has to be convinced of everything for themselves. It's foundational that one cannot trust anyone on any subject. Perhaps it's overdone, but I don't think there is any cure that would not be worse than the disease.

    What works, what is useful, what is pragmatic; or just that it's what we do? I'm not sure that the use of "pragmatic" isn't a bit too teleological, giving the impression of serving an 'ends' that isn't there.Banno

    At some point, there has to be a point when justifications come to an end and "it's just what we do" kicks in. I'm not dogmatic about where that point is, and I suspect that every generation will throw up people who can't resist asking questions and pushing beyond.

    I agree with you that appeal to evolution should always be cautious and tentative. There are some dreadful cautionary tales. Fortunately, I'm not competent to go beyond gesturing in the direction of evolution without offering any specifics.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?

    I'm grateful. Arguing about such an issue is no fun, just annoying. So I reciprocate. :smile:
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    I just explained why it wasn't as simple as that. So, yes, it's complicated, but it's complicated because of the uncertainty in our knowledge.T Clark

    It may be just a linguistic issue, but I prefer to say, not that knowledge is uncertain, but that we know less than we think we do.

    That's one of the lessons learned, and subsequently taught, by the natural language approach.Banno

    Is the natural language approach the heir of the ordinary language approach? If so, that's me.

    foundationalist epistemologyTom Storm

    The endless and fruitless search for foundations of knowledge certainly looks like a misapplication of an idea like the format of Euclid's writings about geometry.

    But if we keep truth small and simple then it is undeniable that there are true statements. Like that you are now reading this.Banno

    If there are any propositional foundations for knowledge, these small and simple truths must be them. But the deeper foundations are the skills that we begin learning as soon as we are born (and possibly before that.) In my opinion.

    And the justification for the skills, is, in the end, pragmatic. Evolution takes care of that.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.T Clark

    You need knowledge of the likely facts and understanding of the level of uncertainty.T Clark

    Engineers and scientists need to be careful and accurate. Lawyers, with their concept of "beyond reasonable doubt" are similar. I don't have a problem with philosophers adopting the same policy. Ordinary life will no doubt continue with its rather slapdash ways.

    But if there is some poisonous chemical contaminating your site, do you say that maybe it isn't a poison after all? You would be asked for evidence. You don't have any. You know that compound XYZ is poisonous, and you would have a bad time in court if you messed about with the process of removing it. Of course, you wouldn't ever just say it is poisonous. You would say it is poisonous at such-and-such a concentration and you would have evidence what the concentration is. If there was doubt about it, that would have to be mentioned and rationally justified as well. All those things are things that you know. Perhaps the problem is not that knowledge is uncertain, but that it is complicated.

    Dependent on other conditions or circumstances; conditional: synonym: dependentT Clark

    I agree that's the definition of contingent. And when the conditions or circumstances are met, the contingent statement is true. And when you know they are met, you know that statement is true.

    So both first-hand experience and the theoretical approach are essential for learning and gaining knowledge.Bret Bernhoft

    Quite so.

    So instead we have something like a general acceptance by a community, without the rigour for which one might have hoped.Banno

    But surely, it is better for a philosopher to admit that rigour isn't available when it isn't. It would not be philosophical to pretend otherwise.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?

    You caught me seconds before I logged off. I have to go soon.

    In philosophy, "contingent" doesn't mean "open to rational doubt". It means it is not self-contradictory to assert the opposite. Which is quite different. When I say that something is certain, I just mean it is not open to rational doubt. Descartes' arguments for scepticism consist of an invalid argument and a paranoid fantasy. That's about it. It's not enough to establish what he wants to establish.

    There is a category of doubt that Hume calls "excessive"; for Hume it was invented by Pyrrho, the ancient Greek. It's very liek Cartesian doubt. He recommends ordinary life and concerns as the best cure for it. He also identifies "moderate" doubt, which I would call a healthy scepticism. Hume thinks it is an excellent policy in general life.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    But the idea that folk can be wrong has fallen into disfavour, and it seems it is now considered no more than bad manners, even in a philosophy forum, to point out people's mistakes. Oh well.Banno

    I don't think there's anything very new about people accepting they can be wrong. Think what happened to Socrates.

    But I still think that first-hand experience is the best way to learn something and therefore the best way to obtain knowledge.Bret Bernhoft

    I agree that first-hand experience is often the best way. But sometimes text-books and classrooms are useful. It depends what you are trying to learn.

    My point is more that we don't need to go back and say X wasn't really knowledge. I am looking at the term 'knowledge' as a term meaning here's stuff we categorize as very trustworthy because of Y (our batch of rigorous criteria). So some now no longer consider true theory from the past is still part of our history of knowledge. The stuff we arrived at rigorously. Oh, it wasn't really knowledge. No, it was. Now we know better.Bylaw

    Sometimes going back and correcting knowledge claims is pointless and irritating. But it can be important if the knowledge is going to be relied on in the future or is still important in influencing people in the present. I agree that people are far too quick to pronounce that Aristotle or Newton were wrong. They were right, up to a point, and up to a point it is not wrong to say they knew a thing or two. New theories must explain more than the old ones, but also need to explain everything that the old ones explained, because the data they were based on is still true, irrespective of the theory.

    It may be we are not far off the point where our disagreement becomes just a question of vocabulary. But I'm going to stick to the JTB as I understand it (for the time being).
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    I don't see how a person's own feelings of certainty can assist us with this.Tom Storm

    I'm sorry. I wasn't clear about this. For some, the question may well be "Did this come from God?" How that should be assessed is not for me to say. (But I do know that the Roman Catholic Church does have procedures in place - which is not altogether reassuring!) For others, such as me, the question is whether this person is a danger to themselves or others.

    I can doubt anything.T Clark

    You speak as if you had been practicing and become a champion doubter! Or is it that you can ask yourself of any empirical proposition whether it could possibly be wrong and answer "Yes" just because it is not self-contradictory to do so. That wouldn't prove that p was subject to rational doubt. You would need some evidence that it is false for that.

    A property with no contamination is not considered a site under site cleanup regulations.T Clark

    So when you create a site conceptual model, you must be certain that there is some contamination. Right?

    I guess I was unclear. I do not consider JTB as useful definition of knowledge. I do not think knowledge has to be true, only that I believe it is true and am justified in that belief. Those are the only things I have control of.T Clark

    Well, no-one can ask more of you that you believe it to be true, so long as you stop believing it to be true when you have sufficient evidence that it is false. Then you will also also know that your justification was insufficient and will stop having faith in it. At that point, you will want to say that you did not know, after all. Fair enough. In practice we agree.

    All that anyone can ask of you is that you do your bit, and you clearly do that. But I don't think it follows that the outcome (success/failure) is always defined by that. Sometimes success or failure is assessed by other people. You can try your best to win the race. Whether you do win or not is not in your control. For me, knowledge is a success and other people are entitled to assess that for themselves.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    I agree with all this, although I wouldn't put quotation marks around knowledge.T Clark

    Yes, I'm afraid I wasn't consistent enough in writing that. I wanted to distinguish clearly between knowledge and fallible knowledge, which, as you may have noticed, I do not consider to be knowledge. One of the reasons for that conviction that if knowledge (as distinct from people) can be wrong and still called knowledge, the distinction between knowledge and belief disappears. That's the main reason that people like to claim knowledge when they don't really have it and prefer to gain knowledge rather than belief.

    So, yes - knowledge is justified belief with the condition that the justification is adequate.T Clark

    Well, we're agreed on that, then. However, I'm not sure I would consider JTB a definition in the strict sense. One of the reasons is that the Justification condition is very, very hard to articulate in the way one would expect for a definition. In my own mind, this condition is more like an area to check out and consider rather than a criterion to be applied.

    knowledge is social, it is had by a community more than by an individual.Banno

    Yes, I'm in complete agreement with that. It seems to me that community involvement is built in to the concept, in two ways. First, that anyone who passes on knowledge has to endorse it. That's the consequence of the Truth clause in the JTB account. Second, the authority of the source can be a justification for passing on - and therefore endorsing - knowledge. Authority may be first hand, but it may also be second hand, which is a bit less satisfactory to philosophy. But if we can't claim knowledge at second hand, most of what we know isn't knowledge. Awkward.

    I think that to know something is to experience it and therefore to perceive it in an undoubtable way.Bret Bernhoft

    Yes. That's why Russell thought that knowledge by acquaintance was important - and different from knowledge by description (i.e. at second hand).

    Odd, though, that direct experience of an event is well known not to make one a reliable witness. Perhaps it is over-rated?

    people who say they have knowledge of god though direct experience - how would you describe this type of claim?Tom Storm

    See above on knowledge by acquaintance. But one has to acknowledge that experiences of God are overwhelmingly important to their subject and seem to be self-certifying. However, it also seems pretty clear that not all such experiences are actually from God, and that validation of them by others should depend on what comes from them in everyday life.

    Certainty is the flip side of doubt; if something is undoubtable, then it is certain.Banno

    Yes. I like the way you put that.
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?

    Well, I guess one agreement out of two propositions is not bad.

    I don't think we ever really try to achieve certainty in our knowledge. I don't even think it's a valuable goal. Most uses for knowledge don't require certainty—only a balance between level of certainty and cost of justification.T Clark

    I have a couple of questions about this.

    I agree that pragmatically we tend to strike a balance between the level of certainty we can achieve for an appropriate cost of achieving it - mostly with a strong inclination to put in as little effort as possible. That's a good strategy in most situations.

    I agree that we often call the result knowledge. Knowledge has much more prestige than belief and consequently a claim to knowledge has considerable persuasive power among those disinclined to skepticism.

    I agree moreover that such "knowledge" is often good enough in practice.

    Could you explain to me exactly how "knowledge" of this kind differs from justified belief?

    Do you have any idea why knowledge carries more prestige and persuasive power than belief?
  • How should we define 'knowledge'?
    I'd just say that if we counted something as knowledge and later it turned out to be false, then we were wrong, that it wasn't knowledge, and we have now corrected ourselves.Banno

    That's perfectly true and it is good to discover someone else believes it. Fallible knowledge is just belief under another name. There's no point to the concept of knowledge if it is fallible.

    I've coined a slogan. Knowledge is never wrong. People often are.

    Would it not be the case that as we go about our business we generally do struggle to achieve knowledge of the sort you describe (the certainty that this sentence is in English)? We seem to spend most of our lives in belief-land - some more than others.Tom Storm

    Having said that. I do agree that "ordinary speech" is quite lazy about knowledge, treating more as an honorific than a serious category. So i do accept that it is appropriate for the term to be applied a bit more strictly in philosophy than elsewheere.

    We find people who say they have knowledge of god though direct experience - how would you describe this type of claim? A belief? To call it a false belief would imply that we already have decided that knowledge of god is not legitimate. Or it begs the question that we can tell if someone has knowledge of god.Tom Storm

    I'm an agnostic with atheistic leanings. I've no problem categorizing "knowledge" of God as belief. I'm not sure that it is appropriate to call it false, though. "God" (or even "gods") is not simply a fact, It is a way of looking at, or thinking about, or approaching the world. It's not in the realm of ordinary truths and falsities.

    Karl Popper's suggestion was to throw away certainty from knowledge and work with knowledge in terms of probability. Basically, we are justified in believing something if it's the most probable belief given our current data.Cidat

    I'm surprised if he did say that we should throw away certainty. He seemed pretty certain that falsifying a theory could be a certainty. Indeed, that's why he proposed relying on it. It is true (though I don't think it is exactly his idea) that "we are justified in believing something if it's the most probable belief given our current data". Wouldn't we need to be certain of our data, though?
  • Is progress an illusion?

    As long as it doesn't detract from survival outside of mating it stays.Benj96

    Yes. Ideally it should also not interfere with the process of mating itself.

    I picked up a fun fact about decoration that improves attractiveness but impedes survival in other respects. (I can't remember the source - sorry). The Irish elk was notable for its enormous antlers. It died out long ago, but no cause has ever been identified. So there is a suggestions that its antlers got so big that they interfered with survival. See and search for more pictures if you wish.

    Locating specific features of a species in relation to evolution is a very tricky business, but fascinating.

    I don't want to rule out the possibility that a feature that has a respectable evolutionary purpose might also be put to other uses by the individual members. I suspect that applies quite widely to members of the human species. To put it another way, the purposes of evolution do not have to be the purposes of the individual members. I'm not at all sure that I, or you, have any purpose other than the purposes that we choose to adopt.

    Yes, to adapt Keynes, in the long run we are all dead, our species is extinct and all its civilizations and achievements are rubble. Evolution will continue on its merry way.

    But I find I can mostly not live my life in the shadow of those truths. Like all the other grand narratives, the evolutionary one is no concern of mine, so I can think of more interesting things.
  • Is progress an illusion?
    some problems are currently considered good things and some good things are currently considered problematic.Benj96

    Yes, that's also true.

    Out of curiosity, if you had to discern a direction, point or "aim" of humanity ie. "where we are going" - what would you say that is?Benj96

    Well, some would say that in developing robots with AI, we are developing the life form that will replace us. If that turned out to be true, the robots would say that was humanity's purpose. I mean that discerning purpose is sometimes only possible when one knows the outcome. I think that applies not only to the overall purpose of humanity but also to the purpose of individual humans. But I'm very resistant to both questions.

    If pressed further to offer an answer, I would say that for humanity it is survival (see below on evolution) and for individuals it is survival of self and failing that survival of one's society, family and offspring.

    Or furthermore, would you say evolution doesn't have a purpose its running towards but instead it's purpose is behind it - ie what it comes from out of pure neccesity?Benj96

    I don't think evolution has a purpose. But it does impose purposes on anything subject to it. Survival and reproduction. Anything that doesn't promote those is decoration - which is not necessarily a bad thing.

    Should we look to home first? Should earthly problems be our sole perogative before choosing to undertake endeavours further afield? Or is taking endeavours towards space travel a neccesity to address the problems at home, even if just to inspire and motivate perhaps?Benj96

    I think I overstated this point. I doubt that we'll ever completely resolve the issues of war famine and death (and what about climate change?). But I do think that the issues we are living through are so pressing that the effort devoted to space flight is out of proportion. What bothers me even more is that the only reason this much money is being spent on it is that it isn't Government money. But that means that close behind initial exploration will be wholesale exploitation; it seems a pity that we should spread the wreckage we've made on this planet all over the solar system/galaxy.
  • Is progress an illusion?

    We can only progress from where we are. For better or worse, the problems of the past, if they have not survived into the present, are beyond mending and the problems of the future are not yet problems. That doesn't mean we should not try to solve the problems we have. In some cases, we will succeed; in other cases we will fail; some we will not even recognize.

    Our successes are not illusions; neither are our failures. Often, we will not be able to tell which is which; that judgement will be made in the future.

    We don't know where we are progressing to. At least, if there is some final utopia or heaven that we can progress to, no-one has been able to conclusively describe it. But we can recognize improvements from where we are.

    You will see that I'm trying to identify progress, not on a grand world-historical scale, but on the scale of our actual lives. I can't see anything else we can do. Should we not try to solve the problems we have because we don't know how it will all seem in 100 or 1,000 years time? Should we dismiss the improvements we can make because they may turn out to create other problems later on? I don't think so.

    Perhaps the greatest flaw in ideas of world-historical progress is the failure to recognize that disaster and loss is always a possibility and often actually happens. When it does, we pick ourselves up and begin again. What else?

    The second greatest flaw in those ideas is the assumption that progress in the world is general and in some sense includes everyone. Some people progress, others don't, or progress only slowly. So some people are developing space flight and even colonization (not to mention exploitation) of the moon and the planets while war, famine and disease still rampage around the only planet we actually live on.
  • Ego and Self
    It might be helpful to think about Rousseau’s distinction between amour de soi (self-love) and amour propre (love of self). The names are awkward, but I think he is on to something.

    Rousseau attributes to all creatures an instinctive drive towards self-preservation. After the theory of evolution, that idea is obviously right. This is what he calls amour de soi; it is the drive to take care of our basic biological needs - food, shelter and warmth. So it seems a pretty good thing.

    Rousseau’s story then gets more complicated. He posits another self-interested drive - amour propre (love of self, often rendered as pride or vanity in English translations), which is concerned with comparative success or failure as a social being. Actually Rousseau thinks that the beginning of this is competition for sex. That would make it pretty much as universal as amour de soi. But it's not just about sex. Amour propre makes a central interest of each human being the need to be recognized by others as having value and to be treated with respect.

    He explains his idea in the context of a speculative history about the development of humanity, which isn’t really credible, and in traditional sexist terms - only males are supposed to develop this. But I think there is a good idea in this even without the trappings that we have to see through because he was, after all, a man of his times.

    Rousseau seems at times to think that amour propre is the root of all evil, but there is an argument that he developed more nuanced ideas later on. However we interpret what he says, the idea is an interesting one and at least tries to reconcile the obvious problems associated with ego with the point that we all have to have a certain level of self-interest in order to survive and function in life.

    See for more details.
  • Difference in kind versus difference in degree in evolution

    I had read all of those posts, as it happens. But perhaps I didn't engage with them in the way you expected.

    There is a discussion there of "ways of being" in the world and hints of an evaluation of human ways of being. What I don't see is the place of ideas about evolution and similarity or difference between humans and animals has in that discussion. I ask that because I feel that each discussion can stand on its own feet; neither needs the other.

    I'm also rather puzzled by your confidence in identifying language and what you call a general cognition processing unit as critical to that difference. It seems very speculative to me. It may be just a personality trait, but I like to keep my feet on the ground.
  • Difference in kind versus difference in degree in evolution

    I'm never sure about intervening in an on-going debate. I hope that these comments are helpful.

    I was very struck, when I read Darwin's Origin of Species, by the time and effort he put in to arguing that there was a continuity of differences in degree (varieties within a species) and differences of kind (different species). It is clearly a fundamental plank in the theory of evolution. It turns on the idea that differences of degree can accumulate and become differences of kind. So establishing which are the ancestors of a given species is very much a question of working out the small steps that link the two. Nonetheless, the hypothesis seems to be that all life has a common ancestor species.

    As I remember it, he doesn't have a general account of where or how to draw the line. But breeding true seems to be an important consideration. Darwin recognizes that interbreeding between species is often possible, but points out that continuation of the new line of descent is often impaired.

    We are all aware that the question what is due to DNA and what due to the environment, particularly due to learning from the environment, has been endlessly debated. It seems most likely to me that it is undecidable, at least so far as we know at present.

    Another question that has been endlessly debated is what makes human beings unique. There have been many suggestions. In every case that I am aware of, it has always been found that other species have features similar or at least analogous to any human feature. This is what the theory of evolution would lead one to expect. For example, it is often claimed that human being are uniquely adaptable, and indeed they are very adaptable. But I'm not sure that this is unique to human beings. Rats come to mind as an example of a remarkably adaptable species.

    I don't think this is a decidable issue, but rather a question of emphasis. But much depends here on what each of us is looking for. The debate would be greatly clarified if the consequences of any decision could be clarified.

    The discussion of animal vs human ways of being in the world seems to me too polarized. Animals are subject to pressures from their environment, including each other. So are humans. There are many similarities between humans and animals and it seems to me most likely that there will be very similar ways of being available to both. I have been told that boredom is a uniquely human capacity, not shared by most animals; parrots are apparently an exception, but it may be that the distress behaviour displayed by caged animals is the result of boredom, so that is not at all clear.
  • Solipsism and Confederacy

    Well, I guess that concludes our conversation.
  • Can you prove solipsism true?

    Well, there's nothing to say, then. Thanks for enlightening me.
  • Solipsism and Confederacy

    As I understand it, both Plato and Descartes are against error, and I support both in that respect. Both are in favour of rationality and I support them in that.

    I don't think that solipsism has anything to do with that.

    Though I admit, I don't think that what is usually called rationality is anything like the whole story. But I don't think solipsism has anything to do with that either.

    Freedom plays a part in all this, of course. But freedom is not the same as solipsism.
  • Solipsism and Confederacy
    It's not how they are viewed but many battles have likely been fought over solipsism.introbert
    I'm afraid I don't know anything like enough to debate why various battles have been fought. I would be very surprised to learn that any battles have ever been fought over solipsism. It seems rather unlikely. But as I say, I'm not a historian.

    You say: -
    individual freedom is going to involve independent thought, which involves only having certainty of one's own mind and being critical of the validity, soundness or even existence of anyone else.introbert
    I'm getting the idea that your idea of solipsism is essentially radical individual freedom. That's somewhat unusual.
    the ideal guerilla is a freedom fighter, a partisan, a resistance member. The ideal conventional soldier unquestioningly follows orders from the command chain of a regime. The ideal guerilla is not an ideal conventional soldier and vice versa. Neither are inherently good or evil. The ideal guerilla is the solipsist and the ideal conventional soldier is the confederate.introbert
    You are giving me a very simplified sketch of a very conventional view of what is required of a soldier in these different kinds of warfare. From the little that I know about it, I would say that the simplifications amount to distortions. I don't think we're going to reach agreement about this. I'll just repeat that so far as I understand it, fighting a war involves team work on one's own side - whether it is guerrilla warfare or conventional - and an enemy group or team. I don't see how solipsism could function at all in that kind of situation, even if it amounts to no more than a belief in the primary importance of individual freedom.

    Why would I accept solipsism as a litmus test of anything? Neither Platonic realism nor Cartesianism say anything at all about individual freedom, so far as I know.
  • Solipsism and Confederacy

    Oh, I thought it was obvious. A battle is between two groups of people. A solipsist cannot recognize that there are any other people. So a solipsist is unable to take part in a battle and moreover is unlikely to want to take part in a battle for recognition and inclusion, both of which involve relationships with other peop.

    I don't think I'm competent to debate military strategy. Sorry. But I have the impression that sometimes guerrillas win and sometimes conventional soldiers win.

    So a conventional soldier can't be an idealist? Why on earth not?

    Guerrillas don't have command structures? How do they co-operate?

    I don't see how or why solipsists could be or would be guerrillas or conventional soldiers without compromising their solipsism.
  • Can you prove solipsism true?
    Well no, if solipsism were true there would be no reason to connect with people because there would be no other people.Darkneos

    So you are concerned that solipsism might be unprovable but nonetheless true. Historical speculations fall into that class. There could be evidence, but we'll never get it. For example, so we'll never know what Julius Caesar said to Brutus, as he and his friends stabbed him to death. The claim that he said "Even you, my child" is unprovable but might be true.

    I was treating solipsism as a hinge proposition or an axiom. It is not like a historical speculation. No evidence will ever be relevant to its status. That's why hinge propositions and axioms are not proved or disproved, but chosen or adopted. One can choose a different hinge, a different axiom. So if solipsism causes you suffering, it is open to you to adopt a different hinge/axiom.

    Solipsism could be something as hard to change as a bad habit, and I'm well aware that pressing suggestions on someone who wants to change a habit is not only useless, but offensive. So I wouldn't dream of pressing any suggestion about what to do about solipsism on you.

    I can't see how this can be discussed. Do we agree on that?
  • Solipsism and Confederacy
    . . . so I look at critical thought such as postmodernism as being part of a struggle to redesign solipsism. Such things as turning one against social construction, disciplinary institutions (panopticon) and fascism etc and even an openness to schizophrenia as gently nudging the reader towards solipsism.introbert

    The struggles that you are referring to were, in my opinion, entirely justified. Understandably, there was little thought given to what would happen when the struggles succeeded, and they did succeed, at least in some measure. (I don't think they are yet over, but that's another issue) I don't think anyone in those movements thought of solipsism as the goal. On the contrary, faced with their opposition, solipsism was a non-starter. The mistake was to cast the argument in terms of freedom. They would have been more accurate if they had thought of their movements as struggles for recognition and inclusion. That might have prevented, or mitigated, what happened next.

    What happened when the revolutionaries joined the mainstream is that the erstwhile oppressors felt like victims. So they hi-jacked the rhetoric of freedom as yet another way of fighting back. It's too late to prevent that now, and so we find ourselves in great difficulty.

    But what all this shows, I would suggest, is that society is not a monolith. It is a battle-ground - not even one battle-ground, but many. As a philosopher, it is more convenient to think of the struggle as a dialectic, though it won't help to think, with Hegel, that progress is guaranteed, or that there is any kind of end to it.

    We have to recognize that there is no vantage point above the battle that allows issues to be settled without a struggle. Or if there is one, we haven't found it yet.

    I would also like to suggest that you might think about recognizing that in a battle, solipsism is not helpful.
  • Can you prove solipsism true?

    Well, I can't understand solipsism from a solipsist's point of view, because I have a different hinge (axiom?). Even if I didn't, I still couldn't understand solipsism from any point of view but my own.

    Nonetheless, in my reading, both those arguments (I'm not sure if that's the right word for Anonymous' piece, but it certainly is for Barmadosa's) turn on: -
    I am the subject of my experiences, make my various judgements, have various desires and values and perform various actions. No-one else can do those things.Ludwig V
    . Or so it seems to me.

    You started this discussion because, as you say: -
    I'm asking because years ago I thought I saw a post on Quora that proved solipsism to be true and I suffered since then. But I don't remember what it said or even if it was right (I'm pretty bad at philosophy) and I can't find the post. So I've lived thinking it's true this whole time and there isn't a reason to connect with people because they aren't real. But if solipsism is unproveable then he's wrong and I can move on.Darkneos

    So we are agreed that solipsism is unproveable.

    It might help, though, to think that there doesn't need to be a reason to connect with people. Like all the best things in life, it is something worth doing for it's own sake, and it might reduce your suffering. Elimination of suffering is too much to ask, I'm afraid. That's my experience, at least.

    You might be less pleased if I point out that the fact that solipsism is unproveable means that it's undisprovable, as well. But that only means that each solipsist and non-solipsist has to decide for themselves where they stand. I guess solipsists can live with that. (Anonymous, at least, seems to have taken that on board.)