Why do some people believe that knowledge implies certainty?

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kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 10:56 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;167529 wrote:
Now that I see what you mean, I can say that no I don't think it depends only on terminology. Yes, the facts are quite important indeed. I meant the terminology of the thread title. I still don't think you will find many who assert that the truth of historical statements has only to do with terminology. The word "knowledge" is used in different ways. As you know. So I think the confusion is resolved. I hope.


What is important is to see that although the answers to philosophical questions may depend in part on terminology, that does not mean that they depend entirely on terminology.

Other than , for instance, there is carnal knowledge, so that the term "knowledge" when it means carnal knowledge is used in a different way from factual knowledge, I really cannot think of many other ways in which the term "knowledge" is used. Can you? In fact, I do not think that the term "knowledge" is particularly ambiguous. To know that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, for instance, is to have (at least) justified true belief that Quito is the capital of Ecuador. Of course, when we say we know this or that, part of saying (or claiming) to know, is indicating that one is confident about the truth of what one claims to know. But that does not have to do with the meaning of the term, "knowledge". Rather, that has to do with the meaning of claiming to know something, which is quite different.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 10:58 pm
@north,
north;167538 wrote:
both of you are looking at this , I think , different from my self

both of you are thinking in terms of history I think

whereas I'm thinking in terms of a physical object


Well, let's look at the physical object. What is it that "cuts" an object from everything that touches it? What separates the tree from the ground or the nose from the rest of the face? Our mind finds certain convenient visual changes of color or shape, and automatically clips an object from the visual field. Soon we have names for such objects and forget that our visual field is actually continuous, and not discrete --or presumably would be if not for our mind's automatic cutting process.

---------- Post added 05-23-2010 at 12:01 AM ----------

kennethamy;167544 wrote:
What is important is to see that although the answers to philosophical questions may depend in part on terminology, that does not mean that they depend entirely on terminology.

Well, I generally agree. But the more abstract one gets, the more interpretation is required to even participate in either the question or the answer. For instance, Derrida. You say, to oversimplify, that he is neither true not false. Perhaps because you consider his language too vague. Others however clearly find him impressive. I have read Bennington's book, and some of it is good. He, incidentally, writes pretty clearly. So you see the problem here. What does one make of such clashing opinions?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 11:09 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;167545 wrote:

Well, I generally agree. But the more abstract one gets, the more interpretation is required to even participate in either the question or the answer. For instance, Derrida. You say, to oversimplify, that he is neither true not false. Perhaps because you consider his language too vague. Others however clearly find him impressive. I have read Bennington's book, and some of it is good. He, incidentally, writes pretty clearly. So you see the problem here. What does one make of such clashing opinions?


Yes, certainly some have found Derrida impressive. Whether that is supposed to show something about Derrida, or whether about those people, is another question. I wasn't oversimplifying when I pointed out that most of what he said was (as the physicist Von Pauli remarked about a colleague) was not only not true, but that it was not even false.
"Vague" is just about the nicest thing you can say about what he writes.

I think that we can write very clearly about very abstract matters. "Abstract" is not another word for "confused". An excellent example of clarity about very abstract matters is David Hume who is a pleasure to read. Bertrand Russell is another. (And I like to think that although I may be very mistaken in what I say, when I am, I am, at least, clearly mistaken. There is enough confusion in this world without adding to it.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 11:13 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;167551 wrote:
Yes, certainly some have found Derrida impressive. Whether that is supposed to show something about Derrida, or whether about those people, is another question. I wasn't oversimplifying when I pointed out that most of what he said was (as the physicist Von Pauli remarked about a colleague) was not only not true, but that it was not even false. "Vague" is just about the nicest thing you can say about what he writes.


Well, Spurs is not so vague. In fact, he actually gets to the point. Of course you probably still wouldn't like it. But you might at least find it false. The White Mythology is good, but mostly because it quotes Anatole France's The Garden of Epicurus, and that's actually something you would like, if you don't already know it. Of course I'm guessing.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 11:21 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;167553 wrote:
Well, Spurs is not so vague. In fact, he actually gets to the point. Of course you probably still wouldn't like it. But you might at least find it false. The White Mythology is good, but mostly because it quotes Anatole France's The Garden of Epicurus, and that's actually something you would like, if you don't already know it. Of course I'm guessing.


I wouldn't know about Spurs. This is the very first time I have heard the name (if it is a name). I am at least as cautious about whom I read, as I am about what I download from the Web.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 11:25 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;167558 wrote:
I wouldn't know about Spurs. This is the very first time I have heard the name (if it is a name). I am at least as cautious about whom I read, as I am about what I download from the Web.


Well, I'm not trying to persuade you. I'm saying that Anatole's book might just be your style. The Garden of Epicurus is an attack on metaphysics from a linguistic angle. France shows how metaphorical the discourse of meta-physicians is. He also shows the power of the negative prefix. "Im-material, ab-solute, e-ternal," etc.

Spurs is about Nietzsche, mostly. Or rather it's a close examination of some of his key lines.
 
north
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 11:26 pm
@kennethamy,
Quote:
Originally Posted by north http://www.philosophyforum.com/images/PHBlue/buttons/viewpost.gif
both of you are looking at this , I think , different from my self

both of you are thinking in terms of history I think

whereas I'm thinking in terms of a physical object


Quote:

Well, let's look at the physical object. What is it that "cuts" an object from everything that touches it? What separates the tree from the ground or the nose from the rest of the face? Our mind finds certain convenient visual changes of color or shape, and automatically clips an object from the visual field.


of course but so what really

this " cuts " and/or " clips " means nothing at all to the object its self

when looked deeper , nothing is missing from the object

the limits that we have in the visual field is simply because we have what is needed to survive , so far

to have more info. would be a mental overload

we couldn't and still couldn't handle the info. , it would be information overload

imagine seeing ALL the spectrums of light and making sense of all this information , we just couldn't and can't do it

so for our own sanity we detect our narrow band of the light spectrum , it just makes sense
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 11:28 pm
@north,
north;167561 wrote:

of course but so what really

this " cuts " and/or " clips " means nothing at all to the object its self

when looked deeper , nothing is missing from the object

Well, the object is only an object, in my view, because it is considered as a unity. Our mind draws the borders. Now this isn't that important in the knowledge debate, because we generally agree on concrete objects. But when it comes to abstractions, it's harder to tell. This sub-issue is a good example of that.

regards
 
north
 
Reply Sat 22 May, 2010 11:41 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;167563 wrote:
Well, the object is only an object, in my view, because it is considered as a unity.


and the unity is a certainty



[/quote] Our mind draws the borders. Now this isn't that important in the knowledge debate, because we generally agree on concrete objects.[/quote]

good

Quote:
But when it comes to abstractions, it's harder to tell. This sub-issue is a good example of that.

regards


not really

because the abstractions are trying to understand the object not debate whether it actually exists or not
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 01:09 am
@north,
north;167568 wrote:

because the abstractions are trying to understand the object not debate whether it actually exists or not[/QUOTE]
I'm talking about the abstractions we make about abstractions, or the talking we do about talking. Like what we are doing now.
 
Im Confused
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 10:37 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;167504 wrote:
Of course it is. With one kind of exception every truth is partly a matter of terminology. But that does not mean it is only a matter of terminology. It is not, for instance, only a matter of terminology whether a necessary condition of knowing is the impossibility or whether it is merely the inactuality of error. For clearly I can know that Quito is the capital Ecuador although it is possible for me to be mistaken about it as long as I am not mistaken about it.

The distinction between being (partly) a matter of terminology, and being only a matter of terminology, is a very important distinction, and we should make that distinction. Most people fail to do so.


Hi kenneth - this is a typical time i would get confused while studying philosophy - i guess i'm a simple soul (disclaimer - soul here is metaphor not metaphysics :-)

i know that Paris is the capital of France - and should I be feeling a bit unsure - (unlikely till Mr Alzheimer starts knocking on my door) - I can look it up

Moreover, cos i've been there a few times - can even remember a few things from being in Paris

But along come those fiendish Cartesians/epistemologists/sceptics etc etc

and start asking me how do i know that i know, might you not be mistaken?

well yes i may - and if they won't accept the common methods of verification - trouble is indeed a-calling for me

but can someone please explain to me in very simple terms, why the normal 'common sense ideas' regarding verifying knowledge, and the distinctions we are able to make between different types of knowledge, is not sufficient.

I understand that, as usual, the truth can be blurred at the edges.

Once we knew the sun went round the earth, now it's vice-versa

But again, science, everyday language etc helps us to grasp this, do we need to wander down the tortuous paths of Cartesianism, epistemology etc?-
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 12:21 pm
@Im Confused,
I'm Confused;167716 wrote:
Hi kenneth - this is a typical time i would get confused while studying philosophy - i guess i'm a simple soul (disclaimer - soul here is metaphor not metaphysics :-)

i know that Paris is the capital of France - and should I be feeling a bit unsure - (unlikely till Mr Alzheimer starts knocking on my door) - I can look it up

Moreover, cos i've been there a few times - can even remember a few things from being in Paris

But along come those fiendish Cartesians/epistemologists/sceptics etc etc

and start asking me how do i know that i know, might you not be mistaken?

well yes i may - and if they won't accept the common methods of verification - trouble is indeed a-calling for me

but can someone please explain to me in very simple terms, why the normal 'common sense ideas' regarding verifying knowledge, and the distinctions we are able to make between different types of knowledge, is not sufficient.

I understand that, as usual, the truth can be blurred at the edges.

Once we knew the sun went round the earth, now it's vice-versa

But again, science, everyday language etc helps us to grasp this, do we need to wander down the tortuous paths of Cartesianism, epistemology etc?-


That's exactly what this thread is supposed to be about. Why don't I know that Paris is the capital of France although I certainly think I do? What argument do "those fiendish Cartesians/epistemologists/sceptics etc etc" produce to show I don't?

The only reason you give for that view is that the Cartesians etc. "start asking me how do i know that i know, might you not be mistaken?". And as an example of what they mean, "once we knew the sun went round the earth, now it's vice-versa" Am I right? Is that the argument, at least, so far?

Let me start with your example. It is supposed to be an example (I think) of my knowing, but being mistaken. But I have a problem with that (alleged) example. It is that no one ever did know that the Sun went round the Earth. So how could it be a case of knowing something and being mistaken? What was true (of course) was that it was believed that the Sun went around the Earth. To repeat, it was never known that the Sun went around Earth, so no one knew that it did and was mistaken. For, since the Sun did not go around the Earth no one could have known that it did. They only thought they knew it. And, of course, they were mistaken. But they never knew it in the first place. So, whatever your example is supposed to be an example of, it is certainly not an example of knowing but being mistaken. (It is an example of thinking you know and being mistaken). Isn't that right? There can be no example of knowing but being mistaken since, if you know then you are not mistaken. By definition. People claim to know all the time, and turn out to be wrong. For if what they claim to know is false, then they don't know what they claim they know.

Now your question (really two questions) to me was, how do I know I know? and (if I don't know I know) might I not be mistaken? And, my answer to both questions is, 1. You often don't know you know, and 2. yes, I might always be mistaken when I think I know something (or claim ot know something). But, are those any reasons for believing that I don't know that Paris is the capital of France? No. Since, for me to know that Paris is the capital of France, it is not necessary for me to know that I know that Paris is the capital of France, and it is not necessary for it to be true that you could not be mistaken. It is necessary only that you are not (in fact) mistaken. So that you might be mistaken when you think you know that Paris is the capital of France is not reason for you to believe that you don't know that Paris is the capital of France. This last bit some people find hard to swallow, so I'll a little more about it. There is an important difference between (a) the possibility that you are mistaken, and (b) the actuality that you are mistaken. It may be possible that you are mistaken that Paris is the capital although you are quite sure it is, but are you, in fact mistaken? That is a very different question from the question whether you might be mistaken. If you are mistaken, then, of course, it is possible that you are; but not the other way. It is not true that because it is possible that you are, that you are. Many things are possible that are not true. So, the mere fact that you might be mistaken about whether Paris is the capital is not reason to think that you don't know it is the capital. But, of course, if you have a good reason to believe you are mistaken about the matter (that you are mistaken, mind you) then, of course, you are right to think that you do not know that Paris is the capital of France. It is this slippage between whether you might be mistaken, and whether you are mistaken, which, I think is at the root of the belief that even if you might be mistaken you do not know what you think you know when, in fact, that is not true. What is true is that if you are mistaken, or you have good reason to think that you are mistaken, then, and only then, don't you know what you think you know.

So the mistake of the fiendish Cartesians is to equate the possibility of error with the actuality of error, and then argue that because it is possible for you to err, that you do err. Which is just wrong.

Two cautions: 1. There is more to say about this than I have said. 2. There is still the very interesting question of why it is that the fiendish Cartesians equate the possibility of error with the actuality of error. What is the aetiology of that wrong turning? That might be the most interesting question of all.!
 
Im Confused
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 07:06 am
@kennethamy,
Hi Kenneth

thanks for taking the time to reply

it's probably true that 'the earth goes round the sun' is a different type of statement to 'Paris is the capital of France'

our experience tells us the latter statement is more likely to be true than the former

i must admit that your answers 1 and 2 are simply too complex for me to grasp

i understand that it's possible for me to be mistaken that Paris is the capital of France

but are you saying that in the empirical world there is no possibility of knowledge, because mistakes are always possible

but don't we come back to questions of everyday laguage use here?

if we always preface our remarks about the world with 'i think/it may be' that, for example, 'paris is the capital of france' - people soon get fed up with us - and think we either don't understand English or are being contrary

i'm not sure how other languages deal with the situation - french has 'savoir' and 'connaitre', whether that helps i don't know

a typical argument - 'neptune is the largest planet in the solar system'

'no, i think it's saturn'-

'no it's neptune - i know for sure because i looked it up yesterday'

is it ok to use 'know' here or not?

what does it gain us by not being allowed to say 'i know that mt everest is in the himalayas'

why don't some/many philosophers like such talk?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 07:46 am
@Im Confused,
I'm Confused;168083 wrote:


i understand that it's possible for me to be mistaken that Paris is the capital of France

but are you saying that in the empirical world there is no possibility of knowledge, because mistakes are always possible



No, I am saying exactly the contrary. I am saying that it does not follow from the fact that mistakes are always possible that empirical knowledge is impossible. In the case of Paris is the capital of France, I know that Paris is the capital of France even though it is true that I might be mistaken that it is. That that is because, as I explained earlier, knowledge implies the inactuality of error, not the impossibility of error. What does imply the impossibility of error is certainty (not knowledge), so, to think that knowledge implies the impossibility of error is to confuse knowledge with certainty.

I find it striking that you believe that I said exactly the contrary of what I did say. That is really miscommunication. As the famous line in that Paul Newman film went, "What we have here is a failure to communicate".
 
Im Confused
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 02:54 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;168088 wrote:
No, I am saying exactly the contrary. I am saying that it does not follow from the fact that mistakes are always possible that empirical knowledge is impossible. In the case of Paris is the capital of France, I know that Paris is the capital of France even though it is true that I might be mistaken that it is. That that is because, as I explained earlier, knowledge implies the inactuality of error, not the impossibility of error. What does imply the impossibility of error is certainty (not knowledge), so, to think that knowledge implies the impossibility of error is to confuse knowledge with certainty.

I find it striking that you believe that I said exactly the contrary of what I did say. That is really miscommunication. As the famous line in that Paul Newman film went, "What we have here is a failure to communicate".


so you agree it's fine to say that 'I know the capital of France is Paris'
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 03:00 pm
@Im Confused,
I'm Confused;169210 wrote:
so you agree it's fine to say that 'I know the capital of France is Paris'


Not merely to say it. It is true (at least in my case). (Of course, if there were a penalty of some kind for saying it, then it would be unwise to say it, but it would still be true).
 
 

 
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