Is Unconscious Knowledge Possible?

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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2008 05:43 pm
This thought experiment was inspired by a fascinating discussion I recently had with kennethamy regarding the question, "Can a person know something without knowing that he or she knows it?" Although the experiment resembles a proof, it is more of a hypothesis than anything else.

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1. In order to have knowledge of a thing, a person must at least have-or be able to summon-a true mental image of it. By "true," I mean that the qualities of the image correspond exactly to the qualities of the thing that is known; i.e., the image "looks exactly like" the thing that is known.

2. Smith (our hypothetical person) has knowledge of a thing (T).

3. Therefore Smith at least has, or is capable of calling up, a true mental image of T.

4. Smith does not know that he has knowledge of T.

5. Therefore, Smith cannot have a true mental image of himself in the act of having a true mental image of T.

6. To say that a person has a mental image of something (any T), is to say that he or she is conscious of it.

7. QED: Smith can never be truly conscious of himself in the act of having a true mental image of T.

As I see it, #7 is a contradiction since it suggests that Smith can have a mental image without being truly or fully conscious of the fact that he is having it-i.e., that he can have an unconscious or semi-conscious mental image.

If images are conscious, or are among the phenomena of consciousness, then it seems unlikely that they can exist either fully or partly outside of consciousness. Smith, therefore, cannot be ignorant, unconscious, or half-conscious of the fact that he knows T; for if he is, then he does not really know T.

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Although there are a whole lot of "ifs" in this thought experiment, I thought I would present it to you anyway-just for fun. If I'm wrong about anything, which is extremely likely, I encourage you to bring it to my attention. Very Happy
 
Aristoddler
 
Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2008 06:41 pm
@saiboimushi,
His answer, after a few strange looks:
No, because if you know something, then you know you know it, and if you didn't know it, then you wouldn't know because you don't know about it...and if you don't know you know about something, then how are you going to know that you know it?

So I elaborated for him since he was obviously getting at something, but didn't know how to express it.
"If you think to yourself, 'hey I think that the flu is caused by a virus' and then find out later you were right, then did you know something without knowing you knew it?"

He looked me straight in the eye, and rolled his eyes at me...then with his superior grade 3 science, told me that that would be making a hypothesis and making a conclusion from using the hypothesis.

Dang. He got me.


personally, I think that the moment someone becomes aware of themselves, then this question would be answered "no".
If that person could somehow be unaware of their own thoughts, then "yes"...but how is that possible?

more input is needed...but my 5 and 7 year olds are sleeping, lol.
Seriously, this one has me thinking hard, and I hope I can find someone to brainstorm with on it.
 
saiboimushi
 
Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2008 07:51 pm
@Aristoddler,
Ha! I like your method of asking children, since they see a lot more clearly than we do about many things--perhaps the most important things.

My little experiment is an analogy of perception, in a way. If I see a dagger before me, but am not conscious of the fact that I see it before me, am I not a little crazy, a little Macbethian? Analogously, if knowledge involves perception, then how can we have knowledge-perceptions of which we are not conscious? An unconscious perception? In the words of Nietzsche, "How now?"

On the other hand, perhaps instead of having no perceptions of our perceptions, we have false perceptions of our perceptions. If I mistake the bodkin for a flute (becoming Hamlet in the process), I do not see it correctly. If this misperception is completely different from non-perception, then the logic of my experiment is surely flawed.
 
Aristoddler
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 05:12 am
@saiboimushi,
Does your concept take into account knowledge that you have forgotten that you learned?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 07:00 am
@Aristoddler,
Aristoddler wrote:


So I elaborated for him since he was obviously getting at something, but didn't know how to express it.
"If you think to yourself, 'hey I think that the flu is caused by a virus' and then find out later you were right, then did you know something without knowing you knew it?"

He looked me straight in the eye, and rolled his eyes at me...then with his superior grade 3 science, told me that that would be making a hypothesis and making a conclusion from using the hypothesis.

Dang. He got me.




If you "think to yourself" so-and-so, and then you find out you were right, you did not know something without knowing you knew it. Rather you believed something (that the flu was caused by a virus) and then you found out that your belief was true. You did not know anything, There is an important distinction between believing and knowing. While knowing implies believing, believing does not (or course) imply knowing. Even if my belief is true (and it need not be true) that doesn't mean that I know what I believed. After all, if on a hunch, I believed that Whirlagig would win the 4th race at Saratoga, and Whirlagig does win the race, that doesn't mean I knew he would. It was, after all, only a hunch.

If a child is asked by a teacher, "What is the capital of Ecuador?" and the child hesitates, and says, "I don't know that", but the teacher persists, and says, "Sure you know that. Take a moment, and think", and then the child blurts out, "I know! Quito!". The teacher may then say, "See, Charlie, you knew it all along!"

Maybe that would count as unconscious knowledge.
 
saiboimushi
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 11:43 am
@kennethamy,
My experiment attempts to take into account knowledge that we can recollect, or "call up," even though we are not always conscious of it. If Charlie could never recollect the answer, "Quito," then I would say that he didn't know it. But if he can recollect it, even with some difficulty, then he does have knowledge. While it is conscious knowledge at the point that he shouts "Quito!" it arguably is unconscious at the point that he has trouble remembering. So both of you guys have rightly detected a weak spot in my logic--an ambiguity or vague aspect of human consciousness.

But check this out. My fiance mentioned to me how she always "sees past things." Like when she's looking for her stapler on her desk, she'll have trouble recognizing it for a moment, even though it's right there. "If it were a snake, it woulda bit ya," they say. My fiance arguably percieves the stapler, since her eye is open and focused on the desk, and the light from the stapler is passing through her retina. But she does not see the stapler, or she would recognize it immediately--right?
 
Vasska
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 12:40 pm
@saiboimushi,
Socrates once asked a slave boy to answer a mathematical question, which he answered wrong. However trough questioning Socrates managed to let the boy think of the right answer on his own. You can read it here if you want. He after this concluded that the boy must already have known it, but had forgotten it. Socrates talked about the Soul in this case, but that's not where i am getting at.

Bernard Williams (Writer of the essay about Plato in The Great Philosophers) has an interesting point of view about it:

"He (Socrates) summons a slave boy, and, in a famous scene, gets him, merely by questioning him, to see the solution to a geometrical problem which he had never even heard of at the beginning of their conversation. How can this be possible? Socrates suggestion is that the demonstration reminded the boy of the answer; he already knew, but until now had forgotten it. Since he knew it already, he must have learned it already; but he did not learn it in this life, so he learned it in an earlier life. The soul is immortal. ...(text omitted)... But there is a deeper and more interesting problem. It is often objected to in this scene that Socrates leads the boy in the demonstration. This misses the point. If the question had been one in history the boy could not, in any comparable way, come to the answer; in these subjects; if one does not know, one does not know."

He says that Socrates did manage to make the boy answer the question, but will fail to make the boy ask a question about history in a comparable way. I think that even tough some information might also be in our brain, we are not to have all information from former lives unconscious in our brain, however i think some information might also be their, like logics.

On the other hand we often receive an overload of information and don't immediately see some things, however for reason unknown we remember them and carry them with us either never to be touched again, or to be touched again in a later period. I think we also have to be suspicious of our mind. Over time we forget things, and details change.

For my conclusion i think it is possible on the condition that we receive this information without knowing it, and then for reason unknown somehow recover it and use it to answer a question we did not know we could question. Other things like "talent" for logics or anything else might already be in our brains.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 12:44 pm
@saiboimushi,
saiboimushi wrote:


But check this out. My fiance mentioned to me how she always "sees past things." Like when she's looking for her stapler on her desk, she'll have trouble recognizing it for a moment, even though it's right there. "If it were a snake, it woulda bit ya," they say. My fiance arguably percieves the stapler, since her eye is open and focused on the desk, and the light from the stapler is passing through her retina. But she does not see the stapler, or she would recognize it immediately--right?


She does see the stapler, but she doesn't see that the stapler is there. Seeing, and seeing that are different. For instance, if I go shopping with my wife for her dress I may see an A-line dress, but my wife not only sees an A-line dress, she is able to see that it is an A-line dress. I, being only an ignorant male, can do only the former.
 
saiboimushi
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 12:52 pm
@Vasska,
In my experiment, I attempted to account for the slave-boy phenomenon by assuming that knowledge involves not only the having of a mental image, but also (in certain cases) the basic capacity to "call up" or recollect a mental image. For example, I know the name of my kindergarten teacher even though I am not always thinking about it; I don't always have to have her name in my consciousness in order to know it.

Nevertheless, all of your points are well taken. I wonder, where does our knowledge go when we're not conscious of it? Perhaps I am wrong and we do not have it when we are not conscious of it. Maybe it rises and sets like the sun, or vascillates like certain subatomic particles between Being and Nonbeing.

My experiment has taken us into mysterious realms, twilight zones, dark sides of moons.
 
saiboimushi
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 12:54 pm
@saiboimushi,
Kennethamy, I think you're right. My fiance does, on one level, see the stapler; but she does not see that the stapler is there. How in the world do we explain this phenomenon?
 
Vasska
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 01:12 pm
@saiboimushi,
saiboimushi wrote:
In my experiment, I attempted to account for the slave-boy phenomenon by assuming that knowledge involves not only the having of a mental image, but also (in certain cases) the basic capacity to "call up" or recollect a mental image. For example, I know the name of my kindergarten teacher even though I am not always thinking about it; I don't always have to have her name in my consciousness in order to know it.

Nevertheless, all of your points are well taken. I wonder, where does our knowledge go when we're not conscious of it? Perhaps I am wrong and we do not have it when we are not conscious of it. Maybe it rises and sets like the sun, or vascillates like certain subatomic particles between Being and Nonbeing.

My experiment has taken us into mysterious realms, twilight zones, dark sides of moons.


I like to think that all information has always been in our soul, and our brain is only a medium that is used for transferring data from our soul into us. My idea of the soul is as follows;

The soul is an (im)mortal (pre-existence is less than immorality) being that has to learn. We humans are the extension of a soul, we still own some abilities from the soul for we are part of the soul, but other than that are totally different from our soul for the sake of the lessons being learned. We learn our lessons, and die. Our learned lessons have been collected into the soul, and it will go on learning till he is done (and then we can ask the question; will it ever be done?).

This idea is far for complete and has very little scientific proof, As well states that the future can be determined by souls, and might already exist.
For now I'm satisfied with this answer, but will eventually start to ask questions about it again, and it will need a lot of polishing.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 01:27 pm
@saiboimushi,
saiboimushi wrote:
Kennethamy, I think you're right. My fiance does, on one level, see the stapler; but she does not see that the stapler is there. How in the world do we explain this phenomenon?


How about, she does not realize that the stapler is there. Perhaps she is distracted: or, perhaps she confuses the stapler with something else, momentarily.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 01:28 pm
@Vasska,
Vasska wrote:
I like to think that all information has always been in our soul, and our brain is only a medium that is used for transferring data from our soul into us.


You think that the information that Quito is the capital of Ecuador has always been in my soul?
 
Vasska
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 01:42 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
You think that the information that Quito is the capital of Ecuador has always been in my soul?


Sorry i did elaborate on that. I think that form of information is not necessary to be collected in the soul. For it can be Loja of Puyo in a decade, or maybe a century.

Other information (maybe mostly information we have not named or discovered yet) will be collected into the soul. Too be honest i don't quite know what has to be collected in the soul, maybe it's the basics on which the universal truth lies, maybe it's lessons we have learned, but in that way we pull karma in the discussion... I still think some information has to be remembered by the soul, but as you stated, remembering all information about everything is not possible, or for any reason needed.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 02:25 pm
@Vasska,
Vasska wrote:
Sorry i did elaborate on that. I think that form of information is not necessary to be collected in the soul. For it can be Loja of Puyo in a decade, or maybe a century.

Other information (maybe mostly information we have not named or discovered yet) will be collected into the soul. Too be honest i don't quite know what has to be collected in the soul, maybe it's the basics on which the universal truth lies, maybe it's lessons we have learned, but in that way we pull karma in the discussion... I still think some information has to be remembered by the soul, but as you stated, remembering all information about everything is not possible, or for any reason needed.


So some information is, and some is not, remembered in the soul. How am I to tell which is, and which is not?
 
Vasska
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 02:35 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
So some information is, and some is not, remembered in the soul. How am I to tell which is, and which is not?

You don't. It's the flaw in my theory that needs to be worked upon. So either my theory is incomplete or incorrect. I hope the first, but i have to admit my theory at this time is incorrect.
 
saiboimushi
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 04:34 pm
@Vasska,
Don't you get the feeling, from all of this, that human beings are shamefully flawed creatures? Sad And yet we want to find a way to recast our imperfections as perfection! What if we tried another kind of experiment, and attempted to explain what a perfect being would be like--how they would think, how they would know, how they would exist? Obviously, a perfect being would have knowledge, right? And if not knowing that one knows is an imperfection, then this perfect being would necessarily know that it knows.

What if ... we just scrapped the whole Human Concept? What if we stopped trying to look for knowledge in some combination of psychological, material, real elements and instead tried to imagine a Perfect Concept? Would we succeed? Or would we fail, ending up with yet another flawed idea that can be refuted, doubted, etc.?

In other words, Can we come up with an idea of knowledge that--although it does not necessarily represent a real state of affairs--is theoretically, metaphysically perfect?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 06:20 pm
@saiboimushi,
saiboimushi wrote:

In other words, Can we come up with an idea of knowledge that--although it does not necessarily represent a real state of affairs--is theoretically, metaphysically perfect?


If "does not (necessarily) represent a real state of affairs" means "is not true" then since I cannot know unless the proposition I know is true, such an idea of knowledge, could not be an idea of knowledge. To know a proposition is to know it is true.
 
saiboimushi
 
Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 08:20 pm
@kennethamy,
Then let us be mysterious and deny that the phrase "does not (necessarily) represent a real state of affairs" means "is not true." In other words, let us play with the idea of a truth that exists outside of any state of affairs that is currently experienced, percieved, or believed. Not that such a truth does exist, but that it might, so long as it accords with our reason.

I think I might try to come up with an idea of knowledge that would absolutely have to represent knowledge--that could not be thought of as representing anything else or anything less--regardless of whether it represents anything that is real. (Knowledge may not be real.) It would be kind of like certain ideas in physics that remain completely theoretical--e.g., ideas that represent a universe with 900 dimensions. Although they do not necessarily represent the actual universe, such ideas represent the best available way of thinking about a hypothetical universe.

The problem, as I see it, is that we are working with what we have--our perceptions, conceptions, limitations, and errors. We want to see if knowledge exists in any of the perceptions and conceptions that we have. But maybe it doesn't. So let's imagine what knowledge might be, in a world where knowledge exists. If it happens to be our world, then wonderful. Very Happy
 
Vasska
 
Reply Wed 12 Mar, 2008 02:42 am
@saiboimushi,
saiboimushi wrote:
Don't you get the feeling, from all of this, that human beings are shamefully flawed creatures? Sad


Yes! That's why i liked Nietzsche's ideas about the Ubermensch so much. However another forum member made me realize that i took these ideas a little bit to seriously. Still i think we owe it to ourself that we try to evolve as much as possible and straight out the flaws of humans.

saiboimushi wrote:

And yet we want to find a way to recast our imperfections as perfection!


We don't know the philosophical answer to the question "what it perfection" the only thing that has been seen as perfect is God. But still that is questioned. We try to hide our flaws, but they will always come back.

saiboimushi wrote:

What if we tried another kind of experiment, and attempted to explain what a perfect being would be like--how they would think, how they would know, how they would exist? Obviously, a perfect being would have knowledge, right? And if not knowing that one knows is an imperfection, then this perfect being would necessarily know that it knows.


Great idea, but i don't think it's a discussion for this topic. So will you or I open the new topic about creating the perfect human being in theory?

saiboimushi wrote:

What if ... we just scrapped the whole Human Concept? What if we stopped trying to look for knowledge in some combination of psychological, material, real elements and instead tried to imagine a Perfect Concept? Would we succeed? Or would we fail, ending up with yet another flawed idea that can be refuted, doubted, etc.? In other words, Can we come up with an idea of knowledge that--although it does not necessarily represent a real state of affairs--is theoretically, metaphysically perfect?


If we fail we at least tried. I've been reading some trans humanism lately and there already are some ideas we can built upon.
 
 

 
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