Do we know anything about the world?

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Epistemology
  3. » Do we know anything about the world?

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 06:59 am
To respond honestly to the question posed in the title of this thread in the affirmative, one needs to be able to respond in the affirmative to at least one question of the type "Do you know that X?" where X is a proposition about the state of the world.

For example, if you ask me, "Do you know that the Statue of Liberty is 305ft tall?" and I say "yes", then I know something about the world, namely that the Statue of Liberty is 305ft tall.

The problem is, induction can only give us probabilities. We always have to hedge our bets and say "maybe" when asked if we know because, while we may know things about the world, if some of our justified beliefs about the world are true, the question posed in the title of this thread is a question of meta-knowledge. Do we know that we know? The answer is no.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 07:09 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;162891 wrote:
Do we know that we know? The answer is no.


If those sentences are supposed to constitute an argument (K), which is:

1. In order to know, we have to know we know
2. We do not know we know anything.

Therefore, 3. We do not know anything.

Then that argument is unsound. Since premise 1. is clearly false.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 07:43 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;162897 wrote:
If those sentences are supposed to constitute an argument (K), which is:

1. In order to know, we have to know we know
2. We do not know we know anything.

Therefore, 3. We do not know anything.

Then that argument is unsound. Since premise 1. is clearly false.


1. In order to know, we have to know we know

Don ` t we have to be justified in knowing what we know.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 07:49 am
@TuringEquivalent,
TuringEquivalent;162911 wrote:
1. In order to know, we have to know we know

Don ` t we have to be justified in knowing what we know.


Sure. A necessary condition of knowledge is justification. But that does not mean, nor imply, that a necessary condition of knowing is knowing that one knows. I can know without even believing that I know, let alone knowing that I know. A child may know that his mother is about to feed him without believing that he knows that his mother is about to feed him.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 08:04 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;162913 wrote:
Sure. A necessary condition of knowledge is justification. But that does not mean, nor imply, that a necessary condition of knowing is knowing that one knows. I can know without even believing that I know, let alone knowing that I know. A child may know that his mother is about to feed him without believing that he knows that his mother is about to feed him.


1. S knows P.
2. S knows "S knows P".

If 1 is true, then 2 is also true.

why?

1 is true. From this, S is justified in believing 1. By justified true belief, 2 is true.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 08:09 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;162897 wrote:
If those sentences are supposed to constitute an argument (K)...


No, read it again. That's not the argument at all.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 08:42 am
@Night Ripper,
Isn't part of the problem aroused by the question of knowledge that a set of criteria is established that seems to make "knowledge" only applicable to absolutely certain and true statements, and then any statement one can propose falls short of these standards? Doesn't this tell us more about the problematic nature of the definition itself than that of the matter of fact used as an example?

What would happen if we realised that the conception of knowledge is replete with nuances and special rules to be applied in different situations, and the problem was really when to correctly apply these rules?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 08:49 am
@TuringEquivalent,
TuringEquivalent;162923 wrote:
1. S knows P.
2. S knows "S knows P".

If 1 is true, then 2 is also true.

why?

1 is true. From this, S is justified in believing 1. By justified true belief, 2 is true.


That is really an awful argument. In order to know that P, my belief that P must be justified. But that does not mean that in order to know that P, my belief that I know that P, must be justified. You are confusing:

1. my belief that p. and,
2. my belief that I know that p.

1 and 2 are quite different. And logically independent.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Tue 11 May, 2010 10:14 am
@Night Ripper,
Please stop derailing the thread with straw man arguments. If you would like to quote something in my first post to argue against then I'd be glad to read it.
 
Humchuckninny
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 10:21 pm
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;162891 wrote:
The problem is, induction can only give us probabilities. We always have to hedge our bets and say "maybe" when asked if we know because, while we may know things about the world, if some of our justified beliefs about the world are true, the question posed in the title of this thread is a question of meta-knowledge. Do we know that we know? The answer is no.


I believe you then go on to pose a classic externalism vs. internalism situation. I'll give my understanding of the two theories, as they can hold different meanings to different people. To state it broadly, though:

An internalist account of knowledge would claim that whether or not S knows X depends entirely upon factors which are internal to S.

An externalist account of knowledge would claim that whether or not S knows Xdepends only partially upon factors which are internal to S.

Tell me if this is what you are getting at. For your posed situation, this would be an externalist account of knowledge:

Subject (S) knows that X IFF:
1. X is true
2. S believes that X
3. S is justified in his belief that X

Whereas an internalist account of knowledge would be:

Subject (S) knows that X IFF:
1. X is true
2. S believes that X
3. S is justified in his belief that X
4. S knows that 1, 2 and 3.

Your last sentence about "meta-knowledge" turns towards the internalist account, and outlines premise 4: S knows X only if S knows that he knows X.

I'm having a hard time figuring out what your goal in this discussion is: Is it to debate internal vs. external accounts of knowledge of the world? Or simply to focus on what all entails the justification for knowledge of the world? If the later, I would pose this question: Why is it that induction can only give us probabilities, and are we presupposing induction is the only way to achieve knowledge of the external world?

kennethamy wrote:
If those sentences are supposed to constitute an argument (K), which is:

1. In order to know, we have to know we know
2. We do not know we know anything.

Therefore, 3. We do not know anything.

Then that argument is unsound. Since premise 1. is clearly false.


The dilemma in this argument is that you are talking about different types of knowledge. Night Ripper is referring to propositional knowledge, but you are referring to ability knowledge. Premise 1 may or may not be false in regards to propositional knowledge, but will need further arguments to show it. Additionally, propositional knowledge requires the subject to believe in the proposition in question - a proposition is a value judgment about the epistemic status of a belief and/or the justifications thereof.

1.[my belief that X] is logically different from 2. [my belief that I know that X] only pertaining to ability knowledge.

Either way, it is irrelevant. It is not whether or not you believe that you know that X, but the opposite. S knows that [S knows X] would NOT be confusing 1. and 2. It is to say that S knows that [S believes X]. You have it backwards.

In propositional knowledge, S must know that they believe X. Ability knowledge, such as the baby-example, does not require such a constraint. The baby believes instinctively that the mother will feed it, and thus has some sort of ability to know when it will be fed. Similar accounts can be made for acquaintance knowledge.

Propositional knowledge requires knowing you believe, in both the externalist and internalist accounts. Otherwise, there is no way to determine the proposition in question.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 10:37 pm
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;162891 wrote:


The problem is, induction can only give us probabilities. We always have to hedge our bets and say "maybe" when asked if we know because, while we may know things about the world, if some of our justified beliefs about the world are true, the question posed in the title of this thread is a question of meta-knowledge. Do we know that we know? The answer is no.



Induction is not probability, because there is no probability measure.
If the sun rise tomorrow, then it rise tomorrow with probability 1, since all our past observation confirms it.
 
Humchuckninny
 
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 11:38 pm
@TuringEquivalent,
TuringEquivalent;167955 wrote:
Induction is not probability, because there is no probability measure.
If the sun rise tomorrow, then it rise tomorrow with probability 1, since all our past observation confirms it.


Induction can be probability, but I would agree with Turing here that it is not necessarily based on probability. Here's another way to lay out Turing's argument:

The sun has risen on all observed mornings.
Therefore:
The sun rises on all mornings.

It is inductive by nature of the fact that it is possible, logically, to have a morning on which the sun does not rise. However, there is no way to derive the probability of a morning on which the sun does not rise. It would, as Turing says, be 0.

There are certainly cases when induction involves probability though. Let's say that you're in a village of 100 people. You walk around and see 80 of them - 40 are female, 40 are male. You might induce that the entire village consists of half female, half males. Of course, this would be an induction from probability.

Do you mean to limit the investigation to inductive knowledge based on probability alone, or to induction on the whole?

---------- Post added 05-23-2010 at 11:57 PM ----------

jgweed;162939 wrote:
Isn't part of the problem aroused by the question of knowledge that a set of criteria is established that seems to make "knowledge" only applicable to absolutely certain and true statements, and then any statement one can propose falls short of these standards? Doesn't this tell us more about the problematic nature of the definition itself than that of the matter of fact used as an example?

What would happen if we realised that the conception of knowledge is replete with nuances and special rules to be applied in different situations, and the problem was really when to correctly apply these rules?


jgweed, are you proposing a contextualist solution to the problem of the object of epistemic knowledge? This would certainly change the standards of knowledge to a more tangible goal - but one that perhaps brings with it it's own nuances and special rules. However I am not even sure if this is what you are proposing.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 12:00 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;162891 wrote:
To respond honestly to the question posed in the title of this thread in the affirmative, one needs to be able to respond in the affirmative to at least one question of the type "Do you know that X?" where X is a proposition about the state of the world.
Okay, I'll assume that you've asked me "do you know that you're replying to my thread?", and I respond honestly in the affirmative, therefore, according to the portion of your post which I've quoted, I know something about the world.
Night Ripper;162891 wrote:
we may know things about the world, if some of our justified beliefs about the world are true, the question posed in the title of this thread is a question of meta-knowledge. Do we know that we know? The answer is no.
You seem to have JTB in mind, as your model of knowledge. I have JTB about the proposition that I'm replying to your thread, and I have JTB about my JTB mentioned above, therefore, under a JTB model I have knowledge that I know at least one proposition. So, the answer seems to me to be "yes".
 
Humchuckninny
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 12:19 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;167978 wrote:
Okay, I'll assume that you've asked me "do you know that you're replying to my thread?", and I respond honestly in the affirmative, therefore, according to the portion of your post which I've quoted, I know something about the world.You seem to have JTB in mind, as your model of knowledge. I have JTB about the proposition that I'm replying to your thread, and I have JTB about my JTB mentioned above, therefore, under a JTB model I have knowledge that I know at least one proposition. So, the answer seems to me to be "yes".


It gets trickier than that. You have the problem of whether or not knowledge is closed under known entailment. My understanding of this problem is that if S knows that P is true, and S knows that Q necessarily follows from P, then S also knows that Q.

The proposition in question, p, is as follows: It is true that you are replying to this thread.

It necessarily follows from p that you are not lying asleep in your bed and dreaming (q), for q would be in conflict with p. However, to claim that you know that p, according to epistemic closure, you must also know that q. Can you claim that you know q? You may claim a TB that you know q, however I would challenge you to provide the justification (J) that you are not dreaming.

Or would you question the closure principle? That can be valid, but it may change the proposition you are claiming to know.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 12:26 am
@Humchuckninny,
Humchuckninny;167982 wrote:
I would challenge you to provide the justification (J) that you are not dreaming.
Had I been dreaming I wouldn't have posted the reply which prompted your challenge. If your challenge exists, then I wasn't dreaming, and if I was dreaming, then your challenge doesn't exist, so I can safely ignore it.
 
Humchuckninny
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 12:52 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;167984 wrote:
Had I been dreaming I wouldn't have posted the reply which prompted your challenge. If your challenge exists, then I wasn't dreaming, and if I was dreaming, then your challenge doesn't exist, so I can safely ignore it.


Haha, good answer. Kudos. Smile

However, it does not completely address the issue of closed entailment. The question at hand is not whether or not I or my challenge exists nor even whether or not you are dreaming. There are countless examples which invalidate your justification for knowledge. Your justification, in this case, is circular - Why aren't you dreaming? Because my challenge exists. Why does my challenge exist? Because you are not dreaming. It becomes invalid. Unless there is a justification in here which I am missing? This is possible - it is 1:00 in the morning...

Additionally, whether or not my challenge does or does not exist is irrelevant, because your behavior in either regard will be identical. In a dream state you cannot tell the difference, and will behave as though you were awake.

But like I said, dreaming is merely an example, and not the entire challenge. The challenge is closed entailment, which is widely accepted by all but a few contemporary epistemologists. If you cannot know (with proper justification) that all known propositions which would contradict your current proposition are false, then you do not have knowledge.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 01:24 am
@Humchuckninny,
Humchuckninny;167993 wrote:
If you cannot know (with proper justification) that all known propositions which would contradict your current proposition are false, then you do not have knowledge.
I dont see why you've restricted the problem to known propositions, in any case, talking about "known propositions" is somewhat iffy, as realists about propositions, who support JTB, might hold that a proposition can only be known if it's true, which would put me in the position of having to claim that there are no known propositions that could invalidate my claim. So, I'll assume that there is an infinite number of conjectures, any of which might be inconsistent with my claim to know that I know that I'm replying to this thread and, as I cant deal with an infinite number of conjectures separately, I'll deal with them as a single set. The argument is then straight forward:
1) any conjecture which, if true, would invalidate my claim to know that I know that I'm replying to this thread, would also invalidate my claim to know that I'm replying to this thread
2) I know that I'm replying to this thread
3) therefore I'm justified in rejecting, as false, all conjectures which, if true, would invalidate my claim to know that I know that I'm replying to this thread.
 
Humchuckninny
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 03:10 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;168002 wrote:
The argument is then straight forward:
1) any conjecture which, if true, would invalidate my claim to know that I know that I'm replying to this thread, would also invalidate my claim to know that I'm replying to this thread
2) I know that I'm replying to this thread
3) therefore I'm justified in rejecting, as false, all conjectures which, if true, would invalidate my claim to know that I know that I'm replying to this thread.


Accepting premise 1) implies an internalist account of knowledge. Any externalist will reject that immediately. Well, actually, I suppose it depends upon your use of the personal pronoun. Are your personal pronouns interchangeable with other, non-personal nouns?

Ultimately though, I'm not understanding how premise 2) is supported. I feel as though I must be missing some implied premises, or simply not reading it correctly, because I feel like your argument is still circular.

Under the JTB theory of knowledge, premise 2) of course could be interjected with:
a.) It is true that you are replying to this thread (a)
b.) You believe you are replying to this thread, (b) and
c.) You are justified in believing you are replying to this thread. (c)

The Closure Principle is not restricted to internalist accounts of knowledge, and thus still applies even when you're talking about knowledge of p (as opposed to knowledge of knowledge of p).

To say "It is true that you are replying to this thread" (a), you necessarily entail (~q) [q being, as you put it, any one of an infinite number of propositions which would contradict (a); in my example, a dream]. Then to make the claim that (a) is also to make the claim that (~q).

The difference is subtle, yet significant. I am not asking how you know that you know, but rather, I am asking support for the first premise. This is the justification for your belief in (a), and not simply the truth-value of a. By nature of the closure principle, to be justified in believing any statement at all, you must reject any other statement which would contradict your believed statement. This is according to Aristotle's principle of non-contradiction.

Basically, I'm questioning whether or not you can make the statement you make in your second premise - You know that you're replying to this thread. Where is the support for this statement, without resorting back to circular reasoning?

I have a feeling you are on the brink of modal logic, as you are coming close to denying the closure principle all together (infinite possible conjunctures, etc.). Is this where you are going?
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 08:20 am
@Humchuckninny,
Humchuckninny;168030 wrote:
Accepting premise 1) implies an internalist account of knowledge. Any externalist will reject that immediately. Well, actually, I suppose it depends upon your use of the personal pronoun. Are your personal pronouns interchangeable with other, non-personal nouns?

Ultimately though, I'm not understanding how premise 2) is supported. I feel as though I must be missing some implied premises, or simply not reading it correctly, because I feel like your argument is still circular.

Under the JTB theory of knowledge, premise 2) of course could be interjected with:
a.) It is true that you are replying to this thread (a)
b.) You believe you are replying to this thread, (b) and
c.) You are justified in believing you are replying to this thread. (c)

The Closure Principle is not restricted to internalist accounts of knowledge, and thus still applies even when you're talking about knowledge of p (as opposed to knowledge of knowledge of p).

To say "It is true that you are replying to this thread" (a), you necessarily entail (~q) [q being, as you put it, any one of an infinite number of propositions which would contradict (a); in my example, a dream]. Then to make the claim that (a) is also to make the claim that (~q).

The difference is subtle, yet significant. I am not asking how you know that you know, but rather, I am asking support for the first premise. This is the justification for your belief in (a), and not simply the truth-value of a. By nature of the closure principle, to be justified in believing any statement at all, you must reject any other statement which would contradict your believed statement. This is according to Aristotle's principle of non-contradiction.

Basically, I'm questioning whether or not you can make the statement you make in your second premise - You know that you're replying to this thread. Where is the support for this statement, without resorting back to circular reasoning?

I have a feeling you are on the brink of modal logic, as you are coming close to denying the closure principle all together (infinite possible conjunctures, etc.). Is this where you are going?
As far as I can tell, you are objecting to my assertion that I know that I'm replying to this thread (my premise 2), and this is what I point to with my premise 1, that any objection to me knowing that I know that I'm replying to this thread can be reduced to an objection to me knowing that I'm replying to this thread. But the opening post presents my first order knowledge as a given, and your initial objection was that I need justification for my second order knowledge. This justification is provided by my argument and assuming JTB, as we are, this adds up to the case that if I know that I'm replying to this thread, then I can know that I know that I'm replying to this thread.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 08:38 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;168092 wrote:
As far as I can tell, you are objecting to my assertion that I know that I'm replying to this thread (my premise 2), and this is what I point to with my premise 1, that any objection to me knowing that I know that I'm replying to this thread can be reduced to an objection to me knowing that I'm replying to this thread. But the opening post presents my first order knowledge as a given, and your initial objection was that I need justification for my second order knowledge. This justification is provided by my argument and assuming JTB, as we are, this adds up to the case that if I know that I'm replying to this thread, then I can know that I know that I'm replying to this thread.


On the other hand, unless you already know you are replying to the thread, you cannot possibly know that that you know you are replying to the thread. So, if knowing implies that you know you know, and if knowing you know implies knowing (as it certainly does) then, you are committed to the view that knowing you know is equivalent to knowing.
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Epistemology
  3. » Do we know anything about the world?
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 05/23/2019 at 06:06:20