Taking further, what I have been going on about yesterday, I want to discuss knowledge. Why? Since it is so hard to define anything as truth, if not alltogether impossible, it’d be much better to know things rather than just accepting them to be true. But how does one know? I’ve been looking for some explanation and reasoning about knowledge and found, what’s accepted widely as criteria for defining knowledge among philosophers:

A Person knows a fact if

1.) The person believes the statement to be true
2.) The statement is in fact true
3.) The person is justified in believing the statement to be true

If all three criteria are met (justified, true, believed – hence the definition’s abbreviation JTB ), a person can be fairly sure to know something. Althoug Gettier has decribed some problems with this widely accepted base for defining knowledge, still many great thinkers agree to this being a starting point for describing knowledge.

Let’s go through this list of criteria. ad 1.) A belief is something you just have, a way you think subjectively, the world or an aspect of it, is. It has in itself nothing to do with what the same world or aspect of it is like in reality. So beliefs might be wrong (and from my experience, often are). ad 2.) You can only know something, if it is both in fact true and you also believe in it. But as we saw yesterday, truth is hard to come by and maybe it’s impossible to ever tell anything to be wholly true. ad 3.) Justification is hard to pin down, but it mainly boils down to many others believing the same as you and some evidence, that you (and those others) are not crazy, being deceived, or have fallen into some way of wishful thinking or scared so much you start to “know” things, that aren’t really so.

You see the flaws, too? There are zillions of samples to prove, that all three conditions can be met, apparently, and still what you deem to know is wrong. The knowledge of the shape of the earth way back when comes to mind. Everybody “knew”, it was a disk. When looking at the horizon at sea or on flat land, there was a straight line, this must be the edge. No matter, how far you went, the edge still was there. As nobody wanted to fall off edges, this was taken as proof. Besides, every scholar and even the church stated this to be true, so the earth was a disc for centuries. Apart from Galileo. The catholic church only accepted his view of the shape of the earth in Pope John Paul II’s speech on October, 31st. 1992. Same could be said about the bad (or good) effects of cholesterine in foods and so on.

So, for all I know (this phrase looks like a joke, all of a sudden), truth and knowledge can’t even be defined beyond all doubt, let alone be “had” or “acquired”. But it can do no harm to at least keep on trying…

sco 589

3 thoughts on “knowledge

  1. Ever since dating – and I don’t recommend this – a Philosophy major for a short time in college (until he quoted Schopenhauer’s views on women one time too often) it has not been my favorite subject. Kind of think the entire field began with Socrates and went downhill from there. “True wisdom is knowing that you know nothing” – or something like that. I do kind of like bumper sticker philosophy though:
    “Don’t believe everything you think!”

    Now I’ll put those two together and I get “I think that I know nothing but I don’t believe it.”

    Mystery solved.


    1. Love your distillation of philosophy đŸ™‚
      I always liked philosophy (as far as I was able to follow) a lot, esp. when young. As it made soooo much more sense than what I was taught at home.


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