19
   

Can you ever really know another person?

 
 
msolga
 
  2  
Reply Sat 17 Jul, 2010 08:08 pm
@kennethamy,
Quote:
I didn't say it was not a good question, whatever that comes to. I agree that it might stir up a lot of interesting discussion, and if that, by itself, makes it a good question then fine. It is. What I was saying is that it is too vague a question to expect to have any kind of definite or satisfying reply which most people can agree on. Perhaps you don't care about that kind of thing. Anyway, what a good question is, is another issue. And it certainly would have to do with what the purpose of a question is, since presumably, a good question would be one that satisfies the purpose of questions. But, as I just said, that is a different matter. However, your view of the purpose of questions, or, at least, the purpose of philosophical questions, I expect, is somewhat different from mine.


I've been thinking more about what you said yesterday (my time), kennethamy, about the purpose of philosophical questions.

I said that the question we've been addressing here is a "valid" one for discussion. I will reword that, if it's OK. I think it was a question worthy of discussion.
To me (admittedly minus a formal philosophy background) it has been a worthwhile discussion. I've found the range of views on the subject to be sincere & also thought provoking. The discussion broadened my understanding & posed some new questions for me to consider.

But anyway, back to what constitutes a "good question", "one that satisfies the purpose of questions".

You know, I can't say that one can make such a judgment until after the discussion. To me, it is the process of discussion, what the participants bring to the discussion, that determines whether the discussion was valuable or not in addressing the posed question. If enough people accepted the view that question is not "good' one to start with, then the discussion might not have taken place at all.

Do you believe that the only people who are "qualified" to answer philosophical questions (or ask them, even) are those who are trained/educated in the discipline?
I hope not. Because that would exclude a lot of members of this site who might be very interested & might find your discussions of value.



0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  0  
Reply Sat 17 Jul, 2010 08:16 pm
@CalamityJane,
Quote:
Well, you're more special than others, BillRM


TRUE
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Jul, 2010 08:52 pm
I mentioned on another thread that I was reading a certain book, and one person alluded to the amazon reviews as horrible, and another expressed wary interest, but I'm getting more and more engaged, even though I started out very iffy myself;

the author was talking about this whole thing, about knowing other persons, on page 137.

I'll not copy and paste that page, as it takes some getting to.

Night Train to Lisbon, Pascal Mercier.

I have no idea how the book is taken by others as I'll check that later. It engages me, so far, so good.

0 Replies
 
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 01:44 am
@aidan,
aidan wrote:

Quote:
having a close relation ship and the person being psycotic, normal people usually don't reveal their inner selfish thoughts which often are vulgar and such.

I think this is very, very true (if I understand what he's saying).

Some people with mental illness don't have the same filters and you get to know their inner thoughts and lives much more quickly than people who have those filters.
Yes you have the meaning down right.
0 Replies
 
existential potential
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 05:43 am
@Dosed,
one reason why we feel this to be a "sad" truth, is because we tend to think a good relationship is based on "knowing" the other person. sometimes in a bad relationship, one person might say to the other, "you don't know me anymore", and they will feel as though they are not as "close" to each other as they used to be. it seems to me though that a good relationship is not based on simply "knowing" the other person, but rather it is based on a constant "getting-to-know" the other person- similar to how Nietzsche described a marriage as a conversation:

"When entering into a marriage one ought to ask oneself; do you believe you are going to enjoy talking with this woman up into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory, but most of the time you are together will be devoted to conversation." - Friedrich Nietzsche
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 05:51 am
@existential potential,
Yeah - exactly - rereading the thread this morning I was thinking that the thread title should have been asked, 'Can you ever predict flawlessly what another person might do?'
And then my answer would have been a resounding, 'NO' but it wouldn't make me feel sad and lonely - it'd make me feel grateful for the knowledge that there might be spontaneity and surprise in my future with another person.
existential potential
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 06:22 am
@aidan,
i agree, and in some respects, a relationship can become unfulfilling because one or both the people in a relationship will believe that they know the other completely, and this thought can make a relationship become boring, becuase they each believe that there is no more to say to one another.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 06:52 am
@aidan,
aidan wrote:

Yeah - exactly - rereading the thread this morning I was thinking that the thread title should have been asked, 'Can you ever predict flawlessly what another person might do?'
And then my answer would have been a resounding, 'NO' but it wouldn't make me feel sad and lonely - it'd make me feel grateful for the knowledge that there might be spontaneity and surprise in my future with another person.


Of course, if the title of the thread had been that, then the question would never have been asked, since the answer would have been self-evident. But, although no one thinks he can predict with absolute infallibility what another will do, everyone knows that the ability to predict what another person will do (as well as think or feel) is the test of what it is to know other people (although some on this thread have tried to find something more "philosophical", that is vague but profound, and we all know that we cannot even infallibly predict the behavior of non-intelligent things, or inanimate objects, so how likely is it that infallible prediction would be the criterion of knowing other people? Zero is the answer. But so what. Does anyone think that unless we can infallibly predict the action (feeling, thoughts, etc.) of others that we don't know them at all. Of course not (except for some philosophers who often fall into the all or nothing fallacy). Knowing others is a matter of degree, but we may know other people so well that we become pretty good at predicting them, and then we say we know them (not meaning, of course, infallibly, but extremely well).
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 07:21 am
@kennethamy,
But you guys are saying that's what was asked. You're saying that your interpretation of the question is correct and mine is wrong. Or is that not what you're saying?

Quote:
Knowing others is a matter of degree, but we may know other people so well that we become pretty good at predicting them, and then we say we know them (not meaning, of course, infallibly, but extremely well).
I can't get back on this merry-go-round of what does 'know' mean and what does 'really' mean? Or now that we have your latest installment we'd have to dissect what constitutes 'pretty good' and/or 'extremely well'.

And no one ever answered my other question about whether there can only be one right or wrong answer. And if you're telling me that the answer to the question as you interpreted it is not: You can never infallibly predict what someone else might do - I stand by my answer which is that- Yes, you can certainly say you 'really' know another person.

kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 07:43 am
@aidan,
aidan wrote:

But you guys are saying that's what was asked. You're saying that your interpretation of the question is correct and mine is wrong. Or is that not what you're saying?

Quote:
Knowing others is a matter of degree, but we may know other people so well that we become pretty good at predicting them, and then we say we know them (not meaning, of course, infallibly, but extremely well).
I can't get back on this merry-go-round of what does 'know' mean and what does 'really' mean? Or now that we have your latest installment we'd have to dissect what constitutes 'pretty good' and/or 'extremely well'.

And no one ever answered my other question about whether there can only be one right or wrong answer. And if you're telling me that the answer to the question as you interpreted it is not: You can never infallibly predict what someone else might do - I stand by my answer which is that- Yes, you can certainly say you 'really' know another person.





There is no merry-go-round that I can see. The answer to the question, what does it mean to know another person? (as that question is asked in English) is, the ability to predict the other persons feeling, thoughts, and actions. And, it is clear that this ability is not "absolute" but is a matter of degree (more or less) and that the better able you are to predict (in the way I just specified) the better you know that person. That is the right answer (at least as far as what the expression "knowing another person" means in English). But since I am not infallible, I will admit that I do not know for certain that is the right answer. So, if you have a different answer, why not give it, and we can try to test it, and see whether it holds up. And whether, of course, it is as good, or even better answer than the one I gave. Of course, simply to say that the answer I gave may not be correct, or that there may not be a right or wrong answer. or that there may be more than one right answer, is just speculation. It needs argument and support. The same could be said about any answer in science. It may not be correct that water is H2O, and there may be no right or wrong answer to the question, what is the chemical composition of water, or there may be more than one right answer to the that question. Yes, but so what? All that means is that scientists are not infallible, and we know that already. And the same goes for philosophers, and any other human being. But that's news from nowhere. It is just a platitude, not serious thinking.

"You can never reliably predict what another person will do." Well if that means that we can never unerringly predict what others will do, that is true. But "reliably predict" obviously does not mean "unerringly predict" anymore than a reliable car is one that cannot possibly break down. Reliability is (to get on that old merry-go-round) also a matter of degree, and is also context-bound. We cannot expect the same kind of reliability of prediction in the case of such complicated things as people we can expect in the case of such comparatively simple things like cars. So why pretend it is all the same kind of thing when it is obviously not?

Just some logic and commonsense in needed in philosophy as well as in other areas of thought. But you do need at least some.
0 Replies
 
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 07:57 am
@aidan,
that wasn't my question, however.

knowing isn't simply about predicting actions, it's about understanding another person's mind and perspective, perhaps completely.
existential potential
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 08:07 am
@Dosed,
I don't think you can ever reach a point at which you can say "I understand a person completely", people are always changing, and a good relationship is about pursuing an understanding of the other person, as they change.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 08:29 am
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

that wasn't my question, however.

knowing isn't simply about predicting actions, it's about understanding another person's mind and perspective, perhaps completely.


But that is exactly what is meant by "understanding another person's mind" being able to predict his actions etc. What else do you think it means? And, as I have been saying, we cannot expect to understand others "completely" since we cannot expect to be able to predict what they will do, completely. What is your reason for thinking otherwise? If you think my analysis of understanding others is wrong, then please give a reason, and offer a different and better analysis.
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 08:53 am
@kennethamy,
As I have stated from the beginning of this thread, I do not believe we can "know" another human being.

If you're asking me what is meant by "knowing" a person, I would say a lot more is involved than predicting actions. Understanding motives and emotions and perspective is a key aspect. Not only understanding, but understanding on a level which is nearly complete. When I talk about "knowing" a lover or a friend, it has some personal aspect to it. Ever hear people say "he knows me better than I know myself?" Of course, it's simply a turn of phrase, but there is something to it that's comforting and touching and people want to believe it is possible to know someone so closely. When you're with a partner or a friend or family member for so long, you can finish their sentences. You think you know what they're thinking and feeling, and at times, perhaps you do. My point is that not only do people change in an instant, not only do people grow and learn from experiences, not only do people deceive and manipulate, but people just cannot be known for the sheer fact that another human being can never experience life as another human being. You can never know another individual, ever. No one can never know anyone else. And it is lonely. It does rip away some comfort in having a friend or a lover. No one will ever understand you and you will never understand anyone else, no matter how much you want it. There's nothing wrong with recognizing that it's a sad and lonely fact.

It's better to live with all the pain of this knowledge than to live in ignorance and false comfort.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 09:02 am
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

As I have stated from the beginning of this thread, I do not believe we can "know" another human being.

If you're asking me what is meant by "knowing" a person, I would say a lot more is involved than predicting actions. Understanding motives and emotions and perspective is a key aspect. Not only understanding, but understanding on a level which is nearly complete. When I talk about "knowing" a lover or a friend, it has some personal aspect to it. Ever hear people say "he knows me better than I know myself?" Of course, it's simply a turn of phrase, but there is something to it that's comforting and touching and people want to believe it is possible to know someone so closely. When you're with a partner or a friend or family member for so long, you can finish their sentences. You think you know what they're thinking and feeling, and at times, perhaps you do. My point is that not only do people change in an instant, not only do people grow and learn from experiences, not only do people deceive and manipulate, but people just cannot be known for the sheer fact that another human being can never experience life as another human being. You can never know another individual, ever. No one can never know anyone else. And it is lonely. It does rip away some comfort in having a friend or a lover. No one will ever understand you and you will never understand anyone else, no matter how much you want it. There's nothing wrong with recognizing that it's a sad and lonely fact.

It's better to live with all the pain of this knowledge than to live in ignorance and false comfort.


All you seem to mean by we cannot know another person (and you indicate that by placing the word know between inverted commas to indicate that you are not using it in its ordinary sense) is that we do not have a perfect and infallible ability to predict the behavior, feeling, etc. of others. And, of course, that is true. But who would think that we do have such an unerring and infallible ability in the first place? No one who is sensible. So, to say that we do not have such an infallible and unerring ability to make such a prediction is true, but is a platitude and a commonplace. It certainly does not mean that we do not know other persons. It just means that we do not "know" other persons. But everyone knows that.
Dosed
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 09:27 am
@kennethamy,
everyone does not know that. I certainly did not know that. I made the mistake of believing that a certain person would not do a certain thing because of how I believed they felt. I was wrong. It was naive of me to believe that I knew a person so well to understand their feelings and behavior and motives and thoughts. This was not completely my fault, as the person lied to me and led me to believe in this way himself.

I'm sure you are guilty of the same mistake, I believe that everyone at some point believes that they know a person so well. However, this is impossible and naive, as I have stated from the beginning.

I apologize if you cannot understand what I mean.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 09:54 am
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

everyone does not know that. I certainly did not know that. I made the mistake of believing that a certain person would not do a certain thing because of how I believed they felt. I was wrong. It was naive of me to believe that I knew a person so well to understand their feelings and behavior and motives and thoughts. This was not completely my fault, as the person lied to me and led me to believe in this way himself.

I'm sure you are guilty of the same mistake, I believe that everyone at some point believes that they know a person so well. However, this is impossible and naive, as I have stated from the beginning.

I apologize if you cannot understand what I mean.


I understand what you mean. People are often too optimistic about others, and let their emotions interfere with their ability to predict (understand, know) others. And that is too bad. But it is a part of life, and you hope to learn from it. But that has nothing to do with the question posed by the OP which is what we should understand by the idea of knowing other people. And that question has been adequately answered. Your problems have little or nothing to do with the philosophical problem. It is the sort of thing Ann Landers deals with in her advice and consolation column. All I can tell you is what she makes a living at, namely, learn from your mistakes, don't expect a lot from people, and realize that your ability to predict what others will do (or feel) is limited by circumstances as well as by your previous experience with other. No charge.
Dosed
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 09:58 am
@kennethamy,
It has everything to do with the OP as it is what inspired the OP.

I don't believe anything in philosophy can be "adequately answered" and it is silly to think so. Philosophy isn't about the answers, it's about asking the questions.

And with all do respect, I don't believe you understand what I mean because you continue to misunderstand my points in your responses.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 10:09 am
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:

When seeking advice from my friend concerning a failing relationship, he told me that no matter how close you think you are to someone, you can never truly "know" another human being.

What does this mean exactly? At first, it struck me as a sad and lonely truth.

After considering it for a while, this thought will not leave my mind. It seems very simple yet hard to accept. I feel like I "know" my best friend. I feel like I "know" my sister. And I did feel like I "knew" my partner. However, my experience has left me with the thought that perhaps I only had a feel for what kind of person he was, and how he would react to things that were said or done. This does not mean that I "know" him, though.

In other words, I can imagine what it is like to be someone. I can predict their reactions and perhaps even try to understand their perspective, but I can never truly experience their thoughts or feelings in the same way that they do.

So, what do you think? Can you truly "know" another person? And if not, how does that make you feel? Is your response a sad and lonely feeling as mine is? Does it bother you to know that no one can ever know you? Or understand you? To know that you can never know another human being?


Well, if the "truly" in "truly know" means that you can infallibly predict the behavior of others, then you are certainly right. On the other hand, if it means that we cannot fallibly, and within the range of human error, predict what other people will do when we know them very well, then you are certainly wrong. Since I think that a number of people, do understand me (within the range of normal human error, of course) I am not bothered as you are, since it is not true that no one understands me (within the range of normal human error). But then, of course, I don't know you at all, so you may be a particularly opaque person who is abnormally unpredictable.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 10:09 am
@Dosed,
Dosed wrote:



What does this mean exactly? At first, it struck me as a sad and lonely truth.





Well, if it means that no one can infallibly predict what someone else will do or think, then that is right. On the other hand, if that means that we can never predict with any degree of accuracy what anyone else will do or say, it is obviously wrong. As so often, there are two extreme interpretations, and both are wrong, since the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
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