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Knowledge and Certainty

 
 
Ashers
 
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 04:09 pm
What is the difference? Would it be fair to characterise knowledge as, let's say, "provisional steps forward as the basis for action and necessarily capable of being overturned"?

But how does certainty contrast against it? Certainty seems to be that X absolutely will not be overturned so is it the antithesis to knowledge in this sense? It seems knowledge is linked to memory, time and change but certainty is an attempt to escape this and make a snapshot absolute.

Or is certainty a bit fuzzy like accuracy, so what is accurate in one context is not so in another. And in this sense, certainty is kind of the battle ground for what our assumptions should be for best pursuing knowledge in the future?

The former is perhaps more related to faith but the latter more socio-political?

Any thoughts?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 5 • Views: 2,669 • Replies: 31
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 04:15 pm
@Ashers,
I have knowledge about many things of which I am certain
0 Replies
 
Lustig Andrei
 
  2  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 04:16 pm
@Ashers,
In an ever-changing and fluctuating universe any notion of 'certainty' is self-delusion. In absolute terms, there can be no such a thing. We can only amass data ('knowledge' if you will), always remembering that today's unshakeable truth may very well be tomorrow's somewhat risible myth.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 05:37 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Yes, as Nietzsche acknowledges, all "truths" are provisional. They work for the time being (that's what a like: an anti-realist, anti-absolutist pragmatist).
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 06:04 pm
@Ashers,
This reminds me of the old Bill Cosby poser.
PHILOSOPHER: " Why is thereair"?

COSBY: "To fill up volleyballs"

Your arguments are somewhat circular.
We test hypotheses, we create machinery to measure the testing based upon what we derive as certainty about the laws we test. If we get a conjunction of hypotheses and data and the testing generates a prediction that can further be tested we generate certainty to 99.9999%. After that, I refuse to be side tracked (Thats what a applied scientist says)

NOW, having said that, if these neutrinos over at CERN travel faster than light,my radiometric calcs need to be modified by some(unknown ) percentage. Im gonna say now that itll be in the neighborhood of 2-3% no matter how fast we can shoot neutrinos at a target
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 01:21 am
@Ashers,
(Check out Wittgenstein's comments "On Certainty" if you have not already done so)
Fil Albuquerque
 
  2  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 01:47 am
@fresco,
...are you certain of your good advise ? hmm... I wonder how certain you are of all that crap...although I must recognize you seam pretty certain so far... Laughing
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 01:55 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
If you read it, you will get W's point that the word "certainty" is an essential token of social exchange concerning particular contexts. Such contexts are unlikely to include "compare and contrast" scenarios such as specified by the OP....and I'm certain that makes sense to me. Mr. Green
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 09:57 am
@fresco,
...yo Fresco throw some light at your signature...how in the hell if one cannot see can one be willing to uncover himself, eh ? Wink
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 12:04 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
The signature is a quote from G.I.Gurdjieff. Try googling him for elucidation.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 12:43 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
Hmm. Fil, my interpretation of that line has to do with transparency--even vulnerability Without some degree of exposure to the world how can one understand it? One cannot see "out" if he does not permit the world "in."
G H
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 12:54 pm
@Ashers,
Knowledge not only concerns representation of a supposed vaster part of be-ing that somehow "is" without need of our hermeneutical and symbolic products, but also about the things, skills, schemes, and methods that humans devise and constitute within this representing. It is the latter, in some areas, which can very much feature absolutes since we are the ones who developed and established what they are to begin with.

But what is fully independent of us is more elusive, since we "encounter" it, again, via interpretation slash representation. This veil not only consisting of the presuppositions and biases of our invented schemes -- that yield, formulate, and describe knowledge -- but also the biotic cognitive and conclusion-generating system which evolution-spawned agents like us came equipped with. The perceptual processes of the latter do output an "objective world" from the influences that the system is receptive to, but it must not be forgotten that even extrospective experience is still the result of underlying conclusion-generation operations (i.e., it is "knowledge", too -- the starting foundation for it).

When it comes to "immutables" for the supposed vaster be-ing which is not dependent upon manifestations and thoughts / concepts about the manifestations, the nearest we might get is discerning the general principles that our basic "presented knowledge" is conforming to. Kant tried this, but most of us would probably agree that his categories of the Understanding and the pure intuitions of the Sensibility could probably be conceived in different ways (Schopenhauer, for instance, reduced the twelve forms down to causation, along with space and time). As Godel once commented, Kant definitely seized some important items in the broad sense, but the narrower content of his conclusions is open to variability or can be contested. So in the end, even the pursuit of first or ultimate principles that precede experience have the monkey of hermeneutical reasonings riding on its back.

Perhaps I should have added this at the beginning of the post for the diving board:

Knowledge must at least be a distinct sub-process of either general existence or its activity (a unique role that part of existence, via emerged agents, is playing via simulating whatever existence otherwise is). And herein we have the ludicrousness of some "ultimate knowledge" either already having been concocted (by God, etc??) and waiting for humans to discover -- or the idea that there is some method utterly devoid of prior and revisable assumptions and prejudices that can engineer such someday.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 12:58 pm
@fresco,
Yes that's part of it. The allegory of Man's natural state as "being asleep" is also involved in that his "consciousness" is occupied by "egocentric dreams" which he mistakes as "reality". The act of self (or selves) observation may shift consciousness to a more receptive level.
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 02:54 pm
@fresco,
...I was looking for your motives not the author justifications...
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 03:00 pm
@JLNobody,
...the thing is that the sentence is light in justification despite its apparent profound intent...someone who cannot see certainly is not willing to uncover whatever must or is presumed to be needed of uncovering...it just sounds to cheap rhetoric on the go...but hey are n´t we all prone to that disease time to time ? I am not judging no one in there...
0 Replies
 
Procrustes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Nov, 2011 03:45 am
@Ashers,
Hume had a thing about this right? Inductive Knowledge or something or other... As for certainty, our brains are good at justifying things, but in doing so there's always the risk of being surprised (good or bad) about our presupposed thinking not helping us 'know' the 'unknowable' at all. We can be lulled by knowledge but we can also question it. (Just stating that, I'm not 100% certain of it's succinctness)
Eorl
 
  2  
Reply Thu 24 Nov, 2011 05:19 am
@Ashers,
Knowledge is the house we build on solid foundations of certainty while knowing that ultimately, earthquakes can and do happen and there is no absolute solid ground. It's practical to build houses in this way, and foolish to worry about the absolutes, yet wise to be aware of them.
0 Replies
 
Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Nov, 2011 11:04 am
@G H,
Quote:
So in the end, even the pursuit of first or ultimate principles that precede experience have the monkey of hermeneutical reasonings riding on its back.


And this is because first or ultimate principles are themselves "products" of "hermeneutical reasonings"? I wonder if we can understand the pursuit of ultimate principles or if you like all inclusive knowledge, as kind of like an emergent property of a system. So we have the contextual and finite knowledge in practice relating to the relationship of consituent parts. Then on the other hand we have something that emerges from this overall "negotiation".

Well thank you, G H, for a very informative post.
0 Replies
 
Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Nov, 2011 11:05 am
@Procrustes,
I think you mean "The Problem of Induction"? I like Popper's approach although I'm not sure how well it stands up against the overall problem. He states:

Quote:
[A] theory of induction is superfluous. It has no function in a logic of science.

The best we can say of a hypothesis is that up to now it has been able to show its worth, and that it has been more successful than other hypotheses although, in principle, it can never be justified, verified, or even shown to be probable. This appraisal of the hypothesis relies solely upon deductive consequences (predictions) which may be drawn from the hypothesis: There is no need even to mention “induction” (Popper LSD, 315).
0 Replies
 
Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Nov, 2011 11:10 am
@fresco,
Oh, triple post and it's a long one...

I came to this general question after thinking a bit about the obvious implications surrounding Descartes' First Meditation. Given the sceptical aspect to that I was reading around a fair bit and came across an undergraduate paper describing some interpretations of W's "On Certainty". Thanks for the pointer to Wittgenstein by the way fresco!

I can't speak to the er..veracity (!) of the interpretations in this paper but it kept my attention anyway. I thought I'd feed some of what I read back in to this thread in case anyone else is interested as it provided a novel(to me!) way of understanding certainty as a backdrop to my initial post. I guess it has a particular slant with regards to science as it is applied directly against sceptics.

---------------------

So it seems W has this notion of "hinge propositions" which have a special role in framing the practice of inquiry. So called because they form the hinges about which are inquiries turn. Nice! They're not evaluable propositions within the practice but in some sense consitute the practice itself. Examples the author gives are things like 12x12=144, "My name is..." and "I have two hands" etc. They're context dependent, so the proposition of having two hands is potentially factual if the speaker has just had an operation or something etc. He then states that they're indubitable and groundless, meaning there are no justifications for them that are stronger than simply stating the hinge proposition itself. What also caught my eye is how both knowledge and doubt are perhaps illegitimate with regards to them.

The two interpretations the author comments on he calls the "non-factual" account and the "epistemic" account. The first describes hinge propositions as akin to rules rather than fact stating propositions. In this way they're incapable of being wrong in the same way a rule in chess cannot be wrong. So one reply to the sceptic is to claim that it has never been the business of scientific inquiry to accurately represent reality therefore the sceptic's doubt is misplaced. What's interesting to me with this, is the objection the author has which is that rules are non-evaluable as long as the practice they consitute has no purpose. But the author claims that scientific inquiry clearly has a purpose, that of "accurately representing reality". If it were not the case, a sceptic would be akin to someone who doubts whether we can represent reality in a discussion of humour or taste. In other words, laughable. Rather than disturbing.

I wonder if the issue here is that we are interested in representing reality, just not the reality. There is representing but it need not be thought of as objective, maybe more inter-subjective for lack of a better way of putting it. (?)

The epistemic account is focused on the notion that we do know hinge propositions but they're ungrounded. This is illustrated with the idea of some potential inquirer in isolation from any practice. He states they have two alternatives. One is to be a sceptic and refrain from any practices or assumptions and the other is to adopt a groundless practice within the frames of the inquiry. The former is guaranteed not to form "true beliefs about the world", the latter at least allows for the possibility. It seems the pure sceptic in this scenario is a real phantom, as I don't see how "I" cannot be engaged in one way or another. Such is my nature. I get the sense the author wants to imagine us as justifiably going for the latter but then later admits "we are forced into some line of inquiry".

------------------

FYI: http://www.eden.rutgers.edu/~journal/papers/crouch.pdf

Thanks for the responses everyone. Smile
 

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