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Can we have knowledge or belief which is independent of culture?

 
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Feb, 2012 08:59 am
@Setanta,
Quote:
If something is true, it's not a belief, it's a certainty. If something is a belief, one cannot know that it is true, one just thinks so.


Amen!

I use the term "guess", but that really is just poking a bit. It can be an estimate, a supposition, a theory, a possibility…etc. The reason I ask for clarification when someone uses “believe” or “belief” is that I do not understand what the person is actually saying. (I find that often, the person saying it, doesn’t either!)
G H
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Feb, 2012 11:09 am
@JLNobody,
Quote:
...(culture does not include the private languages of psychotics).

That's an interesting consideration: These most extreme, internal deviations and departures from their social environment that those with certain clinical conditions can take.

The classic wild child is the only generic example I can usually conjure of a person navigating and understanding its world without even minor influence from human culture, community, etc. But obviously, there may barely be more inventiveness and insight springing from that type of well than from conventional animals. A "Helen Keller" that never received any training at all might be another, yet there would still be a degree of unformulated or disorganized tactile contact with other humans -- that could lend a vague grasp of anthropic tribal-ness, if not necessarily any of the latter's ideas.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Feb, 2012 11:56 am
@Frank Apisa,
Your question is also a good way of getting them to consider the provisionality of their theory.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Feb, 2012 11:56 am
@Frank Apisa,
Your question is also a good way of getting them to consider the provisionality of their theory.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Feb, 2012 12:01 pm
@G H,
But I would not want to make an absolute division between public and private thought here. I suspect that even in our most "public" speaking and thinking there is an element of the subjective and ideosyncratic. And even the psychotic, with his private and profoundly obscure utterances is using "language", the most shared and public of institutions--and he might very likely rest with the assumption that he is communicating to others.
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Feb, 2012 12:33 pm
@JLNobody,
Quote:
Your question is also a good way of getting them to consider the provisionality of their theory.


Indeed, JL. But as we have both noted often over the years, when discussing religion, it becomes so uncomfortable for people to even consider the possibility of provisionality of their "beliefs"...they simply will not do it.

Which is the reason I noted that my question often results in a discussion coming to a halt!
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Feb, 2012 12:33 pm
Irving Klotz, a University of Chicago physics professor, claimed that certain scientific facts are independent of culture:

Quote:
The numerical value cited for the velocity of light has been established by dead and living white male Europeans and Americans. Not one of the nine digits in that number would be changed if the velocity of light were approached from the perspective of American Indian, Asian, black, Hispanic, or Pacific Island geocultural groups; or from a feminist theory of knowledge.

Let us consider other facts: 2.01588 grams of hydrogen combine with 15.9994 grams of oxygen to produce 18.01528 grams of water. Another example: a molecule of hemoglobin has a mass 64,000 times that of an atom of hydrogen. These numbers were also primarily established by dead white males of European and American ancestry. In what way would cultural affiliation change these facts?

One observation from the life sciences may also be appropriate. The ingestion of one ten-thousandth of an ounce of saxitoxin, a substance that occurs naturally in certain Pacific mussels and clams, by a wealthy, capitalist, white Euro-American male results in death. Is it likely that the effect would be different in an impoverished, socialist, black Hutu female?
--Irving M. Klotz, The Scientist Magazine, July 22, 1996
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Feb, 2012 04:03 pm
@wandeljw,
Very good Wandeljw. We need to remember the "objective" dimension of Nature when it comes to such gross facts as measurements. But we must remember also that even though such measurements remain constraining phenomena the forms (cf. Fido) they take ARE our inventions and serve to relate us to each other when it comes to the physical world. We must also remember that the vast majority of our conceptualizations about life rest on culture, on our social constructions of reality. Remember that mathematical theorists also use their notational schema to communicate with one another. That's profoundly social.
I tend to emphasize (perhaps overemphasize) the relative and socially constructed nature of our perceived reality and play down the "objective" aspect of reality. But I think that objectivists often do not take sufficient account of the cultural dimension of human reality.
bluemist phil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 12:41 am
@sam155,
sam155 wrote:

im interested in knowing whether we can or can not have knowledge or belief independent of culture. in specific, i wonder if areas of knowledge have something to do with this or ways of knowing

Anything said using language is cultural, since language and almost all concepts are cultural. That implies that anything one can ask or understand, or any facts, must be cultural. That pretty much covers all beliefs one can think of. Since truth is dependent on logic, and logic is cultural, truth is cultural as well. After that, what we mean by knowledge would need to be loosened to exclude verbally expressible beliefs, facts, and truths, to merit possibility.

So, we're social animals -- no society, no people.

That leaves some solitary animal, the last one of its species to be considered. What do you think?
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 01:10 am
Language is culture. Our knowledge and beliefs are perceived through the language in which you communicate and are educated. Most children follow the language and culture of their parents.
0 Replies
 
Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 01:34 am
Common sense and wisdom.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 06:03 am
@JLNobody,
JLNobody wrote:

Very good Wandeljw. We need to remember the "objective" dimension of Nature when it comes to such gross facts as measurements. But we must remember also that even though such measurements remain constraining phenomena the forms (cf. Fido) they take ARE our inventions and serve to relate us to each other when it comes to the physical world. We must also remember that the vast majority of our conceptualizations about life rest on culture, on our social constructions of reality. Remember that mathematical theorists also use their notational schema to communicate with one another. That's profoundly social.
I tend to emphasize (perhaps overemphasize) the relative and socially constructed nature of our perceived reality and play down the "objective" aspect of reality. But I think that objectivists often do not take sufficient account of the cultural dimension of human reality.


I agree with everything you say in this post. I am a hold-out, however, on the hope that objective or "value-free" observations are possible.
InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 07:26 am
@wandeljw,
In his defensiveness of "dead and living white male European and Americans," Klotz is making a strawman argument. The question isn't whether "facts" are culturally mutable. The question is can we have knowledge independent of culture. It was that culumnation of these "dead and living white male Europeans' and Americans'" culture that lead to and allowed them to assign that nine digit number (which is circular seeing as how that nine digit number describes the speed of light in meters and meters are measured by the speed of light) to the speed of light. Certainly, it wasn't Pacific Islander culture that afforded these white guys their circularity.
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 09:46 am
@InfraBlue,
Klotz was reacting to a disturbing trend in the 1990's where sociologists claimed that all scientific facts were culture-biased. A feminist sociologist described Newton's mechanics as "a rape manual." There were many other examples of this school of sociology.
InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 10:44 am
@wandeljw,
Yeah, I understand that. His reactionary defensiveness led him to create a straw man argument.
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 11:10 am
@InfraBlue,
His straw man argument was a response to the straw man arguments of a few sociologists.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 11:23 am
@wandeljw,
Quote:
Remember that mathematical theorists also use their notational schema to communicate with one another. That's profoundly social
The only thing that has constrained any measurement from its universal application is the recognition of the concepts of "zero" and reciprocals of quantities. Several other concepts like "mathematical expanisons" and more complicated dimensional aanalyses, can be translated culturally with few problems. The melanesian boatmen had a virtual knowledge of polar trigonometry without knowing that that is only what we call it.

Measure,ments are easily translatable units and polar concepts are of no problem. The only thing which prevents these from being adopted is only whether or not they are even needed.


The concept of the "golden mean" is a trig and dimensional function that weve been able to dissect with algebr and calculus. ALl of which were invented by different cultures whereas the CONCEPTS of the golden mean and , say pi or polar coordinates were used as "by hand" constructions for ancient boatbuilders, architects and sailors.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 11:48 am
@farmerman,
Old Mama Nature kind of likes the "golden mean," too. The spiral arms of galaxies and the spiral patten of seeds on a sunflower can be approximately described with a high degree of accuracy as curved lines connecting the center points of squares formed by squaring a series of nested rectangles in that proportion of 1.618. Given both that these things are true, and that so many different cultures have recognized it as demonstrated by their use of such "rules" of math--i find i tend to dismiss arguments which suggest that reality only exists in cultural and linguistic contexts.

The Polynesian navigators had the functional ability to exploit an intuitive knowledge of spherical trig, even if they didn't have a concept of it. I've always been very impressed by their abilities. I believe i am correct in stating that they spread from "Macronesia" to the islands just west of South America in only about two millennia, while retaining the knowledge of how to navigate back to the "homeland."
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 11:58 am
@Setanta,
yep and they knew that their worlds changed directions as they left theoir ports. They knew about "gret circles" and translated that onto their little stick and cowry shell "road maps".
Yeah I forgot about theconcept of the golden men as seen in shells leaves and other recurved objects.

0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Feb, 2012 12:10 pm
@Setanta,
Set, good points. It would be significant (worthy of a doctorate in anthropology) if you could demonstrate the culturally transcendant nature of widespread institutions such as "'rules' of math" or any other "cultural universal". Independent invention (of widespread practices and institutions) reflect, I suspect, a combination of widespread conditions to which inventions adapt inventors and human physiological commonalities. But does that unambiguously deny the role of cultural invention?
0 Replies
 
 

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