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Featured Must We be Certain of Knowing Something Before We Can Legitimately Say We 'Know' Something?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Sunstone, Dec 3, 2020.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    BACKGROUND:

    For over 2,000 years, the western philosophical tradition has defined 'knowledge' as "justified true belief".

    That is, to say you know X is the case (as opposed to you merely believe X is the case), you must first believe X is the case; next, your belief that X is the case must be true; and last, you must be justified in believing X is the case is true.

    Put differently, a belief is not knowledge. Not even a true belief is knowledge. Only a true belief in which you are warranted or justified to believe it is true is knowledge.

    Mere belief is not knowledge because a belief can be false. Example: I believe rabbits eat whales. Obviously, a false belief.

    Mere true belief is not knowledge because if you believe something is true without any good reason to believe it is true, then you are in effect guessing. But is guessing knowledge? Example: Suppose I guess the correct answer to a math problem on a test. Can I be said to have known the answer even though I had no reason, justification, warrant, or cause to believe my guess was the correct one? The answer is, I cannot say I knew the answer without redefining the meaning of 'know'.

    Only if I have a true belief that is justified can I say my true belief is knowledge.​

    And with all of that in mind, now the question...

    QUESTION:

    Must we be absolutely certain that a true belief is justified before we can legitimately call our true belief 'knowledge'?

    Put differently, are there cases in which we can say we know something based on some kind of evidence or reasoning that does not leave us absolutely certain of knowing something? Such as, the testimony of witnesses in a trial, or the results of a scientifically conducted experiment, or the 'evidence of our own eyes', etc.?
    IMPLICATIONS:

    If we must be absolutely certain that a true belief is justified before calling it 'knowledge' then anything we are not absolutely certain of cannot be claimed to be known. For instance, if we are not absolutely certain that god exists, we cannot say that we know god exists. If we are not absolutely certain there is an objective reality apart from our own or any mind, then we cannot say we know objective reality exists. Etc. etc. etc.

    On the other hand, if we need not be absolutely certain that a true belief is justified before calling it 'knowledge' then it is at least in principle possible that we can say we know god exists even though we are not absolutely certain god exists. Or -- on the flip side -- it is at least in principle possible that we can say we know god does NOT exist even though we are not absolutely certain god does not exist. Etc. etc. etc.



    Let the joyful pettifoggery commence immediately!



     
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  2. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    In terms of general communication, I think it's reasonable to assume a claim of knowledge does not necessarily equate to absolute certainty. If I state that I 'know' the answer to a trivia question, there still exists the possibility that I'm mistaken, either through misinterpretation of the question, or through supplying an incorrect answer, no matter how 'sure' I had been that I knew the correct response.

    In a more technical sense, the whole thing becomes more difficult. Ultimately, I don't seen how we can actually be certain of anything, and so at best our 'knowledge' must be couched in assumptions or within parameters.
    These might be commonly agreed assumptions or parameters, and so our knowledge in something may hold utility, and strike common accord. But in an absolute sense, it seems difficult to claim certainty in anything, really.
     
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  3. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    I would say that outside of some areas of math and logic (and it is debatable there), there is not 100% confidence in anything belief.

    On the other hand, there are some justifications that allow confidence well above the 20 standard deviation level.

    Other justifications only allow for, say a 90% confidence, or even a 50% confidence.

    If your confidence is at the level where being wrong would have the same probability of all the molecules in a room going to one side for long enough to suffocating you, then I would say you are safe in your belief. :)

    For that matter, I would say that if you are above the 20 standard deviation level, then you can safely say you have knowledge.

    But, a mere 99.9999% level is probably NOT knowledge. That allows a violation one time in a million.
     
  4. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    For me, knowledge has to be shown to be factual.

    I am cautious of the word true because its flexible. Truth should be 'that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality' as far as i am concerned, however truth has a rider 'that which is believed to be true'. And many religious people use this rider to say their belief is true.

    Knowledge is less hairy fairy in It's definition. Knowledge implies a certain level evidence, be it aquired through education or experience.

    My view on the distinction are quite strong, just ask someone who has claimed to know what is impossible to know. Also ask those who have slapped my hand for using definition in argument.

    So now i avoid people making such extraordinary claims without providing extraordinary evidence and leave them to their own delusions.
     
  5. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    is someone still asking for proof?

    though we KNOW there won't be a photo, a fingerprint, an equation, or repeatable experiment

    I am certain of this
     
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  6. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    I know I am not top of the line life form

    someone care to say .....I AM!.....?????
     
  7. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Let's get down to brass tacks here. Would you say it is possible to legitimately claim you know god exists (or does not exist) without being absolutely certain that god exists (or does not exist)?
     
  8. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    I know I am NOT my own handiwork

    I look in the mirror......and yep!

    not my doing
     
  9. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    Nope. I don't believe so.
     
  10. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Same question to you, Big Guy, that I asked Dave just now. Would you say it is possible to legitimately claim to know god exists (or does not exist) without being absolutely certain that god exists (or does not exist)?
     
  11. oldbadger

    oldbadger Skanky Old Mongrel!

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    Was it a North American Indian tribe that got this exactly right?
    I think so......

    Those people would say 'This is my truth' and then tell about something.

    I don't think that can be bettered.
     
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  12. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Please wake me up when you decide to quit your off-topic rambling and address the OP.
     
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  13. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    but it really gets hairy when discussing personal faults

    stand in place and plead ignorance?
    when you KNEW better?
     
  14. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    are you asking for evidence of an Item.......not physical
     
  15. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    An illustrative story:

    As a family was leaving the amusement park, they realized that they had forgotten where they parked.

    The dad climbed on top of the picnic table for a better view. He scanned all the parking lots until he saw it: a silver 2018 Grand Caravan with a blue sticker on the side window. "Our car is in Lot F," he shouted.

    The family headed straight for the car that Dad had spotted. As they approached, they noticed something strange: the Caravan had out-of-state plates. This wasn't their car.

    They stopped and looked around again. The daughter shouted out, "there it is! There's our car!"

    And there it was: 2 aisles over but still in Lot F, was their silver 2018 Grand Caravan with the blue sticker on the side window.

    So here's the question: when the dad said "our car is in Lot F," was he expressing knowledge?

    - it was a belief: he sincerely expressed what he actually believed.
    - it was true: the family's car really was in Lot F.
    - it was justified: he was acting on reasonable evidence that his belief was true.
     
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  16. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I doubt that's more than a New Age rumor. Native Americans were not epistemological morons. The Hopi language, for instance, embodies a more sophisticated and nuanced epistemology than does English.
     
  17. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    If you can have confidence above the 20 STD level, sure.

    I'm not sure I have confidence in my own sanity at that level, though. :)
     
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  18. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    Knew better than what? Experience, education?
     
  19. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    no.....just an observation
     
  20. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    So seeing a car in a parking lot that looks exactly like yours isn't justification to believe that your car is in that parking lot?
     
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