What theory of knowledge makes the most sense?

Discussions relating to how knowledge is formed, including science, common sense, and phenomenology

What theory of knowledge makes the most sense?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:31 pm

What is knowledge? What constitutes strong evidence? How does one identify the truth? Many people live their lives without really thinking about these questions and end up either believing everything they hear on TV and read on fringe websites or in other cases people live their lives thinking that they are being deceived all the time and that everything is a conspiracy. Is there a way of identifying the truth while still guarding against deceit?
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Re: What theory of knowledge makes the most sense?

Postby greim on Wed Sep 23, 2009 1:22 pm

Here's my brain dump on epistemology.

My view is that pragmatism is the only possible way to understand epistemology. The standard objection to this is that it makes knowledge ultimately subjective. My answer to that objection is that humans are social knowers. Ways-of-knowing are shared across boundaries between individuals. Therefore our intuition is correct; knowledge transcends individual subjectivity. However, knowledge does not and cannot transcend the social construct. To imagine "ultimate objectivity" is to build a more abstract social construct that includes all possible observers. A correct way-of-knowing will therefore generate maximally useful beliefs in all possible observers.

Within this framework, there are two "fundamental forces" that hold a belief in place. One is evidential. This is when the principles of epistemology, given the existence of one belief, require the existence of another belief. The other is pragmatic. This is when one belief is so useful that it requires its own existence. We're pretty good at enumerating our evidential beliefs. We're often incapable of acknowledging, let alone enumerating, our pragmatic beliefs. I think this should be one of the main goals of epistemology; to acknowledge and enumerate our pragmatic beliefs. Another goal should be to develop a conflict-resolution strategy.
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Re: What theory of knowledge makes the most sense?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Wed Sep 23, 2009 2:17 pm

Thanks greim, you bring up some good points. My feeling is that evidence is more fundamental to epistemology than pragmatism. Something is pragmatic when it works, or as you have stated, is useful. But one must know what is useful first in order to use this knowledge to gain pragmatic knowledge. One can only understand what is useful from some combination of the following: the senses, reason, other experiences (emotions, memory), and knowledge that is inherent to the brain, which includes the ability to reason, etc. Once one has a basic understanding of life, they can then understand what is useful and from this they can gain a more detailed understanding of life.
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Re: What theory of knowledge makes the most sense?

Postby greim on Wed Sep 23, 2009 3:35 pm

Brandon Norgaard wrote:But one must know what is useful first in order to use this knowledge to gain pragmatic knowledge.


My general response to this objection is, we don't actually need to know something is useful in order for our strategies for maximizing that outcome to be called knowledge. We don't need to know that eating is useful in order for our strategies to eat to be called knowledge. We simply long to eat. Primitive needs hard-coded into us by evolution give emergence to higher level usefulness. So in order to eat we need to build better spears, or bows, or farms. For that we need logic and science. So there's a regression: this is useful because it helps us do that, which in turn is useful because it helps us do that, etc. Eventually, this regression halts at the level of primitive needs, which require no justification.
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Re: What theory of knowledge makes the most sense?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Mon Sep 28, 2009 8:06 pm

greim, sorry it took me so long to post a reply. I was having a hard time figuring out how to approach a response. I don't believe that I have deep enough knowledge into epistemology to judge whether the use-centric model of gaining knowledge makes more sense then the sense-and-logic centric model that I currently subscribe to. If you like, though, I'd be very happy to discuss other issues. I posted some other topics relating to epistemology and other fields. For most of them, nobody has yet posted a response.
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