Knowledge

The following is just my opinion. If you don't like my opinion, I have others as Groucho Marx once put it.

In my opinion, there are three types of knowledge (feel free to comment with more - or less - types).
  • Common knowledge
  • Scientific knowledge
  • Epistemological knowledge
 Let's examine these.

Common knowledge - "Everybody knows this"

The problem with common knowledge is that, just because everybody knows it, doesn't make it true. Once upon a time, everybody knew that the sun revolved around the earth, then, Copernicus had another idea...

Common knowledge is also fraught with opinions. Everybody knows that Darwin was the greatest scientist of all time... or Newton, or ... Everybody knows you don't wear socks with sandals.

Common knowledge says that there are no atheists in foxholes even though there is evidence against it. There are atheists in foxholes, and have been throughout the ages.


Scientific knowledge - "Measured, time and again"

The "problem" with scientific knowledge is that it doesn't make truth claims. Science is always looking for more observations and for new and interesting ways to disprove what came before. This means that scientific knowledge is always changing, something not everybody is able appreciate.

A frequent strategy by science deniers is to point this out. The Piltdown man is still used as an argument against evolution even though the fraud was discovered by scientists.

Scientists live in a world where "I don't know" is a challenge to "let's find out". The deeper the mystery, the more interesting things become.

The accusation, by some, of scientism is ludicrous, as scientists are well aware of the fact that scientific knowledge changes.

One thing scientist do know is that a disproven theory will remain disproven because scientific facts do not change.


Epistemological knowledge - "Knowing we know"

Ask yourself the question: "How do you know whatever it is you think you know?" Now, like a child, repeat the question ad infinitum.

In my opinion, Knowledge with a capital K (and absolute truths, absolute morality) is impossible.

Some people defend the existence of a soul or a mind, but thanks to the field of neuroscience, we know that our brain is fragile and our minds and our souls (whatever that is) can change. The Texas Tower shooter asked to have his brain examined and the investigation did find an abnormality. There are other documented cases.

There are philosophical postures that highlight this. For instance, there is the idea that the universe as we observe it, was "created" 5 minutes ago. There is no way to disprove this notion. After all, we were "created" 5 minutes ago along with all our memories.

Conclusion

There are loads of times when I discuss with people on Twitter and they talk about absolute truths or absolute morality or absolute knowledge or ... whatever talking points they hold on to, and I am always having to explain that there are no absolutes.

Some try to frame me with the sophistic question: "are you absolutely sure there are no absolutes?" It's silly. Socrates was considered the greatest philosopher because he said: "I know that I know nothing".

In my opinion, of course, the best knowledge is scientific knowledge as it describes reality however imperfectly it describes it.

Further reading
Anything epistemological: Plato, Wittgenstein, Russell, ...
who-what-when-where-how-why-art-of

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