Objective knowledge and truth #
Knowledge is gained by heuristic techniques such as logic, empiricism, imagination, inspiration, divination or by intuition - enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves. a ‘hands-on’ or interactive heuristic approach to learning. Oscar Wilde maintains that anything worth learning cannot be taught.
The French scientist Alexis Clairaut wrote in 1727, ‘a truth that is glimpsed’ must be verified by ‘a truth that is demonstrated’, This needs an empirical, rigorous and scrupulous process of discovery, sound inferences, valid assumptions and disciplined logic.
Intellection is the action of discovery through a process of investigative evaluation, clear headed understanding; and the exercise of intellect; sound reasoning. In short – due process also known as judicial fairness.
Dr Samuel Johnson cautioned that:
“power is insufficient evidence of truth”.
An activist, is dedicated to unveiling, disseminating, and preserving the Truth at all cost.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV
What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so." – Mark Twain
In 2002, Donald Rumsfeld was derided for mangling the English language with:
‘‘Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me because, as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns: the ones we don’t know we don’t know.’’
While it sounds convoluted and obfuscating, it can make some sense. There are many things we simply do not know, and many that we don’t know, we don’t know them.
“The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can’t know. He can’t know whether knowledge will save him or kill him.” Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men
The Romantics provide a cautionary tale for us to value our natural sensual humanity and reject the scientific notion that rational thought will lead us to a more humane society. On the contrary, our humanity may become diminished.
The pursuit of knowledge implies curiosity and a commitment to reliable information leading to the idea of truth. It is not easy to define, but it relies on principles of methodology, orientation and perspective. The pursuit, acknowledges that we are engaged on discovering, determining and establishing the facts through empirical and scientific methods. We endeavour to source information diligently, openly and exhaustively. We are willing to engage in conscious objectivity in sorting facts from self serving assertions. We will rely on sound reason and logic to arrive at grounded conclusions.
On the contrary, closed, dogmatic or ideological mindsets rely on preconceived subjective convictions of already knowing. They ignore, brush aside, suppress and even deny, obvious evidence.
Is knowledge important?
Greek historians claim that early Christians were not interested in discovering new knowledge; all you needed is to believe in the revelations from God. The Romantics too questioned the value of knowledge through pure reasoning, rational thought (epistemology) preferring a tendency towards more emotional, imaginative or intuitive processes.
By the 1850’s we seem to have merged the two approaches. Alice, when ordered by the Queen to :
“stop asking questions”,
defiantly counters with:
“no I won’t. The more curious you are, the more you learn”.
Knowledge changes the world; it inspires, it informs, it transforms, it provokes, and it touches. We can only learn when we have a thirst and hunger to know.
To really learn something we need to experience it. Pain, suffering and failure are the sternest teachers. As Will Rogers points out:
“Three kinds of men; those who learn by reading, those who learn by observation, and the rest, who have to pee on the electric fence by themselves”.
How do we know things? #
- Through our five senses – observation, insight, perception, processing of our sensory perceptions,
- Reasoning, rationation, logic, cognitive deduction with an open mind.
- Divine inspiration – visions, faith, belief, creed, - superstition,
- Derivative - from other authorities - ex cathedra – authoritative, contrived.
- Intuition inspiration
Data is not information; information is not knowledge; knowledge is not comprehension; comprehension is not understanding; understanding is not wisdom.
We have four faculities of perception: Spiritual, cognitive, emotional, visceral (gut),
Knowledge is typically gained through books, research, and delving into facts. Knowledge can also be gained in the bedroom (hubba hubba!), as the term is sometimes used, albeit archaically, to describe sexual intercourse. As in: they had carnal knowledge of one another.
Wisdom is defined as “the state of being wise,” which means “having the power of discernment and judging properly as to what is true or right: possessing discernment, judgement, or discretion.”
Synonyms for knowledge: ability, awareness, education, expertise, familiarity, grasp….
Synonyms for wisdom: caution, experience, foresight, judgment, prudence….
Wisdom involves a healthy dose of perspective and the ability to make sound judgments about a subject while knowledge is simply knowing. Anyone can become knowledgeable about a subject by reading, researching, and memorizing facts. It’s wisdom, however, that requires more understanding and the ability to determine which facts are relevant in certain situations. Wisdom takes knowledge and applies it with discernment based on experience, evaluation, and lessons learned.
A quote by an unknown author sums up the differences well: “Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing when to say it.”
Socrates was considered the wisest man in Athens, because he knew that he knew nothing.
Wisdom is also about knowing when and how to use your knowledge, being able to put situations in perspective, and how to impart it to others.
There is this simple fruit salad philosophy: “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in the fruit salad.”
Albert Einstein famously said, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” There’s no limit to wisdom, however, and you can certainly gain degrees of it along the way.
Any conclusions you reach are only as valid as the reliability of your sources.
An old statistician’s adage: “If you torture the data long enough it will confess to anything!”
Presumptionsare generally subjective preconceptions or predilections.
Assumptionsare at best educated guesses; they need to be validated by some epistemological methodology or empirical evidence.
Divinations come in many forms thought to be from the Divine: Sortilege - the practice of foretelling the future from a card or other item drawn at random from a collection.
Cleromancy - a method of divination through the casting of lots (or sortes). Astrology, superstitions and other supernatural sources are consulted. Other Psychics include Gramarye - occult learning; black magic or necromancy.
Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols in society.
When ruling classes lose the confidence in their own legitimacy, they start to believe in signs and wonders. Confronted with the collapse of their 500-year order of tsardom, the Romanovs put their trust in Rasputin, the first mad Monk. When the Iran-Contra scandal broke the Reagan presidency in 1986, Ronnie and Nancy became devoted to their astrologer to tell them how to deal with Gorbachev. (Guy Rundle)
Derivative knowledge comes from inherited knowledge. Einstein plagiarised Isaac Newton when he said *“we are mere pygmies standing on the shoulders of giants” proving his point. *It is the accumulated wisdom of the ages that give us a head start in our search for full awareness.
*Cultures are formed and transmitted by varied means by our ancestors,
both immediate and long past. The shared values, customs and beliefs
are imbued into our psyches. The lessons of the past must be learned in
order to avoid repetition so that we learn to identify with our shared
Each new generation seems to have to learn for themselves the limitations and ephemeral nature of their power. We need to learn to limit and control our appetites, and conform to the mores of our traditions and acknowledge our ancestors to envisage higher moral and spiritual horizons beyond our immediate vantage points. Some young people feel that somehow they are immune or resistant to the lessons of the past.
As Eric Hobsbawm pointed out in The Age of Extremes:
The rupture between contemporary experience and the labours of earlier generations was one of the most characteristic and eerie phenomena of the latter part of the 20^(th) century. Most young people grow up in a sort of permanent present, lacking any organic relationship to the public past of the times they live in.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan:“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Most of us know the theory of left brain vs. right brain, in other words, that one side of our brain is more dominant than the other. If you are left-brained then you are analytical and methodical, and if you’re right-brained you tend to be creative and artistic. So if you’re a CEO of a business, you’re probably left-brained, and if you’re making a living as an artist then you’re right-brained. Some of the things that left-brained people are known for are being logical and doing things in an orderly fashion, while people who are right-brained are thought of as those who daydream.
Scientific method #
Science is broadly defined as the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. The scientific method involves observing the world, putting forward a hypothesis (theory), and then attempting to disprove that hypothesis. Theories that can’t be disproved become accepted, until they are disproved and replaced by a theory that is more robust.
So, contrary to much popular opinion, science really isn’t about “proof” at all. It is about “disproof”.
But the scientific method does not stand alone in our decision making about science and technological development. Science is, and must be, guided by values and principles, one of which is the “precautionary principle”. The application of the precautionary principle helps to determine where the burden of proof or the burden of disproof should lie.
Forensic science simply refers to the investigative process.
- experiential - “heuristic - involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery, or problem-solving by experimental and especially trial-and-error methods- speculative –. hypotheses - imagination - what if?
We base new knowledge on what we already know. The best way to understand new information is through comparison; similes, metaphor, analogies, allusions…..
is the study of knowledge and its validity while heuristics is how we learn. We learn by process; through our five senses, which can evolve through intuition and inspiration into comprehension. Most of us begin by learning from others; watching, listening and reading from authority figures until we begin to forge out on a voyage of discovery to learn by the more scientific methods of experiments called empiricism. The Socratic method refers to both questioning all presumptions and attempting to attain knowledge by dialectic discussions. It was by asking questions rather than by telling.
Heuristic Stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation - encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error: a heuristic teaching method.
Logic - Reasoning #
There are two main types of reasoning;
A Posteriori – from causes to effects and
A Priori - from effects to causes.
A Posteriori – is where you have an open mind and observe things and then draw conclusions from your experiences or evidence. It involves inductive thinking; you test the evidence to support your conclusions
Renee Descartes –“I think therefore I am” – is the only given, all else must be proven.
Inductive reasoning is the opposite of deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning makes broad generalizations from specific observations.
“In inductive inference, we go from the specific to the general. We make many observations, discern a pattern, make a generalization, and infer an explanation or a theory,” Wassertheil-Smoller told Live Science. “In science there is a constant interplay between inductive inference (based on observations) and deductive inference (based on theory), until we get closer and closer to the ’truth,’ which we can only approach but not ascertain with complete certainty.”
Even if all of the premises are true in a statement, inductive reasoning allows for the conclusion to be false. Here’s an example: “Harold is a grandfather. Harold is bald. Therefore, all grandfathers are bald.” The conclusion does not follow logically from the statements.
A Priori – Presumptive or from assumed axioms. You rely on authority and appear to have made up your mind by rationalisinge your entrenched notions. We have a pre-conceived general hypothesis and we attempt to prove it.
A common form of deductive reasoning is the syllogism, in which two statements — a major premise and a minor premise — reach a logical conclusion. For example, the premise “Every A is B” could be followed by another premise, “This C is A.” Those statements would lead to the conclusion “This C is B.” Syllogisms are considered a good way to test deductive reasoning to make sure the argument is valid.
Scientists and Belief: #
A climate scientist under siege from environmental activists over her research is charged by Greenies as a global warming sceptic, she retorts:
“I’m a scientist. I don’t believe in anything.”
And that’s the point: scientists only believe in the data.
Too often reflexive opposition from those rejecting the need to address climate change – indeed, rejecting its existence per se – becomes a matter of partisan faith rather than common sense."
Most hypotheses cannot be proven; they can only be disproven.
“Thinking is merely electric chemistry”. Henry Marsh
Freud and Jung were responsible for the discovery of vast areas of irrational and unconscious forces within the human psyche.
Gerald Edelman and Tononi’s book, A universe of Consciousness. How Matter becomes Imagination. Edelman was a neurologist and a Nobel Laureate.
Every thing a person does (human activity) results from the particles of your physical brain.
The neurons (matter) of the brain produce imagination, also love, including Romantic love. Nothing is preset, nor predetermined.
Edelman essentially follows that approach. He says neurons (matter) become imagination. Neurons produce or become love, even romantic love. Neurons act in ways which produce consciousness and imagination. He says he is continuing Darwin’s work. Darwin tried to explain human qualities such as perception, memory, and the assignment of value. Edelman says that when a human meets a challenge or opportunity, the neurons go to work perceiving incoming sensory stimuli in the present and memories of past experiences which they classify and categorize.
Gerard Manly Hopkins was playing on (Milton’s, Paradise Lost, I, 254-5),
“The mind is its own place”, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven",
when he wrote the ‘Terrible Sonnets’ because of his terrible fits of misery and despair.
*No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed
Robert Lowell’s acknowledgement of his emotional and psychological fragility is his strength, not his weakness. In a signature poem, Skunk Hour, he admits:
“my mind’s not right”.
Error occurs whenever there is a lack of epistemological rigor or empirical evidence. Conclusions formed from inadequate information lack credibility and respect.
People are not always rational:
In Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers, George Moore, the main character, a philosopher, finally realises that he is living in a changed world, outside the traditional modes of reason.
Lewis Carroll takes us down the rabbit hole where Humpty Dumpty patronizingly explains to Alice that the meaning of words is simply determined by “who is master -, that is all” and Alice learns that with effort and practice in these post-ironical times, “we are expected to dutifully believe six impossible things before breakfast”. As things get curiouser and curiouser, Alice despairs that nothing makes much sense, and finally concludes that this is just a house of cards.
Winston Smith in 1984
“remembered remembering contrary things, but those were false memories, products of self –deception. Only surrender and everything else followed. It was like swimming against a current that swept you backward however hard you struggled and then suddenly deciding to turn around and go with the current.”
“It needed also a sort of athleticism of mind, an ability at one moment to make the most delicate use of logic and at the next to be unconscious of the crudest logical errors. Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.”
To gain understanding we need empathy and that often only comes through identification of narratives. Young people should be encouraged to question all authority and then form their own views; beliefs formed from indoctrination are not well formed.
We all need enlightenment to become integrated with a complex society. The education we get lasts for life; its influences - good or bad - stay with us forever. On one level, we learn facts/information (the cognitive domain). On another level, we develop our souls and become nicer more balanced people (the affective domain. We learn through a process of osmosis, by imitating or following examples – called modelling.
As Oscar Wilde said: “..that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught”. We have to learn from our own mistakes. Wittgenstein claimed “if we never did anything silly, we’d never learn anything”.
Education does not consist of memorising facts or accumulating knowledge; it is more about fostering greater inquisitiveness, intellectual curiosity, truth-seeking and confidence in reasoning.