Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Is Knowledge Impossible? – Final Epistemology Post, Tali Berlin

Initial Question: Is it possible to have True, absolute, certain knowledge?


Since people view things and gather information through their senses, or through recording what other people have found through their senses, I was curious to know if it is actually possible to gather objective knowledge.

The reading I found is called “Is Knowledge Impossible?” by JW Gray, who argues that

It might be possible to have knowledge in the sense of having some degree of certainty or deep understanding, but it might be impossible to have absolute certainty or absolutely deep understanding. Those extreme kinds of knowledge could be impossible.

Gray concludes that there is no way to have absolute knowledge, but it isn’t necessary to have it in life as long as we can live with the knowledge we do have, whether it’s True or not.

A modest definition for ‘knowledge’ is all that seems needed in most everyday contexts. It tells me if I can wake up in the morning, if I can type out an essay, and if I can think anything worth putting on paper. This modest definition is compatible with our quest for truth, certainty, and deep understanding; but not all of our knowledge is absolutely certain to be true nor is all of our knowledge a deep understanding.


My most relevant and interesting discussion was with Helena, Alejandro and Alicia. We talked about whether it’s possible to have one True answer to a question, or whether all questions can have multiple answers, all true by the perception of different people. Different people perceive the same situations in different ways, but to all, their own beliefs on the situation is true. So does that mean that a question that theoretically should have one simple answer, could have multiple answers and all of them true? An example we used to debate this was The Simpson’s episode where Bart reaches for the lollipop on the babysitter’s pants, but she thinks he’s reaching for her butt. If you ask both of them what happened, both will tell you different answers, but to each, both are true. They perceived the situation differently, and while there may be one correct answer about Bart’s intentions, which would come from Bart as only he knows the nature of his intentions, the situation played out a certain way that both Bart and the babysitter have different views on it. Even though his intentions didn’t portray in his actions, according to the babysitter, Bart could very well have been reaching for her butt. The question here isn’t about Bart’s intentions, but what happened in this situation. And the answer to this has two different, but true to each person, answers.

Phil’s Day Off:

This weekend, I got my wisdom teeth removed, which caused my weekend to be full of gross blended food and Harry Potter.

While I was on pain killers, I experienced the world a bit different than my mother, who was not on pain killers and was serving me gross blended meals and criticizing my movie choices. But who’s to say that her version of this weekend had anymore truth to it than mine, just because I was on pain killers? Some might argue that my version of this weekend is not true, as it was altered and distorted by the drugs I was on. However, I argue (I’m still groggy don’t judge me too much), that perhaps my view of this weekend had more truth to it than my mother’s view. Although she was not on any pain medication, all the past experiences in her life, just like in any person’s life, have altered the way she perceives certain things to be different than mine. So if both my mother and I get asked about this weekend, we both would have different stories and versions to say, but both true to each of us. Therefore, answering my discussion sub question (can one question have multiple, and true, answers, or is there only always one answer to each question?). People perceive different things in different ways, altering the way we experience things. This helps answer my initial question.


Final Thoughts:

I don’t think it’s possible to have one absolute, certain True knowledge, as people perceive things through senses, which act differently in each person. There is no way of knowing for certain the absolute Truth about anything, but in our everyday world, having an understanding of how to go about life with the knowledge, True or not, of how to do so, is enough.


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