Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Foundation of experience construct knowledge

Knowledge is constructed on a foundation of previous experience.

As the diagram I presented on the board the other day (Pic), clearly demonstrated how knowledge (the house) derived from a solid fact or previous experience (the base, groundwork). Different from the house that was simply a “house” which indicated knowledge is simply knowledge without external support, or in another word, justification. 

In this case, experiences are considered to be the external support of the structure. Of all the decision we made, we intended to refer the same scenarios we’ve experienced, or those similar ones for the sake of better judgement. Therefore, a solid base is formed for future process. When in terms of knowledge, it is the same theory. For example, a government has the intention to conduct a population census, they will definitely go over the previous history of record despite the differences that occured. Since the mode is the same regarding the differences in the new era, we can recognize this as previous history (experience) provides the foundation.


According to foundationalism, our justified beliefs are constructed like a building: they are separated two parts which contain a foundation and a superstructure. Superstructure relies more on the foundation. Beliefs belonging to the foundation are basic. Beliefs that affiliated to the superstructure are non-basic and receive justification from the justified beliefs in the foundation, which again proved the structure of knowledge derives from the structure of justification. In order to make this statement sound, two obstacles must be resolved

  • firstly, by conscious of exactly what are basic beliefs justified?
  • Secondly, how can basic beliefs justify non-basic beliefs?

In order to clear this confusion, two concepts should be introduced: Doxastic Basicality (DB) and Epistemic Basicality. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_belief

Doxastic Basicality (DB)

Sam’s justified belief that p is basic if and only if Sam’s belief that p is justified without owing its justification to any of S’s other beliefs.


Let’s think of an example. Suppose we notice Mr. Jackson’s stylish shirt, and we also notice that that shirt looks light blue to us. So we believe:

(J) It appears to us that Mr. Jackson’s shirt is light blue.

Normally, (J) is an example of a justified belief. DB tells us that (B) is basic if and only if it does not owe its justification to any other beliefs of us. So if (J) is indeed basic, there might be some item or other to which (J) owes its justification, but that item would not be another belief of yours. We call this kind of basicality ‘doxastic’ because it makes basicality a function of how our doxastic system (our belief system) is structured.                                                                                                                                                   Let us consider the question of where the justification that attaches to (J) might come from, if we think of basicality as defined by DB. Be aware that DB merely tells us how (J) is not justified. It says nothing about how (J) is justified. DB, therefore, does not answer that question. What we need, other than DB, is an account of what it is that justifies a belief such as (J). According to one strand of foundationalist thought, (J) is justified because it can’t be false, doubted, or corrected by others. So (J) is justified because (J) carries with it an epistemic privilege such as infallibility, indubitability, or incorrigibility. The idea is that (J) is justified by virtue of its constitutional nature that makes it possess some kind of an epistemic privilege.

Be aware that (J) is a belief about how the shirt appears to us but not a belief about the hat. So (J) is an belief about a perceptual experience of ours. Think of the thoughts we’re considering, a subject’s basic beliefs are made up of introspective beliefs about the subject’s own mental states, of which perceptual experiences make up one small set. Other mental states about which a subject can have basic beliefs include such things as having a headache. Beliefs about external objects do not and indeed cannot qualify as basic, for it is impossible for such beliefs to own the kind of epistemic privilege needed for the status of being basic.
Some other opinions said (J) is justified by some further mental state of ours instead of the privileged things. And that is a perceptual experience that (J) is about: to us the shirt is light blue. If ‘(E)’ is that experience, based on this, then (B) and (E) are distinct mental states. The idea is what justifies (B) is (E). Since (E) is an experience, not a belief of ours, (J) is, according to DB, basic.

Epistemic Basicality (EB)

Sam’s justified belief that, p is basic if and only if Sam’s justification for believing that, p does not depend on any justification Sam possesses for believing a further proposition.


EB makes it more difficult for a belief to be basic than DB. In order to understand, we turn to the chief question (‘C-question’) that advocates of experiential foundationalism face:

Why are perceptual experiences a source of justification?

Compromise position, which meant to be compromise between foundationalism and coherentism, can be applied to answer. This will show the differences. If we accept this, beliefs such as (H) will qualify as basic according to DB, but according to EB as nonbasic.
Coherentist will say we might think the C-question as: Perceptual experiences are a source of justification because we are justified in believing them to be reliable.
Basically, making perceptual justification dependent on the existence of reliability-attributing beliefs is quite a problem. There is a replacing answer to the C-question that appeals to reliability without making perceptual justification dependent on beliefs that result from reliability to perceptual experiences. According to this second answer to the C-question, perceptual experiences are a source of justification because we have justification for taking them to be reliable. That’s the view we shall call the compromise position.
We have justification to believe that p does not necessitate that we believe p. If we believe that the person next to us wears a blue hat, we have justification for believing that the person next to us wears a blue hat or a red hat. We’re having justification for attributing reliability to our perceptual experiences doesn’t necessitate that we have given thought to the matter and actually formed the belief that they are reliable. Simply speaking, if our perceptual experiences are a source of justification for us, then we must have considered the matter and believe them to be reliable. The compromise position says no such thing. It says merely of that.

Generally, we can briefly consider how justification is supposed to be transferred from basic to non-basic beliefs. There are two ways:
The justificatory relation between basic and non-basic beliefs could be deductive or non-deductive.

  • If we take the relation to be deductive, each of one’s non-basic beliefs would have to be such that it can be deduced from one’s basic beliefs.
  • If we consider a random selection of typical beliefs we hold, it is not easy to see from which basic beliefs they could be deduced.

Foundationalists, typically conceive of the link between the foundation and the superstructure in non-deductive terms.

‘for a basic belief, J, to justify a non-basic belief, J*, it isn’t necessary that J entails J*. Rather, it is sufficient that, given J, it is likely that J* is true.’





Stop Posting About Religion, Oh My God

My dad and I love to park our derrières on the couch and watch Celebrity Apprentice when it airs. While watching the 2012 season, we both had a mutual feeling of like for a contestant who was a Vegas magician/comedian named Penn Jillette.

A sort-of-actual transcription of my dad and I in Barnes & Noble this past summer

Me: Dad!…hey dad, check this out. It’s on sale.

(leads him to a book)

Me: That’s Penn from Celebrity Apprentice!

Dad: Oh my god, that looks funny. (puts it in his book stack, for which he promptly pays)

I read the book cover-to-cover this weekend in philosophical spirit, but amidst the usually gratuitous NSFW, I never expected the words of a loudmouth funnyman to be so impactful. This video gives a nice overview of his outlined beliefs in God, No!. Bonus for all of you auditory learners: this is a perfect way for you to digest my topic (if you can’t stand reading “all that text”). Some of you may recall that I quoted from Jillette’s book in my last post.

If you’re into this topic (ex. Jayden, Parker, Devin, Kevin, Joel^2), watch up until the end of the video and I’d like you guys to let me know, in the comments, what you guys agree and disagree with. Penn Jillette is a very controversial figure. For the sake of staying on topic here, I’ll discuss questionable aspects of his ideologies in the comment section.

Jillette is not, by any means, a professional philosopher, but I chose to illuminate his point of view because he is more relatable to our student group. For one, he is in the media/entertainment industry, and teens are heavily influenced by media messages. Secondly, he speaks in a style more easily comprehended by young ears.

Hope you get something out of this listen!



The Almighty Google and a Tidbit on Whales

wittgensteinWhen starting to think about “what is philosophy”, I found myself pulling up the Google webpage and searching exactly that. What I found was a solid definition stating that “Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.” After reading this definition, I still found that it had changed nothing about the concept of philosophy for me. So I searched a bit deeper and come across another more casual definition. “Philosophy can refer to the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”. Now here is a definition I can talk a little bit more about. Now this is a definition that I can actually picture in my mind. It helped me imagine and think about my basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes as an individual. I believe that everyone has a purpose on this planet physically and mentally. I believe that I, as an individual will lead my own path based off of my decisions, values, and ambitions in life. With this definition to go off, the wheels started turning in my head. I started to truly recognize what philosophy was to me. Are you ready?

Philosophy is like a collection of books, each with different ideas, storylines, and dialogue. However when you bring all of these novels together you get an enriching plethora of knowledge, reasoning, and arguments. Philosophy is whatever people want it to be, whether it’s talking about whales (and yes, I just had to fit whales somewhere in this talk), or what is the meaning of life. It’s all relevant and important in terms of philosophy. When you talk about a thought with someone, for example; “why not just weigh the fish?” you can talk and talk and bring your own ideas to the table, your own beliefs, concepts, and attitudes on the subject. That is what philosophy is all about, bringing your ideas to the table and saying “why not this? This is what I believe.” Philosophy is the organic breaking down of a subject influenced by your own beliefs, concepts, and attitudes.



Believing in Knowledge

Throughout this week, we have been discussing epistemology, touching on various branches of this topic, focusing often on the progression of opinion, belief, and knowledge. A brief, but somewhat broad definition of the three terms according to our Philosophy textbook and what we used in our discussions: Opinion- Statement that cannot be proven true or false. Belief – Statement that can be proven true or false. Knowledge- Justified true belief. Where a belief becomes knowledge was an area very much debated and broken down further. An idea that caught my mind was the definition of knowledge as society’s beliefs, as a collective belief.

Use Ptolemy’s theory for an example. It was once believed that all celestial bodies within our cosmos orbited around the Earth. Similar to how we now believe that the earth and the planets of our solar system orbit the sun, the people of Ancient Greece accepted the Geocentric model as truth, and more specifically, as knowledge. This theory was not only widely accepted but justified. There were two common observations that supported the idea that the Earth was the center of the Universe. The first observation was that the stars, sun, and planets appear to revolve around the Earth each day. Stars closest to the equator appeared to rise and fall, and circled back to its rising point each day. The second observation was that the Earth did not seem to move from the perspective of the Earth bound observer, remaining solid, stable, and unmoving. In other words, it was completely at rest. If the celestial bodies around the Earth revolved, and the Earth remained still, then the conclusion could be drawn that everything orbited the centered Earth.

Nowadays, however, our newest mathematical and scientific discoveries and theories, such as aberration, parallax, and the Doppler effect, have proven that the Sun is actually the centre of our solar system. We are taught in school and by society that this theory is fact, and is indeed observable out beyond our atmosphere if only our naked eye were able. However, how can we be sure that are current theory is true?

If common knowledge can be defined as beliefs justified by the agreement of society, then knowledge is but the overlapping of personal beliefs (beliefs defined as statements that can be proved true or false). The line in which a belief becomes knowledge is crossed with justification, but it seems justification is a grey shade that is solidified through agreement of the masses. This interlacing of personal perspectives questions whether what we know is true, but nonetheless affirms the world in which we live in today.



Knowledge: what you know and what you can retain in your mind.

Knowledge:  what you know and what you can retain in your mind.

On my previous assignment on Jean-Paul Sarte, His overall philosophy was “humans are free.” As a result to this, he connected knowledge with the theory of value, human nature, learning, and the society.  What we value, is determined by our knowledge, our human nature is determined by our knowledge, what we learn makes us gain more knowledge, and the society around us influences our knowledge. Therefore, the information we collect each and everyday builds up our knowledge.

I agree with Sartres view on knowledge and how we approach it, based on what we face during our life and experiences. We determine our “self” through experience and reflection, and that determination builds our knowledge.

Knowledge: What is knowledge?

According to Sartre, His theory of knowledge is:

– awareness of self as an individual, separate from all others, as being for itself, separate from being in itself.

– experience and reflection

–  Mistakes are made through “self-deception”, when the individual attributes reason/causality to fate or determinism rather than to individual will and the personal decision to act upon that will.

My conclusion:

People first exist, confront themselves, emerge in the world, and then define themselves and determine ones essence. The knowledge we gain in this world,  is all based on experiences that occur in our life. In other words, how I would define knowledge, is strictly, experience. Knowledge is experience, therefore experience is knowledge.

Sartre argues that nothing can interfere with the choices we make in our life, therefore our knowledge is all based on our view on things, our perceptions, and our conclusions.
Knowledge, however, can be influenced by others, but in the end it’s the information you essentially comprehended and what you chose to believe.

Does that mean your belief has to always be true?

Beliefs, are your own views on certain things. What you view as “right”  may vary from others, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily wrong for believing something in difference of others. They’re in your head and generally are viewed as just the way you hold the world, or some aspect of the world to be.

As a result, in my opinion, knowledge doesn’t need to necessarily hold complete truth. I view belief as the building block of knowledge as opposed to truth. What you believe, is your knowledge, regardless whether others may agree or not.

 Experience + beliefs = Knowledge.