Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Epistemology “Phil’s Day Off” — David Sadeghizadeh

My goal for this unit’s “Phil’s Day Off” was to be able to think of something that would help me with my question. I wanted to do better than what I did last time, which wasn’t going to be that difficult as in my last one wasn’t that productive. Then there was a problem. I couldn’t think of anything to do… Until Monday night, I had no idea what I was going to do. Then an idea came into my head. Since my question was, “Does knowledge need to be justified for it to be true?” or “Justified True Belief vs True Belief,” and since I know that justified true belief is not knowledge, I thought that I could find true beliefs that aren’t necessarily justified and just research about that. The only issue was that it was late and the next day would be a school day so I decided that my “Phil’s Day Off” would need to continue on, which is where I am now. The only real difference from my last “Phil’s Day Off” would be that this time, I have a clearer path now and I think it will be a beneficial to me later on.

 

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Epistemology Discussions — David Sadeghizadeh

The discussions we had in class for our epistemological questions and the rapid-fire questions were a nice time to wrap my head around my and other people’s questions. It helped me to understand my question more as I talked about it and got feedback. I really liked the rapid-fire questions because i think it helped some people with their questions and it was nice to think about some of the questions as well.

I don’t really remember much from the discussions as I wasn’t able to write down things fast enough but the few things I do remember are:

  1. When I was talking to Jess, we talked about the concept of the limits of knowledge and if there was such a thing. Jess said that there is no limit to knowledge itself but we have limits to how much knowledge we can take in, which I agreed to.
  2. Dom and I talked about multiple questions as we were always close to each other in the discussions but one thing that really stood out of all the questions was the information vs knowledge vs wisdom topic. Dom suggested that information is the objective thing that is out there and that has nothing to do with us and knowledge is the thing that we perceive the information using our sense and whatnot, and I agree with him. An example would be that we can see a box on a table (yes a REAL box, no gimmicks) and we all see it there so we all know there is a box there and it doesn’t even need us to perceive that it is there because it will be there with or without us. However, the colour of the box or the texture can be discussed and argued for ever as it is something that only we sense and discover. This video explains this phenomenon really well.

 

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The Power of the Conscious Mind Vs. The Power of Experience/Memories – Reading

Ah, yes. Another unrelatable, possibly un-philisophical question that provides little to no readings and will box me into a solitary, lonely corner. Rock on. Gotta keep doin’ me.

The questions that kept popping into my head throughout the introduction of Epistemology all sounded like something along the lines of “Can certain knowledge be overlooked/ forgotten if the thinker believes the new knowledge enough?” and “Can “fake” knowledge be used as a sort of placebo to change an outcome?” Motivational-speaker inclined lil’ me finally came up with an ultimate question: Can the power of positive thinking truly affect an outcome? For example: If I KNOW that I’m terrified of rollercoasters and I have experiences under my belt that prove so, but I convince myself, I mean make myself TRULY BELIEVE that I can ride the wooden rollercoaster at the PNE no sweat, will it still be scary? It’s a puzzling topic to me because, on one hand, we’re all so full of beliefs and long-standing strong opinions about this and that, but what if we could just forget all of these fears and negative thoughts that we encompass and replace that pessimistic knowledge with confidence? Looking back at this paragraph, I can see that my question is more of a battle between the power of the mind Vs. the power of experience/memories than anything. (Changing the title of this post now.) That being said, I found a really interesting video in my exploration of the interweb machine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v-IMSKOtoE

The video sums up a scientific study exploring the power of thought. According to the video, studies have shown that THINKING about doing something gives a person the same reactions and works the same sensory skills of the brain (and therefore provides the same benefits) of actually physically completing the exercise. Two group of individuals practiced the piano for two hours per day for three days, only one group practiced MENTALLY (imagining themselves doing the exercise). The result was that the exact same changes took place in the brain as the group that physically sat at the piano and practiced, and at the end of the three days, both groups had the same accuracy in their piano-playing. This incredible feat of the mind made me wonder, “If the brain has so much power over what our body can physically do/improve at/respond to, and just THINKING about playing piano is almost exactly the same as practicing, would I be able to overcome all of my fears and dislikes by simply picturing myself doing -and ~enjoying~- an activity?” Would my brain react and change from the signals triggered by a positive little motivational movie that I play for myself in my head? The video has given me reason to think that the reformation of thought and reaction is completely possible, but my active learning will be the real test.

 

 

 

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Justified True Belief is NOT knowledge! (Epistemology Reading) — David Sadeghizadeh

My initial epistemology question was “Does knowledge have to be accepted by people for it to exist?” As I researched the topic and tried to find evidences about it, I couldn’t really get to a conclusion. Whether it was my lack of epistemology vocabulary that hindered me to use the right words to search for my question or that there isn’t much about it, I still wasn’t able to find what I was looking for. However, as I was looking through Google and researching, I came upon this question, “Does knowledge have to be justified for it to be true?” My personal thought was that it didn’t need to be justified and then, I found Edmund Gettier. Edmund Gettier was an American philosopher in the 20th century and he basically destroyed the justified true belief argument. The video below does a great job explaining his case.

This blog gives another example of a Gettier Case:

“Suppose I see Caleb’s driver’s license and it says he is from Oklahoma City.  I come to believe that

      (1) Caleb is from Oklahoma City.

It seems to me that I am justified in believing that Caleb from Oklahoma City.  For the sake of the example, let us suppose that I am.  (If you don’t think I am, we could change the specifics of the example to ensure this, and Gettier’s argument would still go through.)

Suppose I infer from (1) that

      (2) Someone in my class is from Oklahoma City.

Certainly, if I am justified in believing (1) and I deduce (2) from (1), then I am justified in believing (2).

Now, suppose that Caleb’s ID was a fake. He’s not really from Oklahoma City.  Clearly, I don’t know (1), since it’s not even true (though I was still justified in believing it — justification does not require truth).  So far so good for JTB, since JTB yields the correct result here — namely, that I don’t know (1).

It also seems that I don’t know (2), either, since I inferred it from (1).

But suppose finally that, unbeknownst to me, someone else in the class is, just by luck, really from Oklahoma City.  That is, just by luck, (2) is true. Now, we agreed that I don’t in fact know (2).  But the thing is, I have a justified true belief that (2).  So here is a case in which I have justified true belief without knowledge.  Since JTB says that anytime someone has a justified true belief that p, he thereby knows that p, JTB is proven to be false.”

So there it is. Even though justified true belief has been seen as the definition of knowledge by many people, these examples prove otherwise. Now the main question; if knowledge is NOT justified true belief, what is it? My initial thought was that true belief is enough for someone to have knowledge but I am still looking for blogs/articles surrounding that idea.

Some questions I am interested to look into later are:

  1. My initial question (does knowledge have to be accepted by people for it to exist?)
  2. Is true belief sufficient enough for it to be considered knowledge?
  3. Personal/individual knowledge vs global knowledge
 

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Epistemology Discussions – Jessica Lewis

 

During our class discussion time, I first spoke to Laike about my question about is it possible that knowledge is passed? We both agreed that it is passed, and then I brought up the idea of knowledge being passed through the generations and how we acquire it. For example we don’t have to learn vision, its automatic. Laike brought up the example of jelly fish and how they know to move up, down and can even produce light. We spoke about the possibilities of where this knowledge the jelly fish have could have come from?

 

The second person I spoke to was Natalie, We together discussed how we would define knowledge, wisdom, information and understanding. We said that to us, wisdom is what comes with age, information is facts (for example the color of my eyes and the combination of my genes ) , we also said that understanding something or someone is making the connections between things and finally we decided that knowledge is in  everything and everyone. In this discussion I tried to make a connection to my own question. I came up with the idea that yes, knowledge is passed however is can also be created within. Knowledge is everywhere and we are constantly evolving and with that change its untrue to say that every part of my knowledge came from previous ancestors.

 

After discussing with Natalie I spoke to Kyle. Kylie brought up the idea of ignorance, which we then explored more as a group, with Liam. We spoke about how people can choose to take knowledge however  they please. A second thing we spoke about is that knowing everything is impossible because knowledge is everywhere there will always be something somebody could learn.

 

I then spoke to David about whether knowledge is from the past or the present. We both decided that its both. I brought up the idea that everything once was in the present and one day everything will be in the past so knowledge comes from all areas of life.  Again we brought up the idea of how knowledge is everywhere. Another topic we spoke about is how knowledge is passed and how it is justified. Knowledge is passed by anything, take me knocking on a wooden table. From knocking on the table the knowledge is passed to my senses which then tell me that a sound is produced when I tap hard enough on the table. Also intangible knowledge can be passed in a classroom between and teacher and a student. Me and David also spoke about the idea of not needing to prove our knowledge, for example failing a test doesn’t mean you don’t know it. Maybe failing it means you didn’t study enough or you had a bad sleep but it doesn’t mean your not knowledgeable.

 

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Passing Knowledge Through Generations – Jessica Lewis

I can pass a book and physically pass someone the knowledge of how to hold the book, also the book itself can represent knowledge. However knowledge can be passed in a classroom from a teacher to a student and a parent to a child.  After evaluating two pieces of reading the main question i am faced with is Can knowledge be passed?

The first reading that i read was Knowledge passed down through the generations by Prairie Gleanings. This reading used the example of a man who’s father once gave him some gardening advice. The Father told his son to set the deck near the top and leave the grass a little longer. The son soon figured out that his fathers father had told him the same and so forth through the generations. This is one of many examples of how knowledge can be passed through the generations.

The second reading that I was able to take information from is called Is Knowledge inherited? . In this Reading the writer talks about vision is automatic to us and how we do not have to learn how to see. This is an extended example that also relates to my first point about how knowledge is passed through generations.

 

 Vision is autonomic. We do not have to learn to see. So are the motor muscle reflexes involved in species locomotion.

 

 

 

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Is great philosophy, by its nature, difficult and obscure?

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A good question posed on the always-provocative site Aeon:

To some degree, all texts need interpretation. Working out what people mean isn’t simply a matter of decoding their words, but speculating about their mental states. The same words could express quite different thoughts, and the reader has to decide between the interpretations. But it doesn’t follow that all texts are equally hard to interpret. Some interpretations might be more psychologically plausible than others, and a writer can narrow the range of possible interpretations. Why should philosophy need more interpretation than other texts?

As we look ahead at some of our more challenging units – thinking specifically of Metaphysics and Epistemology – the article may help frame the difficulty of engaging these more opaque topics, not in as much as it makes the unclear clear, but hopefully for offering the rationale and some inspiration to dig deeper when the going gets tough:

…some great philosophy is creative in a way that is incompatible with clarity. It doesn’t seek to construct precise theories; rather, it reaches out to unmapped areas of thought, where we do not yet know what techniques to employ, what concepts to use, or even what questions to ask. It is more like artthan science, and it makes its own rules. It is not that such work is defective by being ambiguous; it is trying to do something that cannot be done clearly, and its aim is precisely to stimulate diverse interpretations.

 

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Experience: The Flint of Knowledge

To bring forth my blog post on knowledge I’d first like to quote Plato: A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers“. 

Proposition: The birth of all knowledge has/will only arise from experience.

If birth can be defined as the beginning or coming into existence,
and if knowledge can be defined as true; justified, observed belief,
and if experience can be defined as practical contact with and observation of events.
Then all knowledge comes from experience.

Birth:
Birth is defined as the beginning or coming into existence of something. With this information we can infer that the subject in question has never existed or begun previously, thus it is new. In relation to knowledge (a forever changing and developing force) birth will always be intertwined. When speaking about knowledge one can know that the world was not born with textbooks and “how to” guides in hand; knowledge was built through the discovery and “ah-ha” moments of people all over the world. Through the birth of new ideas along with trial and error, the world has vastly developed and gained millions of textbooks worth of new knowledge. As the world develops new birth will arise (as seen with Apples, Blackberries, Androids and Samsung’s) the world will never stop in the pursuit of knowledge.
Knowledge:
Knowledge can be defined as facts, information, and skills acquired as well as the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. With this we can infer that knowledge originates from experience. To come to this conclusion one must find that before a fact is created or new information arises, one must be witness to such fact. If the fact has already been established one may be passed on such knowledge through an education, a book, a movie or by a friend or family member.
Experience:
Experience can be defined as the contact with or observation of an event or situation as well as the practical contact of such event. With this we can further infer that in order to develop further or create knowledge one must first experience the situation. In order to come to this assumption one must know that before knowledge comes a moment, event or situation this we know as “the experience”. When experiencing something one can witness new or existing knowledge for example if I drop a ball I can witness the use of gravity pulling it down to earth just as Newton did; or I may be the first person in my class to look out the window and discover that it is snowing.
In conclusion in order to create new knowledge one must experience/witness a situation or event.
 

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Infants Can Cry and I Can Write a Midterm – And Nothing May Be True

The mind gains knowledge through processing information in stimuli and internally rationalizing it. This I know to be true, but it cannot stand alone. Therefore, the following propositions must also be taken into account for us to all take this statement as true:

If the brain is a blank slate aside from instinctual qualities

And if those qualities include rational thought

And if knowledge does not have to be true to be known

As long as those statements are all true, then our final statement on how we gain knowledge also applies. Therefore, rather than prove my statement, we can prove the propositions that come before it, as the statement would logically follow as true.

The brain is a blank slate, aside from instinctual qualities.

This statement serves as two ideas in one, two ideas that would at face value contradict each other, but that can live in a balanced harmony to explain the brain and how it is. First, we can define what the blank slate is. Although cited in history many times, the theory was popularized in John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

The idea behind the Blank Slate theory is that at birth, an infant emerges with a mind blank of anything – thoughts, personality, instincts, and even the ability to process information. From there, processing, personality, thoughts, and all other basic brain functions are learned through sensory experience.

This theory obviously stands as undeniable pure empiricism, and because my statement does not, we are simply going to modify Locke’s theory as so many others have. Locke wrote his Essay Concerning Human Understanding in the late 1600’s, and by the late 1800’s Wilhelm Wundt had characterized all repeated human behaviour as human instinct, the most basic definition. From there, many psychologists and philosophers alike have toyed with the idea of instincts. For this statement, we’re going to use the criteria outlined in the book Instinct: An Enduring Problem in Psychology. The criteria go as followed:

To be considered instinctual, a behavior must:

a) be automatic
b) be irresistible
c) occur at some point in development
d) be triggered by some event in the environment
e) occur in every member of the species
f) be unmodifiable
g) govern behavior for which the organism needs no training (although the organism may profit from experience and to that degree the behavior is modifiable)

Warning for Baby Nudity

In layman’s terms, an instinct must be a behaviour that can occur in every human being when stimulated in a certain way, and it must be a behaviour that overrides reason and rational thought, therefore requiring no prior skill. Think fight or flight, a popularly cited and discussed human instinct. As for infant instincts, there are quite a few recorded that are cited by psychologists and parenting websites alike.

The instinctual qualities we are born with include rational thought

Once again, to answer this we must address and answer two things. The first is to define what rational thought is (and the purpose it plays in this statement on epistemology), and the second is to state that we are born with that rational thought.

Due to the nature of the word rational an the amount of people who have studied, defined, and warped it’s definition. this case, rational thought is the ability to process information, eg. rationalism, the theory that reasoning is the main source of our knowledge. Of course, because of our reliance on empiricism for the blank slate theory, we’ve reached a point here where rationalism and empiricism play an equal part in the gaining of knowledge.

With our definition of rational thought defined as the ability to process information through reasoning, we can safely assume infants are born with the ability to reason at the most basic levels. It’s undeniable that infants cry when they require attention, and in this case we can assume that the following basic reasoning is occurring.

“I’m hungry, so I will call for my mother.”
“My diaper is soiled, I will call for an adult.”
“Something has startled me, I will call for help.”

We can also apply the instinctual qualities earlier defined to rationalizing, further cementing the idea. Infant rationalizing is instant. For example, an infant will cry immediately after being started. It’s irresistible, babies cannot resist crying when they need help, unless serious trauma has rendered them silent. It occurs immediately at birth, a point in development. It is triggered by stimuli in the environment, such as fear, discomfort, and hunger. It occurs in all infants who are born healthy. It does not vary or change. And, finally, it does not need any prior training. In fact, quite the opposite, as most healthy infants come out into the world screaming.

Knowledge does not have to be true to be known.

This is perhaps the hardest statement to prove, if only because once we define knowledge and truth, we are left with something that still must be believed with perhaps a little bit of faith. Or, perhaps not, because even if it’s untrue it is known.

Either way, let us use the most literal dictionary definition of knowledge.

noun knowl·edge \ˈnä-lij\
: information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education
Although the dictionary is often not the best source for defining words in depth, in this case I’ve chosen the most basic definition for a very basic reason – this definition is the one most people recognize and ascribe to. Since humans have created language, humans can define language, and in this case knowledge is understood as information, understanding, and skills that are gained through experience.

As for truth… Well, truth is unknown. That is to say, there is no giant checklist that will say whether what we know is really a truth or not, and when so many things are either subjective or wholly based on perspective, we may never know. Because of that, humans have the potential to be knowledgeless if knowledge MUST be true to be known, so we will simply say that knowledge as potentially untrue is fair.

The mind gains knowledge through processing information in stimuli and internally rationalizing it.
Finally, we’ve gone through our propositional statements and defined them to the point where we can say that this statement is true.
The mind gains knowledge, (which does not need to be true,) through processing information in stimuli, (empiricism,) and internally rationalizing, (and instinct all humans are born with, and also rationalism) it.
With this statement, many (if not all,) schools of epistemology can argue their case. After all, as long as the stimuli is there and as long as the brain is functional enough to rationalize it, then it can be known. It can be known as competence and acquaintance, it can be argued as a true belief or not, it can serve itself to foundationalism or anti-foundationalism, and it can do almost any conceivable mixture of these schools.
 

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Communicating Knowledge

The demonstration of knowledge is one of a complex nature. With over 1000 written languages, 6900 spoken
languages, 130 forms of sign languages, and the universal body language, communication has evidently become the
most commonly accepted means of demonstrating knowledge. From personal experience, I have come to the belief that non-verbal communication is a more universal means of communication than verbal communication. This ideology ties into the epistemological theory of propositional and competence knowledge. My concept of the communication of knowledge can be broken down into the following syllogism:

  • Premise 1: If non-verbal forms of communication, such as sign language and body language, are more universal ways of conveying the understanding of knowledge.
  • Premise 2: And if verbal communication is very limited in its range of communication and leads to the most amounts of confusion and misunderstanding.
  • Conclusion: Then non-verbal communication is cos a better means of demonstrating knowledge than verbal communication

Before delving in further to my understanding of knowledge, there are some terminology that needs to be defined in its regards to my syllogism.

  • Knowledge: Information gained through rationalism and empiricism.
  • Communication: The expression of knowledge to another being in a way that both people comprehend
  • Non-Verbal Communication: A form of communication that uses the body to convey knowledge, ways such as facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures, it is also more universally understood.
  • Verbal Communication: A form of communication that uses speech to relay information and is limited by language barriers.
  • Better: A more effective or efficient means to convey comprehendible information.
  • Universal: Being able to demonstrate knowledge to others regardless of their language or nationality.
  • Demonstrating: Relaying information to other individuals through actions or words.

Now, onto my first premise: If non-verbal forms of communication, such as sign language and body language, are more universal ways of conveying the understanding of knowledge. 55% of communication is demonstrated through non-verbal cues humans display either subconsciously or consciously. Generally, people world wide have the ability to demonstrate their opinions, feelings and knowledge of things through their body language. When you feel as if you’re under attack, naturally you would become tense and have defensive posture. Displaying knowledge through the human figure may seem strange, but we do it on a regular basis. When we agree, understand or know something, we tend to be more open with our body language. In opposition, when we don’t understand, think something is wrong or don’t agree with something, we tend to have closed body language. This is a concept that majority of people have the capacity to recognize.

My second premise: if verbal communication is very limited in its range of communication and leads to the most
amounts of confusion and misunderstanding, addresses the verbal aspects if communication. While there are some individuals who are great at speaking, they still use and manipulate their body language to convey a certain message. This can lead to misunderstandings and confusing quiet easily. Not to mention the one dimensional aspect of language that is created by having one mother tongue or in some cases, multiple. This barrier restricts the how widely a message can be spread.

How does all this relate to competence knowledge and propositional knowledge? Competence knowledge is explained in one of our class readings as knowledge that is understood through demonstration while propositional knowledge is explained as the processing of information, usually through words. This direction connects to my syllogism because non-verbal communication can also be interpreted as competence knowledge and verbal communication can be understood as propositional knowledge. So by following my syllogism, competence knowledge is a better means of knowledge than propositional.

I have come to make these conclusions through experiences such as interacting on a daily basis with a variety of people and through my own personal realizations. To me, there is no ‘right’ answer for what knowledge is. Knowledge is whatever we allow it to be. It’s intangible and carries from person to person. I think that the most common experience I have in regards to this is when two people witness the same event and both tell entirely different versions of it. Their body language will convey more about the emotional connection and understanding to the event rather than the words that come pouring from their mouths. At the end of the day, people struggle to communicate their true intentions through words, but non-verbal communication will always prevail.

 
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