Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

By

In Knowledge We Trust! ~Lazar

http://web.utk.edu/~jhardwig/RoleTrust.pdf

“It seems paradoxical that scientific research, in many ways one of the most questioning and skeptical of human activities, should be dependent on human trust.” -Elizabeth Nuefeld

Trust is highly controversial to our mind when it comes to ideas we question, yet almost treated as an instinct among the concepts we like and desire. More so, we base our trust in people upon their expertise and relationship. When it comes to factual knowledge, we will always prefer to belive the words of a professional over those spoken from a friend, regardless of whether or not the professional is correct. On the other hand, we would trust our friend with aiding us in a personal task over the professional. Yet, our trust in friendship seems to have a much greater potential of failure over our trust in professionals. It seems that the chord of personal trust has a greater tension over professional trust, but with greater tension, it must be stronger, thus has greater personal value. However, this level of personal trust does not create a well-built foundation for factual knowledge. This all comes down to one question, that is how easily, and/or whether or not this “trust” in professional researchers is being abused?

Allow me to refer you to the following logarithmic function:

f(x) = logx

f(10) = 1

If you are familiar with logarithms, this would not be an alien world to you. However, what if one never was exposed to such mathematics and has never experienced or used this function before. Then we approach the scenario where this person now trusts that I am in fact portraying the truth about this mathematical function.

Now, consider meeting a stranger in a coffee shop and you begin speaking with this so-called stranger. You begin to discuss the topic related to animals, where the stranger claims he is a leading expert in Red Pandas (A topic which you know almost nothing about), and states several highly believable facts. Would you believe them? Would you question him? Most likely, you would not go through the trouble to ask the stranger to show documentation to prove he is an expert in Red Pandas, and most likely you would belive what he has to say, due to his professional appearance.

Let me refer you to a second problem. Today scientists have documentation that can prove they indeed are experts and their field of study and evidence for their research. But does this not only provide a greater tool for manipulation as well as profession? With this evident status, scientists could almost create anything they wish (With logic of course) and we would belive what they published. Of course, most scientists work for themselves and would have no motive of such anarchy. However, lets consider those working for big corporations, who are paid to find certain results. Wouldnt they have a motive to begin making up results in order to keep their jobs? We still believe what they have provided for us as well, yet there are possibilities of their research being manipulated and infected by the reach of money.

At the same time, what would happen if we began to question all research and all new knowledge so forth? We would not be able to get any significant work accomplished and research would by almost futile. In the end, we need this trust in the professionals of our society in order for society as itself to function efficiently. This is regardless of whether or not we are being lied to, we must trust that we are told the truth (Maybe “they” know that WE know this fact, therefore they can lie to us without us questioning. just something to think about).

So how do we know whether or not we are told the truth?

We don’t.

Consider Schrödinger’s cat, where a cat was placed in a box with a vile of poison and some cat food. the box was then closed. How can we know whether the cat is dead or alive? It’s simple, the cat is both dead and alive, or at least that’s what we must assume. This experiment was used to demonstrate the uncertainty principle at the quantum level; however, for us, it is a great tool to describe how we should treat our trust towards society’s professionals. We must assume that we are both told the truth and lied to, for we do not know whether we are or are not. Since we can’t know, we must trust society’s professionals as well as oppose. Maybe humans already subconsciously perform these two tasks regularly, because if we never questioned any new or old theories, studies would never progress, falsification would never occur, and hence there would be no paradigm shifts.

 So where does this end us?

Knowledge is a direct function of trust. Meaning, without the notion of trust in society’s professionals, knowledge would not be able to be passed among our generations and education would be good as useless. More so, society would not be able to function, we would have a large barrier preventing us to function in a professional environment, for workers would not trust each other in their working teams. Science would no longer progress and businesses would collapse under its own structure.

It takes one miniscule second to break years of trust, yet it takes years to gain a miniscule amount of trust.

 

By

Which way out of the cave? “What cave?” – Derek W.

Over the past few days in our classroom, there have been things going on that I feel don’t happen very often at our school. We’ve just gotten into Philosophy and the basics of it and the tip of the iceberg has already astonished me. I feel as though I have never thought before.

However, through the many things that we got a taste of, a select few really had me thinking late at night. I found myself thinking more and more about the ideas that I had never thought about before. Things that, if true, would tear and ruin the foundations of human knowledge and all we’ve ever known.

The most vivid thing I remember of my first few days in Philosophy was the word TRUTH. The capital T. I remember watching a video of Dr. West talking about Plato’s “Examined Life”. He touched on truth while presenting his reasoning and opinions and I started really liking the idea of a “Truth”.

Does she know the weight of those words?

Later in the last week, we began talking about the nature and foundations of human progress. First of all, we talked about scientific theories and the fact that they cannot be “proved” absolutely, but can be definitely disproved. The nature of our science is based on trial and error, and observations. We began to see that process itself cannot occur without previous work. Our class then started tracing the line of knowledge: blocks of information built on each other. Eventually we found that, however logical our theories and conclusions, they are all based upon the assumptions of truth. How can we base our knowledge on things that we cannot prove? How do I know that I am sitting in a chair typing on a laptop? There is always the possibility that what is happening to me right this instance is false. The possibility that my senses are faulty and that what I perceive this instant is artificial. To begin our quest for knowledge, we took must have assumed a constructed truth to work upon. We’ve become masters and experts of a contrived truth.

We may have built a grand palace on assumed foundations, but does this mean that what we have built is not a truth? Is there a better truth to be searching for? Yes: possible, but not plausible. The capital T truth that Dr. West talks about is something that could be at the end of any of the infinite lines of knowledge we could have assumed at our very conception. The beginnings of human knowledge must have made assumptions to ensure its survival. There was no other choice, our progress may be in vain but for us it is our truth.

Is our palace of knowledge simply just assumption?

As though in answer to the thoughts swirling around in my head, our class covered and discussed Plato’s Allegory of The Cave. If you aren’t familiar with this electrifying tale, take a look here. Within this story, the prisoners chained to face the wall have done what human knowledge has done. The prisoners have taken the shadows that dance upon the wall as reality and have assumed such. Within their assumed reality they cannot even imagine the working of the relative truth of the outside world. They in fact have become quite adept at discerning shadows and projections on the wall. So much so that, when a prisoner was freed and enlightened to the relative truth outside, the captive prisoners denounced him and his reality as ludicrous to them masters of discerning shadows. Plato’s cave, for me, really brought out and made tangible my scattered thoughts. For me, it brought acted as a keystone and solidified my previous nebulous ideas.

It was the scale of what philosophy impacted that really had me captivated. Sitting in philosophy trying to imagine what truth would be but ending up with more and more layers to be peeled back was like trying to imagine infinity. The moment you think what you’ve thought of might be close to it, you realize that it is literally infinitely larger than that. I can only wonder how many strains of subjective truth there are. Starting at square one, wherever that may have been, we must have assumed something and started in one direction. Was our primordial direction the one that leads to capital T truth? Maybe. Maybe not. I admit that we don’t know if what we see and think are just shadows on a wall or not. Is it still worth trying to work with shadows? Or should we abandon them and search for light? If so, how do we know our light is just a different way of looking at shadows? Should we even try?

Image Sources:
http://philosophy.talons43.ca/files/2012/09/tip_of_the_iceberg.jpg?w=300

http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/seek-truth.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/Karaweik-Palace.JPG

http://taicarmen.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/platos_cave_verysmall.jpg

 
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