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What is the starting point of all knowledge?

Rosalie
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2/22/2016 6:17:31 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
Descartes's goal was to arrive at one item of truth that can serve as the starting-point and foundation for all knowledge. His starting point was his famous statement "I think, therefore I am". As Descartes explained, "We cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt "" Descartes asserted that the very act of doubting one's own existence was proof of the reality of one's own mind; there must be a thinking entity; a "self", for there to be a thought. I think Descartes has erred; not gone back far enough.

So is Descartes correct? What is the 'real' starting point of all knowledge? What can we know with certainty? My thoughts below - agree or disagree?:

1. Experiences -- Experiences are the ONLY TRUE CERTAINTY IN REALITY. Experiences include thoughts, feelings, and sensory awareness. All other "certainties" must logically derive from this very starting point. Note: Thoughts can be further reduced. The experience of thoughts consists of bits of sensory experiences associated to each other through the rules of one"s culture/language.

2. Experiencer -- for without an experiencer, experiences could not exist. I experience, therefore I (the experiencer) exists! A verb requires (a relationship to) its noun to be a verb; to exist. Although this experiencer cannot experience (detect/sense) itself, it none-the-less exists, contingent upon the existence of experiences. "Experiencer" is not to be confused with an "observer". An "observer" implies a "conscious entity", whereas "experiencer" is just an "entity" (object) that experiences. Note: conscious entities, nor consciousness, cannot actually exist.

3. Memory -- for without memory, experiences could not exist, as they could not be "known" and therefore felt. In effect, without memory, there would be no thoughts, feelings, nor sensory perceptions. ("including the concept of time!). Memory is the retention, and the subsequent activation, of retained and associated experiences. Memory is the receiver, keeper, and activator of experiences.

(Note: items 2 and 3 may actually be one-in-the-same)

4. Everything else, including real objects can only be imagined. This is not to say that real objects do not actually exist, it is only to say that they cannot be known, except through imagination. Regardless if the object that we think we perceive is actually real, or is a mirage, an illusion, a hallucination, or a dream, we can never really know. We are limited by our perceptions. We cannot connect to the real objects themselves, as we are limited to the perceptions (experiences) of these objects (of course, this is assuming that they exist in the first place!)

The End. This fully defines reality.

Agreed?, or What am I missing?
" We need more videos of cat's playing the piano on the internet" - My art professor.

"Criticism is easier to take when you realize that the only people who aren't criticized are those who don't take risks." - Donald Trump
Maikuru
Posts: 9,112
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2/22/2016 6:30:36 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 2/22/2016 6:17:31 PM, Rosalie wrote:

You should note that this question is from another site:

http://onlinephilosophyclub.com...

There are some interesting responses on there. What do you think?
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Rosalie
Posts: 4,628
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2/22/2016 6:33:02 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 2/22/2016 6:30:36 PM, Maikuru wrote:
At 2/22/2016 6:17:31 PM, Rosalie wrote:

You should note that this question is from another site:

http://onlinephilosophyclub.com...

There are some interesting responses on there. What do you think?

I know. I do that because they have better forums, and also helps to revive the forum. I'm working on my response, Lol.
" We need more videos of cat's playing the piano on the internet" - My art professor.

"Criticism is easier to take when you realize that the only people who aren't criticized are those who don't take risks." - Donald Trump
Heterodox
Posts: 293
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2/22/2016 8:38:09 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 2/22/2016 6:17:31 PM, Rosalie wrote:
Descartes's goal was to arrive at one item of truth that can serve as the starting-point and foundation for all knowledge. His starting point was his famous statement "I think, therefore I am". As Descartes explained, "We cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt "" Descartes asserted that the very act of doubting one's own existence was proof of the reality of one's own mind; there must be a thinking entity; a "self", for there to be a thought. I think Descartes has erred; not gone back far enough.

So is Descartes correct? What is the 'real' starting point of all knowledge? What can we know with certainty? My thoughts below - agree or disagree?:

1. Experiences -- Experiences are the ONLY TRUE CERTAINTY IN REALITY. Experiences include thoughts, feelings, and sensory awareness. All other "certainties" must logically derive from this very starting point. Note: Thoughts can be further reduced. The experience of thoughts consists of bits of sensory experiences associated to each other through the rules of one"s culture/language.

2. Experiencer -- for without an experiencer, experiences could not exist. I experience, therefore I (the experiencer) exists! A verb requires (a relationship to) its noun to be a verb; to exist. Although this experiencer cannot experience (detect/sense) itself, it none-the-less exists, contingent upon the existence of experiences. "Experiencer" is not to be confused with an "observer". An "observer" implies a "conscious entity", whereas "experiencer" is just an "entity" (object) that experiences. Note: conscious entities, nor consciousness, cannot actually exist.

3. Memory -- for without memory, experiences could not exist, as they could not be "known" and therefore felt. In effect, without memory, there would be no thoughts, feelings, nor sensory perceptions. ("including the concept of time!). Memory is the retention, and the subsequent activation, of retained and associated experiences. Memory is the receiver, keeper, and activator of experiences.

(Note: items 2 and 3 may actually be one-in-the-same)

4. Everything else, including real objects can only be imagined. This is not to say that real objects do not actually exist, it is only to say that they cannot be known, except through imagination. Regardless if the object that we think we perceive is actually real, or is a mirage, an illusion, a hallucination, or a dream, we can never really know. We are limited by our perceptions. We cannot connect to the real objects themselves, as we are limited to the perceptions (experiences) of these objects (of course, this is assuming that they exist in the first place!)

The End. This fully defines reality.

Agreed?, or What am I missing?

The beginning starts with an assumption, I've discussed this in another thread on these forums, but I forget which. I say it's an assumption, because it's something that cannot be proven true or false, but it is (usually) agreed upon nonetheless.
philochristos
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2/22/2016 9:52:32 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
I don't think there is any one starting point for all of knowledge.

Knowledge falls under two categories--a priori and a posteriori. By the law of excluded middle, those exhaust the possibilities because either an item of knowledge was infered from some prior item of knowledge, or it was not.

It's impossible for all knowledge to be a posteriori because that would lead to an infinite regress, and nobody has ever lived long enough to know anything without beginning their line of reasoning. So if we know anything at all, then some knowledge must be a priori. That is, there must be some items of knowledge we have that was no inferred from anything priori.

So all knowledge must begin with a priori items of knowledge. But I don't think there is just one item of a priori knowledge. I think there are multiple. Decartes named only one. We know a priori that we are thinking.

In Decartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, he attempted to reason from his one indubitable starting point--that we are thinking--to everything else we know, including our knowledge of the external world and what our senses tell us. But in doing so, he smuggled in several items of knowledge without accounting for them. For example, he used the laws of logic without accounting for how he knew them.

The laws of logic are also known a priori, so they can be considered part of our foundation of knowledge.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
keithprosser
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2/23/2016 1:33:19 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
The laws of logic are also known a priori, so they can be considered part of our foundation of knowledge.

The laws of logic certainly seem indubitable, but there are some issues. One is whether knowledge of those laws is truly a priori or if we learn them rapidly soon after birth through our experience of interacting with the world, in which case the laws of logic would be empirical, not a priori knowlege. Put another way is our knowledge of the laws of logic part of our nature or nurture?

Another question is whether those laws are even true. Consider another intuitive result. If I walk at 10 mph towards the front of a train moving at 20 mph then what is my effective speed? A simple enough problem - 30 mph. Except it isn't. Special relativity tells us the speed will be a tiny bit less that 30 mph. Our intuition that speeds simply add together is very nearly right, but it is wrong in detail. Can it be that our intuition that the laws of logic are true be only very nearly right? If the speeds are very high then adding them together gives an answer ignoring SR is way out. In principle could there be conditions where the laws of logic also fail? Of course if you don't like SR, you might prefer non-Euclidean geomtries as an example of where human's intution about a priori truths was found wanting.

I think we probably do have some logical and physical rules hard-wired into our brains as the gift of evolution. Those pre-wired rules are what makes the familiar laws of logic and Galilean relativity intuitive because they match. But those pre-wired rules evolved to help us find food and mates, not to discover the true nature of reality, which explains why when we discover the real rules of our our world they often jar against our intuition.

I doubt that we have a priori knowledge - we have a priori approximations to the truth which often are an obstacle to knoweldge.
skipsaweirdo
Posts: 1,872
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2/23/2016 8:11:02 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 2/23/2016 1:33:19 AM, keithprosser wrote:
The laws of logic are also known a priori, so they can be considered part of our foundation of knowledge.

The laws of logic certainly seem indubitable, but there are some issues. One is whether knowledge of those laws is truly a priori or if we learn them rapidly soon after birth through our experience of interacting with the world, in which case the laws of logic would be empirical, not a priori knowlege. Put another way is our knowledge of the laws of logic part of our nature or nurture?

Another question is whether those laws are even true. Consider another intuitive result. If I walk at 10 mph towards the front of a train moving at 20 mph then what is my effective speed? A simple enough problem - 30 mph. Except it isn't. Special relativity tells us the speed will be a tiny bit less that 30 mph. Our intuition that speeds simply add together is very nearly right, but it is wrong in detail. Can it be that our intuition that the laws of logic are true be only very nearly right? If the speeds are very high then adding them together gives an answer ignoring SR is way out. In principle could there be conditions where the laws of logic also fail? Of course if you don't like SR, you might prefer non-Euclidean geomtries as an example of where human's intution about a priori truths was found wanting.
This is completely wrong....and should be obvious in regards to language.
"if ((( I ))) am walking at 10 mph".........towards anything is irrelevant to the question...
"What is ((( my ))) effective speed"....the trains speed doesn't factor into the equation in regards to the subject of each statement.
The answer would therefore logically be My speed is the speed at which I am currently walking...10 mph. Claiming relativity should be addressed would be illogical when applied to the language of the statements as it would be an equivocation fallacy. You defined your speed as 10 mph. You then referred or defined your "speed" as being two factors, the trains and yours. Equivocation fallacy 101.

I think we probably do have some logical and physical rules hard-wired into our brains as the gift of evolution. Those pre-wired rules are what makes the familiar laws of logic and Galilean relativity intuitive because they match. But those pre-wired rules evolved to help us find food and mates, not to discover the true nature of reality, which explains why when we discover the real rules of our our world they often jar against our intuition.

I doubt that we have a priori knowledge - we have a priori approximations to the truth which often are an obstacle to knoweldge.
Sidewalker
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2/24/2016 1:19:54 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
At 2/22/2016 6:17:31 PM, Rosalie wrote:

I think the ideas here are pretty solid, the wording used is pretty clumsy, probably necessarily so because the subject lies prior to and beneath the level of language.

Descartes's goal was to arrive at one item of truth that can serve as the starting-point and foundation for all knowledge. His starting point was his famous statement "I think, therefore I am". As Descartes explained, "We cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt "" Descartes asserted that the very act of doubting one's own existence was proof of the reality of one's own mind; there must be a thinking entity; a "self", for there to be a thought.

I think the most essential thing to learn from Descartes is how intimately related epistemology and ontology are, rather than independent areas of study I think they are transactional in nature, like two sides of the same coin, co-aspectual so to speak.

I think Descartes has erred; not gone back far enough.

I don't really see how you can go back farther than Descartes did.

So is Descartes correct? What is the 'real' starting point of all knowledge? What can we know with certainty? My thoughts below - agree or disagree?:

1. Experiences -- Experiences are the ONLY TRUE CERTAINTY IN REALITY. Experiences include thoughts, feelings, and sensory awareness. All other "certainties" must logically derive from this very starting point. Note: Thoughts can be further reduced. The experience of thoughts consists of bits of sensory experiences associated to each other through the rules of one"s culture/language.

I'm not so sure that is really any different from what Descartes meant by Cogito.

2. Experiencer -- for without an experiencer, experiences could not exist. I experience, therefore I (the experiencer) exists! A verb requires (a relationship to) its noun to be a verb; to exist.

First, I'm going to change these two terms to "experience" and "self", the self being that presupposed center of consciousness that we are referring to when we use pronouns like "I", Descartes was referring to something that is intuitively clear when he said "I think, therefore I am", despite the fact that the term "I" is difficult to define.

Because we necessarily work with "self", the subject matter here tends to invoke the self-referential paradox, which makes a logically certain and conclusive analysis crumble.

Nevertheless, you are spot on with items 1 and 2, without a distinction between subject and object, between knower and known, the fact of knowledge would be unaccountable, almost by definition, the existence of knowledge necessitates the duality of "Experience" and "Self".

Although this experiencer cannot experience (detect/sense) itself, it none-the-less exists, contingent upon the existence of experiences.

I don't think it"s appropriate to say the "experiencer cannot experience itself". There is a "single common subject of one's experience" necessarily involved in the associated awareness, I think that awareness implies self-aware, which is to say we do not only know, we know that we know, so to speak. That's pretty much what Descartes considered the only thing that cannot be doubted.

"Experiencer" is not to be confused with an "observer". An "observer" implies a "conscious entity", whereas "experiencer" is just an "entity" (object) that experiences. Note: conscious entities, nor consciousness, cannot actually exist.

Whoa there, that's a preposterous statement, you need to explicate what you mean by such a note, as it stands I'd call it an inane statement. Please explain how you can go about referring to an experiencer and an experience without the existence of consciousness.

3. Memory -- for without memory, experiences could not exist, as they could not be "known" and therefore felt. In effect, without memory, there would be no thoughts, feelings, nor sensory perceptions. ("including the concept of time!). Memory is the retention, and the subsequent activation, of retained and associated experiences. Memory is the receiver, keeper, and activator of experiences.

(Note: items 2 and 3 may actually be one-in-the-same)

I wouldn't call it memory but I would tend to agree with the idea as well as the thought that "2 and 3 may actually be one-in-the-same". There is a temporal aspect to it all, the existence of a self and of knowledge, requires some kind of continuity over time in a single unified conscious experience. This is necessary to allow us to relate the continual stream of temporal experiences, recall antecedent experiences, and make comparisons of the contents of experience.

4. Everything else, including real objects can only be imagined. This is not to say that real objects do not actually exist, it is only to say that they cannot be known, except through imagination. Regardless if the object that we think we perceive is actually real, or is a mirage, an illusion, a hallucination, or a dream, we can never really know. We are limited by our perceptions. We cannot connect to the real objects themselves, as we are limited to the perceptions (experiences) of these objects (of course, this is assuming that they exist in the first place!)

OK, I certainly wouldn't use the words "imagined, mirage, illusion, hallucination, or dream", they are all misleading at best. Everything else is perceived, it comes to us in the form of sensations, the world beyond the senses finds substance only in our minds, but that doesn't mean it is "imagined" or that it is an "illusion" or "hallucination".

It is only mental phenomena that we actually experience, everything you have ever known, or felt, or will feel, is mental. All knowledge of anything outside of mind is mediate, contingent upon some constructive cognitive process projected "out there", our only evidence that there even is a universe, or reality "out there" comes from a "presumption", the existence of a physical reality is inferred at best. By inference we presume that there must be something out there causing these sensations, and then we mentally construct a model of what that "out there" is. We can and do presume that there is something "out there" causing the sensations we feel "in here". Our entire perceived universe is formulated within our heads, and we necessarily infer what may lie outside it, so the external world is a mental construct, but it is perceived, it is not simply imagined.

What the mind is doing, on the most essential level, is a matter of registering sensations and relating them to each other and to itself, what the mind perceives is relationships, thinking is relating. That's what the brain does, it registers sensory input and relates the person to the whole by responding in a transactional manner.

Consciousness is transactional by its very nature, it relates inner to outer. What we mentally experience is a "self" interacting with our environment, what we are conscious of is experienced as perception of a physical reality in which we live and move and have our being.

The End. This fully defines reality.

No, it does not "fully define reality", don't be ridiculous.

Agreed?, or What am I missing?

You are missing the explanation of your contention that conscious entities and consciousness don't exist. I can't wait to hear that one.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
keithprosser
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2/24/2016 3:45:45 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
According to modern ideas of how perception works, even when we are awake and normally conscious most of what we are aware of it not derived from sense data, at least not directly.

I need a convenient way to express this idea, so bear with me a moment here. Let's suppose that if your brain is in state A' (A prime) then you will have the perception of the world being in state A (A no prime). I will sometimes describe this as " A' and A correspond".

The idea is that the brain 'spontaneously' changes from state A' to state B', where B' corresponds to a likely successor state (B) to A in the real world. In principle (and as we shall see, in fact) our brains can go on to predict state C' following on from B' and so on through the alphabet and beyond. Normally a long chain of predictions just gets increasingly inaccurate and become useless after a few stages, but we use sense data to correct our predictions as they progress so we what we are aware of is a succession of short term predictions produced 'spontaneously' by our brains. We are not aware of sense data per se. Our senses lag actually a moment behind our perception.

One way this shows itself is in the common experience of being surprised from time to time. Being surprised happens when reality is markedly different from one's prediction of it. If there was no prediction there would be no surprises. Why are typos hard to see? Its because our brains predict what the words should be based on grammar and context. It turns out we don't pay much attention to the actual ink marks on the page when we read normally, so if those marks are 'near enough' to what we expected, we don't notice the discrepancy.

Dreams can be explained by the brain's prediction system operating without proper feedback from the senses, so we are aware of a string of changing states, including some bizzare tranfrmations as the brain's prediction system is pushed too far.

So it seems the relationship between sense data and what we are aware of is perhaps even more complicated than it might appear at first.