On the Theory of Knowledge

In Plato’s Theaetetus, knowledge is described as as “Justified true belief”.  However, would that in turn mean that belief is not justified and possibly not true?  I contest that knowledge is not belief, that belief is not knowledge.  There is a current academic general consensus that knowledge is a subset of belief, in that both describe the mind thinking something is true.  I contest that the way the mind thinks something is true is differently, as such there is a lack of clarity by categorizing it this way.  The mind processes knowledge differently than thinking something is true.  The mind doesn’t just accept knowledge as being true, it understands it.  This is key to the nature of belief and knowledge and why after centuries of referencing JTB, it is time to drop Justified true belief altogether.  It may not be justified, it may not be belief, nor may it not be true as well, another issue that is currently controversial in the field of epistemology.

“Seeing is believing”, a common phrase most of us have probably heard.  But if you understand that perception is flawed, seeing may not be believing for all.  At times, seeing may be knowing, through certain justifications.   As someone who has seen many things that weren’t real, I disagree that seeing is believing or that some simple generalization of knowledge and belief should occur. Nor do I agree that knowing is a belief.  Our minds cannot necessarily verify what is true from our subjective perception.  The dilemma of virtual reality being a logical possibility can essentially overthrow our entire understanding of information and what “is”. Conceptual truths, are easier to be obtained through knowledge, such as math.  But physical?  We have other possibilities that knowledge, human knowledge, cannot overcome.  We do not have that objective all seeing point of view as a god may have, but we do have a justified way of understanding things to a degree sufficient for knowledge, and is safe to be considered “truth” for the most part.

Getting back to belief I contest that knowledge is not justified true belief, but as wiki states:

Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness or understanding of someone or something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience or education by perceiving, discovering, or learning. Knowledge can refer to a theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); it can be more or less formal or systematic. In philosophy, the study of knowledge is called epistemology; the philosopher Theaetetus famously defined knowledge as “justified true belief“, though “well-justified true belief” is more complete as it accounts for the Gettier problems.

 

Please note this definition has no requirement to be “believed” as is orthodoxy in the field of epistemology, also please note there is no requirement of knowledge to be “truth” as is orthodoxy.  Knowledge has commonly been rendered as justified true belief in most corners of epistemology, or have seriously considered or implemented it in their model of understanding human nature.

Bertrand Russell explains “Knowledge is incompatible with accidentally true belief. That is to say, if an agent S is lucky that her belief P is true, S does not know P. This feature of knowledge was made explicit by Bertrand Russell (1948: 170) and, more famously, by Edmund Gettier (1963) who demonstrated that a justified true belief (JTB) is insufficient for knowledge.”

http://www.iep.utm.edu/safety-c/

Both Russell and Gettier fall short of stating knowledge is incompatible, or “true belief” as well.

I contest that belief is never justified.  I contest that belief is not a step towards knowledge.  I contest that understanding, logic and reason is the prerequisite for knowledge.  Once that is obtained, a state of knowing “becomes”. I don’t agree that it is a state of “believing”.    While knowing and believing in the mind may be of the same”feeling” that something is true, I do not think conflation of belief and knowledge is acceptable for these concepts, nor do I find it comprehensible to think that it is acceptable upon deeper analysis.

This is not just of a epistemological concern, but also a linguistical concern.

Webster defines belief as:

be·lieved be·liev·ing

  1. intransitive verb
  2. 1a:  to have a firm religious faith b:  to accept something as true, genuine, or real <ideals we believe in><believes in ghosts>

  3. 2:  to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something <believe in exercise>

  4. 3:  to hold an opinion :think<I believe so>

  5. transitive verb
  6. 1a:  to consider to be true or honest <believe the reports><you wouldn’t believe how long it took>b:  to accept the word or evidence of <I believe you><couldn’t believe my ears>

  7. 2:  to hold as an opinion :suppose<I believe it will rain soon>

With that, there is great acceptance that all knowledge is also believed.  Because both knowledge and belief  is “accepted as true” as noted in definition 2. 1b

However, why does that mean that knowledge is also belief?  Knowledge is accepted as true, for good reason.  Knowledge is not merely accepted it as true, it is understood.  If someone asked, “Do you know, or do you believe that 1+1=2”, the answer for most should be know.  If someone merely believes that 1+1=2, then they imply that they don’t have understanding of how 1+=1=2.  If one says, I know and believe 1+1=2, why would you bother to state you believe?  Doesn’t having understanding and knowledge that 1+1=2 disqualify it from being merely accepted as true?  Accepting something as true implies an assumption. You don’t understand that it is true.  Now if you understand something is true, is it merely accepted?  I contest that anyone can accept anything, just as anyone can believe anything. The fact that acceptance occurs does not justify us to conflate knowledge as beliefs, for good reason that I will present towards the end of this thesis.

 

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states the following on belief:

“Contemporary analytic philosophers of mind generally use the term “belief” to refer to the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true. To believe something, in this sense, needn’t involve actively reflecting on it: Of the vast number of things ordinary adults believe, only a few can be at the fore of the mind at any single time. Nor does the term “belief”, in standard philosophical usage, imply any uncertainty or any extended reflection about the matter in question (as it sometimes does in ordinary English usage). Many of the things we believe, in the relevant sense, are quite mundane: that we have heads, that it’s the 21st century, that a coffee mug is on the desk. Forming beliefs is thus one of the most basic and important features of the mind, and the concept of belief plays a crucial role in both philosophy of mind and epistemology. The “mind-body problem”, for example, so central to philosophy of mind, is in part the question of whether and how a purely physical organism can have beliefs. Much of epistemology revolves around questions about when and how our beliefs are justified or qualify as knowledge.”

Please note specifically, “many of the things we believe, in the relevant sense are quite mundane: that we have heads…”Also please note “Contemporary analytic philosophers of mind generally use the term “belief” to refer to the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true.”

Attitude can simply be described as, the way we think or feel about something.  I  contest that the way we think or feel can vary from individual to individual.  I am under no requirement to think and feel like anyone else, nor are you.  While generally there are a lot of similarities in the way people think and feel – there is also the inability to actually experience the way another thinks and feels.  Love, may be perceived differently from every single person to the next, same as any perception of colors.  This subjective experience is part of what makes us human; we only attempt to relate to each other by sharing language that describes the similarities we think and feel.  But that does not mean they are the same. A state of knowing however, is not reliant upon “attitude”. The requirement to be in a state of knowing is having knowledge, and knowledge is justified.  It is understood through reason and logic.   Belief is not understood, it is merely an “attitude” of accepting something as true.

How do you distinguish that. There is belief, possible belief? Knowledge, possible knowledge in people. People seem to be very confused as to what they think they know, what they think they believe, and what they actually know and what they actually believe.

I blame poor philosophy on the matter to some extent and an ivory tower dilemma of sorts. People aren’t taught a very coherent understanding of knowledge, in so much as facts are well “believed”, in orthodoxy of epistemological philospohy, yet knowledge is also true in orthodoxy of epistemological philosophy if one considers that knowledge is acceptance of something being true, as is a belief. They know there’s a difference between knowledge and belief and epistemology muddles it through a confusing fashion that doesn’t really get to the core of how we think in ways I already mentioned, in that knowledge is not acceptance but understanding of something as true. So things get muddied between belief and knowledge. Does it mean anything really at times, when we know beliefs are very different from knowledge, but then anyone can just say all knowledge and science is just belief and argue down to some justification of why knowledge isn’t really justified.

But I contest that knowledge is known and understood because of the attitude of knowledge being very different from the attitude of belief. Knowledge isn’t acceptance of something as true, it is much more than that. So Theaetetus has a reasonable sentiment that knowledge is justified true belief and we have come a long way since then and realize that is not true, that justification is very much so problematic in epistemology as a whole and that a concise clear philosophy of epistemology is lacking, a lot due to elitism that has built upon itself in a muddy way for the masses.

Many of my opposition in academia will say its not muddy because they may understand it perfectly, and I would agree they do based on their subjective definition of belief being something accepted to be true as knowledge is, but they miss the mark here as previously contested.  As well as that, there we are with the masses of people saying knowledge is belief or that belief is knowledge and truth is neither, or truth is knowledge or that belief. All of this disagreement I suspect has its roots in inept academic elitism that compounds confusion through lack of clarity and brevity, so the people are not guided on how to think properly because it can’t be really explained in a coherent manner to many people. Something like Theaetetus could easily relate to the masses. But academic epistemology has lacked in defining anything as coherent as that in so much as the broader stroke. It also doesn’t focus on the more important aspects of how knowledge isn’t so much of a belief as has been conveyed, or a belief at all- it instead focuses on how knowledge is a belief and builds off that, because, well, Theaetetus said so. So how epistemology defines knowledge differs from how I presented the definition of knowledge. People see things as knowledge, then are disproven. People see things as belief and think its knowledge. Who are they to turn to, people that think knowledge is a belief for understanding?  There is a better way and a more intelligent way and I contest it can come down to providing a different epistemological framework that discards JTB, discards truth as a requirement for knowledge and puts belief in some reptilian inept form of stupidity that it should be. Also lay it out in a very clear manner that doesn’t consist of overlapping of knowledge, belief, truth and opinion as it currently is in the field, all finding ways to find similarities just because they have already all been deemed similar with JTB, which doesn’t do us any good in parsing our own thoughts I contest.

I see it as simply easiest to think that:

Belief is not knowledge, anything can believe anything they want without any justification whatsoever. Anything can be believed to be true.

Knowledge is not belief, proper justification, reason and logic is required, it a state of understanding, comprehension. Most of it is likely truth, however our subjective experience cannot allow us to say all knowledge is truth.

Doubt is not a belief, but a state of uncertainty, neither belief or knowledge.

Opinion is not a belief, but an extension of our values.

Clear, concise, not muddied, proper justification of  what is knowledge, belief, opinion and truth for this theory will have to follow.  Of course, this must be logical and reasonable to create such a schism between belief, knowledge and truth as I propose, but I see viability and have yet to see an impossibility to prevent this from occurring.

So, knowledge as belief,  in the manner orthodoxy in academia is a misconception due to not separating what we already know, the mind in how it handles knowledge and belief.  I suspect this has often been overlooked by many contemporary analytic philosophers because they do realize the mind handles belief and knowledge differently, yet we consider it a subset nonetheless.  We know we have been wrong about knowledge as well, so in hindsight classify it as belief, but that knowledge was justified, reasonable, and had its place as knowledge at the time.  This confuses the population as well as doesn’t score a direct hit on the state of mind processing knowledge, if such a state of mind is able to be identified even.

 

There may be some relevance of how this has occurred and how knowledge is also a belief in the psyche of the general population, that being that we are all under cultural and very greatly, religious subjugation the past 2,000 years.  In turn, there is good cause to consider there is linguistic subjugation.  For example “Oh my god”, is not a literal call out to god, it is an exclamation of awe or disbelief, so to speak.

 

A great deal of our population has the belief that beliefs are sacred.  “We shouldn’t make fun of other people’s beliefs” you might hear.  Yet, if an unpopular belief rises to the mainstream, these same people might be making fun of it.  People who believe in aliens, who believe 9/11 was an inside job, who believe in all sorts of conspiracy theories, or that aliens exist, get ridiculed incessantly, or that there are multiple gods.  The problem is, when it comes to a belief in a widely accepted God, it’s sacred.  No you can’t make fun of that.  This is when the rules apply.  I contest, criticism of beliefs is exactly what is needed. I see the possibility that the very nature of the concept of knowledge and belief may be conflated due to the sanctity of beliefs the past 2,000 years in the English Language.

 

When a believer is confronted with criticism, they will begin to shift their belief as knowledge.  Suddenly, as a defense mechanism, they “know” that god exists.  It’s no longer a claim that it is believed.  Well that’s when things get hairy and cognitive dissonance kicks in.  They begin willfully thinking that they believe God exists and know God exists at the same time.  This causes them great discomfort and while engaging in a discussion about this, you will see their emotional pain rise out of this, they will get upset, they begin to feel attacked.  These are all defense mechanisms for an ultimately inept way of thinking, conflating beliefs as knowledge.

1. Knowledge is not a belief

2. Beliefs are not knowledge

3. Religion, faith, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Greek Mythology, Jainism, Taosim, are beliefs, not knowledge.

4. I can believe anything I want, just because massive quantities of people believe the same thing, doesn’t give it anymore credibility, logically.  Yet people, not consciously, think it’s ok, I suspect.  I did, in the past at least.  This essentially, is a myopic thought process, which reeks of a logical fallacy known as“Argumentum ad Populum”:

Beliefs are in many ways not a good thing to have.  Faith on the other hand, is a lot like hope, we have faith that we will do good on a test, etc.  Faith, I would say, is a good thing to have, but lets not conflate it with a belief as well.  Belief’s in the context I am referring to, are thinking that something(s) are true, without knowing that they are true.  I content that there is nothing good that can come of this.  If you are right about your belief, you are lucky.  But why act before knowing?  Why believe you know, before you actually know? Take into account all things before hand.  Yes, probability is a factor, but know that you do not know and proceed accordingly.  Knowing that you do not know is half the battle many times.  It will not cause a need for defense mechanisms, or coping with what you thought was true, turns out to be wrong.

This is how belief’s ought to be criticized, to either solidify them, or knock them down.  If a belief can withstand criticism, then perhaps we will find merit in it.  If not, we will find nonsense, pain, and anguish, that come about as a result of defense mechanisms.  Beliefs are not sacred, anyone who things that is an enemy of rational thinking. an enemy of truth.  People believe all sorts of crazy things, yet we should  question them, criticize them, in a way that doesn’t hurt their ego, necessarily, however difficult that may be, but in a way that helps people think, to help them understand.  When it comes to anything, don’t believe, just know that you do not know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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