Know Nothings

Sunday, 29 June 2003

Bear with me here, please.

After brief con­scious mas­ti­ca­tion, fol­lowed by a long boil in the sub­scon­scious, and an­oth­er bout of con­scious bang­ing my head against this thread [and ac­com­pa­ny­ing ar­ti­cle], these are what I think about some stuff.

We al­ways know noth­ing. [Yes, that con­tra­dicts it­self, as do most of my navel-gaz­ings].

Here we go.

What start­ed me off was this state­ment by one Ryvar:

It’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to re­al­ize that all of the ex­pe­ri­en­tial process­es you have with­in the course of a day or year can be ex­plained while ac­cept­ing that there is no mys­ti­cal com­po­nent to con­scious­ness.

Now, I dis­agree with this quite a lot, but I’ve no­ticed when dis­agree­ments arise it is usu­al­ly the re­sult of a fal­la­cy in a high­er or­der of thought on the part of all par­ties, so af­ter I gnawed on this for a bit, de­cid­ed what was wrong with his ar­gu­ment, I then ap­plied it to my own.

We are both ar­gu­ing be­lief sys­tems, he has his de­ter­min­ist ap­proach and I’ve got mine. His is fact based, mine is more of an amal­gam of faith and fact. I am not go­ing to ex­plain my be­lief sys­tem, as it would be tan­gen­tial to what I want to dis­cuss.

Both of us are com­plete­ly wrong, for­ev­er.

What is a fact? Something that can be proven, no? Twice two is four, as the Underground man would say. Humans eat, sleep, and ex­crete. An acorn grows in­to an oak tree. Behavior is de­ter­mined by the stim­u­lus of en­vi­ron­ment up­on mol­e­c­u­lar sys­tems [If it is cold out, we shiv­er.]

There is no such thing as fact, with this de­f­i­n­i­tion.

Facts are still things that are be­lieved in. I have sort of touched up­on this kind of thing here but now it ap­pears to be reach­ing a type of ma­tu­ri­ty. A fact is sup­pos­ed­ly some­thing that is known to be true, and true faith knows in this way as well. What, er­go, sep­a­rates the two?

Everything we know we have been taught in one way or an­oth­er. Yet it seems that we have been taught to be­lieve in knowl­edge. Belief in Fact is just like Belief in God, we can prove it to our­selves, we can prove it to oth­ers, oth­ers can prove it to us. Yet, it is still false.

The prob­lem, yes as usu­al, lies with the old Delphic fi­at, Know Thyself, an im­pos­si­bil­i­ty. Since no one has at­tained this goal, any oth­er knowl­edge they come across, dis­cov­er, pro­pound, or have prop­a­gat­ed up­on them­selves is flawed. This is be­cause the per­son who orig­i­nal­ly thought it up was flawed in them­selves, an Original Sin of cog­i­ta­tion, all hu­man ef­forts be­come ut­ter­ly fu­tile. This is sort of how bib­li­cal schol­ars jus­ti­fy var­i­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the bible, it was hand­ed down from a per­fect source, but tak­en by a flawed be­ing, and is there­fore im­per­fect in its in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

So we can­not ever know any­thing be­cause every­thing goes back to­ward the ba­sic flaw in hu­man un­der­stand­ing. We on­ly be­lieve, have faith, that we know things. Unless we are per­fect be­ings, we have mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances to un­der­mine any­thing we think we be­lieve we know.

I’m sure this is old hat to plen­ty of philoso­phers and the­olo­gians out there. It seems a bit rem­i­nis­cent of the whole ‘Do we ex­ist’ ar­gu­ment. We think we ex­ist, we be­lieve it, but we can nev­er quite know it. If we can­not even feel se­cure about one of the old­est and most ba­sic verbs, the one fun­da­men­tal for any cod­i­fied knowl­edge, we can­not tru­ly know any­thing.

I think I might eat break­fast now. [At least, that is what I think I be­lieve I know I am do­ing.]