Wednesday, March 20, 2013

[PHI 3000] Unknown Unknowns

Donald Rumsfeld once said the following:

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
  • "There are known knowns." Here Rumsfeld seems to be talking about what philosophers call the "KK principle." That is, if p is known, then it is known that p is known. (Although Rumsfeld is not saying that every known is also a known known.) But what does it take to know that one knows that p? Presumably, the justification for knowing that p cannot be the same as the justification for p. So what could justify knowing that p?
  • "There are known unknowns." Here Rumsfeld seems to to be talking about ordinary doubt. That is, in some cases we have doubts about whether or not we really know that p, and so we know that we don't know that p. In such cases, the grounds for doubt can be eliminated or cleared up. For example, suppose that while taking an exam I come across a question that stumps me. I don't know the answer to the question and I know that I don't know the answer to the question, since I skipped the material that this question is about while studying for the exam. In principle, however, any doubts I have about the right answer to this question can be eliminated or cleared up by consulting the relevant material or asking the professor after the exam.
  • "there are also unknown unknowns." Here Rumsfeld seems to be talking about skepticism, not simply ordinary doubt. Skeptical scenarios, such as The Matrix and Inception, are supposed to show that most of our beliefs are in this category of "unknown unknowns." For, if we cannot rule out these skeptical possibilities, the skeptic argues, then our beliefs (e.g., "I am eating a steak") would not amount to knowledge. But why do we have to be able to rule out skeptical possibles in order to claim to know that p? Do you accept the skeptic's premise that, if Cypher is not justified in believing that he is not in The Matrix, then his belief that he is eating a steak fails to be knowledge? 


  1. So known-knowns are the ideas we have about something we know for sure are real and true. For example, we know that 2+2=4, and that is something that will never change due to law. A known-unknown would be something we know that we still do not actually know about. For example, we know there are certain types of creatures on the bottom of the ocean, but we do not know exactly what is at the bottom of the ocean since we have only excavated about 10 percent of our oceans; perhaps mermaids? Sea monsters? Who knows. Then when it comes to a unknown-unknowns, it is something we may have no idea about, like for example, divine beings. We may believe in divine beings, but we have no solid proof or law stating that there is in such existence of our universe of divine beings. It is an unknown that we cannot devote our time to as of yet, because there is no law backing it up. Cypher is saying how he knows that the steak he is about to eat is not really a true steak, rather it is coding in the Matrix that is telling him that this steak is real, is delicious, juicy and that his tastebuds will love it. This case may be a known-known to Cypher at this point, but it may be a known-unknown at some point too, because he knows that this steak is not real, even though it seems real to him and the Matrix just makes it seems so. Him eating the steak is a certain knowledge to him because he knows by law that this is not real, as he tells Agent Smith that.

  2. Concerning knowledge, one must be able to eliminate all skeptical scenarios whether it is an ordinary doubt or skepticism in order to truly justify our knowledge. The modern conditions for knowledge (the Tripartite conditions plus the subsequent conditions) says that, to say that S have knowledge of that p,
    1. p is true
    2. S knows that p.
    3. S is justified in believing that p.
    4. If p is true, S will believe that p.
    5. If p is not true, S will not believe that p.
    According to those above conditions, it is necessary to eliminate doubts to make sure that p is either true or false so that S can either continue believing or not or to make sure that S knows that p and not ~p.
    In my opinion, I believe that Cypher's belief that he is eating steak would fail to be knowledge because if Cypher is not justified that he is not in the Matrix, he, in fact, does not have knowledge about the fact that he is not in the Matrix. Subsequently, since his belief that he is eating the steak lies on the fact that he has knowledge of whether or not he is in the Matrix, not having knowledge of the latter means not having true knowledge of the former and thus the skeptic's premise about Cypher is true.

  3. 1. The aspects that can justify knowing that p begins with the question “How do I come to know anything?” that D.Z Philips states in the text. He explains that our minds are waiting to receive knowledge and our knowledge comes from something outside the person. We experience things throughout the interaction with the outside world. These experiences are “sensations, impressions and ideas”. Our minds depend on these experiences to gain knowledge. However another question rises and we ask ourselves how do we know that the ideas relate to an external world? Sense data can answer this question since Sense data is perception and it has been processed by the brain and incorporated into a person’s understanding of the world. Sense data helps a person to understand the external world and it helps us understand the interaction with the outside world where we gain our knowledge and can justify knowing that p. According to the New York Times, the article Rumsfelds Defense of Known Decisions, Mr. Rumsfeld himself stated that months before “Mr. Rumsfeld writes that months before 9/11 — in July 2001, to be exact — he sent a memo to Mr. Cheney, Mr. Powell and Ms. Rice asking “that we hold a principals committee meeting to discuss Iraq.” He says he “argued that we would be better off developing a policy well ahead of events that could overtake us.” This shows that Rumsfeld had an idea that things should reviewed with Iraq and his experiences with Iraq led him to make this decision which led him to know that things should be reviewed before things turn out for the worst such as 9/11. This can be an example of justifying knowing that p. I am not stating that Rumsfeld knew 9/11 were to happen but he might have had an idea that something was going to happen based off from his past experiences with Iraq and his relations with President Bush.
    2. We have to be able to rule out skeptical possibilities in order to claim to know that p because we people need to rule out if a statement needs evidence or does not provide any evidence. If an idea or statement does not show any evidence, we must be skeptical about a person knowing that P and if a person does not provide any evidence, we begin to doubt. If enough evidence is shown, we can state that there is nothing to be skeptical about and if the evidence is not strong enough, we still have the right to doubt and suspend the idea. I accept that skeptics premise because for Cypher to state any idea he needs to have evidence that will back up his knowledge. He must be in the loop that he is in the Matrix and eating steak is his knowledge that he believes in. One must cannot do or say anything or do anything without any evidence. His knowledge must come from a core idea or external world of where he originally got the idea that he is eating the steak. Skeptic’s job I believe are to rule out the false and dig for the truth through evidence and the external world so there is no doubt.
    - Rufina Eframi


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