Wednesday, April 10, 2013

[PHI 3000] What is knowledge? Look it up!

According to Merriam-Webster Online, know (verb) means:

Do any of these (1a/1b/2a/2b) make for a good definition of propositional knowledge (i.e., knowing that p)?


  1. First off, 1b gives a definition using the word "known" which, to me, is unproductive. They used the word in their own definition! How is one supposed to use that to learn what the word really means? Personally, the dictionary used to be my best friend. I would use it every second I could to learn new words and understand words I have never seen before. After the discussion of whether using the dictionary was such a good idea I became skeptic of the thought. I think that looking up words in the dictionary can sometimes be useful. I think it gives a very broad definition or meaning to a specific word. However, I do not think that it gives a true,thorough, and honest definition. If you want to get the jist of what something means, go look it up. But if you really want to learn what a word means, that's up to you. In conclusion, I do not believe that examples 1a, 1b, 2a, or 2b make good definitions, but I do believe it gives you the minimal meaning.

  2. Personally I don't think that any of these so called "definitions", are a good definition for propositional knowledge. 1a first says "to perceive directly." This is therefore already a bad definition because perception and knowledge are completely separate things. A person may perceive something, but that doesn't mean that they now have of knowledge of it, especially if what they are perceiving is wrong. Then, 1b presents a circular argument by using the word "known" to try and define the word "know", which is a fallacy. However, I do feel that both 2a and 2b present a basic starting point on which you can build a good definition of knowledge, but neither is a good definition by itself. For instance, 2a states "to be convinced of...", just because you are convinced that something is true doesn't mean you have knowledge of what you're convinced of. There are times where I am convinced that something is true, sometimes I may be right and other times I may be wrong. But in both cases I don't have knowledge because I am actually guessing since I don't "know" for sure. Overall, none of these are a good definition of knowledge and one must dig deeper than these basic ideas in order to discover a good definition.

    P.S. I want know how 3 has anything to do with the subject manner. How does having "sexual intercourse with" equate to the word "know"? I'm just wondering.

  3. In the first instance, the definition of knowledge doesn't even address the concept of propositional knowledge, which works to define something through other premises.

    The second definition only extends to the acquaintance-based knowledge that we learned about, which again does not meet the standards of propositional knowledge but is another more superficial idea of what people may 'know'.

    The third reading cannot mean anything in terms of philosophy because truth or factuality is fluid and more often than not, based on perception (which is not ultimate truth, unfortunately).

    The fourth definition is also very broad - one may know how to write a paper in the most basic sense, but may not know how to write a great paper and all the things that include it.

    And the fifth, (to answer Dylan above), is just another way people used language in older times and texts. Often, books read 'he knew her' or something of the sort to reference sex and female bodies.

    In summary, None of these things actually define what knowledge is, but rather, give a broad spectrum on how to define perceived knowledge. Also, the definition is created by someone's perception of knowledge which is skewed by personal experience and doesn't encompass all points of views.

  4. None of those definitions accurately define "know."

    Definition 1a "to perceive directly" In class we discussed perception and knowledge with the first argument assignment. What I took away from that is that perception is a far cry from knowledge, they are two different entities.

    Definition 2a "be convinced or certain of" That in no way can qualify as "know" To merely be convinced of something does not make it the truth. If you are convinced that you failed your exam because you found it difficult, that does not necessarily mean that you failed. You won't "know" until you get the test back.

    Definition 1b "something previously known" You can't use known in a definition for the word know, that's just a matter of circular reasoning and that is not valid enough to support the definition of know.

    Never noticed how many errors the dictionary truly had. To define a word is difficult, so at least the dictionary tries. The good thing is that there are many interpretations available for words so although the dictionary isn't the place to grasp 100% of the meaning of a word it can help be the foundation towards finding a true definition for a word. Definition 2a "to be aware of the truth or factuality" seems like a good place to start towards defining "know"

  5. There are three types of knowing: propositional (as in knowing facts or information), acquaintance (knowing a person), and skills (as in how to do something). All three types are touched upon separately with definitions 1b, 2a, and 2b. However, 1b exhibits circular reasoning by placing the word "known" in the definition for "know" which doesn't make any progress on figuring out the actual definition of the term. A requirement for knowing something also consists of knowing that is true which definition 2a includes, "to be aware of the truth or factuality of". Definiton 1a I find to be irrelevant because there are countless times we perceive something with our own eyes but doesn't turn out to be the case. To some extent, I do think definitions 1b, 2a, and 2b holds some truth.

  6. Definition 1a does not account for the knowledge that you obtain apriori. Such as a triangle with three sides. Defintion 1b is circular, when it defines knowledge the word “known”. Definitions 2a and 2b explain the meaning of how knowledge is generally used but from a philosophical standpoint, none of these definitions define knowledge. The best definition of knowledge would be a justified true belief. As we have went over in class, a justified true belief is you believe A, and A is true, you have a right to believe A. Additional to that, if A was not true, you should not have believed A. That is true knowledge.1

  7. These definitions, while touching on various points of the concept of "knowing" something, don't fully encapsulate the meaning of "to know." A "good definition" is totally subjective, but in my argument I'll define it as a definition that does well to encapsulate as much meaning of the term "to know" as possible.

    1a. The fact that it says "to perceive" invalidates this definition. "Knowing" something is to understand the fact of the situation, whereas perception may not always speak of the situation's truth.

    1b. The definition is circular, and therefore "bad."

    2a. This definition isn't bad, but I don't agree with the "to convince" part. Just because someone is convinced that they know something doesn't mean they truly know it.

    2b. "To have a practical understanding of" defines procedural knowledge and not propositional knowledge.

    Overall, none of these definitions do well to fully describe knowing, but they serve an okay foundation and starting point to learning about the full meaning.

  8. According to A. J. Ayer, you know something if "you are sure of it, what you are sure of is true and you have a right to be sure." None of the definitions above meet these criteria; therefore, it can be said that the writer does not know the definition of knowledge.

    Definition 1b gives a "circular definition" by including the word "known" in its definition. However, part 3 of 1b does include part of Ayer's definition of knowledge. If a person is able to answer the question "How do you know?" by providing proof or obtaining proof from someone who can provide proof, then he/she can be said to have knowledge. Hence if someone has experience of something, then they can provide proof of it. This explanation also applies to definition 2b because if a person has a practical understanding of a subject matter, then they can provide proof of it. Therefore, they can be said to have knowledge of the subject matter.

  9. These definitions from Merriam-Webster do not sufficiently define what it means to know something. The issue of understanding the meaning of knowledge is far more complicated than any of the definitions given seem to indicate. These definitions are only truly valuable in a colloquial sense, meaning they aid us in understanding what is meant conversationally, and do so in a very rudimentary sense. They do little for us in terms of a philosophical deconstruction of what knowledge truly is.

    Definition 1a defines knowledge as direct perception or cognition of something, or the ability to recognize the nature of something. The issue here is that perception, and cognition can be faulty. We can see proof of this in any optical illusion. Given an illusion, a person may be sure that they are perceiving something (and thus they adopt a certain cognition) when in fact what they see is not a veridical representation of reality. Definition 1b likewise is faulty in that the definition hinges upon the ability to know that something is the case, or to be able to characterize something as being the same. This again is subject to the often faulty human perceptive capabilities.

    Definition 2a states that to know, one must be aware of the truth or factuality of something, or to be convinced or certain of such. This again is lacking as a definition of knowing, in that we cannot know that this knowledge was obtained by a logical, skillful process. This knowledge may have been obtained by chance alone. An example would be an individual “knowing” that a coin flip would be heads, and happening to be correct. Even though the individual was right, we cannot say that he truly knew the outcome because his knowledge was in all likelihood a mere guess.

    Thus it seems that in order to have a propositional knowledge of something, one must not only know something but have obtained the knowledge by a skillful, reliable means. While the question of knowledge is a contentious matter, I see Sosa’s ‘AAA’ model to be the best way to evaluate knowledge. The model states that: 1) A belief is accurate if and only if it is true. 2) A belief is adroit if and only if it is produced skillfully. 3) A belief is apt if and only if it is true in a way manifesting, or attributable, to the believer’s skill. This model seems to be a superior choice in defining knowledge as it does not simply evaluate the truth of a piece of evidence, but also looks to the means by which it was obtained. Knowledge as we see it does not stand alone, and requires a sentient evaluation of a reality. As such it is important to not only look at whether knowledge is accurate, but also whether the means in obtaining such knowledge were not merely a result of chance.

  10. 1a doesn’t provide any information that could be used to develop a premise for propositional knowledge. The term “knowing oneself” is the direct opposite of what is described to be propositional knowledge. The term doesn’t express a declarative statement.
    1b is based on the premise of experience. However, propositional knowledge is not a statement that expresses a “know how.” A “know how” is knowledge of some sort of procedure that is learned from experience.
    2a talks about being convinced of something. However, being convinced doesn’t correlate to knowing something.
    2b is vague because of the word “practical.” What constitutes as practical may be different for every individual. In order for this definition to be valid the parameters of what is considered as practical must be provided. It also indicates a “knowing of”, which is the opposite reasoning behind propositional knowledge.
    Each of the definitions have a flaw that makes them incorrect definitons of propositional knowledge.

    Mehrun Uddin


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