What is knowledge and do we have any?
Today’s lecture continued on the question on knowledge.
This is the view that any knowledge is impossible. In the extreme view we could argue that we don’t know if we are not merely a “Brain-in-a-vat ” and nothing is real you are a harvested brain being fed experiences.
…. like in the film The Matrix you think everything is real but how do you know?
A brain in a vat with surprisingly good muscle tone for a body that has never moved.
Thus, all Philosophy is like a tree, of which Metaphysics is the root, Physics the trunk, and all the other sciences the branches that grow out of this trunk, which are reduced to three principal, namely, Medicine, Mechanics, and Ethics. By the science of Morals, I understand the highest and most perfect which, presupposing an entire knowledge of the other sciences, is the last degree of wisdom.
Descartes most famously said – thought cannot be separated from me – this is known as cogito ergo sum (English: “I think, therefore I am”). Therefore, Descartes concluded, if he doubted, then something or someone must be doing the doubting, therefore the very fact that he doubted proved his existence. “The simple meaning of the phrase is that if one is sceptical of existence, that is in and of itself proof that he does exist.
He concludes that he can be certain that he exists because he thinks. But in what form? He perceives his body through the use of the senses; however, these have previously been unreliable. So Descartes determines that the only indubitable knowledge is that he is a thinking thing. Thinking is what he does, and his power must come from his essence.
So this idea of how do I know I am not a brain-in-a-vat is not new. Descartes died in 1650.
The picture of ‘The Scream’ here is quite apt. It was about how I was feeling at this point. I didn’t as I didn’t think anyone would take any notice of me.
I know that humans are fallible and that most people don’t know as much as they think they do. I did, however, think that my own existence was one thing I could rely on. If not then childbirth was unnecessarily painful and I would like a different program if I get to play this game again. – See EDCMOOC re weird reference to a game.
What I have I learned?
Some people out there believe everything they are told. They end up betting on an old nag at Cheltenham and finish up in the poor house.
Some people out there believe nothing they are told. They usually end up dead whilst stabbing themselves to see if they are real or locked up somewhere to stop them doing it to to other people.
The rest of us are somewhere in the middle. We believe that we exist and have hands and jumpers.
Philosophy is about questioning things that are important to us. I am going to add that, for me, I don’t think it is necessary to question my existence or that of jumpers.