Hey I’m back! (The trip was great, I rediscovered the beauty of the culture of my country.)
Today I want to talk about knowledge.
It has long been one of the most discussed topics in philosophy. When we say “I know X”, what do we mean by that? How do we know that we know? What constitutes the feeling of knowing? … There is much to be questioned about knowledge.
So what do I mean, when I say “I know that I have two eyes”?
Well, I believe that the proposition (“I have two eyes”) is true, and it is justified (Other people can see that I have two eyes). This is what makes my knowledge of “I have two eyes”. It’s a traditional analysis of knowledge, which claims that knowledge is composed of justified, true belief.
Put aside all those philosophical debates on this topic, what bothers me when I try to take a closer look on knowledge is the assumption that knowledge has to be true.
It is pretty obvious that when we say “I know X”, we believe it to be true, unless we intend to lie. Even in the case of lying, we know the truth, so that we can tell a lie.
It is for this reason, I suppose, that it is generally regarded to be “wrong” to believe in something that turns out to be false. Don’t you feel a little bit of shame and pain when you say “I was wrong”? The fact that you said “I know X” means that you were strongly believed it to be true, and when your knowledge turned out to be false, you suddenly become a liar with no intention to lie.
But who knows whether your current knowledge is actually true or false? In the past, it was believed that the sun rotates around the earth, which is false, but it was true at that time. After all, truth may be just a human agreement of how to understand the world.
So, rather than to consider knowledge as “something that has to be true”, it might be a good idea to see it as a blackboard, where you can add new ideas, as well as erase wrong ones. Learning that your previous idea was wrong will also added to your knowledge. The fact that knowledge is erasable allows you to be skeptical of your own beliefs and always open to new ideas. Removing the assumption of “knowledge has to be true” enables people to be never satisfied with their knowledge and constantly improve their knowledge, as well as making it less shameful to say “I was wrong”.
I am not in any way encouraging people to spread false information and believe in whatever they hear. Recognizing that our knowledge can sometimes be false, no matter how many evidences there are to support its validity, helps people to think critically and therefore, be independent and not brainwashed by others.
Isn’t this ability – think on your own – is what is vital in today’s information society where too many “truths” contradict each other?