Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

knowing and believing...

So, there we were, yesterday, in the car, wantonly burning the last few remaining litres of the earth's fossil fuel, on our way back from viewing a collection of fossils in Bathurst, discussing life, the universe, and everything, when there was a sudden and unexplained outbreak of the truth, or, at least, what appeared to be, at first glance, something vaguely resembling a thing which was once mooted to have been mistaken for the truth by a person subsequently dismissed as a patently unreliable witness...

The "objectionable" comment: Something along the lines of "it is through our experiences that we acquire our knowledge".

My objection: "This is utter crap." (As you can see, the discussion quickly got off to a brilliant start.)

Let me explain, dear reader...

But first "let's define our terms" as all good philosophers would caution us to do...

Experience: Our individual experience of an event in our lives. i.e. There is an event, and then there is our experience of that event. e.g. The event: Door unexpectedly and loudly slams shut in pitch black room. My experience of the event: I have an anxiety attack, defecate and urinate into my pants, and collapse into a quivering huddle in the corner of the room, believing I am about to be shot, frantically groping around for a non-existent rifle with which to "protect" myself.

Knowledge: That which is known. That which is knowable. (See the verb "to know".)

Know: (v.) That which can be scientifically or logically demonstrated to be true or factual.

Belief: That which is held to be true or factual, but for which no satisfactory scientific or logical explanation is offered.

*** IMPORTANT: Note the distinction between believing and knowing. ***

As we can see from the above example, our experience of an event often has little to do with the event at all, but has a lot more to do with the psychological and historical framework within which we "perceive" that event.

It is along this line that I extrapolated that our experiences often have a lot more to do with our beliefs than our knowledge, and that our experience often serves to reinforce our beliefs rather than advance our knowledge.

Gary Zukav puts it very well in The Dancing Wu Li Masters:

"Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. what we take to be true is our reality."

I call this "Zukav's Truth Loop"

To wrap it up: What I know (now) is that the door slammed shut. What I experienced (back then) was a very individual mind-movie which I mistook for "reality" and which utterly obliterated my erstwhile ability to know what was actually happening.

Do you understand now why I say that our experiences do not inform our knowledge, but rather, that they are the products of our beliefs. A handy little corollary here is that if we change our beliefs (or better still, obtain some real knowledge), our experiences will change also. However, if you prefer to live in a fairy tale (or nightmare) of your own creation, then by all means base your "knowledge" on your so-called experience.

Here endeth the rant...

12 Comments:

Blogger dysthymiac said...

once bitten, twice shy

February 26, 2008 1:50 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Not sure how you man that, H.

February 26, 2008 2:10 PM  
Blogger phil said...

If there's anything that gives me the shits, it's posts that require me to think.

Especially short, well-written posts that take a philosophical issue and situate it in real life to make thinking easier, but not easy enough.

So: the mind plays tricks? Something primaeval overtakes our capacity for rational thought? We need a new experience of sufficient magnitude to cut through the old experiences?

And so on.

You can see what I mean about thinking.

February 26, 2008 11:06 PM  
Blogger hip said...

I only believe in Etymology, too.

February 27, 2008 7:59 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Phil, in that conversation in the car, I was trying to make the point that what we call "our experience" of an event is often hugely "coloured" by our past "experiences", layer upon layer upon layer, like Sarah Lee pastry, often to the point that our response to the most recent event is quite irrational. Sadly the experiencer rarely realises that they are mis-reacting.
Also, they tend to blame the (most current) event (and anyone associated with it) rather than their own unresolved previous "experiences". Absent in all of this is their own responsibility for their emotional mis-reactions. Someone or something external to them ALWAYS cops the blame.

Hip, what do you mean? ;-)

February 28, 2008 8:12 PM  
Blogger phil said...

ah yes. agreed

February 28, 2008 9:47 PM  
Blogger hip said...

ETYMOLOGY: 15c: from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymon the literal sense of a word, from etymos true.
Dictionaries, I believe, are useful for spelling, I have little faith that they are useful for 'defining terms'. If you look up such gems as 'think', 'believe', 'know', 'knowledge', etc., you'll find a great deal of inherent cross-referencing and nuanced pedantry. It becomes apparent that an argument using these terms is doomed to the Sargasso.

I can't properly comment on your topic de jure without risking misinterpretation (I caused a train wreck last time, derailed and undignified hippy that I am). I do appreciate what you're saying, though, I wouldn't read it if you didn't ring some bells.

Dictionary: Occam's Claymore.

March 02, 2008 4:05 AM  
Blogger hip said...

Hey, Ms B. - that was very Zen for a Mexican.

March 02, 2008 4:13 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Hip, never mind the big words, say it simply or I won't have a chance of keeping up with you. And I love train wrecks.

March 03, 2008 3:19 AM  
Blogger JahTeh said...

I hate a blog that gives me homework.

March 03, 2008 11:09 PM  
Blogger hip said...

Your wisdom is greater than the sum of your experiences! You're shilly-shallying.

"It is along this line that I extrapolated that our experiences often have a lot more to do with our beliefs than our knowledge, and that our experience often serves to reinforce our beliefs rather than advance our knowledge."

The opposite of which is called "critical thinking". You can safely describe these people as worrisome. I can only imagine what you went through. I do know survival is so primal is distorts objectivity beyond all reason -- which tells you that critical thinking is put beyond cognitive experience and simply reinforces your instincts, not your knowledge or beliefs.

Now, dammit, stop asking hard questions so's we can all go back to hippying about.

March 04, 2008 2:25 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

jahteh, shuddup and do your homework!

hip, I think I understand.

March 04, 2008 3:16 PM  

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