Thursday, November 13, 2008

...on Knowledge

I distinguish three things:

1 Ego scio - I know - means primarily I know this to be self-evident or at leastmediately demonstrable knowledge of my own reason or senses: I know that I sithere, I know that I am writing and what the words that I write mean, et c. "Iknow" means in this sense "I am making a statement, the truth of which I candemonstrate." At least to my own satisfaction. In this sense I know thatevolution is sham - and I think (see below) - I would retain that knowledge,even if I didn't believe the Genesis. On the other hand - knowing this, whatreason is there for not believing it?

2 It is also used in a broader sense to include certain belief in an authoritywhich is a true authority, an authority stating things as they are, not as theyare not: I know Magellan's ship has sailed around the world, I know that Lutherfaked translation passages in the Bible, I know that Mary Queen of Scots wasbeheaded after a sham trial by Usurpatrix Bess Bullen (or Boleyn, if youinsist), I know that Christ has risen, founded a Church, endowed it withinfallibility and - in the person of the New Testament writers - verbalinspiration, hence I know the eternal truths. In this sense the truths testifiedby God are of course more certain than those testified by mere men and deservethe epithet of knowledge more, not less.Knowing for certain by authority of someone else is also called ego credo - Ibelieve (in the old English sense of the word). This is especially used in thereligious sense, where I am not equal but infinitely inferior to the One whoknows by his own eternal wisdom and omniscience and on whose authority I believeit.

3 This must NOT be confused with ego opinor - I think, methinks. Unlike own knowing and belief giving access to God's, opining has no certainty.

Hans Georg Lundahl

Here are some battles between me and Voice of Principle [on] A and B on basic concept of knowledge by authority.

A I cannot verify it - this or that historical event, Resurrection of Christ or battle of Waterloo - but the original witnesses could.

====> The total body of evidence allows you to verify a great deal of it. The evidence of the witnesses is not a proclamation to be unconditionally accepted (they may be liars), but additional factual data to be integrated with thephysical and consequential evidence. <====

A witness may be a liar or mistaken. But there are certain things that go withbeing either and certain things that are inconsistent with either. A witness who is obviously not to be suspected of lying (no possible motive, even motives forthe opposite lie) or of being mistaken (his story shows he knows unless he islying) should be believed.

======> A person can be completely honest and as accurate in reporting as his world view permits, and still give a completely false account of the actual events. Imagine a nomad wandering in the Sinai 3000 years ago. He sees a bright object fall out of the sky and impact the earth, throwing up a great deal of matter and flame. Curiosity overcoming fear, he advances to investigate. As he approaches, he sees figures in strange garb moving about. Drawing nearer, he is shocked to see that they are wearing flexible metal garments with large glass headcoverings. Through the glass he sees that their skin is greenish in color and they have what look like horns on their heads. One of them turns toward him and he is blinded by an intense light that shines out from the creature's belt. He flees in terror. When he returns to his village he tells his friends and neighbors of the Hand of God casting out demons and banishing them from heaven. He tells of the horror of their visage and the great power of their hideous evil eye, which can rob a man of his sight. His observations are recorded in a holy book. Millenia later, in a more skeptical age, his account is used to describe the dangers of dehydration in desert environments. Had our wanderer given a scientific account, describing exactly what he had seen, without the religious overlay, his story might be interpreted as a possible first contact between human and extraterrestrial intelligence. A fable? Farfetched?

Consider: When Cortez lead a Spanish force in the exploration/conquest of Mexico, he brought about the collapse of the Aztec Empire. How could a few hundred Spaniards accomplish such a feat? The Aztecs psychologically defeated themselves. Terrifying accounts of the power of the newcomers were relayed to the Aztec king Montezuma. He was told that the visitors/invaders could destroy the tops of great mountains; kill thousands of warriors at a distance by means of great sorcery, etc. In the end, these tales unmanned Montezuma and he surrendered without a fight: because his "authorities" reported what they had seen as honestly as they could, but colored by their world view, which unfortunately for them contained no knowledge of explosives or gunpowder. The result: no more Aztec Empire. <======

That amounts in the one case to mistaken witness - not to be believed - on the other hand to lies - not to be believed either. Accepting authority means accepting both knowledge and honesty of the authority. What you are aiming at is called jurare in verba magistri - which is not allowed when the master inquestion is a mere human, whose conclusions I can criticise with my own reason.

Furthermore: are you actually a historian or an archeologist? If you are an historian, you will accept the authority of the archeologist on what he actually found - unless you were present at the excavation. If you are an archeologistyou may have a prejudice against the written sources that are authority for the historian, but you will accept his authority for what is in the written sources- unless you can read them yourself.

B So is believing a scientist about an experiment I cannot verify for myself:

like the Rutherford experiment or the experiments of Pasteur. Furthermore I do believe that the Copernican HYPOTHESIS as refined by Brahe and Kepler can make true predictions about planetary movements. I cannot verify it, but the scientists can.

====> The point is that scientific data can be verified and it is accepted on that basis: its verifiability. It is never to be accepted based solely on the position, stature, or reputation of the scientist. <====

Thank you for that point. Have any clear preponderance of evidence in favour of "Copernicanism" taken as a theory, a statement of the facts? Or are you believing heliocentrism on the reputation of its proponents?As to the actual Rutherford experiment, you are accepting it on the evidence ofthose who are in aposition to check it. On authority. Everyone who lacks the apparatus or skill for making the Rutherford experiment, accepts it on his/their authority. If you have never made the Rutherford experiment, you are accepting it on authority. Authority of one who made it once or fourscore who checked and double-checked by repeating the experiment: as long as YOU are not one of those who made the experiment, YOU are accepting it on the authority of those who did.Also it should not be accepted because it is verifiable, but only if it is in fact verifed: by yourself - or by someone whose AUTHORITY you believe. Either you admit to believing this on the authority of Rutherford et al. or you claim to have made the experiment yourself or you are admitting you know nothing about it or you are talking bosh. Quintum non datur.

======> To repeat, the evidence is accepted:

A) because it is subject to verification,

and B) because it has been verified so many, many times by a veritable army of researchers, scholars, and scientists (experiments are conducted repeatedly precisely to build this level of confidence, eliminating any reasonable probability of misinterpretation, error, or deliberate deceit).

For it to be in error given this degree of confirmation would imply a conspiracy so gigantic as to strain human imagination. It is emphatically not accepted because Professor Exalted proclaimed it to be true. To summarize, a factual claim is accepted to be true if it is either self-evidently true, or the preponderance of the evidence suggests (to a very high probability) that it is true. In the latter case, it is not accepted on anyone's authority, but on many sources of evidence, including repeated experiments performed by many different individuals and groups. It is the variety of data, the repetition of the experiments, and the independence (even rivalry) of the experimenters, and not an assertion based on authority, that create the foundation for believing the truth of a particular hypothesis has been confirmed. <======

But these things: "many sources of evidence, including repeated experimentsperformed by many different individuals and groups" YOU know only by AUTHORITYof these many men (the authority of one being insufficient for you) who have said they made the experiment. You very well put the case WHY their authority is to be believed, but that does not alter the fact that anyone who has NOT made it himself, is accepting it ON AUTHORITY of those who have. Are you a scientist? If you are a scientist, you must accept the authority ofother scientists for any experiment result, any measure taken, that you do notintend to check yourself. Life is to short for any man making all theexperiments of modern science himself. He must rely on authority of others forsome of them. If you made the Rutherford experiment, you haven't made a thoroughcheck on astronomics. If you made either, chances are your biochemistry is all on authority and so on. And if you are a natural scientist, you are NOT the person checking the evidenceabout King Arthur or Battle of Waterloo (except perhaps some parts of the archeological evidence). Or if you are an historian, the scientific evidence is accessible to you only on authority of those who have checked it. I have actually caught you believing authority (alas, bad authority, which you should have checked!) on the relation between modern maths and logic. It is authoritywhich tells you modern maths have a valid concept that could not be reached by logic. Check it: if it cannot be reached by logic, how do you know it is valid?

Hans Georg Lundahl

C And in precisely this category I place ALSO (D, E, F, et c):

======> Something is either true or it is not. Truth must be demonstrated, not defined. The fact that you might want something to be true does not make it so.<======

That is insolent! I was asked to DEFINE knowledge on this thread, and definitions are further clarified by giving EXAMPLES. I am willing to demonstrate this as true authority granted that second hand knowledge or knowledge by authority is accepted. But that was not what I was doing. I was giving an example of my definition of knowledge on someone else's authority, not proving it to be a good example. That belongs really to another thread, if youwill go on about it. Here I am discussing whether you can have knowledge without authority.

D the human evidence of the Apostles in seeing the Resurrected Christ including the circumstances proving* it not a sham

====> You have just switched from scientific evidence which is subject to complete and repeated verification to religious dogma for which no verification is possible. You are not so much comparing apples and oranges as you are apples and orangutans. Moreover...In our time, whenever a particularly sensationly murder or series of murders occur, the police brace themselves for a deluge of pseudo confessors: people who had nothing whatsoever to do with the crime, but who nonetheless proclaim their own guilt. Such testimony, without further tangible proof linking these selfadmitted culprits to the crime is considered worthless, as it should be here. A group of individuals declaring that they all saw a certain man in a certain town on a certain day provides a tentative degree of evidence to establish that such and such a person was there. It in no sense provides any degree of evidence for supernatural events operating in violation of the known physical laws of nature.<====

I was not referring to the dogma confirmed by the Apostles' witness, though that dogma and that witness are preserved together, in the Catholic Church, I am referring to the witness: what they saw with their eyes, heard with their ears,felt with their fingertips (when S:t Thomas touched the Wounds) tasted (when they fried and ate the fish Christ gave them to catch) et c. It was certainly verifiable to them.

======> Such testimony is credible only with additional objective evidence confirming that the events described actually occurred. All of these claims are presented to us by a small number of individuals who (assuming they did in fact exist and are not merely characters in a fable) were hardly disinterested observers given their claim to have been participants in a series of extraordinary, indeed, supernatural events. <======

Small number of individuals? No. 500 men seeing Christ risen on one occasion is probably more than the men who made the Rutherford experiment - unless laboratories are wasting a lot of tax money!

Not disinterested observers is not an absolute requirement for thetrustworthiness of a witness. They were given a great interest in retracting the evidence, because they were tortured (St. John the Apostle) or actually killed (all other holy Apostles) for not retracting it. Furthermore lots of people who converted were in fact disinterested witnesses to the miracles they converted for: like physician St. Luke diagnosing death by broken neck and watching St.Paul resurrect him.* A parallell to your: "In addition to written accounts, there is abundantphysical evidence in the form of graves, expended munitions, discarded weapons,etc. By my standard, the combination of physical evidence, the changes in thepolitical/military/cultural balances in Europe (Napoleon was comprehensivelydefeated, France ceased to be the preeminent military power, hence subsequentevents unfolded under new constraints), and the primary accounts from manydifferent sources all produce an unavoidable conclusion that the aforementionedbattle occurred. I accept this body of information as evidence because it islogically coherent and mutually consistent."

E the human evidence of other authentic miracles (I do not generally reject human evidence on non-genuine, rather I accept it as evidence of diabolical pseudo-miracle)

====> There is to my knowledge no evidence of miracles, divine or diabolical, which would pass even a minimal test of plausibility, much less the far more rigorous proof any reasonable human being would insist on to validate such truly extraordinary claims. <====

Your minimal tests of plausibility work both ways, unless they are faulty. Even if it were implausible that Christ rose or that a sudden healing of an organic disease involving destroyed tissues occurred in Lourdes - and what do you, anagnostic, know about plausibility - it is still less plausible to deny it. Considering the facts, it is impossible, except by denying the facts, i e by lying.

======> You ask rhetorically: "what do you, an agnostic, know about plausibility", by which I asssume you mean that as an agnostic I am less gullible than others. Your assertion that although something is implausible, it is more implausible to deny it is bizarre. One denies the implausible precisely because it is implausible: it is folly to assert that something is highly unlikely to have occurred and then conclude it must have occurred. <======

Aha! Misrepresenting my argument!

I wrote: "Even if it were implausible that Christ rose or that a sudden healing of an organic disease involving destroyedtissues occurred in Lourdes - and what do you, an agnostic, know about plausibility - it is still less plausible to deny it."

"Even if implausible to accept, still less implausible to deny" does not mean the same thing as"Implausible to accept and therefore still less implausible to deny" which you are putting in "my mouth!" You are referring to Credo quia absurdum, which I was not paraphrasing, and does not mean quite what you say either.

F the evidence of Christ that he is God once the Resurrection proves he is neither a madman nor a scoundrel - since God would not resurrect either.

====> No independent evidence of any supernatural event, just an interesting story, not unlike The Lord of Rings, in which all of the central "witnesses" are in fact characters in the story. <====

Tolkien has not become a martyr to deny he made LOTR up. The Apostles were rather martyrs than admitting to have made it up - which would be involved in denying their tenets.

======> If the men and supernatural beings you describe are nothing more than characters in a fable, what then? <======

They aren't characters in fables. See new point on H.

G the evidence of this God and man about Church, about God and our eternal destiny

====> These are assumptions, not evidence. <====

Assumptions no. Evidence yes, considering the above evidence, which in vain you have slurred on.

======> You have offered many assumptions, but no evidence (and hence I have not slurred on it). If I missed the evidence do itemize it here. <======

Itemised: D, E, and F. As above. You have attacked each point in vain, I have defended them.

H the evidence of this Church on what he said - it includes already the human evidence of the Apostles, but through the authority of God transcends this to be the Voice of God. (I separate attacks i and ii)

i ====> Assumptions built on assumptions, but no actual evidence. <====

The evidence of this Church on what he said is historical authority as well as divine. If you belive George Allen and Unwin when reproducing what JRRT wrote -as fiction - how come you do not accept the evidence of the Church as to what Christ actually said - as doctrine? The authority questions involved in the human evidence are not all that different.

======> Tolkien wrote fiction based on Christian religious concepts (you consider them to be true, I consider them to be a mix of non-supernatural fact and fiction). Other authors have written fiction based on Tolkien's mythology. Should I therefore now consider Tolkien's work to be a true account of actual events? <======

He wrote fiction based on historical events. To accept the Restoration of the Imperial dignity in the West by Pope crowning Charlemagne has nothing to do with accepting the coronation of Aragorn, which is based on it. To accept the swamping of rural culture by officials as a modern and deplorable fact has nothing to do with accepting The Scouring of the Shire (with a happy end we haven't seen yet) as historical fact. You are comparing apples and oranges.

NEW: I believe George Allen and Unwin as to what Tolkien actually wrote. Did Tolkien write the chapter The Tower of Cirith Ungol? George Allen and Unwin are my authority he did so. Did Tolkien write fiction or literally true stories? George Allen and Unwin tell me at least implicitly he wrote fiction. In the same manner I believe the Church as to what Christ actually said and did. Both Bible and oral tradition. And that the narrative is of literally true events rather than fiction. Not JUST because the Church is divine, but even on its human authority it would need some motivation to doubt its testimony on its own beginning. The mere possibility is not motive enough. Moreover, it claims so much on human nature, it would not have been humanly possible to convert men of virtually all nations without proving its divine authority by further miracles.

ii ======> Actually, not so much assumptions as free roaming mysticism: the sort that proclaims a mystical truth: that is, an imaginary "truth" that is defined to be true by virtue of its initial assertion ("I declare this to be true,therefore it is true, therefore I can declare it to be true"). <======

You have obviously NOT read the evidence as itemised above. Your discourteouss tatements are not even pure guesses, they are guesses in the teeth of evidence.

J In all these matters, I personally cannot verify, but God can verify and the witnesses to his revelation, including the obviously genuine miracles proving it to be divine, can verify that he has verified.

====> The existence of God is an assumption. Offering it as proof of other assumptions is like building a skyscraper on a foundation of sand. <====

I am not offering God's existence as proof. I am claiming God's testimony is proof. This is only possible if he exists, and yet i have NOT to assume his existence to PROVE his testimony, ONLY to EXPLAIN it. See further Logics thread.

Original message.

======> Very cute, but you do have to assume His existence in order to assume His testimony is in fact His. You cannot offer testimony from someone whose very existence is problematical: if your conjectural being does not in fact exist, then what is the source of His purported testimony? <======

I have to assume it as the causal explanation of the testimony that is well established and proven without first assuming this cause. See above. If you think proving and causally explaining are the same operation and would make a circle, you need to refresh your logics - see thread. I refer to the admission by Voice Of Principle on knowledge thread, that I put to my new logics thread as well. Point 5, on manifesting one's existence. For the benefit of zoombwaz I repeated it there.
*St Luke obviously watched St Paul resuscitate the boy who had fallen from the window.

1 comment:

Hans Lundahl said...

retrieved from:

Hans G Lundahl. Knowledge. . 2008-11-29. URL: Accessed: 2008-11-29. (Archived by WebCite® at