Archives for posts with tag: knowledge

We know that smoking is bad for us yet we continue to smoke.

Because too many of us are convinced that each of us, in particular, will be fine.
That things are not that bad. Well, maybe for those who had bad luck. Or something…

You see, I’ve reached the conclusion that individual conscience is more preoccupied with it’s own survival than with the ‘well being’ of it’s “host”.

“What?!?”

Do you have a better explanation for why so many of us continue to smoke? To do drugs? To drink/eat too much? To… – feel free to fill in your favorite aberration!

Please don’t quote any study about how powerful addictions are. For each of those there are many studies proving how powerful our minds are when they become determined enough.

How fast things happen after our knowledge about something becomes a belief. A belief in something…

Let me put it the other way around.

Did you get the anti-Covid jab? Why?
You haven’t made up your mind yet? Because you are not yet convinced?
You’re not going to? No matter what? Because you don’t believe in vaccines?

See what I mean?

The world is awash in information. All of us are exposed to more or less the same knowledge.
All of us know that a considerable number of people – the vast majority, actually, are convinced about the roundness of the Earth. Yet there still is a very vocal group of Flat-Earthers. Of people acting as if they actually believe that the Earth is Flat.
All of us have been told that smoking can cause cancer. And other diseases. Yet some of us continue to act as if they actually believe that nothing of that sort might happen to them.

Mind you, there is nothing inherently bad in this! On the contrary.
If people would have believed everything they had ever been told… at one time… the Earth would have remained flat, all witches would have been burned – or drowned, all ‘Jews’ would have been killed – many centuries ago…

The point of this post is to underscore the importance of self.
The huge responsibility placed upon our individual shoulders by the fact that we are the ones called to choose what to believe.

Yes, we are indeed inundated with ‘data’. From the day we are born to the day when our conscience goes dark.
Yes, some minds are sharper than others. Some of us are better at spinning thoughts than the rest of us. Some of us at indeed better at making sense of the information which happens to cross their paths.
And some of us are better at influencing others. At shining ‘light’ on ‘things’ in a manner which makes the message they want to convey more palatable for their intended targets.

Yet all this ‘trivia’ doesn’t change the reality.
We are the ones who make decisions. We are the ones who choose what to believe. We are the ones who shape our fate.

By choosing our faith!
By convincing ourselves that some things are worth doing and that some should be left undone.

https://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/pub/hvf/papers/maturana05selfconsciousness.html

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Well, all knowledge is, ultimately, false. Or, at least, incomplete.

Bearing this in mind, we understand there is no such thing as false knowledge.
Only people unwilling to adapt their understanding of things to the newly discovered facts…
In this sense, it’s not the false knowledge which is dangerous, it’s those who worship ‘self made idols’!
Those who are so convinced that what they know is enough.
That their understanding of the world is so right and so complete that it has reached ‘perfection’.
That their Weltanschauung is, hence, ‘sacred’. ‘Worship-able’, if you’ll allow this word.

“Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.”

How about this ‘interpretation’ of Shaw’s words?

Further reading:
Do not love your neighbor as yourself. If you are on good terms with yourself it is an impertinence: if on bad, an injury.

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Reality is tricky.

It includes us. Each of us!

Yet we perceive it as being ‘exterior’. As including the others but not ‘me’. ‘I’ determine what’s real and what not, hence I’m above ‘mere’ reality.

We perceive ourselves as being distinct from the (rest of the) reality yet each of us continuously shares substance and energy with it. We breathe, eat, drink, excrete. We bask in the sun whenever we can during winter and use wind and water to cool ourselves down during hot summer days.

We feel overwhelmed whenever we think about it yet we constantly chip away at it. We build shelters and roads, we grow crops and raise animals, we dig up minerals and transform them into consumer goods. In time, we had displaced most of the ‘Nature’ we have evolved in and replaced it with ‘Man Made’.

Berger and Luckmann had famously – yet somewhat convolutedly, demonstrated that ‘reality’ was a (social) construct.
That what we know about the reality and what we have built based on that knowledge are the consequences of our common effort.

What I’m interested in is the ‘complicated’ manner in which we, each of us, interact with ‘reality’.

We grow up learning about reality. From those around us.
During this process, we simultaneously accumulate knowledge and develop the instrument with which we gauge reality. Our consciences.
Along with this process we also change, together with our teachers and siblings, the very reality we learn about.

Interesting, isn’t it?

We depend, for our dear life, on something we don’t fully understand.
We extract sustenance from it and throw back at it the results of our cravings.
Since our individual knowledge is severely limited, we depend on others – our peers, to complement our understanding of what’s going on around us. Yet in our attempts to fulfill our cravings we mislead some of our siblings.

Reality has been shaped by life from the very first moment. Only in those times, the process was driven exclusively by ‘needs’. The living things of yore did change their reality only they were doing exclusively what they had to in order to survive.
Nowadays, while the rest of the living world continue to follow the ‘time proven traditions’, we – the conscient, and presumably rational, humans, transform the reality according to our wishes.
While we don’t exactly understand what’s going on….

Then how come we’re so snug about the whole thing?

And what’s the meaning of the Adenium Obesum I used to illustrate this post?
I live in Romania. The Desert Rose is a native of the Arabian Desert. Yet one grows, and flowers, in my home.
Only because I afford to heat my ‘shelter’ during winter. And to spend some of my time caring for it.
I don’t really need that plant in order to survive. Yet I’ve changed the reality around me to such an extent that that plant is able to thrive. Almost 4000 km straight North from its native desert….
I’ve been taking care of it for some 4 years now. And I’ve learned only 5 minutes ago that its sap is toxic… What was I telling you about us not being fully aware of our actions?

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I don’t know anything.
I don’t know everything hence, logically, I cannot pretend to know anything.

Seems odd, since I obviously know something… to type, for instance!

Indeed, only the key word here is ‘logically’.
From a logical point of view, you either know something or you just don’t.

Not very reasonable… This line of thinking leads up, fast, into a dead end!

As soon as I realize I know ‘nothing’, I must stop!
I can no longer ‘do’ anything.
Because I cannot control – in an absolute manner, each and every consequence of any of my actions.
Further more, there is no justification for me to continue thinking.
Again, because I will never be able to achieve ‘knowledge’.

Yet so many things are being done around me…
From the sun rising in the morning to the ant helping its mates to dig a nest.
From the electron ‘flying’ around the nucleus of a Hydrogen atom to a man developing a computer application.
How can all these actions be performed when nobody, not even the ‘performers’ themselves, is able to determine the ultimate consequence of what’s going on?
How can so many thoughts be ‘spun’, and books published, when the ‘thinkers’ themselves – well… some of them, actually, are fully aware of their intellectual limits?

What drives this frenzy?

And, if I may allow myself a thought, why ‘logic’?
How can such a ‘paralyzing habit’ survive?

Knowledge is being constantly (re)generated by us.

Everything we know, individually and collectively, has been first felt, then interpreted and finally communicated by us.

For something which has happened inside our sensorial sphere to become a piece of information we have to first notice it, then evaluate it and, finally, deem it important enough to remember. To codify it as information.

For something to make sense – whatever that means, the information we have about that something has to fit in to the rest of information we already have.

These three premises, which I hold to be self evident, lead me to the conclusion that:

Individual human beings will always have but a limited knowledge/understanding about/of the world.
A group of people are able to develop an aggregate understanding of the world which might be wider than those belonging to the individual members.
In time, a community of people will cobble together an even more complex weltanschauung. But still an incomplete one. For no other reason than the fact that the sum of a finite number of finite quantities will always be finite.

Consequences.

Since our understanding of the world is finite, determinism doesn’t make sense.
This being the reason for all authoritarian regimes/monopolistic arrangements caving in sooner rather than later. For the simple reason that those regimes/monopolies use but the brain power of those in power and waste the rest.
Our understanding of the world being finite, there is no way to demonstrate or refute God.

Which God is, anyway, nothing but a figment of our imagination.
Because of the very reasons I mentioned above.
Even if God itself would appear right now in a public square and on all the TV monitors in the world, the impression/understanding of him we would be left with after the experience would be of our own making.

Incomplete and inexact. Heavily dependent on everything else we already know.

Nothing will ever happen unless:

– There’s enough, and suitable, space.
– There are enough, and suitable resources. In that place, of course.
– Something starts it.

Trivial?

Good!
What you’ve just read being trivial for you only means you’ve already figured this out.
That you cannot master anything
– which happens outside your consciousness,
– you don’t really understand,
– you haven’t set your mind on.

Information is like bricks while knowledge is like buildings.
One can make his own bricks from the available mud and then proceed to build his own hut.
Inevitable all bricks made by man will have something in common – after all they are made from the same material, for the same purpose, by individuals belonging to the same species, but will also vary considerably – depending, among others, on the skills of the makers and on the quality of the available mud.
Inevitably the houses will also have something in common – again, they are made for the same broad purpose by individuals belonging to the same species – but they will vary more widely than the bricks do because they have to fulfill a wider selection of purposes in a variety of climates. (All bricks are made to be used as building blocks but buildings are used for many more purposes than simply sleeping in them.)
In conclusion information is something that was gleaned by an individual from his environment while knowledge is a patchwork put together by the same individual using the pieces of information he has acquired previously.
Also please note that while all information is gleaned using one’s senses this process can be a direct one – the senses probe the reality in a direct mode, the observer watches birds in his back yard, or it can be mediated by an information source – the passionate reads, using the ‘same’ eyes as the observer, a book about the same birds.
And any consideration about the difference between information and knowledge would be incomplete if we forget to mention ‘sensations’.
Which are nothing but the raw material – the mud, if you like – from where our brain extracts what we call ‘information’ – which, in its turn, will end up being attached, by the same brain, to the patchwork commonly known as knowledge.

Can you imagine something like that?

Let’s consider one thing.
There are an infinite number of numbers up and down from 0, till the infinity.
At the same time there are an infinite number of numbers between, say, 0 and 1.

Now go figure where Knowledge ends…

“Seeing is believing.”

Yeah, right.

So, do we really know anything?

For instance I know that the Earth exists – I am able to walk on it and I eat things that grow out of it.

I also believe – without ever having seen it from far enough – that the Earth is round. Just as my ancestors used to believe that the Earth was flat. Both I and my ancestors were told what to believe and we did that. Because we believed in those who were offering us that particular piece of information and because the issue wasn’t of any real importance for us, personally.

I do trust that Neil Armstrong did land on the Moon. I’m not going to share with you my reasons for that here, this post is about something else. My point is that belief is casual while trust is active. I did research the matter, as I could, and I considered it carefully before reaching the conclusion that ‘Yes, I am convinced that Neil Armstrong did land on the Moon’.

As we all know ‘know’ is a verb. The corresponding noun is ‘knowledge’, information that we are aware of. And so familiar with that we don’t even remember how we have arrived to accept it as true.

Believe is also a verb. It’s corresponding noun is ‘belief’, information we are aware of and believe it to be true just because we were told so by a seemingly credible source.

Trust is both a verb and a noun. And here comes the really interesting part. While trust as a verb means more or less the same thing as believe, trust as a noun has nothing, but absolutely nothing in common with belief. Trust is a state of mind while belief is a piece of information with a ‘value’ attached to it.
In fact ‘trust’ is something you consciously choose to invest while ‘believing’ is something you are led to, sometimes even without you being aware of what is going on, by a person or even by the circumstances you happen to find yourself in.

Now it is time to introduce another notion. Faith. It exists only as a noun and that’s why I didn’t brought it up from the beginning.
It has something in common with both belief and trust. Similar to belief no proof is usually attached to faith and similar to trust faith is something that the individual has to willingly accept/profess/invest.

Coming back to knowledge we discover there are many kinds of it.
We have factual knowledge, the kind we have either witnessed or otherwise seems so evident that we’d never even dreamed of questioning. So evident that if somebody asks us to be specific and put it squarely in one of the ‘belief’, ‘trust’ or ‘faith’ drawers we’d be at a loss and protest vehemently ‘it’s plain knowledge, what’s wrong with you guys?’
Then we have our beliefs. For instance we know that we love our partners and our kids and we believe that they love us back. We also have faith in a lot of things. Some of us have faith in God, some others put their faith in politicians, market analysts or even the weather-man. For a longer or shorter period of time. When gravely ill we put our faith in doctors and in medicines. And so on.
And finally there is the trust problem. For a real trust to develop we need an actual understanding of what is going on. That’s where science and technology comes is. If we’d done something for a long enough period of time we gradually become confident in our ability to do that thing over and over again with consistent results. If the results are reproducible, if other people can obtain results similar to ours by following our methods then our endeavor is deemed scientific and, hence, trustworthy. Same goes for information gathered following scientific methods.

And here lies the pitfall. Science has to be constantly challenged in order to remain valid. If we reach that point where we start to put faith in science and scientists instead of continuously demanding proof and doing our best to understand with our own heads what is going on then we are doomed. Science morphs not in ‘religion’ – that is something else – but in hoax.

The ‘thing’ with science is that the only trustworthy aspect of it is the method, not at all the results. We’ll never be able to find the absolute truth – no result will ever be 100% accurate – but if we keep using the ‘scientific method’ – consistency and unhidden-ness – then we’ll remain on the safe side.