Monday, June 22, 2015

How do you know what you know?

When there is a disagreement over one thing or another, one could always ask your opponent:  How do you know?  Please explain how you know what you are talking about.

For this, there is a term in philosophy, which I became more familiar with when I read Ayn Rand.  It is a branch of philosophy called Epistemology.  That's what it is, it is how you know what you know.  More formally, it is a Theory of Knowledge.

The great masses of people really don't seem to think about these things.  Do you believe that people actually think and talk about philosophy all day long?  They watch TV, the great "boob tube".  The "boob tube" is called that for a reason.  It doesn't promote knowledge, but may well hinder it.

In a democracy, the vast mass of people are called upon to make important decisions, but only a small minority are really trained to think properly. Consequently, we get flawed decisions that seem to get worse over time.  It is like a cancer.  One bad decision leads to another and to another and to another.  It breeds over time, and it grows like a cancer grows.  The cancer is driven, therefore, by ignorance.

Fortunately, ignorance can be cured by education.  But education requires effort at the same.  Ignorance feeds upon neglect.  It doesn't correct itself, it must be corrected, so don't feed the cancer.  So, if your knowledge depends upon ignorance, then you have no knowledge.  If your method of discovering knowledge is flawed, then you have no knowledge.  So, how do you get knowledge so that you may be educated?

Supposedly, this is still an advanced, well-educated country of informed people.  However, if our knowledge is dependent completely upon what other people say, then we have a hole in our Theory of Knowledge.  If the only way we can answer the question of "How do you know?" is what the experts say, then we are guilty of neglect.  There is the greater risk of being wrong because our knowledge cannot be tested, or won't be tested because of said neglect.  We cannot depend solely upon what the experts say, or we risk feeding the cancer of ignorance.

Those who advocate a position are duty bound to tell us how they know what they know, and besides that, how an individual can test that and confirm or deny it for themselves.  It should be an easy test that most people can conduct for themselves.  If it cannot, it fails Einstein's statement that if you cannot explain a thing to a six year old, then you really don't understand it yourself.  And when that happens, you are only feeding the cancer of ignorance.

If Western Civilization fails, could it fail at a moment when knowledge appears to be at its greatest, but is only present in small pockets of people?  If our civilization is to survive, the knowledge must be spread out, or ignorance will be the cause of the failure.  Like a cancer killing off the body, the body politic must ward it off with a commitment to educating the public.  For this, it must be kept simple so that everyone can judge correctly for themselves.

No comments: