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There was something that I wanted so badly for so long. Now, I got it but I am

There was something that I wanted so badly for so long. Now, I got it but I am not as excited as I thought. How can we know what we want (our goal) in life?

Some recent papers by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman suggest that we are not very good at predicting what will make us happy. It is a good idea to read these to get a feel for human fallibility.

Philosophers often argue that reflecting rationally on our values and goals can lead us to pursue what we "really" want, and thereby lead to greater satisfaction. You might try this and see whether it helps.

Some Buddhists, and some psychologists, argue that pursuit of a goal is more exciting than achieving it. They suggest focussing on the activity rather than the desired result.

Is knowledge produced just to be sold? If not, then why are there ubiquitous

Is knowledge produced just to be sold? If not, then why are there ubiquitous tuition centres that are situated even within the tutors' houses, assessment books that encompass the many subjects students study for and take up the most space in most book stores (a generalisation),and sky-rocketing tuition and scholastic fees? Why do people perceive that the more knowledge you have, the higher the chances of you being successful and happy? And why do schools give difficult examinations? Is knowledge produced just to be sold, to be keep in secret, and will be only disclosed to the people who could afford to pay?

There's a lot of interest here, and a lot that's problematic in your questions! ... There are empirical studies in the U.S. at least that show things such as that college degrees increase average earning power over the course of your life -- now whether that means 'the more knowledge you have' leads to 'more success and happiness' I don't know, but it's the kind of statistic that might be relevant to your concerns .... I am not inclined to think that (all) knowledge is 'produced just to be sold' -- it's produced for many reasons, including the inrinsic interest of producing it -- but if it turns out that (much) knowledge is in fact useful, and valuable, then why would it be surprising that it would also be sold, even if it isn't produced for that purpose? Now if you're concerned about more political/sociological issues -- like what sorts of societies choose to have their education be so expensive, etc., that I can't say -- I too would prefer that education be far less expensive, be seen as a public right and not a privilege etc., but then that becomes an issue for politicians and not for philosophers ...

hope that's useful --

best, ap

p.s. the philosophers on this site don't get paid anythign for participating -- so not ALL knowledge is sold! :-)

"Scepticism arises because 'for so long as men thought that real things

"Scepticism arises because 'for so long as men thought that real things subsisted without the mind, and that their knowledge was only so far forth real as it was conformable to real things, it follows, they could not be certain they had any real knowledge at all. For how can it be known, that the things which are perceived, are conformable to those which are not perceived, or exist without the mind?' The nub of the problem is that if we are acquainted only with our own perceptions, and never with the things which are supposed to lie beyond them, how can we hope for knowledge of those things, or even be justified in asserting their existence?"--A.C. Grayling quoting Berkeley My question is: Isn't one answer to this problem re representationalism that concerns Berkeley that if we were seriously out of sync with the real (mind-independent) world, then how could we have survived as well as we have? If I reach for an object,it's always there (unless I hallucinate).---If it's ALL a "Matrix" world then I can...

According to the view that Berkeley is here criticising, there are, in effect, two worlds. Indeed, there are two corporeal worlds. There is an ideal world, constituted by perceptions that have been placed directly into our minds by God, and including perceivable tables, chairs, and even human bodies (including our own), complete with all of their familiar colours, textures, shapes, sizes and other sensible qualities. Then, distinct from and causally unrelated to this, and yet in some mysterious way corresponding to it, there is a world of material substances, including one that corresponds to our sensible body, but which cannot themselves be perceived, and which have no colours, no shapes, etc. Now, on this two-worlds view, how can we be so sure that our material bodies do survive? We can't perceive them, after all: how would we ever know? Maybe our material bodies got destroyed long ago: we'd be none the wiser, and it's not clear why we should even care, because God could perfectly well carry on giving our minds all of the same ideas, including those ideas that constitute our perceivable bodies.

Let's be clear: Berkeley is here criticising a particular form of realism, not simply criticising realism as such. Perhaps a realist might be on safer ground by maintaining that there really is just one corporeal world, but it's not the world of ideas (as Berkeley thinks), but rather the world of material substances. But then Berkeley reckons that he has plenty of arguments, elsewhere in his work, against that view: I have in mind all that stuff about primary and secondary qualities, coupled with the arguments concerning the abstractness -- and hence unintelligibility -- of the notion of some bare substratum behind all of these.

But Berkeley's system can indeed be regarded as a form of realism, to the extent that he does recognise a distinction between 'real things' and 'illusions' (and believes that the former really do exist). But real things and illusions, in his sense, are all still just ideas in my mind. Intrinsically, they are all on a par: the difference lies in their relations to one another. And his distinction is much as you have suggested: if I reach for an object, it's always there, unless I hallucinate. That is to say, when one idea coheres with other ideas in consistent ways that can be subsumed under universal laws of nature, then it constitutes a real body. If it fails so to cohere, then it's just an illusion, or an hallucination, or a figment of the imagination. See especially the Principles of Human Knowledge, sects. 30 and 33. As we come, through experience, to learn these laws of nature (laws that really just boil down to regularities in God's volitions), we can learn how to regulate our own behaviour for the sake of the preservation of our own bodies. But still, the bodies that we are seeking to preserve are the familiar ones that we know and love through our sensual experience of them, not any alleged colourless, shapeless, unperceivable and inefficacious material substances beyond these. Or, if you prefer, there is another way of preserving a notion of realism, one which does make it independent of my mind: we can say that the real world is the one that God himself perceives. But, even if that world is independent of my mind or yours, it will still not be independent of all minds; because, of course, Berkeley believes that God is a mind.

But I'm afraid I can't help you with Schopenhauer: I've never read him.

Knowledge is usually said to be justified true belief (with some caveats).

Knowledge is usually said to be justified true belief (with some caveats). However, it seems that a great deal of what we "know" is actually knowledge we have received from third parties - our parents, our teachers, authors of books and websites, friends, and so on. If we define justification so broadly that it encompasses things we learn from third parties, what is to stop us from assuming that anything we learn from anyone else (or any specially qualified individual) is knowledge? Does this mean, according to the justified true belief understanding of knowledge, that most of what we think we know is not actually knowledge?

Your question engages the epistemology of testimony, which has recently gotten lots of attention among epistemologists.

But let's try to get a bit clearer on what the issue is. First, please understand that justification comes in degrees. If someone I don't know runs up to me and tells me that the president has been assassinated, I have some justification for believing it. But I certainly can't be said to know it, because that kind of testimony is not enough justification to "clear the bar." So epistemologists don't ever really accept that knowledge is justified true belief, where by "justified" they mean to count any level of justification as sufficient.

Secondly, one way to think about justification through testimony is to ask whether there is other evidence available. Back to my stranger telling me about the assassination. I notice that there is a TV store nearby and can see what is playing on the screens. I see no evidence of an assassination. Now how good is the justification the stranger provided? But if I see breaking news of an assassination, well...that is more (and more reliable) testimony (in most cases--not counting the "news" channels that really aren't!).

Finally, we might consider what we know about the source of the testimony. Do wwe have reason to believe that the person providing it has relevant expertise (such as a teacher)--or is it just heresay? So we need to judge the quality of the testimony and the qualifications of the one giving it. These are relevant to the question of how much justification the testimony confers.

Can facts tell us everything we need to know about the world? What else is there

Can facts tell us everything we need to know about the world? What else is there to know besides facts?

Epistemologists sometimes distinguish between different kinds of knowledge, and then they debate whether all of these kinds really are different, or whether they can (some or all) be reduced to a single kind. The kind of knowledge you seem to have in mind is generally called "propositional" knowledge (where what is known is a proposition, such as 'the cat is on the mat' which you would probably count as a fact). Our cognitions of facts may have propositional content (this is sometimes also debated), or perhaps our cognitions of such things may be encoded in a different way--such as with a visual image, map, or blueprint, etc.) So some epistemologists prefer to talk about "informational" knowledge, rather than propositional knowledge, because perhaps the information that is known is not encoded propositionally. But anyway, I assume it is this sort of knowledge that you have in mind.

But I also think there are other kinds of knowledge that might be distinguished from "factual" knowledge. Here is one that has received lots of attention lately (though mostly from people in the philosophy of mind, rather than epistemology): Think about what it is like to have a headache. You know what that is like--but it what you know a fact? Well, it doesn't seem to be a proposition, or even propositionalizable. ("Having a headache is like ___.") Is it information? Well, perhaps, but the "encoding" involved seems to consist in having had the experience itself. If you have never actually had a headache, you won't know what it is like, and once you have had a headache, you will, and for that very reason. To have a headache is to know what it is like, and to know what it is like is to have had one. This doesn't quite look the same as other kinds of "factual knowledge." (By the way, there is an interesting conundrum that followwss from this sort of thought about God's alleged omniscience--Does God know what it is like to have a sinful desire? Hmmmm....)

Here's another: Do you know how to swim, ride a bike, change a tire? Most adults do. Isn't that a kind of knowledge? Seems so. But is it factual? Doesn't seem so--I could read a complete book listing all the facts about swimming or riding a bike and still not know how to do these things. (Another one here for God: Does God know how to ride a bike? Wouldn't ione need to have a body that is--at at least was at some time-- appropriately configured for a bike, and also have the actual experience/skill in order to know how? Not sure what to say about this one, either...)

One more kind of knowledge that is sometimees also considered is called "knowledge by acquaintance." Do you know Kim Yu-Na, the figure skater?" (I wish I did!) Not sure this really is knowledge, but we do talk about it as if it is.

Anyway, this may be a few examples to consider.

Do we have a right to try to convince people to abandon demonstrably false, or

Do we have a right to try to convince people to abandon demonstrably false, or socially harmful, opinions? Clearly we have no right to force them, but do we have the right to criticize their opinions and try and get them to engage with reality or with other human beings? Conversely, do people have a duty to adopt true beliefs whenever they have the opportunity to do so knowingly?

I'm not sure about the rights language here but I can't imagine that there would be anything amiss with trying to dissuade someone of the notion that the earth is flat or that 2+2=5. As for adopting true beliefs, I'm not sure that we are put together so that we can choose my beliefs. If I know something to be true it would seem to imply that I believe it. But to be sure, there are a wide range of issues and some of the most important in life, in which what is true and false are beyond definitive proof.

Can we ever truly understand another's point of view? When each one of us is

Can we ever truly understand another's point of view? When each one of us is made up of a different set of experiences and conditioning, and using the "trainings" of life we plug in answers to the perceived questions that surround us, can one really state without a doubt to understand another's mind? The answers might be the same but how we get to them is different, so is it in fact a different answer according to the individual? Sorry i know its a few different questions, but i feel the theme is there.

Let me add a few remarks, not to disagree with Charles Taliaferro, but to help bring the discussion back to earth after wondering about zombies, etc!

I understand quite a bit about my friend Jack's political point of view (we argue often enough in the pub); but I've little idea where he is coming from sexually (what clues I have seem to have no pattern, and a few drunken chats have left me even more mystified). My colleague Jill shares my tastes in music, and we seem to enjoy much the the same concerts and CDs for the same reasons -- when we talk about them, sometimes at length, we seem to be very much on the same wavelength; but in some other respects she's a closed book to me, and the more we discuss, the less I feel that I am "getting" her.

And isn't that how it ordinarily is (when we use "understand" in the ordinary way, not in some fanciful philosopher's sense)? We might understand someone's take on X very well, find it difficult to get on their wavelength on Y but sort-of understand, and are at a loss to grasp where they are coming from on Z. But note the fact that we just can't, perhaps, get a real feel for their point of view on Z -- our experiences, history, tastes, cultural background, sexuality are too different -- doesn't mean that we can't truly understand their take on X. It isn't an all-or-nothing business, "understanding another's point of view".

Even our nearest and dearest have hidden corners that remain puzzling; but that doesn't stop us understanding a lot about them. Does that mean we should agree, "I don't truly understand her mind"? Say that if you will; but it can be equally true to say "having lived with her for twenty years, I understand her inside out". Both are exaggerations, that can usefully be used on different occasions to help point up different facets of the no doubt messy and complicated situation.

Sometimes, when person A claims to love person B, some might say "No, person A,

Sometimes, when person A claims to love person B, some might say "No, person A, you don't really love person B." Often, they will back up this claim by pointing to aspects of person A's behavior as "proof" - i.e. person A is not jealous when person B speaks with members of person A's sex; or person A does not sacrifice a job opportunity because person B is opposed to the employer's ethical practices; or so on. Does it make sense to tell someone that they do not really love someone they believe they love? After all, love is an emotion, and people external to person A's mind cannot properly judge the emotions person A actually feels. So what justification is there for judging a person's love on the basis of their behavior (setting aside cases where a person regularly beats or abuses someone they claim to love)?

You say that love is an emotion, and in some sense we can grant that. But saying it suggests that love is a feeling, and that, in turn, suggests that it's like a warm sensation in one's tummy -- something that we can simply detect by introspection and that we can't (or can't easily) be wrong about. But it's more complicated than that. If I love someone, I can still have moments when I feel angry at them, for example. But my momentary anger -- a non-loving feeling -- isn't the same as not loving them. Love is, among other things, a complicated set of dispositions. Some of them are dispositions to feel a certain way in certain situations, and others are dispositions to behave in certain ways. I might be momentarily angry with my daughter, for example, but it might be true that if anything were to happen to her, I would be beside myself with grief. I might also be willing to make considerable sacrifices for her well-being. I might worry about her, take time to check up on her, and do all of this not just out of some sense of duty. Those dispositions are much better indicators of my love for her than my momentary feeling of anger.

On the other hand, if I wouldn't grieve the loss of my daughter, wouldn't go out of my way to help her, didn't care whether I spent time with her and so on, the fact that I would say I love her wouldn't count for much. Indeed, the fact that I believed I loved her might best be seen as a kind of self-deception due, perhaps, to my wanting to think well of myself. Similar comments apply to romantic love, of course.

Because love is a lot more than a feeling, people are quite capable of being wrong about whether they love someone. They can tell themselves that they don't love someone when they really do (think of someone who swears they no longer love their ex-lover when it's obvious to everyone else that they do), and they can tell themselves that they do love someone when they really don't. The connection with behavior is clear. If love involves dispositions to feel and to act, then the actions someone actually performs can be signs of their real dispositions.

Of course, this is only a small part of the story. The notion of love is both complicated and not entirely precise. It's certainly possible to love someone and yet not to be the jealous type. It's certainly possible to love someone and not be willing to go along with all of their wishes or principles; the examples you cite seem pretty clearly to be compatible with really loving someone. But if A treats B with reliable cruelty, for example, it would take a very complicated story to make sense of A's claim to really love B. This is so even if A really believes that s/he loves B.

The more general point is this: there are some things about our minds that we know better than others do. But there's a good deal about our minds that we can't discover just by introspection. We can be quite wrong about our selves in various ways. Add to that the fact that our psychologies have such an important role in producing our behavior, and it's not hard to see why sometimes others are in a better position than we are to make judgements about our own psychologies. The case of love is just one among many.

What does it mean to say that it is impossible for there to be such a thing as a

What does it mean to say that it is impossible for there to be such a thing as a neutral, or objective, observer? When a person walks into a white room that it empty except for themselves and a chair, is asked to describe the room and says "It's a white room with a chair in it", it would seem that the situation they are in meets all the usual criteria for objectivity and neutrality. Certainly, it might be debatable whether the chair is a chair or a stool or a bench, and whether the white is really white or has been marred beige-grey by time, but either way, operating with a definition of chair and a definition of white, the conclusion is inevitable. So when philosophers say objective judgements are impossible, where do such banal statements about the physical world fall in?

There are some philosophers who think that human observations will always be from some subjective point of view. Indeed, modern philosophers have often thought that the secondary properties of objects (how an object looks, what it smells like, for example) will reflect the cognitive powers of observers. And some philosophers known as nonrealists will claim that there is no unique, "objective" description of the world. The white room with the chair might be described in terms of room or chair parts or as filled with only a slice of the spatio-temporal object of the room. But many philosophers in the past and today think that observations can be fair, free of bias and what one might call objective. I am pretty much in the realist camp and believe that "banal statements" can be assessed in terms of truth or falsehood in a pretty problem-free fashion. The state of affairs of 'There being a white room with a chair in it' is something that one can see and confirm. The fact that the very notion of a chair is a human artifact and the concepts of a room and its whiteness are a reflection of human use and vision does not mean that that the state of affairs obtains is somehow tainted by subjectivity and not "neutral" or objective.

For a defense of objective observations in both ethics and in non-ethical (banal) matters, you might check out what is known as the ideal observer theory.

When we learn something, generally speaking, we have acquired some kind of

When we learn something, generally speaking, we have acquired some kind of knowledge. But what about when we forget things? It seems intuitive to say that we don't know the thing in question anymore. Yet often, we will suddenly remember things we forgot without learning them again - spontaneously, so to speak. So during the period between the forgetting and the remembering, do we know the information and not have access to it, or do we not know it? How should we conceptualize spontaneous remembering in such cases?

great question. one small part of the answer would rely on how we conceptualize the non-forgotten, stored knowledge itself -- does it exist as propositions or discrete entities somehow tucked away somewhere in the mind (or brain)? if so, then if forgetting means deleting, then such things shouldn't count as known. But more plausibly stored knowledge would be conceived dispositionally -- as a disposition to re-create a given thought (and more generally beliefs shouldn't be conceived as individual units either ...) -- and once beliefs are conceievd that way then it's much easier to think of forgetting as just some (temporary) flaw in the mechanism that triggers the disposition -- in which case the way is more open to treating the 'forgotten' bit as 'really there, if temporarily inaccessible' ....

hope that helps --

ap

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