A Conversation for Belief

Belief vs. Knowledge

Post 1


Fine and well, but belief is not a particularly interesting subject. If you claim to believe something, all I can do is disagree with your belief, and the two of us go on our merry way unless we decide that we want our beliefs to coincide. Knowledge is a much more interesting prospect. If someone claims to know something, then we can start discussing what it means to know, whether they can really claim knowledge or if it is, indeed, just a belief. True belief? Justified belief? Justified, true belief? Do any of these qualify as knowledge?

Incidentally, referring to something as "absolutely true", like somebody claiming to be "absolutely certain" is really a pointless distinction to make. To illustrate: what is the difference between being "pregnant" and being "absolutely pregnant"? Certainty and truth imply an amount of absolutism that pregnant implies, and allocating degrees of being to certainty and truth is a waste of breath.

Belief vs. Knowledge

Post 2

Xavius The Whale

Good points. Indeed. I tend to view knowledge in terms of undisputable fact. We know that we exist, we know that we have hands, we know how hard to hit something to cause pain. Beyond the extremely basic, we are into what we think we know, and think we believe. We think we knew that the world was round (the old classic). We KNEW that cutting down rainforests increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere. No it doesn't. Belief is more subjective, we believe that a person likes us, dislikes us, is a good person, etc. We each believe different things. Truth and "not truth" are black and white. No degrees. Something can be "half true", but it means that half of it is true, the other half is not. I think I know this.

Belief vs. Knowledge

Post 3

Merdo the Grey, Patron Saint of fuzzy thinking

It seems to me that belief and knowledge are very much the same thing at the user level. That may sound incongruent, so let me explain:

In this vast universe we observe, we collect data, we ask questions, and we arrive at answers to those questions. Both scientists and other wise men and sages do this. The methodology of it, however, would be very different for a particle physicist or a Taoist monk.

No scientist worth his salt would ever say "I have found the absolute truth" because scentists all know that their questions and their data may later be surplaced by new and better data and new and refined questions, thus giving rise to new understandings, theories, etc. "Fact", "truth" and "knowledge" for the scientist are never absolutes ... a "fact" is the best available observed data. "Knowledge" is the most workable understanding of available data, truth is the best approximation based on the above.

Throughout history (and herstory) there have been sages and prophets and oracles and shamans and such. Many (i daren't say 'most') have gathered and persued data, built hypothesis, "tested" them and arrived at conclusions and theories and understandings of the world around them. The techniques have been different than the scientists', (trance, meditation, enlightenment etc.) But the processes have been parallell. And in the direct writings of most of these wise men, as with most scientists, you will meet a humility in relation to the "higher truth" ... 'there is more out there than I can ever understand.'

In the case of both science and religions, the picture changes when you move from the investigator (scientist or prophet) to the user. How often have you heard the expression "scientific fact" "scientific knowledge" used as though it meant absolute truth? Much of society accredits science with properties scientists themselves don't recognise, like incontrovertability, infallibility, and absolutness.

The same goes for religions ... whereas the prophet himself may recognize a higher unattainable level of truth than the one available to him, the words of prophets tend to become the incontrovertible dogma of his followers.

And quite honestly, the mystics have often generated better approximations than scientists. Both sceince and religion have produced both wisdom and folly.


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