Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Metaphorical line between knowledge and belief ?

  1. Apr 4, 2010 #1
    metaphorical line between "knowledge" and "belief"?

    where do you draw the metaphorical line between "knowledge" and "belief"? and is there even a difference? Even the best of our scientific knowledge is a series of assumptions based on our observations of our tiny fraction of the universe. these observations are made by the mind of a single species, whose minds have evolved to do little more than survive, and ensure the species continued existence. who are we to judge what is "real"?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 4, 2010 #2
    Re: knowledge/belief

    Well just letting you know, this topic has come to these forums many times before. So don't take it too personally if a couple people tend to be more 'aggressive' towards you then you expect.

    It is a good question to think about though.

    I'd recommend you set out what your terms mean though, like 'belief' and 'knowledge'. To me it seems like when you talk about 'belief' you actually mean 'faith', I'm not sure though.

    EDIT: For instance in my mind this is closer to the definition of belief:
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/belief/

    In which case whatever the belief is, is a 'form' of knowledge, so to speak, but it's not exactly synonomous with the word knowledge.
     
  4. Apr 4, 2010 #3
    Re: knowledge/belief

    No. The best of our scientific knowledge is a series of hypotheses that have provided predictions that could be tested empirically, where the results of those tests prove absolutely 100% in accordance with the predictions.

    The last part of your post appears to be a rehashing of the solipsism position regarding knowledge. All this means, however, is that you need to add a proviso to your knowledge: Assuming x is true, we can know that y is also true. You can build a perfectly sensible, secure and complete foundation for knowledge in this way without needing to resort to the idea that it is 'only a belief'.
     
  5. Apr 4, 2010 #4
    Re: knowledge/belief

    the terms themselves are sort of what i'm questioning, to religious people, their faith is "the truth" and therefore belief is treated as knowledge, to others, it is "just a belief". It's possible i'm just thinking in circles, but it is something I think, should be thought about
     
  6. Apr 4, 2010 #5

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: knowledge/belief

    One of the components that often separates the two: testability.

    It is knowledge if an independent entity can repeat the test and corroborate the results.
     
  7. Apr 4, 2010 #6
    Re: knowledge/belief

    I understand what you are trying to say but I don't think it's exactly true to what the OP is asking.

    Scientific knowledge certainly does have to be tested very vigorously not just by an independent entity but by many such entities. However it is still a belief, it's not faith though (in most cases...) Science never sets out to prove things and all things held true in science are all beliefs. They can definitely change though and there is definitely substantial reasoning behind such beliefs. Faith on the other hand is different and I'm not sure if the OP is asking to distinguish faith or just belief and knowledge.

    A belief is just something that is held as true and the 'attitude' that goes along with accepting that it is true. I do believe that the world orbits around the sun, that is a belief... it is also knowledge though.

    The reason I said earlier that belief is not synonomous is because you can have knowledge that you hold no beliefs over.
     
  8. Apr 4, 2010 #7

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: knowledge/belief

    I don't understand how any of this addresses my point.

    All I'm saying is that knowledge is information that can be retested. A belief is something that would an anathema to retest.
     
  9. Apr 4, 2010 #8
    Re: knowledge/belief

    What about qualia? Are you telling me I don't know how blue looks to me? I do, you know. :smile: It may not be public knowledge, but it is knowledge to me, is it not?
     
  10. Apr 4, 2010 #9

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: knowledge/belief

    How do you get that from what I said? How did I imply you didn't know how blue looks?
     
  11. Apr 4, 2010 #10
    Re: knowledge/belief

    Qualia are an example of knowledge that cannot be tested, is all. There is public knowledge and there is private knowledge, and private knowledge is not something that can be tested, let alone retested.

    It's relevant, I think, because religious people will often assert that their religious beliefs are a kind of private knowledge. It can be hard to disabuse them of this notion because such a thing as private knowledge does exist.
     
  12. Apr 4, 2010 #11
    Re: knowledge/belief

    Beliefs that are accurate or true are said to be knowledge. The problem is, it is impossible to verify anything about the external world to make sure your belief is true. The only type of belief that can be verified is the axiomatic type... we can prove that, given certain rules, 2+2=4. We also may be able to prove certain subjective things, like "I exist."

    "Testability" doesn't help us at all. It is impossible to verify any belief through testing. The notion of verification was abandoned for falsification - the idea that we can't prove things right but we can prove them wrong. Even falsification has been abandoned at this point, since it has been shown that no claim of falsification can be conclusive either.
     
  13. Apr 4, 2010 #12
    Re: knowledge/belief

    Not true, all beliefs regardless of if they can be tested or not are knowledge. People very well do gain knowledge from their religious experiences with out testing it one time.

    Regardless that's not my point at all, my point is that beliefs ARE knowledge and you are making it out to seem like they are two seperate entities. This is just not true, go to the standford page I linked earlier and tell me how you can say that what a person has belief in is not knowledge to that person.
     
  14. Apr 4, 2010 #13
    Re: knowledge/belief

    I recommend Quine's "The Web of Belief" for an answer more in line with what you're asking... how we form beliefs, what we are justified in believing, and also what the difference between belief and knowledge is. It's a good introduction and still 99% relevant.

    https://www.amazon.com/Web-Belief-W-V-Quine/dp/0075536099
     
  15. Apr 4, 2010 #14
    Re: knowledge/belief

    doesn't that mean that the only difference between belief and knowledge is a different point of view?
     
  16. Apr 4, 2010 #15

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: knowledge/belief

    So it really comes down to us agreeing on the definition of knowledge. We all seem to have our own definitions.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2010
  17. Apr 4, 2010 #16

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: knowledge/belief

    Knowledge doesn't mean it's true. False knowledge is knowledge, it's just worthless if you believe it, even worse, it can be harmful. Perhaps that is what you were inferring?
     
  18. Apr 4, 2010 #17

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: knowledge/belief

    No, I was just saying we don't agree on the definition itself of exactly what constitutes knowledge and what does not. Not much point in proceeding unless we can agree on that.
     
  19. Apr 4, 2010 #18
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  20. Apr 4, 2010 #19
    Re: knowledge/belief

    http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/P059 [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  21. Apr 4, 2010 #20
    Re: knowledge/belief

    Quite true and this is specifically what I was referring to.

    However the problem is that all beliefs are true by virtue of them being what is believed in. So something being a belief it is necessary thought to be true to that person. This implies that all knowledge is true but knowledge is not true to everyone. This has been what I've said in all my posts the entire time, lol.

    EDIT: Actually I've noticed that they have some counters to what I was thinking about when I had said that it is possible to have knowledge without belief. So maybe I should withdraw that statement :tongue:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  22. Apr 7, 2010 #21
    Re: knowledge/belief

    This kind of formalism is confounding in that it renders speakable, sensible claims incorrect at an abstract evaluative level. If it is possible to construct the phrase, "false knowledge," then how can you say that false knowledge can't exist because all knowledge but be true or not be knowledge at all, by definition?

    The word "knowledge" is a derivation of the verb, "to know." What does it mean "to know" something? To answer that question, you can do an empirical experiment where you survey various things you know.

    You can know, for example, the meaning of the word "God," but also know that God is not empirically observable as such. You can believe in God or believe that God doesn't exist, but that isn't the same thing as knowing whether God exists or not. You can know what you believe without knowing whether your belief is true - and therefore whether it is possible to know (for certain) the truth of what you believe.

    From this little exploration, I do think that knowledge contains a certain level of truth constraint. I am apprehensive about using "know" to describe belief of uncertain truth status. On the other hand, though, what is belief except a type of knowledge? Isn't knowledge anything that exists in a mind? If knowledge isn't the general umbrella term for all information and concepts, what is?

    Is unknown information still knowledge despite its being yet unknown? If a belief isn't part of an individual's store of knowledge, what is it? What about when something known as true turns out to have been a belief without truth-status? E.g. People "knew" that the world was flat or that Pluto was the ninth planet, and then some people convinced them that their "knowledge" were untrue beliefs. Does this mean that those people didn't "know" what they knew when they knew it?

    In general I think there's some confounding between objective existence of knowledge and its evaluation in terms of truth-value/status. Outside of whether something can be deemed true or not, it must be known to even be considered for evaluation. You can't establish something as true or false without knowing it as a claim prior to evaluation, so that would seem to make the fact of whether something is knowledge or not independent of any evaluation of whether it is true.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  23. Apr 7, 2010 #22
    Re: knowledge/belief

    It's the same reason that even though I can construct the phrase "married bachelor," there's still no such thing, by definition.

    Our knowledge is a subset of our beliefs - in particular, justified and true beliefs are called knowledge. If you want to expand further to consider further "information and concepts," you might call it mental content or something similar. I'm not aware of any other technical term here. Idea could also work depending on whether or not you want to consider perceptions too.

    Knowledge must be known. If information is unknown, it isn't knowledge.

    They believed that they knew, but they were wrong. They may even have been justified in believing that the world was flat. They were missing the third criteria though. A justified false belief is not knowledge.

    Ideas can't be believed without being conceived. They can't be known without being believed. There is no condition that they must be known to be considered though. They must only be conceived to be considered. An idea can't be known until it is first conceived and then believed. It is in those stages that the evaluation is done.
     
  24. Apr 7, 2010 #23
    Re: knowledge/belief

    Note that I never claimed we can know whether or not we know anything :smile:. Actually, it seems pretty clear that the opposite is true. We can never be certain of what we know. This becomes a big epistemological issue. You can argue that knowledge, by this definition, is meaningless, since we can never make any justified claims about knowledge - we can only make claims about beliefs.

    This is true. We can never tell the difference between belief and knowledge. It may be more useful, then, to redefine knowledge in terms of the strength and justification of our beliefs, leaving out the truth criterion. This leads to the strange situation where two people can have knowledge of conflicting ideas. I can know that God exists, and you can know that God doesn't exist. That doesn't seem to do us much good either though. One of us is wrong. One of us must only think we know, right?

    Neither way of going about it is perfect, but the choice you make has huge implications across how you will consider any philosophical arguments. For the sake of consistency and communication, philosophers stick with the requirement that knowledge must be true. Unless they don't. But then they tell you they aren't :smile:.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
  25. Apr 7, 2010 #24
    Re: knowledge/belief

    Even though you may want to initiate the process of philosophizing with the criteria of only counting true knowledge as knowledge, that is an empirically confounding approach considering that information has to be known before it can be known as true or false.

    So when you try to retro-actively deny knowledge-status to a known piece of information once you establish it as being false, you end up with an anti-empirical approach to knowledge.

    I think you got it right when you said that information becomes knowledge only once it becomes known. It is then logical to say that ALL information becomes knowledge once it becomes known.

    So if I come inside and tell you that the temperature is 70, that information becomes known to you as is therefore "knowledge" in the sense that "knowledge" is the noun form of the verb "to know." If the actual temperature turns out to have been 80 and your perception, or a miscalibrated thermometer, caused you to have false-knowledge of the temperature, it doesn't mean that you didn't know the information "70 degrees outside."

    I think the distinction we're debating here is knowing verses Knowing, in the same sense that people talk about truth/Truth or reason/Reason. If you say "I know that," the implication is that what is known is true; i.e. it is a truth claim." If you say, "My knowledge is that," then the claim becomes one of relative knowledge, which is bracketed for truth value. The distinction is based on connotation and inflection due to nuances in usage, not the denotative meaning of the word generally.

    A married-bachelor is an oxymoron because "bachelor" directly refers to the marital status of the person. "Knowledge" does not directly refer to the truth status of a claim, only whether it is known by the knower. If "know" only referred to true information, people could not be "known" since they are not true or false.

    Granted there is some tension with claiming to know something false, but I think that is just due to an implicit truth-orientation built into the act of knowing. As Foucault says, people have a compulsion to tell the truth. Maybe it is through this implicit inflection embedded into the work "know" through common usage that this compulsion is communicated and socialized.

    To the extent that truth can only be established in critical evaluation of knowledge, it is not really possible to simply "know" something as true without first subjecting the knowledge to critical reflection. To the extent that all knowledge is subjective prior to its being established as objective or factual, simply asserting "I know X" as a statement of truth seems to be inherently deceptive. Therefore it seems more honest to say, "To my knowledge," followed by a statement of fact.

    That's not to say that you can't assert truth-power by stating "I know X," but that to do so is more an assertion than a true statement. "I know it is sunny outside" invites critical investigation whereas "to my knowledge, it is sunny outside" is verified by the fact that the speaker is acknowledging the source of their claim, i.e. their own knowledge.
     
  26. Apr 7, 2010 #25
    Re: knowledge/belief

    This is not right. An idea must be conceived before it can be evaluated as true or false. It's only known after that evaluation is performed and the idea is deemed to be justified. It must also actually represent the truth. Information can't be known until it is first deemed to be true.

    Actually, knowledge does directly refer to truth status. See the standard definition of knowledge as justified true belief. Obviously words can have more than one meaning. Pointing out that "to know" can also mean "to be familiar with" doesn't help with the definition of knowledge, as distinct from belief, that we are dealing with.

    "To my knowledge" means "according to what I do know," or, in other words "I don't know." Also, there is a very large difference between knowing and claiming to know. Any time anyone claims to know something, there is always room for critical investigation. I haven't mentioned anything about claims of knowledge.

    Actual knowledge, while it may be limited in scope, is absolute. The only problem is we can never tell if we have actual knowledge or not.

    You can argue with the merits of the standard definition of knowledge, but there is a clear standard definition. Any other definition should be qualified as such or should be labeled by a different word.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook