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

Understanding & Knowing . . . Two Distinct Realms?

  1. Jul 9, 2004 #1

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I’ve started this thread because I hijacked poor Coberst’s thread “The Model” when the discussion turned to the issue of understanding and knowing. I’ve posted the main points of the discussion below, but here is a synopsis of my hypothesis:

    I’ve suggested that “knowing” in consciousness is derived from experience, and that “understanding” in consciousness stems from reason. This hypothesis is based on a view of consciousness that experience and thinking are two completely different realms and functions of consciousness. While each may contribute to the other, I claim when the event of knowing actually takes place, it is experience that causes that, not understanding; likewise, when the event of understanding takes place, it is reason which has caused that, not experience.

    The remainder of this and the next post are relevant excerpts from the original debate. Weigh in with your views and analysis if you please:

    I wonder if you might consider that knowledge comes from experience, and understanding comes from reason. Because we use them together, possibly it seems reason also gives knowledge. For example, say after years of experience building pizza ovens, a customer tells you a new one you just sold her only reaches 400° (when it's supposed to reach 650°). Because you know ovens with a faulty upper heating element only reach 400°, your reason and past experience convince you that's the problem. However, I would argue that you don't actually know a bad heating element is the problem until you get it back to the factory and inspect it.

    So although reason helps one understand where to look for the problem, it can't actually give knowledge of that. Also, without reason one could still observe that element and see/feel it doesn't come on, and so "know" it (or something associated with it) doesn't work properly.

    Yes, it is clear. But here's why I dispute it. How would you explain rats learning how to navigate mazes and operate feeding machines? After a certain amount of practice, they "know" their way around without reason ever having been a part of it. As far as I can tell, they came to know through experience alone. If we could inject some reason into their heads, then I'd expect them to learn faster. But to me, that is adding an accelerant to the knowing process, but not creating the knowing itself.

    I do not claim to know what does or does not go through a rat’s mind or sense experience. I have not studied these animals and therefore am not qualified to comment.

    Let me [re]state my hypothesis so there's no question about what we are discussing. I propose that although knowing and understanding assist each other in their respective realms, they are two completely different consciousness aspects, and that only experience produces knowing, while only reason produces understanding.

    To start, I agree with your above test using falsity, but I have a problem with your example because it seems you are interchanging understanding and knowing, while I am treating them as two different things. I interpret understanding as a singular insight that has resulted from mental processes. Once we've achieved an understanding, it allows us to use the intellect to work with whatever it is we've understood. In other words, understanding is first a product and then a tool of reason; and even if experience is relied upon in reasoning processes, it is relied on conceptually and so is translated into the mental realm. Knowing, on the other hand, doesn't require understanding or reason, but can be achieved through pure experience, as in the rat-maze example. I myself sometimes practice learning purely experientially by trying to keep my mentality out of something I'm doing (as long as possible) in order to see what that teaches me without the influence of my intellect (later, of course, I will reflect on it mentally too).

    You correctly say that if there is one example where knowing can result from reason, my hypothesis is disproved. Well, there is one particular case I am not sure about, and that is the internal mental operations of logic. Because I already know that tautologies are always true, or that 2 + 2 always equals 4, I realize that internal logical functions, done correctly, produce correct answers. Of course, the "knowledge" yielded is strictly in regard to the logic operations, and not about anything else. So, even though I can be sure that the math I use to balance my checkbook is sound, I cannot actually know if my check book is balanced until I leave my pure logic realm and enter the experiential realm of checkbooks, bank accounts, etc. to see if the money is there (or not ). So does that amount to falsification of my hypothesis? I am not sure. But if it does, then I'd adjust my statement to include the math/logic/tautology exception.

    (. . . . continued)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2004 #2

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    (. . . continued)

    Okay, this is where we left off, mine is the last response to BH’s comments (he’s not seen them, and has said he may be too busy moving to his his new house to respond in depth):

    I’ll use animal awareness as a counterexample because I think it is easier to demonstrate pure knowing with them. If a deer walks into a thorn bush, he will feel the dreadful pain and then he will look to where the pain is to SEE what is sticking into his ribs. He might not know what to call the thorn, be able to explain how or why it hurts -- i.e., "understand" the mechanisms causing the pain -- but the next time he sees a thorn bush he "knows" it will hurt to brush against it.

    My suggestion is, only when we feel it can we know it. By "feel" I mean sense it, whether that is using the senses, or using some inner aspect of feeling one might be in touch with.

    Absolutely. That deer might have walked a path a 1000 times, and knows his way from point A to point B blindfolded. However, last night there was a landslide which wiped out the entire hillside the path runs through. Now, the deer still knows a route, but he doesn't know that the route he knows will no longer will get him from point A to point B. For that he needs new experience.

    Well, if we are talking about knowing for everyday, practical purposes, I agree we rely on other's reports, our past experience, intuition, beliefs, etc. as our "knowledge base." I have been referring to the actual aspect of knowing within consciousness, what it is and how it is achieved.

    What you would know is if your math was correct or not, or that your checkbook figures differed from your calculations. My point was that you can trust the results of proper logic operations. The problem comes from the information one plugs into calculating processes. For that, experience has proven to be the best source of reliable information.

    See, part of what I am arguing is that one cannot "know" entirely in one's head (if "head" refers to the intellect) which is why I don't agree that ". . . reason > understanding > knowing." I think it's "reason > understanding > better reasoning > better understanding > ad infinitum." What experience (whether sense experience/perception or also the inner experience I rely on) contributes is information with which to reason, which does greatly assist reason as science has proven. Science has also demonstrated that no matter what you think you know, you can't really know until you observe it to be true. That is the modern standard for knowledge.

    YES! As I said, this standard for knowing is not just mine. It is the empirical standard for science or any investigative discipline intended to result in knowing. For practical purposes, we might accept the bank teller's word and act on it, but that is a matter of faith, not knowing. We cannot possibly know the money is there unless we go into the vault and look at the money.

    Don't you see that the only thing the teller knows is that the last time he looked, there was money in the vault. The second he is not experiencing that, he really doesn't know the status of the money precisely because of the kind of possibilities you are citing.

    I think the kind of "general" knowing you seem to be talking about is not black and white, but rather is a natural, non-intellectual certainty that builds up as experience is acquired with things. If our experience alters, so does our knowing. The intellect, on the other hand, is purely a computer. It calculates. I see reason as the high priest of the intellect where we apply logic to the best information we have at the time to understand, intellectually, about the way things work.

    Well said. Of course, I'd add that without reason, we still can know, we just can't understand.
  4. Jul 9, 2004 #3
    Les the top quote is you to me and the bottom is you to boulderhead. Boulderhead asks a interesting question. What is it to ‘know’? He might be busy for a while. There is a subtle difference bewtween those two quotes and I would like to define it.

    You seem to know or think that you know, that there is some knowing priori to experience but only experience might produce the knowing. For both statements to be held true in the same context, there would have to be a knowing of experience in order for experience to produce the knowing. My question is then, might "Knowing" be then, the continuum of the feel of all emotions? The knowing is the feel of the calf setting its hoofs on the ground, not only in the context of the physcial feel but the feel of the metaphysical, that, that is the way, we should feel things to be like, the way they are.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2004
  5. Jul 10, 2004 #4

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Just to be clear, I proposed that in my model on panpsychism. I don't quite feel comfortable saying anything so strong as I "know" it. I would rather say that I see something in myself, and in others, that appears to be inborn, and I think it is some level of innate knowledge.

    I am not sure I get your meaning. By saying "knowing of experience," do you mean a person must be born with experience (i.e., since only experience produces knowing)? If so, that's true, according to my model. (I am sorry to keep repeating "according to my model," but I feel I need to, especially since we are outside my thread on panpsychism. I don't want exaggerate my certainty of these concepts.)

    If we can exchange the term "emotions" for "feeling/sensitivity," then I think I might agree with what you say afterwards. Here's my opinion about feeling and emotions. I see one of the three foundational factors of consciousness as feeling/sensitivity (if you remember, the other two I modeled were concentration and knowing). While we (as consciousness) are part of biology, there are built-in chemical aids. In my opinion, hormones are chemistry that accentuates our feeling/sensitive nature in certain ways to encourage and help us survive both personally and as a species. When some aspect of our feeling nature is accentuated by hormones, that is what I call "emotion." So although people commonly link emotions with feeling/sensitivty, I don't believe they are the same thing.

    Again, I am not totally sure what you mean. If you mean that the "knowing" we are born with is accessed through our underlying feeling nature, then I'd say yes. At least, that's how I've become more familiar with it. :smile:
  6. Jul 10, 2004 #5
    I agree with understanding having a lot to do with reason or intuition or some form of highier thinking leading to it and that's probably the most important distinction to assign, because of all the things I've come to understand on my own with the aid of experience these understandings are much more precious and practical to me than most everything I know, such that I almost feel ashamed to answer philosophical questions(if I know them) in that if I happen to be right and someone else happens to not have the foggiest, it could rob them of gaining such an understanding, I might selfishly deny someone what I hold most dear just to look cool, the person unpracticed in philosophy might see this is a free gem without any need to mine but in reality it often becomes a common quartz stone when one doesn't do their own mining, most likely because it is the very process of mining(reasoning or such) that integrates the knowledge and improves the mining equipment, knowing is so much easier anyway but too much knowings leaves a kind of superficiality to me like an apple with no substance just below the skin. The better thing to do if one really thought they understood something might be to pose the right questions and see if others come to similiar understandings, if they do then it is more likely it's truthful but also everyone stands to gain confusion.
  7. Jul 10, 2004 #6
    Would not, self knowing not be a truth then? We know what is in our heads, to say that of others, is only to see by reason, for we know not what is in others heads. Is not then introspective experience self knowing?

    Yes but more. What I mean is what the structure of consciousnes is. Knowing of experience is, all the knowledge of feel. The basic structure of consciousnes is that and panpsychic consciousness, through the phyical, is the experience of the feel.

    There is a tendency, in our explanations, for you to see, what it appears to you, that I do not see and a tendency for me, to see what it appears to me, that you do not see. Which means, I think we agree with each other with a biased slant of what we know.

    Yes but more. If the illumination continuum was all the space not occupied by the matter, knowing of the feel would be inbeded in the matter.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2004
  8. Jul 10, 2004 #7
    This is my understanding, thinking, of this topic.
    Knowing is memory. I know a poem by memorizing it, its words. I may not understand the meaning of the words or the deeper meaning of the poem; but, I know the poem.

    If the memory is encoded in genes it is (or at least, it is called) instinctive.
    An ant's behavior is all most exclusively instinctive yet it is aware and capable of learning and communicating.

    If the memory is hard wired it is reflexive, automatic, not requiring mental processing and may not even get to the brain such as the knee jerk reflex.

    These are all forms of knowing, memory, without experience or understanding and therefore do not constitute knowledge.

    We are, and probably many conscious animals are, born with a priori knowing that are neither instinctive or reflexive but are born with certain knowing without it being based on experience, reflex or instinct.

    As we gain experience and awareness we increase our knowing.
    As we gain in experience and knowing we begin to understand; i.e. find relationships and cause and effects.

    With increased understanding comes knowledge. Knowledge is knowing with understanding - we know the poem and understand not just the meaning of the individual words but the deeper meaning of the poem. The poem then is knowledge.

    I would thus state the process as:

    KNOWING - memory, instinct, reflex, experience and a priori knowing >

    UNDERSTANDING - knowing, additional experience + reasoning i.e. forming
    relationships, cause-effect etc. >

    KNOWLEDGE - knowing + understanding

    knowledge and knowing + reasoning, logic etc = new knowing, understanding and knowledge

    It has been said that we are born knowing all that we need to know but forget that we know it. Meditation is one way of remembering what we were born knowing. It has also been said that we have access to all knowledge (in the above meaning) and have only to ask (the right question) and wait with an open, accepting mind for the answer. It may not be the answer we expect or want; but, it will be the answer to our question.
  9. Jul 10, 2004 #8

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well, I'm embarrassed to say :redface: that while trying to define terms to answer Royce's post, I realize the theme of this thread contradicts my own model of consciousness, which has understanding as an integrated trait, and therefore in the knowing realm. I need to sort this out to see if it negates the model, or if my interpretation using the model is wrong (which is what I think). I'll be back . . . :cool:
  10. Jul 11, 2004 #9

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think semantics make discussing this topic more difficult. The words “understanding” and "knowing" are used a couple of ways. We might say of a robotic device on an assembly line that when it can perform its task, it "knows" how to do that. Or like you say, if we memorize a bunch of information, then we say we know that; but if what we memorized is a task, say the steps in baking a cake, we might also say we “understand” how to do it. So clearly we use know and understand to refer to memory functions.

    But then there is that knowing which is to know if something is true or not. By "true" I mean (to avoid further semantic confusion), if something is actual/exists or occurred. That’s what I was initially talking about when I said only experience establishes knowing. Similarly, there is another variety of understanding, such as when a man grows older and throughout life has understood what “works” to make him happy. Maybe he’s become more humble, more loving, less angry . . . possibly the understandings that bring about such changes might be better labeled “realizations.” That type of realization seems to result in the “integration” of what is learned into one’s being, so now one “knows” that without having to rely on memory at all. I’ve suggested once things “integrate” they become part of our general knowing we walk around with all the time. So there’s a third use of the word “know” that confuse discussing understanding and knowing.

    If we were to replace the use of understanding and knowing in memory functions with the term “memorized information,” then we could talk about the integrated sort of knowing in terms of what was proposed in this thread, and the kind of understanding that most assists integration. If you look at the diagram I attached to this post, you can see only through experience is knowing reached for certain. That means we can intellectually understand using reason alone, but we won’t know if what’s understood is true unless experience is in the loop (although I left open the possibility that we can know, sans experience, if the logic of a statement is correct). However, we can go straight from experience to knowing, bypassing reason and understanding.

    So to amend my initial statement for this post, I would say reason can lead to understanding, understanding when accompanied by experience can lead to knowing, and experience can lead directly to knowing.

    Attached Files:

  11. Jul 11, 2004 #10
    Yes, Les, I agree that the difference is largely semantics. I also agree with most of what you've said all along in this post. My main point of contention is that I see a huge difference in knowing and knowledge. I realize that this is mainly because of the way my (and my son's) mind works. Example; I may learn something in a classroom or by reading a book and be able to answer a question correctly on a test later and may even be able to carry on an intelligent discussion about it; but, until I understand it and all of its ramifications and derivations it isn't mind, it isn't knowledge to me that will stay with me for a long time. For example in high school algebra I had to memorize the quadratic equation until I learned how to derive it from a quadratic polynomial. It was then mine forever. To this day (45 years later) while I can't remember the exact equation I can still derive it if necessary,
    given time. This is why I say knowing is largely memory and knowledge is memory + understanding + experience.

    Knowing and understanding are different, a different class of mentality just as experience is different from both. Yet combined and operated on by our minds, reasoning, we transform all three, at least, into yet another class of mentality, knowledge. Maybe I am carrying the distinction too far for your purposes here or maybe I still don't have a good handle on what you are saying and your point.

    A lot of my thinking on this is being influenced by watching my 8 month old granddaughter learn to use her hands to intentionally reach for and pick up things she wants to hold (and immediately put in her mouth.) At first her motor control was so bad her movements were largely random. However each time she actually succeed in touching something we could see it actually register in her mind and her movements would become more and more controlled. My daughter-in-law watched her pick up a piece of food look at it in her hand and not satisfied with it being held with her third and forth finger against her palm, put it down again and try it again until she had it held between her thumb and index finger. Only then was she satisfied and put it in her mouth to eat it. This is an obvious example of knowing+experience+reason=knowledge.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2004
  12. Jul 12, 2004 #11
    knowing is the "what", understanding is the "why" and in some cases "How"

    like you KNOW your friend lied, but understanding would be why she did it something to that effect
  13. Jul 12, 2004 #12
    According to the present stipulative definitions of knowing and understanding, who would you trust more?

    Someone who proved they knew or someone who proved they understood something important to you?
  14. Jul 13, 2004 #13
    well depends on what the important thing is, I guess if it dealt with emotions understanding would be more important, most anything else, knowing
  15. Jul 13, 2004 #14
    hmmm I think that the two are different and both contrinuting to eachother with knowing superior to understanding. Understanding is when you learn something new and it's 'in your head'. Knowing is when you can think more deeply about it and you can contribute to that knowledge and build on it. For example, understanding would be 'I understand how the eye works'. Knowing would be 'I understand how the eye works, but if you did this you maybe able to cure blindness.'

    Knowing does contribute to understanding which is what a lot of learning is based on. Using your knowledge to learn new things.

    There again, that could be the other way around... depends on your own definition of the word I suppose
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2004
  16. Jul 14, 2004 #15
    What is it called when a person spends all night playing chess or starcraft or tetris or some other taxing game and then tries to go do something else but everything they do feels like another move in the game?
    I don't know where this would fall under that neat paradigm but to me it's like there's cogs in the brain and they get spun when we do certain activities, but even after we stop doing them they still spin for awhile and affect the other cogs so that instead of having a normal conversation, after a long chess game we are subconsciously trying to predict what they will say next or at least that's all I've noticed about the after effects so far so there could be a lot more to it, knowledge could also be viewed as a useful and memorable byproduct of various spinning cogs.
  17. Jul 27, 2004 #16
    The line I wrote, which you disagreed with, expressed my view that “knowledge may come from a combination of experience and reason”. I have decided to limit the scope of this post so as to make it bearable for the reader, as there are many arguments to give concerning this matter. Let me be clear that whatever else you may wish to consider, my obligation is to support, if possible, my own statement while attacking yours. Your hypothesis was; “Only experience produces knowing, while only reason produces understanding.”

    Here we go; look at this statement;
    Knowing comes only from experience and experience is defined broadly. The above quote is an interesting development because it states one cannot “know” entirely in one’s head. Philosophical question; if experience (ultimately; knowing) isn’t entirely in one’s head, where exactly is it located? As for the need to ‘observe’ something to be true, one needs only to consider our position when the senses deceive us to realize the need to correct the ‘evidence’ with reason. With regard to scientific knowledge; consider any instance where something held to be scientific knowledge turned out to be untrue.

    Interesting too is experience now contributes information, not knowledge!

    Most interesting of all is the information gained from experience is stuff to be reasoned with (isn’t this what I was saying? I think it most certainly is). Do you, for example; hold that scientific knowledge does not extend beyond mere observation, measurement, and movement, which it records? (More on this further down).

    When a man holds a straight piece of stick does not he know of its straightness from the sheer experience? Upon inserting a portion of it into water does he not also know from the experience that the stick is bent? If knowing comes only from experience and not reasoning, how will it be possible to know whether the stick is straight, bent, or both? Furthermore, without presupposing some type of reasoning process (quite possibly innate to the man), acting with respect to what he experiences, why should either of these two events have ever given so much as a pause for second thought? (Indeed, is not a second thought a reasoning process?). In the case of your deer or rat, they might hold both experiences as true and continue about their merry way, but certainly a thinking human being gives pause for consideration. If man did not use a combination of both experience and reason to arrive at knowledge, how is this example to be explained? More generally; when the senses cannot be trusted, what other process do you suppose we use not only to answer this question, but even to understand why we are compelled to ask it?

    Does the scientific standard relate to your own view?
    As far as I can tell, all this talk of science is only with respect to the need for observation. As a distinguishing mark of a philosophy is to be found in what it rejects, I am attempting to discern what exactly it is you reject. Some ‘less than clear’ selective process of combinations of experience both ‘internal’ and ‘external’ qualifies as knowledge. I think the problem is principally that knowledge is poorly defined, and statements you have made such as; know, know entirely, absolutely know, really know, knowing within consciousness, etc, do not help (for example, how is knowing within consciousness any different from experiencing an object?). For your hypothesis to make the claim it does about knowledge it needs clearly to avoid ambiguous terminology. If not, I will attack your position from another angle to show it is linguistically meaningless and therefore invalid. With that in mind I ask; are general rules of science, produced by inductive reasoning from a finite number of observations, and which have periodically been demonstrated incorrect, to be in any way considered knowledge? For example; do you doubt inductive reasoning can lead to knowledge, and therefore you will not be surprised if, the next time you strike a match, the flame is found to be cold? If you do not doubt inductive reasoning then certainly your view does not seem in the least way to conflict with my statement about knowledge coming from a combination of experience and reason. But, If you accept inductive reasoning I submit your statement about only experience leading to knowledge requires modification, for clearly the path now includes; experience > reasoning > knowledge.

    It is important to understand my statement does not deny the necessity of experiencing the so-called ‘external world’ in order to ‘know’ something about it (I also believe the existence of any a priori truths is philosophically debatable and would like to explore that avenue). Your statement, on the other hand, positively denies reasoning ever leads to knowledge. I have attempted to demonstrate a necessary reasoning process to be at work in the bent stick example. Clearly, induction involves reasoning, so you must deny the fruit of this labor properly constitutes knowledge, or alter your hypothesis and withdraw disagreement to my statement. Without both mental faculties (experience and reason) I’m not certain what we would ‘know’ other than raw disconnected data, or imagination run wild in Plato’s cave.

    FYI; I showed the path: Experience > Reasoning > Understanding > Knowledge. ‘understanding’ was placed between ‘reasoning’ and ‘knowledge’ for a particular reason; because time and experience have shown we make mistakes in some of our understandings, yet still it nevertheless is a common occurrence to elevate many of them to the status of knowledge.

    I hope this post will be insightful and worthy of consideration. If you find it is enough to secure my position I would like to move ahead and explore other areas of interest with you. Please note; I passed this response (along with my username and password) to a friend who, knowing many of my habits (good as well as bad), promised to insert it into the link I likewise provided. Therefore, I am not actually ‘back’ (which can be known by a lack of ornery posts if the General Forum, haha) and have not been in a position to read anything beyond the point in time when this thread was first begun (Maybe next month). -BH
  18. Jul 29, 2004 #17

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Great post BH, very thoughtful.

    I already addressed some of your issues (and agreed) in my last post to Royce on the previous page. I think I should wait for you to read that before answering you in detail. A couple of quick comments.

    I think semantics is getting in our way here, as you imply. In an earlier post I clarified that when I said only experience leads to knowing, my use of the word "know" referred to knowing if something exists or happened. I meant that we cannot know if it exists or happened unless we can find a way to experience the object or event. By "in the head" I meant the intellect, not just general subjectivity, so I was saying that (adding to my first point) that we cannot "know" something exists or happened just by thinking about it (i.e., sans experience). That, I said, is the standard for science.

    Also, I amended my statement to say that reason/understanding can help lead to knowledge, but except for tautolgies, experience still needs to be in the loop. I reserved the term "knowing" (as explained in the above paragraph) for a level of certainty established through experience. On the other hand, if one consistantly uses math principles in reasoning, I do believe it is possible to know when those principles are correctly applied within the system of math. So that is a kind of intellectual knowing.

    In general I still think that reasoning alone doesn't not bring any other sort of knowledge (than tautalogical). I might reason, for example, that heating my popcorn will make it pop. I know in the past it did because I experienced that. I've seen lots of other people do it too. I am very certain that heating popcorn does the trick. Yet I don't actually know if the popcorn in my hand will pop when it is heated until I heat it and observe that. So I can say I know the principle of popping pop corn, I can say I know it has worked before and that it works for other people, but I cannot say about the unexperienced corn in my hand that I "know" it will pop. (In terms of your path " Experience > Reasoning > Understanding > Knowledge," you might see what you think of my little diagram I posted in my response to Royce.)

    It is only in the context I just described that my statement about knowing and understanding being two different realms makes sense (even to me :tongue2:).

    BTW, I am not sure of what you meant in this statement, " Clearly, induction involves reasoning, so you must deny the fruit of this labor properly constitutes knowledge, or alter your hypothesis and withdraw disagreement to my statement." However, I do not believe induction gives knowledge. I think it is a useful tool for developing theories, but that's it. In fact, that I see it as so theoretical is why I tried to add the empirical element to it in my "empirical induction" thread . . . I wanted to suggest a way to make metaphysical theorizing more realistic.

    This statement of yours too I don't think I can agree with: "Without both mental faculties (experience and reason) I’m not certain what we would ‘know’ other than raw disconnected data, or imagination run wild in Plato’s cave." If humans are the only ones who can reason, then how does a frog come to know the layout of his pond? This is exactly why I wanted to distinquish understanding and knowing. The frog can know the layout of his pond, but he can't understand the concept of a "layout."

    It seems to me we mix up understandings about a situation or thing, and what we've experienced in regard to a situation or thing. Why does that happen? Because understanding is an experience too! So we do "know" our understandings. And because understandings are normally about situations and things, we bundle that up with our direct experiences of those situations and things.

    In the final analysis, possibly my model of understanding and knowing is pragmatic. I believe it makes me better able to reason objectively when I separate the two into distinct realms.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2004
  19. Aug 16, 2004 #18
    Hello Les,
    I can’t say with certainty humans are the only ones who can reason, or that frogs reason. To me, this is largely not a discussable topic and a reason why I prefer to leave animals out of the conversation. It is difficult enough for human beings to reach consensus concerning the nature of what goes on inside their own and each others’ heads, so I’m disinclined to second guess other species.

    My use of that word did not, which may be why my quote above is disagreeable to you. I have asked what the difference between knowing and experience is. I’m interested if you think, for example, the sole event of apprehending an object qualifies as knowledge, or whether some other mental process is involved, and if so, what?
  20. Aug 16, 2004 #19
    Yes, what I was trying to do was second guess your stand on induction. The reason was simply because you had stated the standard for scientific knowing and knowledge (you used both words, I’m fairly certain) was in fact your own standard. This led me to think you would likely hold scientific general laws, derived at via induction, to count as knowledge. You are denying such ‘fruit’ constitutes knowledge, which I think is arguable (depending on how knowledge is defined), yet it was not my intent to argue the point as much as to learn your view about the matter of induction.
    With regard to the metaphysical theorizing; how is such made more realistic by a process that gives no knowledge?
  21. Aug 17, 2004 #20
    Knowing it the first step into understanding. As Theory is the first step to wisdom.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook