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What is your definition of knowledge?

  1. Mar 25, 2003 #1
    Dear Reader,

    I've a list of questions and would be thankful if you give your set of answers and let us start a discussion on these answers. I will reveal my answers after having seen yours . New questions to be added to the list are also much appreciated.

    01. What is your definition of knowledge? What do you think of it?
    02. Does knowledge differ from science? Is it a more general term? Why and how?
    03. Can knowledge be shared among human beings?
    04. What are the means for sharing knowledge?
    05. Are the means of sharing knowledge reliable?
    06. Can knowledge be verified?
    07. If yes, what are the criteria for verifying knowledge?
    08. Are there different types of knowledge?
    09. Should knowledge be sought for?
    10. What does "seeking knowledge" mean?
    11. Can knowledge be measured in comparative terms, eg A has more knowledge than B?
    12. Can knowledge be measured in quantitative terms, eg A has X knowledge units more than B?
    13. Can knowledge be divided into practical and theoretical knowledge?
    14. If yes, what are the characteristics of practical knowledge?
    15. Do questions like "how practical is this piece of knowledge" make sense for you?
    16. Can knowledge be acquired? If yes, how?

    PS: Shame on me! I changed "devised" to "divided"...
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 25, 2003 #2
    knowledge is just data or information (compilation of facts). What you do with it on the other hand is another story.
  4. Mar 25, 2003 #3
    OK, let's do this:

    1. Knowledge is a collection of facts (or, at least, what one believes to be facts). I don't understand the second part of this question.

    2. Yes. Yes, it is a more general term. Science is the pursuit of knowledge (or, rather, the system by which we pursue knowledge), obviously the pursuit and that which is pursued are different things.

    3. Yes.

    4. Any form of communication is a means of sharing knowledge.

    5. Not entirely, you cannot always get the point across, no matter which form of communication you use. However, they are reliable, just not perfect.

    6. Yes.

    7. I don't understand. Do you mean, "how is knowledge verified?"? If so, it is through experimentation (which is what science does).

    8. Only in that there is the kind of knowledge that is only consistent of facts (whether this kind of knowledge really exists or not, is another matter), and the kind that is consistent of what the individual believes are fact - but are in fact no facts.

    9. Yes.

    10. It (basically) means trying to learn more facts.

    11. Yes, but it is better to specify on what topic A has more knowledge then B.

    12. Kind of, you could specify how many more facts, about a certain topic, A knew compared to B.

    13. Theories are practical.

    14. That it be useful, and verifiable by experimentation.

    15. Yes.

    16. Yes, through any/all of the steps of the scientific method.
  5. Mar 25, 2003 #4


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    knowledge is like food, some are lucky to be exposed to it, and those who are need to consume it wisely...
  6. Mar 25, 2003 #5
    A collection of facts, that is accumelated and further understood.
    without understanding, there isn't knowledge, in my opinion.

    No, science=knowledge. As I said before, knowledge is accumelated and the accumelated facts is what science is.

    YES! Learning should, and is, shared with other humans; hint: teachers.

    Communication. i.e., writing, talking.

    yes and no. For example, before Linnaeus came up with binomial nomenclature, scientists had a hard time communicating, comparing notes.

    Verified? in what context?

    ?? no entiendo(a bit of Spanish there...)...I don't understand question 6
    All knowledge is the same, but there are different branches of it, like physics is a branch of science.

    Of course, for how will we ever improve our lives, and ourselves?
    (that's rhetorical)
    Seeking knowledge is searching for an understanding of something.
    No. Someone will always know something the other doesn't. (even insignificant things)

    no, for aforementined reasons.
    uhhh what Mentat said!:D
    experimentally feasible, or logical.
    yes. you could read, try new things, and ask questions about everything.
  7. Mar 25, 2003 #6
    01. What is your definition of knowledge? What do you think of it?

    Knowledge is true belief. The quality of the justification you have for a particular piece of knowledge determines how good that piece of knowledge is. Knowledge of a particular piece of fact can be better or worse.

    02. Does knowledge differ from science? Is it a more general term? Why and how?

    Science is a particular way of trying to gain knowledge by using a commonly accepted method. (systematic) True belief gained from science will be better knowledge than a true belief gained from other means (eg lucky guesses or 'intuition') because of the stronger justification provided by science.

    03. Can knowledge be shared among human beings?


    04. What are the means for sharing knowledge?

    Sharing of information. Mainly using words to convey information and ideas.

    05. Are the means of sharing knowledge reliable?

    Not totally reliable. Just because you are speaking doesn't mean that others are listening/paying attention and that others actually understand. But since we don't have telepathy, communication using words is the best tool we have.

    06. Can knowledge be verified?

    yes . . . but I don't see the point. If you call something 'knowledge' you already think that it is true. So what's there to verify? Beliefs which are verified become knowledge.

    07. If yes, what are the criteria for verifying knowledge?

    Correspondance with the truth. (Truth means objective reality.)

    08. Are there different types of knowledge?

    Maybe. Some people say that 'knowing how to play a piano' is different knowledge from 'knowing that the Earth is round'.

    09. Should knowledge be sought for?

    Yes - because ignorance is the cause of much evil.

    10. What does "seeking knowledge" mean?

    Trying to find out what the world is like, and finding appropriate justifications for one's beliefs. Constantly putting one's assumptions to the test and finding them strenghened is one way to improve on one's knowledge.

    11. Can knowledge be measured in comparative terms, eg A has more knowledge than B?

    I think so - esp. when you limit the scope of knowledge. eg When it comes to mathematics, Einstein had more knowledge than I do . . .

    12. Can knowledge be measured in quantitative terms, eg A has X knowledge units more than B?

    Much more difficult. How should we define a knowledge unit anyway?

    13. Can knowledge be devised into practical and theoretical knowledge?

    The division between 'knowing how' and 'knowing that' isn't an absolute one. I tend to see 'knowing how' as a collection of 'knowing that' statements. eg knowing how to play a piano comprises of knowing what notes to play, where to put your hands etc.

    14. If yes, what are the characteristics of practical knowledge?

    'Practical knowledge' is just theoretical knowledge about how to apply other theoretical knowledge when it comes to actually doing something.

    15. Do questions like "how practical is this piece of knowledge" make sense for you?

    In a 'practical' way. :wink: To me that means whether the piece of knowledge allows us to do something to change the world - something which we couldn't have done without such knowledge.

    16. Can knowledge be acquired? If yes, how?

    Observation, listening to others, reading books etc. and thinking about the collected information.
  8. Mar 25, 2003 #7
    Hello everyone,

    Thanks for posting! I'll wait a bit more and then start discussing (summoning the demons...); let's see if anyone else posts in.

    1. For Iacchus32:
    This is your answer to the first question, don't you mind answering others? Nevertheless, this single answer has too many potentially controversial keywords to be considered a definition: data and information are distinct concepts, facts have another story and compilation of facts is still another story.

    2. For Mentat:

    Special thanks for your specific answer :smile:. Regarding the second question on 01, I meant it to further explain the first question, seems like it didn't work. Ignore it, please.

    About question 07: verification is a process of comparing the subject to certain well-defined criteria to report its status relative to those criteria. For example, verifying the statement "The moon is made of cheese" against the verifiability criterion reports its state as "verifiable"; verifying the same statement against the factual righteousness criterion reports its state as "nonfactual". For knowledge, you can (if you don't mind) define a criterion, X, and verify knowledge against that criterion reporting it as "Xy" or "nonXy" or "this much Xy". The question concentrates on your opinion of this action. Do you think knowledge can be compared to certain criteria, if any? If yes, what are these criteria?

    You're using a set of keywords in your answers. Would you please specify those keywords and give their subject-to-consensus definitions?

    3. For Kerrie:

    Would her majesty, Queen Of Wonderland, please give me some details on the ingredients of this newly found preparation of food? Does it need royal taste to be enjoyed? Is it a secret of the dynasty or would its recipe, please, be revealed to this humble inhabitant of your realm?

    Specificity is crucial to this discussion... (hope you aren't irritated with this)

    4. For MajinVegeta:

    Another special "thank you!" and please refer to Mentat's section in this post. Please note that A and B in questions 11 and 12 aren't necessarily individuals; they can be books, magazines, paintings, TV programs, movies, music, objects, methods of thought, etc.

    5. For Zimbo:

    How many special "thank you" thingies should release into the wild? :wink: You posted right before I post this and I had to edit the post...

    Just like Mentat, you're using a wide set of keywords. Would you please specify and define them in subject-to-consensus terms?
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2003
  9. Mar 25, 2003 #8


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    well, like any food, knowledge must be sought and prepared according to taste...an appreciative pallette will enjoy many different kinds of food (or knowledge):smile: ...

    ingredients? that is up to you...
  10. Mar 26, 2003 #9
    Knowledge is information that you hold dear. or rather something that is worth anything.. imho.
  11. Mar 26, 2003 #10

    Les Sleeth

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    Knowledge is what is known, so the question becomes how does one achieve knowing.

    I've said several times I believe one can only know something by personally experiencing it until one acquires certainty. This is the standard of science, for example, where one must observe that what one hypothesizes is true. Science obviously has demonstrated it can produce knowledge.

    One can share knowledge with others, but that doesn't mean those shared with now possess that knowledge, since to actually "know" they must experience for themselves what others claim they know (this is how knowledge is "verified"). Nonetheless, people who go to the trouble to know things, and then share that, can be very valuable in guiding others toward experiences that will produce knowledge.

    In my opinion, knowledge should be sought incessantly. Further, I believe one is most powerful as a human being when living, acting, and speaking from what one knows. To become a "man of Knowledge" (to quote Castaneda's Don Juan) means assigning great importance to the human qualities of openness, courage, curiosity, and impartiality in order to facillitate learning.
  12. Mar 26, 2003 #11
    LW Sleeth wrote: "To become a "man of Knowledge" (to quote Castaneda's Don Juan) means assigning great importance to the human qualities of openness, courage, curiosity, and impartiality in order to facillitate learning."


    This is non-controversial. We might also include that being a person of knowledge also demands graciousness and generosity. One should not accuse those with a differing viewpoint of mental thuggery, ignorance and similar pointless insults.
  13. Mar 26, 2003 #12
    Hi everyone,

    Here comes my set of answers. They aren't ordered the way questions are but contain whatever needed to answer them my way.


    Knowledge is the collection of whatever that is "known", thus it includes all the outcome of human observation following any method including but not limited to scientific method and even those observations that are claimed to be methodless.

    This definition is essentially self-referenced, that means it contains a logical loop. The elements of this loop are knowledge and knowing. Knowledge is defined as a "collection of known things" while knowing is the state of possessing knowledge.

    Loops are not allowed in logic while they can be proven to be inevitable. One of the two concepts, knowledge and knowing, should be chosen to be a basis for the other's definition although neither of the two has any superiority for holding that position. This means that the two ways of defining one of them using the other are equally creditable. Hence, the situation ends to a logical loop.

    Individuals, societies and the whole species are responsible for the creation, maintenance, modification, analysis, synthesis, archival and destruction of knowledge.

    Knowledge can be categorized in various manners. Regardless of the categorization rules, the outcomes are entities called "knowledge bodies". The sum of all knowledge bodies associated with a certain categorization is the whole knowledge, the complete set of all that is known to an individual or a society or the whole species.

    Knowledge bodies may overlap or contain contrary packets of knowledge. This characteristic means that their sum may be unexpectedly different from all predictions made upon its subsets which are knowledge bodies and their possible superposition.

    One possible categorization of knowledge is the common way that introduces Science as a distinct knowledge body. It is worth noting that this common categorization is noway the only possible categorization but for reasons unknown to me it has proven itself the most efficient one ever used in terms of longevity, prosperity and environment control for human beings.

    Knowledge can also be viewed in a hierarchical tree of different abstraction levels; each level possibly introducing totally new concepts as a result of synergy, the fact that each level is not necessarily a superposition or union of the subsets of its preceding level. In this hierarchical manner of classification sensory information are perhaps of the lowest abstraction degree while their symbolic notation, the language, makes the next level of abstraction and so on.


    I suppose all measures taken to study knowledge in content and form (structure) are in vain or at least fruitless. All these studies are themselves knowledge packets that will become parts of the same knowledge they're devoted to study. Thus, they don't qualify for assessing the content or the form. Because of this supposition, I assume that verifiability, portability (eg sharing), nature, definition and limits of knowledge are subject to uncertainty, even the uncertainty itself.

    The above description of my opinion of knowledge is also subject to such uncertainty and that's why there is a logical loop in the very first definition of knowledge. This logical loop and many similar loops have their roots in that that we have always taken for granted what we could never have been sure of.

    More important, when knowledge - being the most important aspect of all discussions - is subject to such controversy, no other aspect is safe from these controversies. Therefore, no discussion can be carried out without encountering the same problem over and over but in different semblances.


    PS: There's a chance that I'll be unable to access PF for a few days. Please go on with the thread, if you like. The thread is not dead.

    PS: Hail Nagual Carlos!
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2003
  14. Mar 26, 2003 #13
    I'm using "keywords"? Please explain, so that I can respond.
  15. Mar 26, 2003 #14


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    Greetings !

    1. Stuff - data that we percieve
    as input. Data stored in some form -
    input that doesn't dissappear "without
    a trace".
    2. Indeed. Science is the classification
    of data, the patterns according to which
    we can divide knowledge to make it more
    useful and its internal connections clearer.
    3. Naturally.
    4. Our senses.
    5. Not certain what you mean. Reliability
    is a thing of experience - further knowledge.
    6. Are you talking about physical effects ?
    In that case, I guess my answer is yes.
    7. Other knowledge ?
    8. Yes. Knowledge can be classified in many
    different ways: type of senses providing the
    input, emotions/physical effects and more...
    9. Yes. Knowledge gives you an edge, an important
    thing in modern competative society.
    10. Sounds self-explanatory to me.
    11. When you're dealing with particular "known"
    knowledge, or when you are aware of the
    "storage" size of the knowledge and the
    patterns contained to it that can lead
    to more knowledge.
    12. In terms of 11 - it can be measured.
    13. In a particular case/environment.
    14. Data that is relevant to your present
    15. In the above context.
    16. We acquire knowledge through our senses
    all the time and even more through analysys
    of some of that knowledge. If you're talking
    about specific knowledge then I suppose that
    it is acquired through the special means
    for acquiring it, be it various info sources,
    real experiences and more.

    "We don't know a millionth of one percent
    about anything."
    Thomas Alva Edison

    Live long and prosper.
  16. Mar 27, 2003 #15

    1. For everyone:

    Shall we start discussing the answers now or shall we wait a bit more?

    2. For Mentat:

    Keywords are those words in your speech that are substantial to your argument of the case. For example, you wrote that "knowledge is a collection of facts (or, at least, what one believes to be facts)"; in order to understand your argument properly I have to know what "you" intend with "facts" and "believe to be facts". These are the keywords to understanding your piece of argument. I must be introduced to them to get a picture of your opinion. On the other hand, words like "collection" and "one" are subject to consensus in the course of this discussion.

    3. For drag:

    Thanks for posting. You, too, introduce a set of your own keywords with your own usage of them. Will you please explain them? (I'm especially interested in your usage of the term "data").

    Regarding question 05, reliability is a characteristic of (tele)communication that is dependent on different aspects of that specific communication process such as the similarities and differences between the two sides of the communication channel, the error introduced by these two endpoints, the error introduced by mechanisms that enable them to communicate over a certain channel, the modification applied to the subject of communication in order to prepare it for being sent over the communication channel and the properties of the communication channel.

    Question 06 attempts to find out whether or not (of course, in your opinion) knowledge can be the subject of comparative studies which certainly include criteria of comparison. Please refer to my description of this question for Mentat, 8 posts before this post.

    Question 10 is not as easy as it seems. Seeking knowledge can refer to many different human procedures, eg one can think of it as exhaustive study of sensory information while another views it as minimizing the volume of this type of information in order to let one's mind observe the self in nearly absolute silence. Many other procedures have also been given this title, in fact all human actions can be associated with "seeking knowledge" but different individuals and/or groups prefer to choose certain actions to be entitled. This question focuses on those procedures that "you" consider "seeking knowledge".
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2003
  17. Mar 27, 2003 #16
    Well, Manuel, when I say "facts", I mean something that is observably and/or verifiably true. And when I say "believe to be facts", I mean that the person would believe this to be observably and/or verifiably true.
  18. Mar 27, 2003 #17

    1. For Mentat:

    Right. There are still other keywords in your post, I meant "facts" and "believe to be facts" just as examples. It is up to you to choose what terms are the most significant to your speech and define them your way. I only need specifity in those terms to extract your points of emphasis. I, for one, consider the terms "knowledge body", "criterion", "categorization", "verifying", "abstraction level", "superposition", "synergy", "information" and "reliability" invaluable to my speech. Hence, I try to show you how I view them and then use them to describe what I find suitable.

    Some other keywords I could distinguish in your post are: pursuit of knowledge, communication, experimentation, useful and scientific method. I think I understand some of them quite well but, for example, your usage of the phrase "pursuit of knowledge" is much different from mine.

    2. For everyone:

    Computer scientists say "goto" statement is dead. I don't think so, please go to page 1.
  19. Mar 28, 2003 #18
    Re: Re: Knowledge?

    In response to Manuel - I am clarifying my 'kerwords' from my original post here.

    True = corresponds with the way the world actually is. Truth/falsity applies to propositions/statements purporting to describe how the world is.

    Belief = A mental state - self-certainty about the truth of something.

    Justification = evidence or grounds for particular beliefs/statements.

    Fact = a discreet piece of true proposition/statement

    Information = what's being expressed by anything that expresses something other than itself. A random set of numbers contains no information, but a different arrangement of the same numbers may express something about the world. Likewise, genes 'encode' the information needed to make proteins.

    I take 'verify' to mean 'confirm as true'. But since knowledge is, by definition, true, seems pointless to try to confirm the truth of something you already know is true.

    Objective reality = (that's a tough one!) ok . . . if something is 'true', it's implied that it is 'objectively true'. (I don't believe in relative truths.) eg 'the Earth orbits around the sun' is true, even if everybody disagrees with it, or even if there's nobody around to think about it.

    So objective reality = the way the world actually is, independent on what we perceive/observe/think it may be. Don't think it is possible to have direct access to objective reality (because information from the external world must pass through our consciousness and hence become subjective), but that doesn't stop us from getting close to the truth, depending on how reliable our senses/thoughts are.

    'Higher-order theoretical knowledge', if you like.

    Any more keywords you like me to define?
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2003
  20. Mar 28, 2003 #19
    What do grubs know?

    I think knowledge has its place, but I don't see it as the ultimate means to an end, as reflected from a previous post ...

  21. Mar 28, 2003 #20

    1. For everyone:

    I repeat the same question. Shall we start discussing the answers?

    2. For zimbo:

    Thank you! Well-rounded definitions ... when it comes to discussion they'll be of much value.

    You see, the post in which I wrote my answers is partitioned. The last part talks about my idea of studying knowledge itself; that I think this study is all in vain. Well, I have a sinister intention in asking everyone to define their keywords. Have you noticed that every definition introduces new keywords that aren't necessarily more informative than what they define?

    3. For Iacchus32:

    You've got a nice piece there. Up to the point you say "perhaps what we need is to take some time out from our worldliness and reflect on why ..." every word is in place, if I'm asked about it. You're in-an-uncertain-manner-absolutely right about what you've said.

    Like I've told almost everyone I've met, Stanislaw Lem's "Solaris" is where everything is said; your arguments, too. On the surface, Lem studies the possibility on inter-species contact when there’s no similarity in evolutionary stages that the two species have passed. In depth, he studies the possibility of knowing the Universe. He draws the simple yet subtle question: "Can we know anything after all?"

    We're confined to a human understanding of the Universe. We're wrapped in the Unknown that embraces us from outside and inside. Still we dream of knowing.

    However, your conclusion that "And from the one mind we fallen, to accept the two ..." can't be directly known from its introduction. It is just "your" very own very personal conclusion. It is an arbitrary conclusion just like anyone else's conclusion just like my arbitrary conclusion.
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