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How do you define knowledge?

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An interesting discussion point which I'm keen to delve into is how exactly we are define knowledge. From what I can see these definitions are why some people are happy to use the term gnostic while others deem the gnostic position an impossibility. 

There seems to be 4 common definitions that I've considered, all valid but different but perhaps there are others?  Firstly the philosophical definition which seems to be that knowledge doesn't exist because you can never know everything and therefore cannot ever know anything for sure. 

The scientific version which is said in quote marks with disclaimers attached. A theory being the confirmed and validated facts that we can say we "know" with cavets attached that such knowledge is not an absolute and subject to change. 

Then we have legal usage which seems the most common definition which is "beyond reasonable doubt". We understand that there will always be unreasonable counters for any subject, but to ever reach a conclusion you eventually have to make a limit. 

Then theres the day to day definition which is simply any information you can reasonably be expected to hold such as "do you know the time" or "do you know who John is talking to". In this day to day usage there is no validation, just an acceptance that the answer given is something they should reasonably "know". 

 

It would seem by the day to day, legal or scientific definitions that a claim of being gnostic would be fine. If you can accept the standard of "beyond reasonable doubt" then it would be straight forward. If you have a absolute view then you can say the gnostic position is impossible. But surely if knowledge doesn't exist then both gnostic and agnostic are equally valueless, as any positions related to knowledge would be irrelevant. 

 

Of course I've only used high level generalisations for the definitions, so readily accept there will be better ways to state those positions, but I guess the questions I'm looking at is which definition you use, why that particular one and do you use different definitions depending on the subject? 

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Very interesting analysis. What I see going on is a philosophical issue where one could reach for a variety of definitions in order to argue in favor of something difficult to impossible to argue in favor of. 
 

In this case, knowledge of the existence of a god or gods. 
 

“What do we mean by knowledge?”

 

Then find some definitions that appear to allow for the argument. Where it could be concluded that claiming to know gods do not exist may seem tenable. 
 

One problem I see right away is that god, in and of itself is the territory of absolute claims and absolute thinking. God is seldom presented any way other than absolute. 
 

It’s no surprise that the question of gods existence or non-existence is usually approached from absolute thinking and defining. That’s the land scape associated with gods. 
 

To look elsewhere tends to take the attention away from the actual question. And to side step it. As in, I can’t very well know if a god exists or not in any absolute sense (the sense of the very context of the question of gods existence) but in some other sense (out of this context) I can claim knowledge of gods existence or non-existence. 
 

My current position is a combination of gnostic and agnostic. Setting aside the technicalities, we can know so much (legal, scientific, mundane, etc.,etc.) and then we enter unknown and unknowable territory (absolute, eternal, infinite, etc., etc.) 

 

Gnostic atheism to the inherent limitation of gnostic atheism, and then agnostic atheism the rest of the way out. Knowing what can be known, not knowing what can not be known. Balanced between the known and knowable (tenable arguments) and the unknown and unknowable (untenable arguments). 
 

And all under the blanket of non-belief, or atheism If you will. Knowing that one god or another is made up as men told stories, but not knowing if some supreme being may exist anyways, despite what ever we can point to as obviously made up. 

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14 hours ago, Wertbag said:

An interesting discussion point which I'm keen to delve into is how exactly we are define knowledge. From what I can see these definitions are why some people are happy to use the term gnostic while others deem the gnostic position an impossibility. 

There seems to be 4 common definitions that I've considered, all valid but different but perhaps there are others?  Firstly the philosophical definition which seems to be that knowledge doesn't exist because you can never know everything and therefore cannot ever know anything for sure. 

The scientific version which is said in quote marks with disclaimers attached. A theory being the confirmed and validated facts that we can say we "know" with cavets attached that such knowledge is not an absolute and subject to change. 

Then we have legal usage which seems the most common definition which is "beyond reasonable doubt". We understand that there will always be unreasonable counters for any subject, but to ever reach a conclusion you eventually have to make a limit. 

Then theres the day to day definition which is simply any information you can reasonably be expected to hold such as "do you know the time" or "do you know who John is talking to". In this day to day usage there is no validation, just an acceptance that the answer given is something they should reasonably "know". 

 

It would seem by the day to day, legal or scientific definitions that a claim of being gnostic would be fine. If you can accept the standard of "beyond reasonable doubt" then it would be straight forward. If you have a absolute view then you can say the gnostic position is impossible. But surely if knowledge doesn't exist then both gnostic and agnostic are equally valueless, as any positions related to knowledge would be irrelevant. 

 

Of course I've only used high level generalisations for the definitions, so readily accept there will be better ways to state those positions, but I guess the questions I'm looking at is which definition you use, why that particular one and do you use different definitions depending on the subject? 

 

How do you define knowledge? Concerning definitions of words there should never be an argument. Some words have more than a single meaning. In such a case one should refer to which meaning you  are using in a discussion or argument, for instance.

 

As to knowledge:

 

1) A fact or condition of knowing related to the familiarity of a subject, gained through experience, association, and/or related study.

2)  acquaintance with or understanding of the details of a science, art, or technique.
3) the fact or condition of being aware of something to a high degree of probable certainty relating to truth, fact, involving generally incontestable information.

4) the sum of what is known : the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind

 

The word gnostic defined:

 

One who claims a high degree of knowledge in some field such as religion or science, especially secret knowledge of some kind.

 

Because of the vagueness of both the definitions of "knowledge" and "gnostic" I think philosophical arguments/ discussions can have little progress in such discussions using these words since each participant can carry a little different interpretation of word definitions even if both agree upon a word-for-word definition to start with.

 

As an example, in modern physics today more that half of what is now considered knowledge will turn out to be wrong in the next few decades IMO as new discoveries and interpretations are made. In other sciences it may not be the knowledge that is wrong but how the information is integrated into the whole leading to many different conclusions concerning the different theories of tomorrow. Opinions can be expressed with little argument. The point is that knowledge in many cases is an interpretation rather than a truth or fact, and should not be argued so as not to waist one's time.

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, pantheory said:

Because of the vagueness of both the definitions of "knowledge" and "gnostic" I think related argument and philosophical arguments can have little progress in such discussions

I agree.  I stated a variety of knowledge definitions which anyone could rightly hold to and build their definitions from.  If there is no single definition, or if the definitions themselves are a grey area then it is impossible to say someone using the gnostic label is incorrect, only that they are potentially incorrect under certain viewpoints.  

 

Of course the big requirement is a definition of god.  I would say the Christian god is impossible based on the characteristics assigned to it and based on the bible.  However if the definition of god is the apathetic, uncaring deist god.  One who lit the fuse on the big bang then left, having no further contact with the universe, then that being would be outside of any claim of knowledge on both sides.  If the god in question is nothing, does nothing and doesn't communicate in any way then the person claiming it exists has no basis for it, and the atheist would mostly be basing their position on the emptiness of the claim.  You could never be gnostic to an irrelevant god.

 

I had one gnostic atheist I talked to say they described it from a courtroom viewpoint.  Before the trial the judge and jury are agnostic, having heard no arguments and seen no evidence either way.  Both sides then present their strongest case, and both sides give rebuttals of the other, with the final goal being to convince, beyond reasonable doubt, that your side is correct. The Christian god has been tried, the apologetics have been heard and they have had thousands of years to provide evidence that their claim is true.  At the end of that trial the atheistic position wins.  He therefore said he as a gnostic atheist as long as knowledge is defined as beyond reasonable doubt.

 

Using this definition does have great utility, in that a gnostic atheist is one who has researched both sides, and through cumulative evidence came to the final conclusion.  This is distinct from an agnostic atheist who could say the burden of proof is with them and that's all, or who is ignorant of the argument or is apathetic to the subject.  I know we will never get agreement on such definitions, but I can see value in using categories that are easier to use and fit a lot more people.   

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The normal philosophical definition of knowledge is "justified, true belief". I think this definition is problematic for a number of reasons.

 

My definition of knowledge is "firmly held belief". In short,  we believe something when we think it's true,  and we know something when we really really think it's true,  usually because of significant justification.

 

Another way of putting this is that to know something,  on my parlance, is to be completely convinced that it is true. But of course, we can be completely convinced of things which turn out to be wrong. I don't find this particularly troubling.

 

I've said a lot about this topic already,  and I don't want to repeat it all here. See my thread on truth, knowledge, and belief for more of my thoughts on this. 

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When people say that they know god exists as a positive, the evidences presented tend to be subjective experience, hunch, intuition, presupposition, etc., etc. 

 

From what I can tell, gnostic theism depends on claiming any of the above as knowledge of gods existence. But this never qualifies as the type of knowledge of the existence of something (could be any suggestion, Santa, Tooth Fairy...) that can satisfy the burden of proof for making the gnostic theistic claim. 
 

An example would be how philosophy has tried but failed to prove the existence of god, via philosophy. 
 

Turning to the opposite, a positive claim for knowing god does not exist, does anyone see the situation any differently? And if so, what sets the gnostic theist claim apart from the gnostic atheist claim to know that a god does not exist?

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6 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

what sets the gnostic theist claim apart from the gnostic atheist claim to know that a god does not exist?

Depending on the characteristics claimed of God we can show those specific versions of god are not logically consistent or just impossible. Things such as the failure of prayer, the lack of communication, the problem of suffering, the lack of any benefit/protection and the lack of any supernatural miracles. Basically saying if a god existed with these specific characteristics then what would our physical world look like and in reverse if god doesn't exist what would we expect to see? Is the claim consistent with reality? 

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22 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

When people say that they know god exists as a positive, the evidences presented tend to be subjective experience, hunch, intuition, presupposition, etc., etc. 

 

From what I can tell, gnostic theism depends on claiming any of the above as knowledge of gods existence. But this never qualifies as the type of knowledge of the existence of something (could be any suggestion, Santa, Tooth Fairy...) that can satisfy the burden of proof for making the gnostic theistic claim. 
 

An example would be how philosophy has tried but failed to prove the existence of via philosophy. 
 

Turning to the opposite, a positive claim for knowing god does not exist, does anyone see the situation any differently? And if so, what sets the gnostic theist claim apart from the gnostic atheist claim to know that a god does not exist?

 

I agree. I believe a gnostic atheist is also a hard position to logically defend. For this reason I say that I am an atheist, meaning for myself that I do not believe that the Abrahamic God of any religion exists. But I extend the meaning of atheist for myself by saying that I would bet my "Immortal soul" against a single beer of my choice that the God of the bible does not exist. But a god of any kind would have to be very well defined for me to require more.. Since I do not believe in heaven, hell, or an immortal soul of any kind, and more than this I believe that all such beliefs concerning an immortal soul are just a fantasy -- so it's easy for me to make such a bet. But if I really thought that I might possibly lose the bet based upon a god of some sort that created our existence, then I might require a six pack of beer against my immortal soul. But  if the bet stated that if a god of this sort existed that I would have to give up two years of my life, then I might require a case of beer plus two shots of my choice for such a bet :) 

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16 hours ago, Wertbag said:

Depending on the characteristics claimed of God we can show those specific versions of god are not logically consistent or just impossible. Things such as the failure of prayer, the lack of communication, the problem of suffering, the lack of any benefit/protection and the lack of any supernatural miracles. Basically saying if a god existed with these specific characteristics then what would our physical world look like and in reverse if god doesn't exist what would we expect to see? Is the claim consistent with reality? 

 

These will get destroyed in a debate with an experienced theist, though. Failed prayer, lack of communication, suffering, lack of protection and miracles are substantial for people like you and I to withhold positive belief, but they do not prove that a god doesn't or can not exist. A deist creator could exist despite our objections, for instance. And yet, the fact that a deist god could exist doesn't move me to positive belief either. I just recognize the limitations of a gnostic atheist assertion. Those limitations don't persuade me into belief, though. 

 

The conclusion above is that monotheistic judaism, islam or christianity are contradicting with their god beliefs. But we have to consider that they could be the products of men making religion about grasping at the concept of god, while completely missing the mark of what that god would actually be. Esoteric's and similar mystical thinkers often reject the rigid assertions of what a god would be according to monotheistic religionist's. And some monotheistic religionist's think that their god is beyond what anyone has tried describing, apparently, because they reject certain parts of the scriptures. 

 

The only point being that proving the non-existence of something may seem tempting, but it's not as straight forward as it seems. The bigger issue is that there's no onus on any non-believers to prove anything in the first place, so why even go there? It's a sticky situation that we need not trod through. 

 

We can show how nonsensical it is to believe contradictory claims. How unlikely it is that something exists as is claimed by scriptural writers. And how historically inaccurate scriptural writers have been. But I see no home run here in terms of completely shutting down positive belief with hard evidence that no god of any type can exist, anywhere out to infinity! That keeps the situation in an agnostic territory. And that's why people like Richard Dawkins will claim 99.9% certainty that god does not exist, and happily admit to agnostic atheism. And lose no ground in the process. All the major points of the atheist remain. Proving non-existence isn't one of the major points, though. 

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9 hours ago, pantheory said:

 

I agree. I believe a gnostic atheist is also a hard position to logically defend. For this reason I say that I am an atheist, meaning for myself that I do not believe that the Abrahamic God of any religion exists. But I extend the meaning of atheist for myself by saying that I would bet my "Immortal soul" against a single beer of my choice that the God of the bible does not exist. But a god of any kind would have to be very well defined for me to require more.. Since I do not believe in heaven, hell, or an immortal soul of any kind, and more than this I believe that all such beliefs concerning an immortal soul are just a fantasy -- so it's easy for me to make such a bet. But if I really thought that I might possibly lose the bet based upon a god of some sort that created our existence, then I might require a six pack of beer against my immortal soul. But  if the bet stated that if a god of this sort existed that I would have to give up two years of my life, then I might require a case of beer plus two shots of my choice for such a bet :) 

 

Even without proving that a god doesn't or can't exist, I'd bet anything in the world against it. I'm thoroughly convinced that it's all make believe, all of it. No less convinced than I am that Santa, or the Tooth Fairy, Boogie Man, or FSM are all demonstrably made up and imaginary. And all fanatasy. And at no point have I required hard evidence of gods non-existence or claiming to know that god doesn't exist to be this convinced that's all made up.

 

I have my better judgement, logical deduction, intuition, academic and scientific studies, etc., etc., all pointing towards the same conclusion. And I have concluded. 

 

It would take an act of god, to change my mind at this point!!!

 

🤣

 

But seriously, I leave open the possibility that I could be wrong because I don't know or have absolute knowledge. I just feel comfortable making a rational conclusion based on the knowledge that is available. 

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How do I define knowledge?

 

I don't know.

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knowl·edge

/ˈnäləj/

noun

 

That's the definition of knowledge. How I might personally choose to define it for my own purposes would be irrelevant.

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On ‎3‎/‎6‎/‎2020 at 11:28 PM, disillusioned said:

My definition of knowledge is "firmly held belief". In short,  we believe something when we think it's true,  and we know something when we really really think it's true,  usually because of significant justification.

 

Wouldn't this mean that any firmly held belief is then equally held as knowledge as any other firmly held belief? Flat earthers have a firmly held belief that they think is justified. So they "know" the earth is flat. Similarly theists (many of them) have a firmly held belief that god exists and thus they "know" god exists.

 

This would mean that knowledge and truth do not necessarily correspond.

 

It would seem that what is true then is separate from what you think you know.

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25 minutes ago, LogicalFallacy said:

Wouldn't this mean that any firmly held belief is then equally held as knowledge as any other firmly held belief? Flat earthers have a firmly held belief that they think is justified. So they "know" the earth is flat. Similarly theists (many of them) have a firmly held belief that god exists and thus they "know" god exists.

 

Yes, when dealing with something like the existence of god, "knowing" that god exists is most often presented with strong conviction. As in knowledge with certainty that it's true. That's what makes up the gnostic theist position. 

 

Why would the gnostic atheist position be anything other than the polar opposite? A conviction with "certainty" oriented "knowledge" that god does not exist, in direct response and opposition to the gnostic theist position? 

 

A ) gnostic theist = I know (certainty) that god exists! 

B ) gnostic atheist = I know (certainty) that god does not exist!

 

It makes no sense to define knowledge outside of an absolute, or truth based context when specifically addressing the existence or non-existence of gods. The gnostic positions are positions of strong conviction. Based on truth claims. Which agnostic's (either way) tend to see as ill-advised considering the facts (or lack thereof) on the table. It does little good to introduce lesser definitions of knowledge that stray away from the context of strong conviction that the gnostic's are promoting. 

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Wouldn't this mean that any firmly held belief is then equally held as knowledge as any other firmly held belief? Flat earthers have a firmly held belief that they think is justified. So they "know" the earth is flat. Similarly theists (many of them) have a firmly held belief that god exists and thus they "know" god exists.

 

Not quite.

 

I say knowledge reduces to firmly held belief. This does not imply that all knowledge in on an equal footing.

 

You're right,  flat earthers firmly believe that the earth is flat. I think it is correct to say that they know the Earth is flat. They're wrong, but that doesn't affect their knowledge.

 

There was a time not so long ago when everyone knew that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Not so long before that, everyone knew that the best thing to do for infected wounds was to pack them with dung to bring forth the pus. Nowadays, we know that both these things are false. This is representative of scientific progress in general. Science only progresses when things that we used to know are shown to be false, or at least only partially true. If knowledge implied certainty of truth,  then scientific knowledge wouldn't  really be possible at all.

 

Let's look at a couple of specific examples. Take Newton's second law. If a net force is applied to a mass, the mass will accelerate according to the equation F=ma, and if a mass accelerates, it is due to the application of a net force which can be computed via the same equation. I know this to be true. I'd hazard that you would say you do too. In fact most reasonably well educated people would claim to know this. But how do we know it? In my case,  I've verified it directly myself many times, first when studying physics, and later when teaching it. But this is not true of the average person who would claim to know Newton's second law. Most people would appeal to the fact that others have verified this thousands and thousands and thousands of times. That is to say, they believe it. They may believe it firmly, but they cannot be certain. Nevertheless, they claim knowledge. For that matter, even I can't really be certain,  because all these experiments that I've seen and have conducted might just coincidentally confirm the law. But I'm pretty damn sure, so I say I know.

 

Now let's look at another example. If you were to ask me how many kidneys I have, I would say 2. I would answer immediately, with conviction. I know I have two kidneys. But how do I know it? I haven't seen them. For that matter, I haven't seen the kidneys of any human. When it comes right down to it,  I've just been told by people who seem to know what they're talking about that people have two kidneys,  and I believe them. But I still feel perfectly justified saying that I know I have two kidneys. Of course, it could be the case that I only have one. I could have been born with only one. But this doesn't stop me from claiming to know that I have two.

 

Now, compare both these examples to the flat-earthers. Yes,  my knowledge in both cases is firmly held belief. Theirs is also firmly held belief. The difference is that my knowledge is firmly held because it is justified by evidence. Theirs is not. The evidence I cite is direct in one case, and indirect in the other, but in either case it is sound evidence. Whatever "evidence" flat-earthers may produce is definitely not sound. Therein lies a very key difference.

 

Essentially, what I want to say is this: knowledge is firmly held belief, but not all knowledge is equally firmly held, and not all knowledge is firmly held for good reasons.

 

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This would mean that knowledge and truth do not necessarily correspond.

 

Correct. I think there is a general correspondence between knowledge and truth, but it's not a full correspondence. Some knowledge claims do not reflect truth,  and some do. And of those that do reflect truth,  some do it better than others. 

 

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It would seem that what is true then is separate from what you think you know.

 

The short answer here is yes. Certainly for ontological truth. Epistemic truth is explicitly linked to what we know on a societal level, but on an individual level we can still claim knowledge of things which aren't true.

 

I used to know that God exists. Now I want to say I know he doesn't. The only reason I don't say I know God doesn't exist is because it can give people the wrong impression. What they hear is "I'm certain that God does not exist". What I mean to say is "I firmly believe that God doesn't exist". On my vocabulary, this is to say that I know it. But convincing everyone who asks the question that knowledge reduces to firmly held belief is taxing, and usually beside the point, so I generally just say I'm a hard atheist and leave it at that.

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In the above you're conflating "knowledge" and "knowing" with "assumption." 

 

You don't know or have knowledge that you have two kidneys without confirming it, you have the assumption that (1) everyone should have two kidneys and (2) you should be like everyone else. It may be that your assumption is wrong, however surprising or unlikely that may be. You don't actually know your assumption to be true. Until you've confirmed somehow that it is true. 

 

Now granted, when people claim to know god exists, they are assuming that as well. They don't actually know that the assumption is true. This assumption remains unconfirmed and not verified as a hard fact. They just have an assumption that they believe in despite the fact that it's an unconfirmed assumption. And sometimes doubt their unconfirmed assumptions in their own minds, but struggle to try and manage to believe their unconfirmed assumptions anyways for one reason or another. Usually an emotional reason. 

 

Likewise, when people are claiming to know that god doesn't exist, that's an assumption as well. They don't know that god doesn't exist because they only have assumptions to go on. Which to confirm require scouring the expanse of existence. So claiming to know something that is not knowable in that context doesn't seem helpful at all.

 

"Knowing" and "knowledge" ought to be set aside. Calling it "assumption" seems better suited to convey the meaning of what's actually taking place in the exchange. Within the context of the meaning of the said exchange - god does or does not exist. 

 

On 3/11/2020 at 10:33 AM, disillusioned said:

I used to know that God exists. Now I want to say I know he doesn't. The only reason I don't say I know God doesn't exist is because it can give people the wrong impression. What they hear is "I'm certain that God does not exist". What I mean to say is "I firmly believe that God doesn't exist". On my vocabulary, this is to say that I know it. But convincing everyone who asks the question that knowledge reduces to firmly held belief is taxing, and usually beside the point, so I generally just say I'm a hard atheist and leave it at that.

 

You didn't used to "know" that god exists. Neither did I. Neither does anyone else. We all had or have an assumption, or presupposition that god exists and have to operate from that base level foundation. But a presupposition doesn't equate to us knowing the truth of said claim. We may guess lucky, but we're still just guessing. As with your kidney example. 

 

I'm good with everyone's strong conviction that god doesn't exist. I agree with it. Because as I said, I don't need to bring knowledge into it. I don't know that I'm guessing right. But I'm guessing this way anyways despite the lack of 100% certainty. My conviction for placing my bet this way is strong regardless of the philosophical problems with conflating "knowledge" with "assumption." I do assume that that I'm correct when lacking god belief. But I don't know 100% that my assumptions are correct. 

 

So the big over arching default here is agnostic atheism....

 

 

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11 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

In the above you're conflating "knowledge" and "knowing" with "assumption." 

 

No, I am not conflating "knowledge" with "assumption". What I'm doing,  and what I have been doing ever since I started my thread on Truth,  Knowledge,  and Belief, is relying on a foundationalist approach to knowledge.

 

Go back and re read the original post of that thread of necessary. The essence is this: when you make a knowledge claim, I can ask how you know what you claim. There are ultimately three possibilities: 1) you fall into circularity, 2) you rely on an infinite regress or 3) you appeal to axioms, which are simply assumed. I take the third choice as being the most sound (as do most philosophers, by the way). It follows from this that all legitimate knowledge is based on assumptions. But this is not the same as conflating knowledge and assumption. More on this below. 

 

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You don't know or have knowledge that you have two kidneys without confirming it, you have the assumption that (1) everyone should have two kidneys and (2) you should be like everyone else. It may be that your assumption is wrong, however surprising or unlikely that may be. You don't actually know your assumption to be true. Until you've confirmed somehow that it is true. 

 

Yes, I have the assumptions you identified,  and I have some other evidence as well. I've been to a doctor, and he seemed to think I have two kidneys. My excretory system functions in a completely normal fashion. And so on. On the basis of those assumptions and this evidence I claim to know I have two kidneys, and I am justified in doing so. 

 

If I can't claim knowledge in a case like this, then it follows in short order that we can't know anything at all about the external world. There is no way to confirm that the external world itself exists. This must be assumed. But then every knowledge claim about the external world is necessarily based on assumption.

 

Notice something very important: I also feel perfectly happy to claim that I know that the external world exists. This is a knowledge claim which is properly axiomatic, ie, which is a direct assumption. But not all knowledge claims are such. Most of the things we claim to know are not assumptions themselves,  but are nevertheless based upon assumption. 

 

 

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"Knowing" and "knowledge" ought to be set aside. Calling it "assumption" seems better suited to convey the meaning of what's actually taking place in the exchange. Within the context of the meaning of the said exchange - god does or does not exist. 

 

No, I don't think this is right. 

 

The word "knowledge" is used all the time. There's no sense in setting it aside. What we should do is try to make sure that we are using it consistently.

 

As outlined above, it seems to me that legitimate knowledge reduces to belief which is justified on the basis of some set of assumptions (axioms). The axioms are not justified. They are simply believed. This is why I say that knowledge reduces to firmly held belief.

 

The theist firmly believes that God exists. They know it. In some cases,  this knowledge is a direct assumption, and in some cases it isn't. One can claim to know that God exists axiomatically,  just as I claim to know that the external world exists. One can also cite evidence from their own experiences which have led them to their knowledge of God. I think in either case,  the theist is wrong: they have arrived at knowledge which isn't true. I don't find this troubling. I think we all know lots of things that aren't true. 

 

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You didn't used to "know" that god exists. Neither did I. Neither does anyone else. We all had or have an assumption, or presupposition that god exists and have to operate from that base level foundation. But a presupposition doesn't equate to us knowing the truth of said claim. We may guess lucky, but we're still just guessing. As with your kidney example. 

 

As it happens,  I did know that God exists. I knew it with every fiber of my being. I was absolutely certain. Yes, I was wrong,  and yes,  it was all based on some bad assumptions. I think this is very common of knowledge.

 

We should be a little bit careful here though. Knowledge,  even by assumption,  is not the same as "guessing lucky". If you flip a coin,  and I call heads and I'm right,  then I "guessed lucky". When I claim to know by assumption that the external world exists,  I'm not guessing. I find the alternative to be utterly absurd. When we guess,  we pick more or less at random between options which we find equally plausible. This is a different process from making an assumption based on what seems most reasonable to us. 

 

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I'm good with everyone's strong conviction that god doesn't exist. I agree with it. Because as I said, I don't need to bring knowledge into it. I don't know that I'm guessing right. But I'm guessing this way anyways despite the lack of 100% certainty. My conviction for placing my bet this way is strong regardless of the philosophical problems with conflating "knowledge" with "assumption." I do assume that that I'm correct when lacking god belief. But I don't know 100% that my assumptions are correct. 

 

It seems to me that you are conflating knowledge and certainty. On this kind of view,  we don't really know anything.

 

Nothing that I know is absolutely certain,  except perhaps for my own existence. Nevertheless, I do know a thing or two. This knowledge is based on assumptions,  but it is not necessarily assumption in and of itself. I don't see this as being at all problematic.

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16 hours ago, disillusioned said:

No, I am not conflating "knowledge" with "assumption". What I'm doing,  and what I have been doing ever since I started my thread on Truth,  Knowledge,  and Belief, is relying on a foundationalist approach to knowledge.

 

Go back and re read the original post of that thread of necessary. The essence is this: when you make a knowledge claim, I can ask how you know what you claim. There are ultimately three possibilities: 1) you fall into circularity, 2) you rely on an infinite regress or 3) you appeal to axioms, which are simply assumed. I take the third choice as being the most sound (as do most philosophers, by the way). It follows from this that all legitimate knowledge is based on assumptions. But this is not the same as conflating knowledge and assumption. More on this below. 

 

What I'm saying is that the example given speaks of assumption as knowledge, but not just any knowledge in general. Very specific knowledge. Knowledge of the existence or non-existence of god. This is fine tuned down to a specific context. The knowledge in question only makes sense as absolute knowing. Knowing for sure, for certain that god does or does not exist. Not any run of the mill definition or meaning of the term knowledge outside of this context. It's very specific. Or else the claim to have knowledge of gods existence or non-existence is meaningless.

 

It's about knowing the truth of the claim. 

 

For instance, if you claim to know that god exists, or doesn't, and what you mean is that you don't really know for sure whether or not that's actually true, then you don't know what you are trying to claim to know. I see philosophical theatrics all the time where people try make these kinds of arguments. Apologists do this. If they can play around with definitions of "knowledge" then they can claim to "know" god exists, without, obviously, really knowing whether or not the claim that god exists is true. 

 

That's what I'm talking about. And what they do, it seems atheists should just steer clear of trying to do in my opinion. Trying to do it in the opposite direction by claiming to know the truth that god does not exist. These are objective claims. Fact based and truth based claims. And that sets the context by which we can then consider the claims. 

 

16 hours ago, disillusioned said:

Yes, I have the assumptions you identified,  and I have some other evidence as well. I've been to a doctor, and he seemed to think I have two kidneys. My excretory system functions in a completely normal fashion. And so on. On the basis of those assumptions and this evidence I claim to know I have two kidneys, and I am justified in doing so. 

 

If I can't claim knowledge in a case like this, then it follows in short order that we can't know anything at all about the external world. There is no way to confirm that the external world itself exists. This must be assumed. But then every knowledge claim about the external world is necessarily based on assumption.

 

Notice something very important: I also feel perfectly happy to claim that I know that the external world exists. This is a knowledge claim which is properly axiomatic, ie, which is a direct assumption. But not all knowledge claims are such. Most of the things we claim to know are not assumptions themselves,  but are nevertheless based upon assumption. 

 

 

You can only claim knowledge in this case because unlike your original example, you'd added further evidence from a physician. In the example you gave you left that out and kept it as an assumption basis without the added evidence. That's why I had to add that your assumption may be true, but without the further evidence that you've now added to the example, you'd have no way of knowing. You could be right or wrong, but you were just assuming prior to further evidence. 

 

You know that I'm aware of the "uncertainty" involved with physical reality. That makes up a majority of my ex christian spirituality discussions. And that has a lot to do with my agnostic atheist position taking.

 

I'm happy to believe that something exists, which we see as the external world. Some energies or something that we perceive as sub atomic particles and particular matter. We don't see it as it actually is. But we see something, whatever it may actually be. But this IS assumption and I'm always aware of that. No matter how happy I am to accept that the external world exists, I'm still disciplined enough to understand I could have it completely wrong. I have no guarantee that I'm correct. So the default is agnostic as opposed to gnostic. I think that I know things along the way, but ultimately, I don't know. 

 

Nowhere, so far, have we come anywhere remotely close to the context of the question we face concerning knowing the truth about whether or not a god exists. We can't be certain of physical reality regardless of our assumptions, let alone the existence of a god. Which still relies on much shakier assumption. 

 

16 hours ago, disillusioned said:

No, I don't think this is right. 

 

The word "knowledge" is used all the time. There's no sense in setting it aside. What we should do is try to make sure that we are using it consistently.

 

 

I think I agree. But by using it consistently I aim to use it in it's relevant context. Saying that someone knows a god exists isn't a flaccid, maybe, maybe not claim. It's a firm claim of knowing with certainty and conviction that it's an absolute truth. There's no chance that it's wrong, this is a gnostic as opposed to agnostic claim. The opposite of an agnostic claim of not knowing for sure in any absolute sense. 

 

16 hours ago, disillusioned said:

The theist firmly believes that God exists. They know it. In some cases,  this knowledge is a direct assumption, and in some cases it isn't. One can claim to know that God exists axiomatically,  just as I claim to know that the external world exists. One can also cite evidence from their own experiences which have led them to their knowledge of God. I think in either case,  the theist is wrong: they have arrived at knowledge which isn't true. I don't find this troubling. I think we all know lots of things that aren't true. 

 

But that stretches the context and meaning of what they are claiming when they know god exists.

 

If they are agnostic theists, then they don't claim to know god exists. And you're talking about a gnostic theist by using agnostic theist reasoning. The external world is also an agnostic situation, like god is. And gnostic positions on the external world are just as problematic as gnostic positions on the existence of god. 

 

It's tempting to reach for gnostic oriented conclusions. But I see no need to try and go there. The agnosticism has the higher ground every time. And it doesn't matter if that reduces us to facing the fact that we don't know most of the things that we think that we do know. It's just the truth of the matter. 

 

16 hours ago, disillusioned said:

As it happens,  I did know that God exists. I knew it with every fiber of my being. I was absolutely certain. Yes, I was wrong,  and yes,  it was all based on some bad assumptions. I think this is very common of knowledge.

 

We should be a little bit careful here though. Knowledge,  even by assumption,  is not the same as "guessing lucky". If you flip a coin,  and I call heads and I'm right,  then I "guessed lucky". When I claim to know by assumption that the external world exists,  I'm not guessing. I find the alternative to be utterly absurd. When we guess,  we pick more or less at random between options which we find equally plausible. This is a different process from making an assumption based on what seems most reasonable to us. 

 

 

You thought that you knew god exists. But as it turns out, you didn't know that. You thought. You assumed. But you didn't actually know what you assumed to know was true. You assumed that god is real. That's the context of the example.  

 

The external world analogy has a lot more going for it than the god analogy. To say that we assume that the external world exists, is much firmer territory than the context of the existence of god. It's nonsensical to assume the external world does not exist. But, however nonsensical, how can we take this to absolute truth knowledge? Could we not be fooled in the assumption? Is that impossible? If not, then it's an open case isn't it? And agnostic remains on higher ground than gnostic time and time again. Example after example. 

 

16 hours ago, disillusioned said:

It seems to me that you are conflating knowledge and certainty. On this kind of view,  we don't really know anything.

 

The context of applying knowledge of gods existence is a certainty based knowledge context. It's gnostic. The opposite is agnostic which involved knowledge about things uncertain. Both knowledge, one based on certainty and the polar opposite of the certainty based on uncertainty. We can't very well strip the question and claims of this context. Regardless of whether or not knowledge CAN apply to both certain and uncertain contexts, the purpose of the discussion is outline gnostic versus agnostic position taking. 

 

And the kicker here is that for all we know, we don't really know anything. 

 

It's unhelpful, sure. But it's a reality of existence isn't it? We don't like to dwell on it and it doesn't do much good to live life blinded by our inherent ignorance. But that doesn't seem to be enough to change the situation. 

 

"He who thinks he knows, doesn't know. He who knows that he doesn't know, knows." - Aristotle 

 

The argument for thinking that we know, tends to outline how much we actually don't. It's not flattering. But it's a reality that we face, don't we? 

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16 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

 

You can only claim knowledge in this case because unlike your original example, you'd added further evidence from a physician. In the example you gave you left that out and kept it an assumption basis. That's why I had to add that your assumption may be true, but without the further evidence that you've now added to the example, you'd have no way of knowing. 

 

No, this is wrong. 

 

I've seen a physician,  who probed my abdomen and didn't seem at all concerned. He declared that I didn't have any abdomenal problems. But at no time was my abdomen cut open to investigate the state of my kidneys. The only part the physician had to play in this is to not be concerned. We can leave him aside entirely. 

 

I assume that humans in general have two kidneys. I've seen the kidneys of various other animals on dissection, and they seem to come in pairs. I've been told that humans are like other animals in this respect, and this seems reasonable to me. Moreover, I seem to be a normal human. Based on these things,  I reason to the conclusion that I have two kidneys, and I claim knowledge. It's not a pure assumption, and it doesn't specifically rely on anything to do with my doctor. His lack of concern supports my knowledge, but it is not requisite for my knowledge.

 

16 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

You know that I'm quite aware of the "uncertainty" of physical reality. That has a lot to do with my agnostic atheist position taking. I'm happy to believe that something exists, which we see as the external world. Some energies or something that we perceive as sub atomic particles and particular matter. We don't see it as it actually is. But we see something, whatever it may actually be. But this IS assumption and I'm always aware of that. No matter how happy I am to accept that the external world exists, I'm still disciplined enough to understand I could have it completely wrong. I have no guarantee that I'm correct. 

 

Nowhere, so far, have we come anywhere remotely close to the context of the question we face concerning knowing whether or not a god exists. We can't be certain of physical reality regardless of our assumptions, let along the existence of a god. Which still relies on much shakier assumption. 

 

I'm very happy to grant that the existence of a God rests on much shakier assumptions than most other things. But if we're really, truly, ex-Christians, we ought to be able to consider questions of knowledge that have nothing whatsoever to do with God.

 

What I've been asserting is specifically that there is never any guarantee that we're correct. In any realm.   Nevertheless,  we may claim knowledge. I'm aware that this is an audacious claim, but it is my claim. You may disagree if you like. 

 

16 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

 

You thought that you knew god exists. But as it turns out, you didn't know that. You thought. You assumed. But you didn't actually know what you assumed to know. You assumed that god is real. That's the context of the example. This is a very, very liberal usage of the term, "know." That removes it from the context of what you are claiming to have known. 

 

No, I knew it. I knew what I knew. You can't tell me otherwise. Your reasoning here is dangerously close to that of those theists who say that we were never true Christians at all.

 

Yes, my usage of the terms "know" and "knowledge" are liberal, and somewhat atypical. I'm aware of this. I'm ok with it. 

 

16 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

The external world analogy has a lot more going for it than the god analogy. To say that we assume that the external world exists, is much firmer territory than the context of the existence of god. It's nonsensical to assume the external world does not exist. But, however nonsensical, how can we take this to absolute knowledge? Could we not be fooled in the assumption? Is that impossible? If not, then it's an open case isn't it? And agnostic remains on higher ground than gnostic time and time again. Example after example. 

 

Who said anything about absolute knowledge? The question was "how do you define knowledge". I've answered. By my reading,  you haven't yet. You're not under any obligation to do so,  of course. But as far as I can see, what you're saying is basically that we can't know anything. I find this to be an unhelpful point of view, as you acknowledge below (in bold).

 

16 minutes ago, Joshpantera said:

 

The context of applying knowledge of gods existence is a certainty based knowledge context. It's gnostic. The opposite is agnostic which involved knowledge about things uncertain. Both knowledge, one based on certainty and the polar opposite of the certainty based on uncertainty. We can't very well strip the question and claims of this context. Regardless of whether or not knowledge CAN apply to both certain and uncertain contexts, the purpose of the discussion is outline gnostic versus agnostic position taking. 

 

And the kicker here is that for all we know, we don't really know anything. 

 

It's unhelpful, sure. But it's a reality of existence isn't it? We don't like to dwell on it and it doesn't do much good to live life blinded by our inherent ignorance. But that doesn't seem to be enough to change the situation. 

 

"He who thinks he knows, doesn't know. He who knows that he doesn't know, knows." - Aristotle 

 

The argument for thinking that we know, tends to outline how much we actually don't. It's not flattering. But it's a reality that we face, don't we? 

 

I do see what you're saying,  and I honestly don't entirely disagree. But, I think that it's counterproductive to treat "knowledge" as something special when ordinary people,  in ordinary life,  don't treat it that way. I'd much rather try to develop a philosophical basis for the kind of knowledge that actual people actually claim every day then spend my time aimlessly wondering whether we can actually "know" anything at all. The word only means what people use it to mean, after all. Why try to make it more than what it is? What it seems to me to be is just firmly held belief. Hence, the rest of what I've said. 

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On 3/13/2020 at 9:40 PM, disillusioned said:
10 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

You can only claim knowledge in this case because unlike your original example, you'd added further evidence from a physician. In the example you gave you left that out and kept it an assumption basis. That's why I had to add that your assumption may be true, but without the further evidence that you've now added to the example, you'd have no way of knowing. 

 

So my response is point out the you added more information and the example became less vague. As in there was no doctor and now you've added a doctor. So you're adding more evidence to base your conclusion on. I assume that the example is based on "knowing" the "truth" about whether or not you have two kidneys. Not just assuming that you know the truth about having two kidneys. 

 

On 3/13/2020 at 9:40 PM, disillusioned said:

No, this is wrong. 

 

I've seen a physician,  who probed my abdomen and didn't seem at all concerned. He declared that I didn't have any abdomenal problems. But at no time was my abdomen cut open to investigate the state of my kidneys. The only part the physician had to play in this is to not be concerned. We can leave him aside entirely. 

 

I assume that humans in general have two kidneys. I've seen the kidneys of various other animals on dissection, and they seem to come in pairs. I've been told that humans are like other animals in this respect, and this seems reasonable to me. Moreover, I seem to be a normal human. Based on these things,  I reason to the conclusion that I have two kidneys, and I claim knowledge. It's not a pure assumption, and it doesn't specifically rely on anything to do with my doctor. His lack of concern supports my knowledge, but it is not requisite for my knowledge.

 

Do you claim "knowledge" of the "truth" of the situation? Because the two of you might be flabbergasted to discover that your assumptions, no matter how well grounded, could have been wrong. I've heard of crazier things happening. Women not knowing they were pregnant, etc., etc. I don't see how it's possible to be this over confident, or gnostic minded, without turning a blind eye to greater possibilities. I understand completely why worrying ourselves to death about how we could be wrong about so many things is unhelpful. I don't want to do that.

 

But I don't want to lie to myself or fool myself into thinking that I know the absolute truth about things which are beyond knowing the absolute truth about. Hence, I don't take up a gnostic position about any number of things unless it's partially gnostic. Because being gnostic about an issue will only take me so far. I have to turn to agnostic position taking to go the rest of the way out towards the bigger picture, greater reality, etc., etc. 

 

On 3/13/2020 at 9:40 PM, disillusioned said:

I'm very happy to grant that the existence of a God rests on much shakier assumptions than most other things. But if we're really, truly, ex-Christians, we ought to be able to consider questions of knowledge that have nothing whatsoever to do with God.

 

In a discussion about gnostic or agnostic atheism? We have a topic. Can we know if god exists or not? By know, the assertion entails knowing the truth of the claim. I'm not sure what unrelated contexts have to do with the topic. If they bring some clarity to the topic, that's fine. But the topic isn't about knowledge in a relative sense, or knowing in a round about way that a god doesn't exist. The gnostic position is the opposite of 'not knowing' if a god exists.

 

If we reduce knowledge to two categories of 'not knowing' the truth of the claim, then it looks like this: 

 

Gnostic = less than certain knowledge, insisting to know anyways. 

 

Agnostic = less than certain knowledge, not insisting to know anyways. 

 

Maybe that is what you are trying to say. The only difference between a gnostic thinker and agnostic thinker, by way of your examples, is that the gnostic insists that they know things that they don't actually know the truth of. For the sake of not focusing on the fact that they don't really know the truth of a given thing. And in a way it's the case of pandering to one's own delicate sensibilities. They don't like to face the fact that they ultimately don't know, so they go on pretending as if they do

 

This is classical gnostic theism I'm describing above.

 

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No, I knew it [gods existence]. I knew what I knew. You can't tell me otherwise. Your reasoning here is dangerously close to that of those theists who say that we were never true Christians at all.

 


 

Yes, my usage of the terms "know" and "knowledge" are liberal, and somewhat atypical. I'm aware of this. I'm ok with it.

 

 

How did you know the truth of it? Let's look at that. How did you know the truth that god exists? Do you have evidence or some methodology to confirm and substantiate that truth claim? 

 

If you didn't know the truth of the claim, then you didn't know anything other than that you assumed the existence of something. Yes, you clearly knew and had knowledge that you assumed the existence of god. But so what?

 

People assumed the earth was flat. They had knowledge, granted, but only knowledge of their own assumptions, which, were wrong. That's not the same as knowing the truth. It was never true that the earth is flat. It doesn't matter what they thought they knew. They were wrong. People thought mental disease was demons. Wrong again. We could use a liberal usage of the term knowledge and claim that they knew demons possession was real, but this is unhelpful toward a truth based context. 

 

The usage of "know" and "knowledge" is liberal to the point of being out of context with the topic, basically. 

 

But that's good. Because at least we have something to look at in terms of some one trying to put up an argument in favor of gnostic position taking. We have something to consider about how it fares against agnostic position taking. That quibble is what started this topic. 

 

On 3/5/2020 at 10:40 PM, Wertbag said:

An interesting discussion point which I'm keen to delve into is how exactly we are define knowledge. From what I can see these definitions are why some people are happy to use the term gnostic while others deem the gnostic position an impossibility

 

So granted, you have a comprehensive thread about knowledge going on so the first part of his posts concerns you. It's a good thread. Lot's of keen insights. But the purpose of defining knowledge for the sake of the discussion IS addressed to these specifics - gnostic versus agnostic. And why some people consider gnostic position taking an impossibility in that it's considered an untenable position to take up. 

 

On 3/13/2020 at 9:40 PM, disillusioned said:

Who said anything about absolute knowledge? The question was "how do you define knowledge". I've answered. By my reading,  you haven't yet. You're not under any obligation to do so,  of course. But as far as I can see, what you're saying is basically that we can't know anything. I find this to be an unhelpful point of view, as you acknowledge below (in bold).

 

You're partially correct. You're asked to bring your definition of knowledge back to the issue of gnostic versus agnostic position taking. I'm curious how you think your knowledge definitions apply to gnostic versus agnostic position taking. Because so far they appear to apply as I've mapped out previously. Neither know the truth of their claims, but the gnostic claims knowledge anyways without actually knowing the truth of the claim. 

 

That's why this IS specifically about absolute knowledge and truth. We have a context to frame this within. 

 

On 3/13/2020 at 9:40 PM, disillusioned said:

I do see what you're saying,  and I honestly don't entirely disagree. But, I think that it's counterproductive to treat "knowledge" as something special when ordinary people,  in ordinary life,  don't treat it that way. I'd much rather try to develop a philosophical basis for the kind of knowledge that actual people actually claim every day then spend my time aimlessly wondering whether we can actually "know" anything at all. The word only means what people use it to mean, after all. Why try to make it more than what it is? What it seems to me to be is just firmly held belief. Hence, the rest of what I've said. 

 

Years ago when we arguing about gnostic versus agnostic atheism, you were arguing for the agnostic atheism side if I remember correctly. 

 

I can honestly say that I agree with your work on knowledge applied to every day life and being practical. Maybe calling it practical knowledge is a good term. But for the sake of the gnostic versus agnostic debate, how does practical knowledge fit in? 

 

I think it could be argued that it's practical for some people to think that they know god exists. To think that everyday coincidence are signs of gods existence. Or to think that inner dialogue is the voice of god. It's a practical part of their lives. These things don't prove the existence of god, but people believe that it's proof of god's existence anyways for their own piece of mind. 

 

The opposite of the above could be argued of gnostic atheism as well. It may be that it's practical for some people to think that they know god doesn't exist. For some type of piece of mind they're after. Maybe to think in their own minds that 'the case is closed' and that they can move on assured that god isn't real. Which could lead to liberal usage of the term "knowledge" in order to try and defend gnostic atheism and maintain the belief that they know god doesn't exist. But none of this ever addresses the truth of the issue. The truth is side stepped in both cases for the purpose of personal practicality. 

 

The gnostic positions are entirely unnecessary, though. Practical to some people or not. 

 

Non-believers don't need to do that. The gnostic position doesn't prove anything with certainty. Either way. Theist or atheist. It only gives people a sense of knowing something that is essentially beyond their ability to truthfully know, either way. We never get down to the truth of the matter. But it's a matter squarely to do with a truth oriented question.

 

Does god exist?

 

If the answer has nothing to do with truth, then what's the point? Aside from piece of mind in the absence of hard truth. 

 

Until we cross over to agnosticism. The agnostic theist understands that he doesn't actually know for sure, for certain. So does the agnostic atheist. There are both then dealing in terms of the truth of the situation. They honestly don't know with the sort of certainty that question, "does god exist," entails. The answer is either certain or uncertain. 

 

Somehow or another I'd think that both of our positions about knowledge must meet and merge somewhere, because they're both valid positions to take about knowledge. The question is how the practical knowledge you're pursuing interacts with the absolute truth type of knowledge that theistic claims are addressing in context. 

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@Joshpantera

I want to move on from the kidney example, because I think it has outlived its utility. I take your point that I initially did a bad job of explaining clearly what I meant.

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

Do you claim "knowledge" of the "truth" of the situation?

 

When I say I believe something what I mean is that I think it is true. When I know something, I mean I really, really think it's true. I'm never certain of the truth, except in certain purely epistemic cases.

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

Because the two of you might be flabbergasted to discover that your assumptions, no matter how well grounded, could have been wrong.

 

Of course. One of my contentions is specifically that this kind of thing happens all the time. We frequently find out that what we know is actually wrong. This is how science progresses. 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

But I don't want to lie to myself or fool myself into thinking that I know the absolute truth about things which are beyond knowing the absolute truth about. Hence, I don't take up a gnostic position about any number of things unless it's partially gnostic. Because being gnostic about an issue will only take me so far. I have to turn to agnostic position taking to go the rest of the way out towards the bigger picture, greater reality, etc., etc. 

 

If you're using the term "gnostic" to refer to a claim of absolute certainty of absolute truth, then I agree with this.

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

In a discussion about gnostic or agnostic atheism? We have a topic. Can we know if god exists or not? By know, the assertion entails knowing the truth of the claim. I'm not sure what unrelated contexts have to do with the topic. If they bring some clarity to the topic, that's fine. But the topic isn't about knowledge in a relative sense, or knowing in a round about way that a god doesn't exist. The gnostic position is the opposite of 'not knowing' if a god exists.

 

Fair enough. I'll admit I got more focused on the "how do you define knowledge" part of the OP and less on the context of atheism/theism. This is because of my current interests,  but you're right to point this out. 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

If we reduce knowledge to two categories of 'not knowing' the truth of the claim, then it looks like this: 

 

Gnostic = less than certain knowledge, insisting to know anyways. 

 

Agnostic = less than certain knowledge, not insisting to know anyways. 

 

Maybe that is what you are trying to say. The only difference between a gnostic thinker and agnostic thinker, by way of your examples, is that the gnostic insists that they know things that they don't actually know the truth of. For the sake of not focusing on the fact that they don't really know the truth of a given thing. And in a way it's the case of pandering to one's own delicate sensibilities. They don't like to face the fact that they ultimately don't know, so they go on pretending as if they do

 

This is classical gnostic theism I'm describing above.

 

Yes, I understand this, and that's why I don't actually go about calling myself a gnostic atheist. It does tend to give people the wrong impression. Even though, on my definition of knowledge, it makes perfect sense for me to say that I know there is no God. I make no claim to certainty. Just firm belief. 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

How did you know the truth of it? Let's look at that. How did you know the truth that god exists? Do you have evidence or some methodology to confirm and substantiate that truth claim? 

 

I've already alluded to the fact that I took it to be axiomatic. It was a case of pure assumption. But that is perfectly fine on my framework. Not all knowledge is direct assumption, but some is. I knew that God exists then in the same way sense that I now know that the external world exists.

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

People assumed the earth was flat. They had knowledge, granted, but only knowledge of their own assumptions, which, were wrong. That's not the same as knowing the truth. It was never true that the earth is flat. It doesn't matter what they thought they knew. They were wrong. People thought mental disease was demons. Wrong again. We could use a liberal usage of the term knowledge and claim that they knew demons possession was real, but this is unhelpful toward a truth based context. 

 

The usage of "know" and "knowledge" is liberal to the point of being out of context with the topic, basically. 

 

But that's good. Because at least we have something to look at in terms of some one trying to put up an argument in favor of gnostic position taking. We have something to consider about how it fares against agnostic position taking. That quibble is what started this topic. 

 

Yes, what you describe here is the essence of scientific progress. Science progresses when we learn that our knowledge is incorrect. But we still claim scientific knowledge. We're just not certain.

 

I don't actually think this is treating knowledge all that liberally. But that's neither here nor there.

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

So granted, you have a comprehensive thread about knowledge going on so the first part of his posts concerns you. It's a good thread. Lot's of keen insights. But the purpose of defining knowledge for the sake of the discussion IS addressed to these specifics - gnostic versus agnostic. And why some people consider gnostic position taking an impossibility in that it's considered an untenable position to take up. 

 

Thank you. I take your point. 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

You're partially correct. You're asked to bring your definition of knowledge back to the issue of gnostic versus agnostic position taking. I'm curious how you think your knowledge definitions apply to gnostic versus agnostic position taking. Because so far they appear to apply as I've mapped out previously. Neither know the truth of their claims, but the gnostic claims knowledge anyways without actually knowing the truth of the claim. 

 

That's why this IS specifically about absolute knowledge and truth. We have a context to frame this within. 

 

I thought I had been clear about this, but I guess not. I personally want to say that I know there is no God. On my definition, I'm very comfortable saying that. However, people would tend to misunderstand what I would mean were I to say that, and it isn't usually convenient for me to go into the whole story about truth, knowledge, and belief in casual conversation. So I don't claim to be a gnostic atheist to avoid confusion. But, on my definition, the label would apply.

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

Years ago when we arguing about gnostic versus agnostic atheism, you were arguing for the agnostic atheism side if I remember correctly. 

 

Yes, that's right. That was before I had fully developed my current views about knowledge. But also,  one of the lines of reasoning I used in those discussions was that to claim to be a gnostic atheist gives people the impression that one is claiming certainty,  even if one actually isn't. This still applies,  and its why I don't use the label for myself. 

 

3 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

I can honestly say that I agree with your work on knowledge applied to every day life and being practical. Maybe calling it practical knowledge is a good term. But for the sake of the gnostic versus agnostic debate, how does practical knowledge fit in? 

 

I think it could be argued that it's practical for some people to think that they know god exists. To think that everyday coincidence are signs of gods existence. Or to think that inner dialogue is the voice of god. It's a practical part of their lives. These things don't prove the existence of god, but people believe that it's proof of god's existence anyways for their own piece of mind. 

 

The opposite of the above could be argued of gnostic atheism as well. It may be that it's practical for some people to think that they know god doesn't exist. For some type of piece of mind they're after. Maybe to think in their own minds that 'the case is closed' and that they can move on assured that god isn't real. Which could lead to liberal usage of the term "knowledge" in order to try and defend gnostic atheism and maintain the belief that they know god doesn't exist. But none of this ever addresses the truth of the issue. The truth is side stepped in both cases for the purpose of personal practicality. 

 

The gnostic positions are entirely unnecessary, though. Practical to some people or not. 

 

Non-believers don't need to do that. The gnostic position doesn't prove anything with certainty. Either way. Theist or atheist. It only gives people a sense of knowing something that is essentially beyond their ability to truthfully know, either way. We never get down to the truth of the matter. But it's a matter squarely to do with a truth oriented question. God god exist? The answer have nothing to do with truth, then what's the point? Aside from piece of mind in the absence of hard truth. 

 

Until we cross over to agnosticism. The agnostic theist understands that he doesn't actually know for sure, for certain. So does the agnostic atheist.

 

Somehow or another I'd think that both of our positions about knowledge must meet and merge somewhere, because they're both valid positions to take about knowledge. The question is how the practical knowledge you're pursuing interacts with the absolute truth type of knowledge that theistic claims are addressing in context. 

 

I agree with this mainly. I think we're just using terminology slightly differently. I'm using "gnostic/agnostic" to refer to knowledge,  which I take as firmly held belief. You seem to be using them to refer to claims of certainty. This is fine. It's precisely because I'm aware of this kind of semantic difference that I don't actually go about calling myself a gnostic atheist. As I said before, I think it would give the wrong impression. 

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On 3/14/2020 at 12:27 PM, disillusioned said:

Yes, I understand this, and that's why I don't actually go about calling myself a gnostic atheist. It does tend to give people the wrong impression. Even though, on my definition of knowledge, it makes perfect sense for me to say that I know there is no God. I make no claim to certainty. Just firm belief

 

 Now this is where it's gets interesting. If a theist makes no claim of certainty, just firm belief, that describes the agnostic theist position. They don't know if god exists, but believe in god anyways. Not knowing if god exists equates to uncertainty. Not certain equates to "not knowing." 

 

By switching the traditional word usage around there's a confusion of meaning. If you are not "certain" there is no god, then you don't "know" that there is no god in the standard context in which the term "knowledge" is used in describing this position. Knowledge and certainty are synonymous in this context

 

So this is something that has to be worked out against where you are going with the "knowledge" thread. Because we hit a hiccup when applying your interpretation of "knowledge" to the gnostic versus agnostic debate. 

 

On 3/14/2020 at 12:27 PM, disillusioned said:

I thought I had been clear about this, but I guess not. I personally want to say that I know there is no God. On my definition, I'm very comfortable saying that. However, people would tend to misunderstand what I would mean were I to say that, and it isn't usually convenient for me to go into the whole story about truth, knowledge, and belief in casual conversation. So I don't claim to be a gnostic atheist to avoid confusion. But, on my definition, the label would apply.

 

Still think so? 

 

The context of gnostic versus agnostic has knowledge as synonymous with certainty.

 

I'm not sure that the label does apply because you're openly uncertain / unknowing about gods existence. By not-knowing, that doesn't strip you of the things that you do know, or assume to know. It's simply the overall admission that in certainty terms you don't know. That's an agnostic overarching position that over shadows any gnostic position taking. 

 

On 3/14/2020 at 12:27 PM, disillusioned said:

Yes, that's right. That was before I had fully developed my current views about knowledge. But also,  one of the lines of reasoning I used in those discussions was that to claim to be a gnostic atheist gives people the impression that one is claiming certainty,  even if one actually isn't. This still applies,  and its why I don't use the label for myself. 

 

 

Yes, that's because despite your current work on knowledge, you look to be more agnostic than gnostic in this context. The gnostic label doesn't seem to fit based on what you've said. 

 

On 3/14/2020 at 12:27 PM, disillusioned said:

I agree with this mainly. I think we're just using terminology slightly differently. I'm using "gnostic/agnostic" to refer to knowledge,  which I take as firmly held belief. You seem to be using them to refer to claims of certainty. This is fine. It's precisely because I'm aware of this kind of semantic difference that I don't actually go about calling myself a gnostic atheist. As I said before, I think it would give the wrong impression. 

 

I've been agreeing with this conclusion for several responses now. 

 

Knowledge has a pretty narrow definition in this specific context. When we aren't talking about claims of knowing whether or not god exists, I see where knowledge wouldn't necessarily be as synonymous with certainty.

 

But this context is more rigid because it has to do with what the people making the claims mean by the claims. The gnostic theist means that they have certainty god exists, with "knowledge" used to express this certainty. 

 

The answer to the OP seems clear enough. Defining "knowledge" out of the context of the question of the truth of the existence of god, in order to try and maintain a gnostic atheist position, doesn't work out well. Only the truth oriented example of the four is in context with the question of gods existence. The other 3 are beside the point. 

 

 

 

 

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On 3/15/2020 at 9:22 PM, Joshpantera said:

 

Still think so? 

 

The context of gnostic versus agnostic has knowledge as synonymous with certainty.

 

I'm not sure that the label does apply because you're openly uncertain / unknowing about gods existence. By not-knowing, that doesn't strip you of the things that you do know, or assume to know. It's simply the overall admission that in certainty terms you don't know. That's an agnostic overarching position that over shadows any gnostic position taking. 

 

The short answer is yes, I still think so, so long as gnostic/agnostic is a term which refers to knowledge or lack thereof. I'll explain why below.

 

On 3/15/2020 at 9:22 PM, Joshpantera said:

 

Knowledge has a pretty narrow definition in this specific context. When we aren't talking about claims of knowing whether or not god exists, I see where knowledge wouldn't necessarily be as synonymous with certainty.

 

But this context is more rigid because it has to do with what the people making the claims mean by the claims. The gnostic theist means that they have certainty god exists, with "knowledge" used to express this certainty. 

 

The answer to the OP seems clear enough. Defining "knowledge" out of the context of the question of the truth of the existence of god, in order to try and maintain a gnostic atheist position, doesn't work out well. Only the truth oriented example of the four is in context with the question of gods existence. The other 3 are beside the point. 

 

I think this is the wrong approach to take.

 

Knowledge should be defined independent of any specific context. To say "your definition of knowledge is good, but not in this context" is just a form of special pleading. What I've proposed is a definition of knowledge that should apply across the board, including in this context, or not at all. If you think that my general definition of knowledge is bad, that's fine. It's certainly not mainstream,  and you are completely free to disagree. But whatever definition of knowledge is being used, it must be independent of a specific context if it is to be an actual definition. I don't see any need at all for a special definition of knowledge to treat claims about the existence of God. That just seems silly to me. 

 

Also, I most definitely do not define knowledge in the way that I do "in order to maintain a gnostic atheist position". That has nothing whatsoever to do with it. I define knowledge in the way that I do because that is the only definition that makes any kind of sense to me. It was long after I settled on that definition that I realized that its implications for gnostic theist/atheist positions. If the term "gnostic" refers to a knowledge claim, and if the definition of knowledge I'm using is accepted, then I am definitionally a gnostic theist. This is just a matter of analyticity.

 

If this is uncomfortable, what we might be able to say is that knowledge is firmly held belief, but "gnostic" refers not to someone who claims knowledge, but to someone who claims certainty. If that's the definition of "gnostic" that's being used,  then fine,  I'm not a gnostic atheist. But this has nothing to do with a special contextual definition of knowledge. If only concerns the definition of "gnostic".

 

Incidentally, I don't care one iota about the label that applies to me. I do care about the definition of knowledge, for purely philosophical reasons, but the labeling debate has always seemed silly to me. Call it what you will. It doesn't change what I know, what I believe, or who I am.

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That’s just it, the term gnostic was coined with knowledge synonymous with certainty. Knowing god exists meaning certain that god exists. 
 

It would be helpful to define a gnostic theist or atheist as certain god does or does not exist, because that’s the whole idea. The atheist merely shadowing the theistic claim 180 degrees the other direction. 
 

And not focus so much on the knowledge aspect of the term gnostic, if that’s too much of a hang up. 
 

The opening question then should be how one defines “certainty,” since that’s what gnostic is aimed at with its knowledge claims. 
 

How can someone be certain god doesn’t exist? 
 

Why do some atheists think that claiming god certainly does not exist is impossible? 

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Good. It took a while to get there, but I think we're in agreement now. 

 

I don't think it's possible to claim certainty regarding God's existence. If "gnostic" refers to certainty, then to claim to be a gnostic theist or atheist is a very difficult thing to do.

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