Sunday, January 24, 2010

Epistemological Poetry

On Knowing

To know or not to know the world:
Are signs and words themselves impearled,
Cerebral grit, strung end-to-end;
My thoughts of things and things a blend
Of ideational and pretend ?

Or might I sometimes speak the truth
(However bold, or worse -- uncouth)
If what I think or say reflects
The state of things my mind detects,
My words denote, the world projects?


  1. As the poem (Author?) suggests, I think there might be degrees of ‘reality’ construction in most of us; but these might also be idiosyncratic behaviors built in an attempt to understand the world, and our place in it. We might also live in a world that informs us, and instructs us, and possibly even guides us in the right direction, (if there is such a thing). But might ‘truths’, however well informed, be interpretations of a world in a similar predicament and search for understanding, and in truth, might we be deceived?

  2. I wrote it, years ago. My sympathies lie with the second stanza: Our thoughts do put us in touch, however fallibly in many instances, with the nature of things. The alternative seems less reasonable -- that we are for some mysterious (unknowable?) reason barred from knowing (could we even claim to know that we are so limited?).

  3. I agree, the alternative does seem less reasonable; I wonder though if the knowledge we gain in our world represents the world as it really is. (Idealist and even mystical perhaps)And might realities coexist in our 3-dimentional world that are beyond our comprehension? Stuff of science fiction no doubt--and when we consider possible cognitive limitations; I think we have to include propositions that indeed make knowledge claims.

  4. As I understand knowledge, it is by definition true "of the world." The world has whatever character it has, obviously enough (it may be real or ideal, for example). The other possibility amounts to the suggestion that knowledge is impossible in principle. Further questions then arise: are those principles knowable? If so, why and by whom? Etc.

  5. So, are we saying that "absolute knowledge" exists in the physical world? The term "permanent and unchanging" suggests a transcendence as such found in Platonic "Universals" existing only in the mind. When viewed in this sense, the claim might suggest a coherence view of truth, as the Idealist might claim that the mind can explain matter and all else, but matter cannot explain the mind. Idealistic in approach; but the Realist also, in a cognitive sense, uses Universals, sensations, perceptions, and law when determining the reality of objects and truth. What are some concrete examples of the claim "Absolute knowledge is permanent and unchanging"?

  6. If absolute knowledge exists, and if humans have it, and if humans and their knowledge claims exist in the physical world, then absolute knowledge exists in the physical world. But that's a lot of "ifs."