Category Archives: theory of knowledge

Some Remarks about the Concept of ‘Belief’

William James wrote a well-known essay “The Will to Believe,” in which he defended certain religious belief as compelling even if not rationally grounded beliefs; for example, the decision to belief in God as a vital choice that many persons make, despite lacking good rational grounds to support that belief. We will to believe in God.
In one sense of the term “belief,” what James contends may strike us as being absurd. For in ordinary circumstances our belief that something is such & such (e.g., that it will rain today, or that my car has enough gasoline to get me home) is not a matter of choice or of our willing it, but rather a case in which we base the belief on supporting evidence. Here making a decision to believe irrespective of the evidence could get us in trouble.

Is our world a virtual reality?

All this talk about virtual or simulated worlds in the brain (or in the head) suggests that that we don’t experience a public world, a common framework that human beings share. Virtual world talk implies that I don’t share the simulated world in your head, nor do you share the simulated world in my head. Isn’t it a mystery how these separate worlds seem to intersect? Of course we don’t need to introduce such a mystery. The obvious and reasonable assumption is that we share a common framework, i.e., the real world, a public world as opposed to a private, simulated world constructed by the brain inside the brain.

Knowledge and Consciousness, and other philosophical errors

We learn what a person knows by observing that person’s behavior and disposition to behave in specific ways. When that person displays particular ‘know-how’, skills, dispositions, and capabilities, we have reason for ascribing knowledge to him. We don’t have to inquire as to any specific state of consciousness or any specific mental act taking place ‘behind the scenes.”

Pushing and Pulling at the concept of Knowledge

Knowledge is related to truth in that the proposition (belief) known must be true. There is no such thing as knowledge of a false proposition. In addition, claiming that some proposition is true generally requires that I be able to show how I gained knowledge of this true proposition. Someone can justifiably challenge me to show how I gained knowledge of this truth.

More chewing on the bone of “truth”

“The truth” does not refer to an entity that exists and can be found. But often people speak this way: “The truth is out there. All we have to do is to look for it.”
“The truth” by itself is vague and not very meaningful; it has to be completed by what that truth is about; e.g. the truth about human existence, or the truth about Church history, etc. (…and even then it remains problematic and vague.)

Is “truth” a loaded term?

“Truth” may strike us a loaded term because we often use it as an evaluative term: a truthful person, a true doctrine, higher truth and so on. It may seem to some that “truth,” like “beauty,” is in the eye of the beholder. What you see as a “higher truth” or a “deeper truth” about human existence I may regard as mere confusion and mystical fluff.

Speculative, philosophical theories sometimes purport to define “truth” in all-comprehensive, metaphysical ways. This should certainly trigger our skeptical sensors.