X-Message-Number: 14854
Date: Sun, 05 Nov 2000 18:10:32 -0500
From: david pizer <>
Subject: I don't know

I think we have beat this thing to death, but here is one last shot.
Pizer replies to Kluytmas

>From: Henri Kluytmans <>


>I always thought that there is no way to have direct knowledge 
>about the universe, there are only indirect ways !!
>Please, tell me how you can have direct knowledge ?

(Note: When I use the word "know" just is this message, I am talking about
certain knowledge.)

Descartes proved in his First Meditations, that one can know one exists
because in the very act of doubting one's existence, one must exist to be
able to do the doubting.  I like to think of this as cetain and direct

This may be the only direct knowledge one can have.  Others may argue that
internal brain talk, (when one talks to one's self internally), may be a
form of direct knowledge because the talking and listening  is to and from
the same self in a "direct" way and is done inside the brain and
(presumably) without sensory input.  

>That mathematics is a good way to gather (indirect) knowledge about the 
>world has been proven by the tremendous success of the scientific approach 
>during the last couple of centuries.

There is no success of the scientific approach in knowing anything for
certain.  Each past scientific theory was/is doomed to be replaced or
refined by another in the future.  However, the scientific approach may be
a good way (probably is the best present way), to predict some things with
some accuracy.  

The scientific approach is good for predicting and describing some things,
it does not help us to describe what *feeling* is in any way that a person
without feeling could understand.  If one could figure how to describe
feeling to a being that did not have feeling, that would be, I'm pretty
sure, a good description.

o describe feeling accuarately you must be able to reproduce feeling.  To
talk about mathamatical relative positions of atoms in the brain is
gibberish in describing what consciousness or awareness *feels* like.

The scientific approach has proved nothing that can be known for sure.
(Please don't misinterpret this to mean that I have said it is not useful,
I have not said that.  It has not produced certain knowledge.  

We may be getting off the track here, because certain knowledge may be
unknowable beyond "cogito ergo sum"  and if we can't have certain knowledge
for most things then: (1) present scientific predictability may be enough
someday, (2) we may develope a new language that allows us to describe
things like "feeling" "consciousness" and "selfhood" is a more accurate way.

I admit I am an idealist.  Even though we don't have much certain knowledge
now, I am hoping that some day we can figure out how to have it.  The
scientific method is often described as being able to create a theroy that
is falsify in principle.  I think that is useful, but does not solve the
problem that certain knowledge is hard to have.

>So far as we know there is *NO BETTER WAY* to gather (indirect) knowledge 
>about our world. Our whole current detailed understanding of the world 
>and our technological civilisation is based on the scientific method.

I am a materialist.  I think the brain is made of mindless atoms. I think
the mind is the brain.  But, I stand by my original conclusion that we need
a different way to talk about what consciousness and selfhood are, other
then mathamatical relations, if we want to be able to describe the
problems.  In my limited history, I have found that sometimes the inability
to properly describe the problem sometimes is the problem.  

>Hmm, what better way than the scientific approach do you suggest then ?

If I could answer that, it would be "Pizer" above Aristotle, Newton and

I hope this answers your questions, I am going to have less time to devote
to this until mid-December.  You have given me some good ideas and brought
up some more good questions.



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