How can we really know something? It is very important to be able to determine what you can know and what you can’t. Sometimes we think we know something because it seems so obvious, yet obviousness is not a guarantee of truth. We are going to go over some things which complicate what we can know and why it is important to think about this.
There are some things that we know that seem very obvious yet many of these things can be considered relative knowns when we break them down. Often times we rely on the supporting acknowledgment of the rest of our fellow human beings to support our knowing or belief. Take for example the color of the sky, it is obviously blue. What about during a sunset? What about to a color blind person? Our knowing the skies color then moves into the realm of relativity. Why is our interpretation of blue any more valid than a color blind persons interpretation? We rely on the corroboration of the rest of humanity to acknowledge our sense data sometimes.
Some knowns like 2+2=4 are much more concrete. These types of knowns can only be questioned under the most extreme or ridiculous of circumstances. For example maybe 2+2=4 might be different in another reality or dimension, or maybe before the bigbang, but these are extreme circumstances (currently). Absolute knowns are usually easily testable with a multitude of examples sustained with readily available evidence. Another signal of an absolute known is a history of consistent results. 2+2 has equalled 4 for a long long time under many different examples and is readily available for testing.
Time and Knowns
Time also causes problems on known things. Things in the future are subject to doubt and normally the farther into the future a thing is the less surety there is in knowing it. The past also causes doubt, except here we could have known something at a time when it was in the old “present”. The longer the amount of time that goes by the more room there is for doubt (usually). The remedy to being able to know things from the past is we can replicate the past known. We can video tape something and play it back, replicating it. A scientist can replicate another scientists experiment to test findings. These things can help strengthen knowns of the past.
Often times as humans we have to rely on probability to make decisions. Knowns are also ranged on probability with relative knowns being less probable than absolute knowns. When probability is brought into the picture we can never know something 100%. As this is the case I often reject pleas for faith in “statements” especially when the above examples illustrate potential gaps in what can be known hence leading to probability. Is it replicable? Is it in the present? Is it up for interpretation?
Knowing something and knowing what inhibits knowing something will help the human being strip away bias and ignorance. However this is just one of many filters the human has to train in order to improve their logic and critical thinking.