Sunday, September 11, 2011


I recently engaged in a rather interesting discussion of philosophy, in an online forum.  (See some of the later pages to get to the juicy parts.)

While writing some of the posts there, I had to really formulate for myself what I mean by “knowledge”.  I’ve got the LRH datum that “knowledge is certainty”, but I had to ask myself what I mean by it.  Certainty about what?

After chewing on it for a little bit, I finally ended up with a definition that I really like: Knowledge is certainty in predicting outcomes.

Which breaks down further into data, faith, and imagination.

Data is part of knowledge since you need to know details to predict outcomes.

Faith is part of it, because data that you don’t trust is less useful than data you can trust, and also because of postulated reality (postulated beingness and nonbeingness).  Both are critical factors in predicting outcomes.

Imagination is critical to knowledge, because it allows us to know things that we haven’t experienced yet and that we aren’t just postulating.  This can be as simple as extrapolating reasonable outcomes based on probabilities, or as complex as working out detailed universes to postulate.  It ties to both faith (postulates) and data (extrapolation).

Without all the Scientology education I’ve been through, I wouldn’t have been able to come to that conclusion.  And it’s a very useful definition of a critical concept.


  1. Ah, Gus, it sounds like you've managed to define knowledge according to experience. You're in good company with that formulation - namely, the logical positivists (and arguably, the pragmatists). What we know is only what we can experience. Everything else is meaningless or pure conjecture.

    Well, philosophy is full of twists and turns. And I side with these ideas heavily, in part because it takes metaphysics out of the picture. No more world made up of monads (Leibniz) or we live in the mind of God and there is no material world (Berkeley), for example. To the logical positivist, that's all meaningless poppycock! Yes!

    But here's the catch Gus: logical positivism itself is not entirely based upon pure experience. (!)

    So where do we go from there?

  2. Wow! It's been a while since I read about monads and such. Had to brush up on them to make sure I was getting it right.

    I can't say I completely agree with Logical Positivism. The ideas that math and logic are tautologies and that metaphysics is meaningless don't jibe with my experience, as it were.

    Keep in mind that I argued in my post that knowledge includes faith, also known as postulated reality. This covers a lot of metaphysical phenomena, including the concept of God (or infinity).

    "Experience" isn't limited to the physical universe, since there's no such thing as "objective reality" in our experience. (Even those who argue for a purely physical universe have to acknowledge that all experiences of "objective reality" are just electrochemical phenomena in the central nervous system, and thus not actually objective at all. Outside of that limited view of "reality", we get into spiritual experiences of the world, and those are definitely subjective, 100% so.)

  3. Yes, I should have explained where I was going with this better. I chose to only include your definition of knowledge to focus on, which is apart from faith (and religion). There is no certainty in faith, otherwise it would not have to be taken "on faith." At least that's the way I define it.

    The metaphysics I was talking about was purely man-made - e.g., neither Berkley nor Leibniz claimed divine inspiration for their ideas of how the world works. So if your religion includes an explanation, it would fall outside this realm.

    The reason that they say that Thales was the first philosopher was not as much what he said, but with what attitude. His statement, "all is water" happens to be a metaphysical one - but the idea was his own - and he knew that it could be wrong and admitted as much.

    Anyway, as for experience, I side with the empiricists since our knowledge changes even when experience defies common sense. E.g., the world is round was considered laughable at first, as was bacteria making people sick ("how can a little bug I can't even see hurt me?), etc.