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Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits

Is there a limit to human knowledge? I believe knowledge is grown by the process of accumulating facts, and there are always new facts to discover. Even when a person knows most of what already has been exposed, the next step is to understand the purpose of wanting to know more and more, particularly if the accumulation is not life-enhancing and I’m going to defense knowledge is limited.

The first question that needs to be asked is what do we mean by knowledge.

The way we currently live, we are made to think of knowledge as the acquisition of memory, experience and an ability to utilize them when needed is the knowledge. We must know that the stored information about the past is not knowledge. It is the exact opposite of knowledge. It is the opposite of knowledge because when someone has a lot of information in its brain, the person is unable to have a fresh look at anything new.

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It is the opposite of knowledge because this very information stops a mind to learn. So, what is knowledge, if it is not memory and stored information? Well, that itself is the quest of a curious mind; to find out what it means to know.

A curious mind or a seeker now two problems. What is knowledge and how to find one. These two are not separate issues. When one starts probing into the question and investigates on one of them, the other is already answered. In order to get the answers, we start probing into it.

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We ask what do we mean by knowing? How do we know anything? If we see a tree, don’t we know that we see a tree? If we approach it and touch its trunk, don’t we know the roughness in the touch? If we smell its flowers, don’t we know about the flowers? When we eat its fruit, don’t we know the sourness or sweetness in its fruit?

We know through our senses. When the sense organs sense something, we know. But, is knowing only known through the sense organs? Or is it even without the sense organs? If we tried to touch the trunk of the tree and didn’t feel anything, don’t we ‘know’ that we don’t feel anything? If we try to smell the flowers and don’t smell anything, don’t we know that we don’t smell anything? We know that both when the sense organ sense and when they don’t but we know. Does it not mean that knowledge is beyond the knowledge of our sense organs? We easily come to realize that knowledge is the only constant that is present with us even without our sense organs in operation.

I also believe the reason why many of us do not think we know as much as we really do is that we seldom think in the first place and as a result, we underestimate our abilities to learn things and ourselves. As in Meno’s Paradox: Plato and Socrates are discussing whether or not you can teach someone virtue, and the topic comes up of whether learning is a form of recollection. Socrates thinks that whatever we “learn” is really just us remembering things we used to know—before we were born. Our souls used to have complete knowledge of everything, in the realm of the forms, but they forgot it when they entered material bodies. Now everything we say we learn throughout life is really just our being reminded of what we used to know. (And we can’t be reminded of something we don’t already know.) (Elsby 104)

To prove his point, Socrates takes one of Meno’s slaves and says he’s going to prove that the slave already knows geometry, even though he’s never been taught. By asking the right questions, Socrates gets the uneducated slave to construct geometrical proofs, seemingly in virtue of nothing other than some innate knowledge. The demonstration is intended to prove that the slave (and in fact every one of us) already knows geometry and everything else. We just don’t remember it, until we are reminded. So when we say we are being educated, what we’re really doing is being reminded of things we used to know. (And we can’t be reminded of anything we’ve never known, so all learning is recollection.) (Elsby 104).

I would say the nature of knowledge is that it is everything that is known, and all that is known exists as a memory. We are recollecting and revising theories of knowledge from before we were born and that is how we learn about the things we do not know.

On the other way, that means if knowledge exists as a memory, and memory is limited. Our memory is limited because it is grounded to the past, which means it can never meet the present. The present is moving to change, alive, and ever new. Memory lacks and is completely devoid of the present. That means knowledge is limited. The limit to what might be seen as “true, well-founded, convictions” (this is a traditional description of the meaning of the concept of knowledge) is normally thought of as being our own ability and capacity of experiences and theories in regard to these and all possible relations within the first and second. What it interesting is that it means the whole of human knowledge cannot be used to come upon that which is unlimited. It means knowledge itself is the barrier that prevents a person from coming upon that which is unlimited, infinite, immeasurable. It prevents a person from coming upon that which is sacred.

Knowledge come from objective reality is affected by perception but is not contingent upon being perceived. Our perception of that reality is created in our nervous system through the input provided by sense experience, combined with the brain’s expectation of its environment. Reality exists objectively. What we see, feel, and hear are constructed, subjective realities. They are contingent upon how well our apparatus perceives and predicts the world around us. Math and logical systems allow a sort of extra-sensory processing of reality, but we must ultimately verify whether they apply to reality by cross-referencing that data with experience gleaned through perception. Math can prove string theory. That doesn’t necessarily mean that string theory is an objective reality. My senses can see that the sky is blue; that doesn’t, in fact, mean that the sky is blue.

Our knowledge of optics and color perception allows us to say, as an objective fact, that the sky is not blue. That perception is created by our subjective experience, and we can explain why we, as humans of an ordinary biological constitution, consistently perceive light entering our atmosphere as blue. It remains true that the sky is blue in human experience, and that consistent subjective experience can be called objective for the pool that shares it. The daytime sky is not fuchsia for humans. That is an objective fact, despite the sky only being blue for those who perceive it in our particular manner.

This understanding allows for two senses of objective truth. One is what actually exists, regardless of how it is or isn’t perceived. Humans interact with that to form our perceptions. All observation is interaction. There is also the consistent, predictably shared subjective reality that can be assessed and manipulated. In philosophy, there is consistently a divide posited between the inner and outer life. This divides subjective and objective reality, and I say it’s nonsense.

Our internal life is formed by what is outside of our mind, and our mind forms our world in kind. A subjective experience is part of the eternal, objective experience of the world’s progression, however difficult to discern that experience is. We can, at the very least, agree about our description of how the sky is blue. That is objective. The subjective experience, inasmuch as it is genuinely experienced, is also an objective fact. Experience is, and what is experienced is objectively real. How much we know about that reality varies, but the reality is not contingent upon our understanding.

We only know what we can fundamentally fill-in. You can understand this as the problem with the Philosophy of Science, that is because it is all feedback based it doesn’t explain ‘why’ at all, just ‘how’, and even then it does a rather poor job of that. In essence, in order for our observation systems to work we have to make assumptions and in order for those assumptions to work we have to assume that they just work so the fact that our assumptions don’t have a backing kind of means that we don’t even know what we “know”. And that’s why facts get overturned all the time in science.

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Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. (2020, Sep 23). Retrieved from

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