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Close to Ceiling Lights Pendant Lights. Body Lotions Face Creams. Tents Accessories Lights Camping Bed. Billiard Fishing Toss Games. Business Writing Skills. Graphic Novels Comic Strips. Why was the philosophical conception of knowledge triumphant given the manifestly superior practical value of defining knowledge as know-how? We are in the process of reverse engineering modern science in order to understand the roots of the idea of science, and to understand how it was transmitted to the 17th century so that it was available at that time.
In the last lecture we looked at the invention of writing, the idea of writing, which became incarnated, as I put it, in a writing system, a symbol system that is a written form of language with various consequences, which we discussed briefly. Now that may sound quite odd. In fact, it certainly does sound odd that you have to invent the idea of knowledge. How can the idea of knowledge be invented?
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But odd as it may sound, you will see that what we mean by the term knowledge in fact had to be invented. That definition is not natural, just as the idea of science is not natural. That as a matter of fact writing was not an effective means of communicating wisdom or knowledge, and in fact it was potentially destructive because it gives the seeming of wisdom.
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So Socrates himself did not write. One imagines he could have written, but he did not write. And there is an irony there. What was Plato trying to do? What was Plato getting at?
Here we have a word, knowledge. What does it mean?
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Where will we go to look up the definition of the word knowledge? In what dictionary, in what absolute dictionary will we go to find the correct definition of the word knowledge? Obviously there is no such dictionary. The definition has to be invented. Somebody has to define knowledge. That would have made knowledge practical, concrete, historical in the sense that it changes over time as experience changes over time.
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But that would mean, since knowledge changes, that knowledge claims at any given time are only probable and are contextual. They are a function of the context in which they emerge. And you may like the idea of all the kernels of a single color rather than multi-colored. These were philosophers that Plato mocked as the Sophists. This is clearly a made-up definition of knowledge, which is what we would call today pragmatic. Plato and Aristotle defended a totally different definition of knowledge.
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They defended a definition of knowledge which had as its ancestor the ideas of Pythagoras and Parmenides, over years before Plato and Aristotle lived, who had defended what we would call a rationalist view of knowledge. That is to say, they defended a definition of knowledge as universal, necessary, and certain. So their definition of knowledge was that something can only be called knowledge if it is universal, necessary, and certain.
For them, knowledge was timeless. Once you know something you know something, that is timelessly true, because it is universal, necessary, and certain. So knowledge now is defined in terms—watch this—defined in terms which have dissociated knowledge from experience because our experience is always particular.
We experience particular things. We experience this plant and this animal and this lump of ore, but knowledge, according to Plato and Aristotle, is about something that is universal, necessary, and certain. That in fact it is not available to us to experience through our bodies. The object of knowledge is accessible only to the mind.
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The paradigm of the form of knowledge in the 4th century B. Especially what we mean by mathematics: that means universal, necessary, and certain knowledge that we have proved using deductive reasoning. This was an invention, just by tradition, of Pythagoras. It was Pythagoras who took the kind of number knowledge that the Egyptians and the Babylonians had accumulated and transformed them into what we mean by mathematics by inventing the concept of a proof.
In a mathematical proof, the conclusion. If we have multiplied correctly we can be guaranteed of the correctness of the answer. Arithmetic operations are analogous to logical proofs if we have, in fact, followed the rules of arithmetic. They represent a certain set of premises. We define numbers in a certain way.