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The Profound Limitations of Knowledge

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Fred Leavitt

The Profound Limitations of Knowledge explores the limitations of knowledge and argues that neither reasoning nor direct or indirect observations can be trusted. We cannot even assign probabilities to claims of what we can know. Furthermore, for any set of data, there are an infinite number of possible interpretations. Evidence suggests that we live in a participatory universe—that is, our observations shape reality.
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5. The Four Supposed Pillars of Knowledge

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CHAPTER FIVE

The Four Supposed Pillars of Knowledge

 

Four separate pillars help us to (seemingly) understand the world. That is, everything we (think we) know comes from one of only four sources. (A fifth but trivial source, awareness of bodily states and mood, was discussed above.) Immanuel Kant proposed one source. He argued that some knowledge is innate. Instinct theorists and people who believe that psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia are inherited diseases are, at least to some extent, Kantians. Studies within the past two decades show that newborn babies know and can do a great deal. Kant would have been pleased.

Religious faith is a second pillar. People of faith are told who created the world, when He did it (in some religions, to the day and almost always by a He), and what happens when we die. They are taught when and how to pray, how to dress, what not to eat and drink, which books to read, movies to watch, music to listen to, and the appropriate circumstances and positions for having sex.

Reason is a third pillar. We use our reasoning abilities to figure things out. Whereas mindless animals experience only an endless succession of random stimuli, humans discern patterns. We use mathematics and logic to advance from simple observations to complex deductions.

The fourth pillar is sensory data. We interact with the world through the five classical senses (vision,...

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