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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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15. Reasons for Resistance

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Reasons for Resistance

 

This chapter presents several reasons, primarily psychological, for clinging to the belief that we know a great deal about the world—and responses (in italics) to those reasons. Next come summaries of some Herculean attempts to salvage the belief.

1. Skepticism is a preposterous affront to common sense. Are you really no more likely to waken uneventfully tomorrow than next to a talking pumpkin or two-headed Finn in a loincloth? No wonder the commonsense view toward skepticism is one of disdain. Sensible people conclude that the reasoning process leading to skepticism must be flawed. Flaws can be subtle, and time and intellectual energy are precious, so reasonable people shouldn’t waste time worrying about ridiculous assertions.

For more than 2,000 years, the greatest human intellects have sought for flaws in the skeptics’ position. They have found none. So, either there are no flaws or our pride-and-joy intellects are stone-age tools. To put it differently, we must give up on the possibility of either knowledge or reason.

The taken-for-granted technology of today would have seemed preposterous to Plato and even our grandparents. Descriptions of automobiles, airplanes, space travel, computers, penicillin, telephones, and refrigerators might have been dismissed as drivel. And the ← 183 | 184 → pace of technological advances quickens. The gadgetry featured on today’s Star Trek episode is tomorrow’s Radio Shack special. Today’s “knowledge” will illuminate tomorrow’s textbooks on primitive mythology...

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