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The Profound Limitations of Knowledge


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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16. Conclusions


← 192 | 193 →




From the moment of birth we learn methods of coping with and making sense of the world. The methods that work are retained and built upon, and the less effective are discarded. Countless experiences let us feel that we’ve tamed the world and made it less threatening than it otherwise would have been. If anarchy reigned we would, like the biblical ass between two bales of hay, starve, paralyzed by indecision. And we’d have not two, but an infinite number of options. So, I eat bread rather than cyanide—not because of any trustworthy evidence that one is more likely than the other to promote health—but because I must choose between them. To eat the cyanide, or nothing, or to alternate between them, would be to commit to a different worldview, also without merit. Our worldview is shaped not by concern for the truth, but from the need to convince ourselves that we have answers.


Solipsism is the belief that one mind created the entire universe. Mine. (Read ‘my’ and ‘I’ in what follows as referring to you, reader.) My every waking moment is filled with sensations and perceptions of an apparent external world, but the sensations and perceptions are generated only within me. There is no external world. ← 193 | 194 → If solipsism is the correct philosophy, I am Einstein, Shakespeare, Willie Mays, Hitler, Queen Victoria, RinTinTin, and a pastrami sandwich...

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