Friday, May 29, 2015
Knowledge, comment to NY times
Knowledge, like consciousness (See William James) is not a thing, it is a process. The process is simple: we get information into the nervous system from the sense organs, so we can know what is in the environment and to be able to react to it. This information is merged, if more than one sense receives it: both lightening and thunder; and the full set of time related information is merged and stored in memory, as an experience. The experience can be recalled later, compared to other experiences, put into the form of words with the words relationships then added to the experience and to our memory. Association of memories and analysis of memories and new information come to conclusions to guide our actions. "Charlie fell into a hole in the rode. I'll avoid it." So knowledge is a result of analysis of information that assembles into experiences from which we draw conclusions. The information is true, it carries the facts of the environment, of the physical world. Knowledge is never true, it is correct or incorrect because it is an inference made for a time and is subject to revision as new information comes and new experiences are put into the dynamic neural processes of conclusion making. The major way this all fails is if we fail to care about the correctness of our current opinions, let someone else tell us the conclusions we should have, like media reporters or critics, religious leaders, or scientists. The scientists get more weight because they put the information on the table, along with the inferences and conclusions and tests.