WhyHumanLifeMakesSense.com - Chapter summaries - 1. What exactly is knowledge?
Chapter summaries

1. What exactly is knowledge?

If we think deeply about the process of knowledge acquisition, we realize that there is a fundamental problem:

Knowledge is nominally about objective reality, but our mind has nothing more than subjective experiences to use in creating such knowledge.

A striking illustration of this is color. Color is a subjective experience that our mind automatically attributes to objective reality.

What does our mind do with its subjective experiences in order to create knowledge that is nominally about objective reality?

This is the most fundamental problem for a theory of knowledge to solve.

We begin by establishing that knowledge is the result of reason applied to experience, where experience encompasses all forms of experience, including perception, thoughts, imagination, emotion, and will. More specifically, knowledge is a mental structure that enables us to achieve our goals.

A person seeks to skillfully predict their observations in order to skillfully achieve their goals. Observations encompass all forms of experience, including perception, thoughts, imagination, emotion, and will. Skill is the use of a simple, accurate means for achieving a given goal, with accuracy primary and simplicity secondary.

Thus, knowledge consists in the ability to predict our observations as simply and as accurately as possible, with simplicity subject to accuracy. Furthermore, this is the structure of all knowledge, including knowledge of the past, knowledge of mathematics, and knowledge of religious concepts.

The mental structure used by a person for predicting their observations is best represented as an axiomatic theory, and the content of the axiomatic theory is referred to as knowledge. Thus, our mind attempts to create the simplest, most accurate axiomatic theory for predicting its observations, and then our mind simply conceives of the resulting knowledge as representing objective reality. I refer to this theory of knowledge as the best predictor theory of knowledge (BPT), where best refers to maximal skill simplest, most accurate..

In short, knowledge is the means for skillfully predicting our observations, and except for what is logically necessary, prediction is probabilistic since reality is indeterministic, as shown in chapter 2.

Reference citation.  Philip Bitar, adapted from Why Human Life Makes Sense, Editions 1/2/3, 2011/2012/2015, p. 87-91/93-100/16-17, 93/102-103/64, posted at www.WhyHumanLifeMakesSense.com, 2011-08-26, updated 2012-10-15 and 2015-03-18.