Note on Thought and Belief

I’ve harped on somewhat regularly about how I don’t think that thought/belief/thinking can be seen as an abstract over-against kind of thing. If Polanyi has taught me one thing and one thing only, it’s that all knowledge and belief is personal knowledge and belief. Knowledge is always had by a person; belief is always believed by a person. Belief always has an element of personal commitment (for the most part – I think you could argue that some belief just happens). To refer to Polanyi again, even strict formal logic has an element of the personal.

10 thoughts on “Note on Thought and Belief

  1. hessianwithteeth March 2, 2014 / 5:16 pm

    Would you say that there can be true knowledge? Or would you say rather that knowledge is subjective?


    • whitefrozen March 2, 2014 / 5:35 pm

      Well, it depends on what you mean by ‘true knowledge’. Do you mean ‘real’ knowledge?


      • hessianwithteeth March 2, 2014 / 9:07 pm

        More objective than real. Real is problematic because it leads to the question of ‘what does real mean?’


        • whitefrozen March 2, 2014 / 9:11 pm

          Objective in what way? Objective in that it’s about something that really is there, or in a different way?


          • hessianwithteeth March 2, 2014 / 9:19 pm

            Objective as opposed to subjective. As in there is this thing that we call knowledge and it is the same for everyone. Instead of there is this thing that we call knowledge but it’s different for everyone. Not meaning Johnny knows a lot about history and Sally knows a lot about biology. Rather Johnny knows that evolution is true and Sally knows that it is false and they can both be right because they have different knowledge. (that example is bad, but it was the best I could come up with)


            • whitefrozen March 2, 2014 / 9:30 pm

              Ah, I gotcha. Well, in that sense, no, I don’t think knowledge is objective – in this technical scheme. I’ve argued in the past that knowledge can’t be abstracted from the knowing agent, or the intellect, or whatever you like to call it – all knowledge is personal knowledge. Now, of course, in a general, ordinary day-to-day sense, we can say something like that – we can say ‘everyone knows that what goes up must come down’, and it would be fine. But to get technical, no, I don’t believe that there is this thing called knowledge which is the same for everyone. You could get real analytic about things, and talk about truth-values, propositions, matters of fact, correspondance vs. coherence truth theories, and really get into the issue, but that’s pretty boring.


              • hessianwithteeth March 2, 2014 / 10:13 pm

                Personally I find epistemology interesting. I enjoy discussing how we know what we know and the subjectivity of knowledge.


                • whitefrozen March 3, 2014 / 1:18 pm

                  It’s definitely enjoyable. You do have to be careful, though – the subjectivity of knowledge doesn’t lead to pure subjectivism 😉


                  • guymax March 4, 2014 / 11:55 am

                    I think you have must have just aligned yourself with Aristotle, for whom true knowledge is identical with its object. It would be my view also. .


                    • whitefrozen March 4, 2014 / 12:22 pm

                      I do take an Aristotelean view, generally. Gilson and Torrance really flesh out a realist epistemology that I think is right on the money in that regard.


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