This article investigates the subject of knowledge and highlights some
of its paradoxes.
1.1 The least certain and the most certain
It is commonly agreed that our knowledge about the most important
things in life is the least certain and that our knowledge about the
least important things is the most certain. (e.g. religion,
aesthetics and morality (the least certain), versus physics and
mathematics (the most certain).)
1.2 Why everything is not relative
To people who say there is no truth and everything is relative
(i.e. everything is just a matter of opinion), you should ask them:
"Is that true that everything is relative?" I got this gem of
wisdom from a Christian evangelist who goes by the name of L.T.
and who recently gave a lecture at the University of Canterbury.
1.3 Morality and honesty
It is well known that a liar needs to have a good memory and therefore
it is true that a person with a greater memory can be a bigger liar
than a person with a smaller memory. Therefore shouldn't we trust the
brightest people the least?!? Notwithstanding this observation,
honesty is usually the best policy. Example: in a court of law where
your testimony can be cross-examined to an arbitrary degree, honesty
is the best policy. To a lesser degree, this is also true for your
curriculum vitae although it is standard practise to stretch
the truth by as the
goes: "accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative".
If, however you put your C.V. on the Internet so that anyone can
read it, then you are submitting yourself to the highest levels of
accountability and honesty.
1.4 Morality and the power of gossip
People in the spotlight of the media, such as famous people and people
in high status positions are the potential subject of gossip about any
scandalous or "immoral" activities conducted by that person.
Therefore these people should be aware that to be outside of the
subject of any gossip, they should not do anything in the first place
that would put themselves in the spotlight of gossipers. This is what
Bill Clinton failed to do when he had his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
1.5 Naturalising goodness in aesthetics
The standard way to naturalise (i.e. remove the
supernatural from) the subject of goodness (merit) in aesthetics is to
reduce it to the the opinions of a select group of people. Consensus
goodness is not without its problems however, for example, whose
opinions should we count?
Everyone ("the masses") or as the most popular is often not
considered to be the best,
just a select group of "experts" e.g.
just Dead White Males (as used to be standard practise)
or as wisdom comes with age,
just the oldest people, or
just the brightest people which begs the question: how should we
measure intelligence, or
just professionals (people who make a living making such decisions of merit
such as reviewers or philosophers).
Whatever system we employ begs the question: why did we choose that
particular group of people? Still this question is a smaller riddle
than that of aesthetics being supernatural. Another way is to reduce
the subject to the opinions of the greatest artists themselves
(determined by consensus) who they themselves consider to be the most
1.6 The problem with religious belief
When one decides what religion to follow, one is
faced with the following problem:
Should one believe in one particular religion and dismiss all
other religions as wrong, which begs the question, how does one know
that one's chosen religion is the correct one and that all others are
wrong? Perhaps this is what religious people mean when they talk
Should one believe that all religions have a grain of truth to
them and therefore believe in the lowest common denominator of
all religions? The problem with this approach is the the lowest
common denominator is not very much to believe in at all.
At my present level of understanding, I see only the following three
ways out of this dilemma:
To believe in no religion at all (atheist). To many
people this implies a rather sterile existence, as it implies that
our physical world is all that there is, and that the persistence of
a person's soul after death is limited to our memories of
that person. but as my sister told me, to believe that our human
existence is all that there is makes what we do in our present lives
all the more important.
To have no opinion on the subject (agnostic).
To believe in a kind of scientific religion that holds
the view that the end product of evolution will be God. See my earlier article.