Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Two types of Knowledge

    Through reading chapter 4 I can only be plagued by the thought that there must be two types of knowledge. These two types of knowledge seem to be both existent within the Aristotelian and Platonic split. The first is the common knowledge, knowledge needed to provide us with basic rules in order to govern our lives. Pragmatics, Politics, Religion, Ethics or what Aristotle calls Praxis. The second is Scientific or Metaphysical knowledge, knowledge not directly known and more exact in it's attempt to understand the basic governing principles of movement, life, or the physical structure of the world. Biology, Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy are some. 
    Everyday we walk around with common knowledge of social norms, operant behavior on how to conduct our lives. Yet, existent within this world are a vast amount of metaphysical thoughts. For instance, what type of insect on the door was there when you walked into the gas station and how does it play a role in the food chain. How does killing a spider increase your risk of contracting the zika virus. Albeit a bit farfetched, some some small clues lead to a bigger picture. For instance could the social knowledge of other cultures affect your "performative" interactions with the clerk at the gas station? Could your understanding of basic respiration and human social psychology be combined to save the life of a man who may be having a heart attack, or who is choking. Perhaps this is a better question. Can metaphysical knowledge have a praxis element that can solve complex social problems. Would a deeper understanding of all these topics contribute to a more "equipped" citizen in Plato's Republic? Could one not both be a merchant and a king?


  1. I think I agree, but as a pragmatist I'm more comfortable calling these not different forms of knowledge but different ways of describing experience: we deploy scientific, common-sensical, philosophical-critical, and metaphysical descriptive vocabularies, and the trick is to learn which is appropriate when. In Pragmatism lec.V, William James says common sense "got its innings first" and is thus more "consolidated" in our imagination and practice. But he adds, "There is no RINGING conclusion possible when we compare these types of thinking, with a view to telling which is the more absolutely true. Their naturalness, their intellectual economy, their fruitfulness for practice, all start up as distinct tests of their veracity, and as a result we get confused. Common sense is BETTER for one sphere of life, science for another, philosophic criticism for a third; but whether either be TRUER absolutely, Heaven only knows."


  2. I think you're asking some great questions, Cody. Certainly, the way we think or talk about knowledge will affect our beliefs and motivations.

    I like to be careful with the word knowledge. It wouldn't take much effort to find counterexamples that would show that both Aristotle and Plato were wrong about most everything. Our author has provided us a few examples already. Can we call that knowledge.

    In my worldview (I'm going with poetic naturalism for now), I divide reality up into what "is" (brute facts), what we ought to do (ethics, politics, etc.), and the language we use to talk about both. As we move from the Humean "is" to "ought" to the language we employ, life gets messy. But that's good. Certainty doesn't fit into the equation, nor does it need to.

    Plenty of room for philosophers and merchants to be "king."

  3. This definitely is an invitation for epistemology (how we know what we know). I definitely agree that there are as many ways of describing knowledge as there are ways of abstract thinking. Of course, how can we know if the counterexamples are valid or invalid. Perhaps Aristotle created logic and was such a strong empiricist that this same problem bothered him. Of course, this is at the root of all scientific investigation.