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Thread: The atom of knowledge

  1. #1 The atom of knowledge 
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    Just wondering...

    What is the most basic unit of knowledge?

    Is it deductive or empirical?

    Is it irreducible?


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    It is unknown, knowledge is as elusive as an electron upon observation. Knowledge doesn't particulary fit into any kind of format, it is all different from each other's perpspectives of knowledge.

    Personally the most fundemental 'atom' of knowledge if you will, is being wrong. If nobody was wrong, if no knowledge was wrong we'd be Amoebas, if that.


    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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    Aristotle's 'laws of thought' seem like the best starting point. The laws are:

    1.) The law of identity: A is A

    2.) The law of non-contradiction: nothing can be both A and not-A

    3.) The law of excluded middle: everything is either A or not-A

    Without being able to say this A is an A then no knowledge, and indeed science, could follow. This is also reliant on trusting our senses: Descartes didn't.

    Elusive maybe Quantime but i don't follow you about being wrong (do you mean like the wisdom of Socrates?)
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    If one travels back in time and meets oneself, one can be A, and not A at the same time.

    A could also wear one of those maks with glasses and a moustache.

    Don't forget that these assumptions are typical of our universe, in ordianry minkowski space, based on our own relative perception of the world.

    In Special relativity an object may not be A, even if it is A. There is no way to determine if it is A relative to oneself unless you use another reference frame. If one went back in time as I said and was not aware of relativity, how could A possible meet itself and be A and not A at the same time? Albiet, being A, killing yourself (A killing A), if A still exists, then how can A be A?

    If we introduced B and then did the same, how could not being A or not being not A be possible by that definition?

    If that entity then continues to exist, and A and not A have been removed, then what is the entity?
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  6. #5 Propositions 
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    atom of knowledge:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proposition (subject + predicate)


    The 'indivisible atom' of existance is the 'event'. (noun + verb)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quantime
    If one travels back in time and meets oneself, one can be A, and not A at the same time.

    Don't forget that these assumptions are typical of our universe, in ordianry minkowski space, based on our own relative perception of the world.

    I don't think an assumption of minkowski space is needed for these criteria (Aristotle certainly never did), only an assumption of consistency - this table i'm looking at is, if i trust my senses and agree with others on a definition of a table, a table and not an iron or something else.

    There may be no way of telling if it is in fact A, if i mistrust my senses, but if everyone were to mistrust their senses then what other reference frame could we possibly use? We have to assume our senses correct, when they give consistent information (consistent with other observations and others observations).

    Having to add time-travel to an argument is never a good a sign. If you define both parties as A then fine, that's like saying two apples are two apples and the argument becomes a tautology. What we have is two people; one time traveller and one being visited. You cannot simply say they are both called John and look the same, therefore they are both A, but they occupy different space so are also not-A. They were never both A in the first place, they were always separate entities.

    I have no idea what you mean by adding B and removing A. Having to add time-travel to an argument is never a good a sign. Perhaps you could structure your argument without time travel, considering the discussion is complex enough without adding the unresolved paradoxes of time travel.
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  8. #7 Re: Propositions 
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    Quote Originally Posted by granpa
    The 'indivisible atom' of existance is the 'event'. (noun + verb)
    You seem to be suggesting language is a basis for knowledge and existence? Interesting. If this is so would you care to elaborate?
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    Is this a Noam Chomsky thing? or are you talking about the dimension of size?
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    The mathematical Chomsky... next level!
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  11. #10  
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    Noam Chomsky
    More like grade school english.

    Dimension of size
    What?

    ...language is a basis for...existence
    What?
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by granpa
    ...language is a basis for...existence
    What?

    Quite.

    I anticipated an argument along the lines... we can only know the world through our senses. We therefore have sense-experiences, which are not exactly the same as the extant itself (e.g. we see the coin elliptical but really it is a circle). Given we are prone to errors of the senses we seek coherence among our own experiences and experiences of others. Both these, especially the latter, require communication - language. Therefore, the world, as we can know it, is based on the limitations of our language.

    This isn't my perspective, just anticipating, which is why i asked. Obviously this was not what you meant. So what did you mean?

    I know nothing of Noam Chomsky's ideas, are they relevent to this discussion?
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    Knowledge is made of information. So the atom of knowledge is the bit. As simple as that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Makandal
    Knowledge is made of information. So the atom of knowledge is the bit. As simple as that.
    Sure. True and false. But what is true or false?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proposition
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    I never said true and false. I said bits. A 0-1 series does not mean true or false. It rather corresponds to the amount of information gathered from a system to decrease its entropy. So a zero bits corresponds to no information not a false information quantum.

    I will use the example I give for uncertainties management in oil & gas exploration.

    The entropy of a simple system is less than of a complex system. For example, my car can move front, turn right, left, be stopped or move back. There are 5 possibilities. I cannot take off or move on the side. To measure the knowledge on the direction movement of my car is quite simple.
    To gather knowledge on the rocks drilled at 3000 m deep is much more complex. There are 10's of indirect and direct measurements, each with a certain error attached to it. In some cases, this error can give me clues for additional information and by so, increase my knowledge of the system.
    Consequently, the knowledge of a system is more than the sum of bits of information. It incorporates also rules which helps us to deduct and then create additional informations.
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    I would say that a quale is the most fundamental aspect of knowledge. Here is my thought process: You cannot have knowledge without knowing something > knowing something is a conscious experience > the conscious experience can only be reduced to the qualities of which its made > those qualities are known as "qualia"

    To get a very clear idea of what I am talking about, think of the color green right now. That mental sensation you just experienced in your mind, thats qualia.

    -------------------------------------

    Now lets take it a step further. For the image below, can you see the transparent cube "switch" from one orientation to the other, as indicated with the shaded in walls? With practice, you can make the transparent cube "change" at will...or should I say, you can make your experience of the cube change.



    This is an example of two different qualia of the same visual stimulus, and helps illustrate qualia that is a bit more mental in nature, as opposed to something purely visual like color.

    --------------------------------

    Now, what is the answer to this equation:

    If A + B = C
    Then C - B = ____?

    That mental "stuff" going through your head, telling you the answer is A, that conscious experience is also qualia. Basically any idea is made of qualia, and you can't have knowledge without ideas.
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    Ok, Munk...
    You define a 'unit'. How do you measure it practically ?

    I think you rather define a concept than a unit. A unit is to measure a concept (energy, mass, length, volume, charge etc...).
    We are back to step one.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Munk
    I would say that a quale is the most fundamental aspect of knowledge.
    Interesting. But these qualia are not the same as the extant itself - can we ever know how well they correspond to the object?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Makandal
    Ok, Munk...
    You define a 'unit'. How do you measure it practically ?

    I think you rather define a concept than a unit. A unit is to measure a concept (energy, mass, length, volume, charge etc...).
    We are back to step one.
    By unit, I was simply referring to "basic element", which is not necessarily something that can be measured with a ruler or weighed on a scale. To hold otherwise is to presuppose materialism... and I can give you examples of knowledge that cannot be physically measured. This is via abstract reasoning, in which concepts can be used to derive knowledge without those concepts necessarily referring to anything physical. For example:

    If X = Y, but Y ≠ Z, then I know X ≠ Z. Neither X, Y, or Z refer to anything physical, and therefore the knowledge that X ≠ Z cannot ultimately be broken down into units that can be physically measured.

    Further more, think about what is being suggested if we are to assume that a "unit" is measurable in the way you describe. Those measurements are physical in nature, are they not (length, weight, size....)? And yet, ultimately the only connection we have to the physical world is via our senses...which is to say, the only connection we have to the physical world is via qualia. How is it, then, that human knowledge can be reduced to anything more fundamental than qualia?

    You may say that qualia is just brain activity, which is ultimately electricity, and so an electron is the most basic unit of knowledge. But even then, how it is that we know brain activity is electric in nature, or that electricity itself is made of electrons...if not because of qualia?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Munk
    ...ultimately the only connection we have to the physical world is via our senses...which is to say, the only connection we have to the physical world is via qualia. How is it, then, that human knowledge can be reduced to anything more fundamental than qualia?
    Would it be possible to suggest that deductive reasoning such as A=B and B=C therefore A=C are more fundamental than qualia, given that such reasoning does not require verification, but is true by definition?

    And to reiterate: Can we ever know/measure (or even approximate) how well qualia correspond to the object?
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    If we are assuming that the defintion of qualia is "the subjective quality of the conscious experience", and knowing something is a conscious experience, I would suggest that the sensation of knowing something (even if by definition), is, itself, a quale. Of course, its a different sort of quale than what people would normally think of (such as sight, taste, smell, and other conscious experiences that are a direct result of sensory stimui.)...but never the less.
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    But then knowledge means nothing distinct from experience, which is problematic because when you say...
    [quote] If X = Y, but Y ? Z, then I know X ? Z.[\quote]
    ...you are making an assumption that the laws of logic are self-evident and therefore true regardless of experience, but at the same time you seem to be saying that knowledge and experience are the same thing.

    If we disregard knowledge as something distinct from experience, we have to disregard all knowledge including the laws of the thought, which is a bit drastic isn't it?

    The only way it makes sense in terms of qualia is if you consider specific rather than general qualia, in which case we don't need to talk in terms of qualia at all: the basic unit of knowledge are definitions, as has already been said.
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    But surely the proposition A=B and B=C therefore A=C is true regardless of someone thinking it, just as 2+2=4 is true no matter whether it is thought (and so experienced as a quale) or not.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    But surely the proposition A=B and B=C therefore A=C is true regardless of someone thinking it, just as 2+2=4 is true no matter whether it is thought (and so experienced as a quale) or not.
    depends whether you accept an abstract object has existence independent of thought. it's known as platonism in maths, i think.
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    Knowledge is a set of gathered principles, evidences and understanding. Just in what way is it reducible? By how many times can you divide a body of knowledge to obtain the defined boundary of a single unit?

    Knowledge also embodies different thoughts, different perspectives. In how many ways do you slice that cake? How exactly would you know which exact perspective to fall back to in order to derive that unit? We fall back to Euclidean geometry to obtain relative units, we fall to Argand to visualize imaginary dimensions, we fall back to the universal ruler of defined basic lengths to measure space, we fall to atomic clocks to measure time a body experiences...

    What can knowledge fall back to?


    Perhaps... connections of neurons?

    But that brings us the chicken-egg situation.
    What is the mind, and what is the brain??!!?
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    Quote Originally Posted by CMR80606
    depends whether you accept an abstract object has existence independent of thought. it's known as platonism in maths, i think.
    Philosophy of mathematics, sure way to get a headache.

    But does the argument not now become circular? If we are to suppose platonism, or any mathematical realism, how would we know an abstract object has existence independent of thought? We can have no sense-experience, or quale as Munk says, independent of thought. This would preclude us ever knowing for sure via empiricism.
    Surely at some point we have to make an assumption about what we regard the as the base unit of knowledge which cannot be proved (if it could be proved would this not suggest that it is reducible and so never the base unit of knowledge to begin with?).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by CMR80606
    depends whether you accept an abstract object has existence independent of thought. it's known as platonism in maths, i think.
    Philosophy of mathematics, sure way to get a headache.

    But does the argument not now become circular? If we are to suppose platonism, or any mathematical realism, how would we know an abstract object has existence independent of thought? We can have no sense-experience, or quale as Munk says, independent of thought. This would preclude us ever knowing for sure via empiricism.
    Surely at some point we have to make an assumption about what we regard the as the base unit of knowledge which cannot be proved (if it could be proved would this not suggest that it is reducible and so never the base unit of knowledge to begin with?).
    I find it interesting that if we were to regard that an abstract object does not have existence just because it has no sense-data, it would be self-contradictory in the sense that thoughts themselves are abstract too. I think knowledge is built by bricks on bricks of assumptions that have a higher probability of being consistent. Even if we reach the pinnacle of knowledge, there is no sure way to verify it unless the assumptions used to guide us up are fundamentally proven right, and certainly not just by the Scientific Method.

    Where are we going?
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