Do I really know something?
Philosophers generally agree that knowledge is JUSTIFIED TRUE BELIEFS. You have an idea that can be determined true or false (proposition), and then if you can justify why your idea is true, you have knowledge.
But how to justify your belief is not always easy. I am in my room, which does not have any windows. I guess that it is rainy outside, which happens to be true. My justification for this knowledge is GUESSING. Everybody agrees that guessing is not a proper method of justification. I agree with this general idea. So, what is a valid way to justify my beliefs? I do not want to go too far as skepticism or solipsism argues. I do not think that I am being deceived by Descartes’ demons or I am just a brain in a vat. But still, I have no absolute background to support my beliefs. Am I caught in the trap devised by Descartes?
I think the argument by skepticism is very strong and hard to beat. But I need to move on. Even though it sounds un-philosophical, I assume the following beliefs as true and regard them as starting points of my thoughts.
- I do not doubt my existence. It does not matter even I am just a brain in a vat. This is my life and only life of and for me.
- The material world exists. It is nothing to do with an act of my consciousness. Material objects exist regardless of my existence or even God’s existence.
- I also believe others have minds like me. The sense organs of human beings are generally reliable. I agree that senses are not perfect, but with testing and verification, sense data can be regarded as reliable.
With these, I can start to justify my beliefs. It seems that my knowledge system is like science. Generally, scientific data can be regarded as knowledge, and the scientific way of validation is a really powerful tool to justify a belief. (It does not mean scientific knowledge is always correct or reliable. Scientific data are susceptible to be manipulated by interest groups.)
What I want to say here is that it is possible to know something; Knowledge is an entity that can be possessed by human beings.