Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"The Mysterious Pursuit Of Knowing Stuff - A Continuing Inquiry"

Warning:  Expect no definitive answers.  The greatest philosophers in history have struggled with this question.  What do you want from me?

Someone told me about this.  You may be already aware of it. 

When two sports teams compete in a championship event, in order for the commemorative championship t-shirts (among other cherished paraphernalia destined for the “Giveaway Pile”) to be available for immediate purchase, the manufacturers have to print up championship t-shirts for both teams before the game.  (Meaning, before the game’s outcome has been determined.)

When the game is over, the t-shirts of the champions are offered immediately for sale.  The “Championship” t-shirts of the losing team, on the other hand, are apparently donated to charity, landing in Africa where they are distributed to impoverished citizenry lacking adequate clothing.

As a result, there are people – a lot of them, possibly – walking around Africa, believing that the New York Mets won the 2015 World Series (the Kansas City Royals actually won it) and that the Carolina Panthers won Super Bowl 50 (Nope, it was the Denver Broncos.)

Think about that.  I know there’s Google and blah and whatever.  But say they these folks don’t have access to Google and blah and whatever.  Africans are walking around wearing demonstrable proof that the Mets and Panthers won their respective championships, oblivious to the fact that the t-shirts that are telling them so are wrong.

Imagine an African youngster, identifying a baseball team with perhaps the first mint-condition t-shirt they has ever owned, bragging with typical fan-like enthusiasm that the Mets won the 2015 World Series

A companion contests that assertion.  The neophyte Mets fan barks, “Wait here!”  They race into their bedroom and they return with the t-shirt:

“2015 World Series Champions – The New York Mets.”

Case closed.

The argument is unequivocally over.  What’s possible rebuttal could be offered?

“They lied on your t-shirt”?

It sounds crazy.  Who tells a lie on casual sportswear?

The assertion is now disseminated truth.  The Mets won the 2015 World Series

Because t-shirts don’t lie.

Although in this case,

They do.

Consider now, instead of factual evidence emblazoned on donated active wear turning out to be wrong, that are debatable and uncertain, issues of conjecture or opinion, matters in factual dispute, examples of which are too numerous – Read: tedious – to mention.

And also beside the point.  Because the question today is not “Who’s right?”

The question today is “How do you know what you know?”  And can it unquestioningly be trusted?

Think of the lifetime accumulation of “certainties” filling up your head.  How did they originally come to you?  And how did you come to determine they were “certainties”?

“My Dad (Mom, Grandpa, Grandma) told me.”  “My teacher (professor, Spiritual Advisor, or, as an African-American personal assistant of mine once described when she was a kid, a white man) said so.” 

“I read it in a book (a newspaper or magazine, I saw it on the internet – Yikes!)”  “A guy I know laid it on me and said if I didn’t believe him, he would punch me in the face.”  (Communications of “certainty” not infrequently involve coercion.)  “Donald Trump said so and we know it’s true because he tells it like it is.”)

I am not here to dispute anyone’s beliefs.  I have paralleling concerns for where my own beliefs came from?  Considering all the information from all the various, possibly unchallenged, sources – somebody told us something but how exactly do they know? – those thoughts, beliefs, and strongly held and often loudly expressed opinions that came not from our own efforts and experiments but from outside and are now an indelible conglomeration of who we are… well…

When we say we are unique, original and freethinking individuals…

What precisely are we talking about?

I know for a certainty who won the last World Series and the Super Bowl.

But barring verifiable factual evidence…

I don’t know anything.

“Knowing you know nothing.”  Where did that come from?

Oh yeah, Socrates.

You see that?

Even my ignorance isn’t my own.

And while we’re at it,

What if the beliefs of the original “Know I know nothing” guy

Are as fallacious as an African t-shirt?

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