What Is Knowledge?

What Is Knowledge? - Justified True Belief
In defining knowledge as “justified true belief,” Plato emphasized the importance of “belief “ in understanding the idea of knowledge. It is knowledge, which enables a person to cope with the world. Knowledge is founded on the human ability to instantly retrieve contextual data from an astronomically large store of memories. This website suggests that the nervous system acquires the memories through numerous sensory and pattern recognition regions of the mind and stores it for instant retrieval.

Belief provides a swift mechanism to extract knowledge from the vast neural databases. In the labyrinths of the jungle, it is stored knowledge, which enables an animal to slake its thirst. Belief provides the links, which makes it choose a particular fork in its path to reach a watering hole. Belief underpins knowledge. While across history, philosophers and scientists have struggled to grasp the subtle notion of knowledge, science has revealed how the mind delivers knowledge.

  • Knowledge achieves goals. It enables competition, the saving of lives and the destruction of enemies.
  • The definition of knowledge as "justified true belief" has been questioned.
  • Christianity, Gnosticism, Hinduism and Islam have different definitions of knowledge.
  • Knowledge can be transferred in numerous ways.
  • The views of Escobar and Haraway that situational knowledge is closer to true knowledge ties in with the storage of knowledge by the mind as episodic memories.
  • Combinatorial memories have the capacity to store virtually infinite amounts of data and form the basis of human knowledge.
  • The hippocampus records the space/time/emotions context of human experience and spreads this knowledge throughout the nervous system.
  • The storage of combinatorial memories enable them to be recalled in context.
  • A belief is the view of the mind that a particular path will lead to a goal.
  • The mind has systems, which record errors in judgment, which enable the continuing refinement of knowledge.
  • Mirror neurons enable the transfer of knowledge through observation.

What Is Knowledge? - Achieves Goals
It is commonly accepted that knowledge effectively achieves goals. By that very definition, knowledge is universally pragmatic. Stored and retrieved as combinatorial memories in the brain, knowledge enables the solution of problems. The mind is able to combine its massive store of episodic memories in innumerable ways to create new solutions to problems. Each new solution becomes new knowledge.

When it is stored and distributed, knowledge benefits society. The knowledge stored in one nervous system cannot be accessed by another. When it is held in secret, knowledge helps competitive activity and becomes an economic asset. Knowledge helps to save lives and destroy enemies. Knowledge is also communicated through emotions. Beliefs access knowledge. They both enable and limit the retrieval of knowledge. Beliefs vary widely between people. 

What Is Knowledge? - Epistemology
Epistemology generally limits the answer to the question “What is knowledge?” to “propositional knowledge,” (that 2 + 2 = 4), without delving into the question of how the numbers can be added to arrive at that “belief.” Philosophers suggest that the belief becomes knowledge, when the individual can justify a belief, which is also true in life. The belief condition requires that one accept any proposition that one genuinely knows. Edmund Gettier suggests that justification may not be sufficient for knowledge, since such justification could be based on the wrong premises. 

Knowledge is the assembly of those beliefs which are true and proven in real life. Some philosophers reject the belief condition, because it requires a mental representation of the belief. But belief is a neural process. This article explains how knowledge and belief are managed in the nervous system as the tool of the mind for coping with life. The system continually builds up this mechanism, beginning from a massive inherited base, using a process of storing and contextually extracting useful information.

What Is Knowledge? - The Views Of Religions
In many expressions of Christianity, knowledge is a gift of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, it was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which separated Man from God. In Gnosticism, one seeks to attain gnosis, or divine knowledge. Hinduism considers the knowledge of direct experience, say through yoga, to be superior to knowledge obtained from books, or hearsay. In Islam, knowledge is one of the distinct attributes of God and knowledge comes from God. In the Jewish tradition, knowledge is one of the most valuable traits a person can acquire. Knowledge is chosen above gold and a man of knowledge maintains power.

What Is Knowledge? - The Transfer Of Knowledge
In the practical world, knowledge can be conveyed through writing and reading, observation and imitation, verbal exchange, and audio and video recordings. According to Socrates, King Thamus of Egypt feared that the ability to extract facts and stories from the written word could make people lose the ability to mentally retain large quantities of knowledge. Early theories of knowledge likened ideas to words, letters, numbers, or symbols stored in tables in the mind. 


Generally, pictures are considered to be the equivalent to a thousand words in conveying knowledge. But, mind generates memories of its tactile, gustatory, olfactory, spatial, and motor activities. It stores memories of trillions of such actual and imagined experiences. Apart from understanding semantic concepts, the mind also carries knowledge of complex procedures – how to play the piano, or ride a bike. Such memories are stored by the mind in multiple sensory dimensions.

What Is Knowledge? - Knowledge Of Situations
Arturo Escobar suggests that a narrative of actual experience prevents both the mystification of knowledge as “the truth,” while avoiding ironic skepticism regarding the expressed views. Donna Haraway suggests that the description of a situation "offers a more adequate, richer, better account of a world, in order to live in it well and in critical, reflexive relation to our own as well as others' practices of domination and the unequal parts of privilege and oppression that makes up all positions."

Escobar suggests that most neutral scientific domains are narratives of woven historical textures of fact and fiction. The store of episodic memories by the nervous system fall into the category of narratives.

What Is Knowledge? - Memory Stores
According to this website, the genius of the human mind is founded on a significant competence. The ability of the nervous system to store an astronomically large mass of combinatorial memories. Such a reservoir can realistically store memories of everything you have ever done in your life. Every sound, smell, image, muscle movement can be remembered. Millions of years of evolutionary history can also be remembered. Storage as combinatorial codes in nerve cells can still leave room for infinitely more. 

According to science, stored memories are divided into implicit memories, procedural memories and episodic memories. Implicit memories enable a person to recognize any one of 10,000 images displayed to him at one second intervals, without his being able to recall them. While you may think you do not remember, the nervous system remembers. But, you can recall procedural memories and episodic memories in context. Those recalled memories, which can guide an individual to his goal, constitute his knowledge. The hippocampus, an organ in the limbic system, assembles such knowledge by contextually storing data through belief structures.

What Is Knowledge? -The Hippocampus
The hippocampus assembles knowledge along with irrelevant data by storing and consolidating combinatorial memories into contextually recallable structures. Surgical destruction of the hippocampus caused Henry Gustav Molaison (HM) to lose his ability to recall events, which occurred even a few seconds earlier. But, HM retained his past knowledge. 

New and novel experiences of the mind can be consciously recalled, when attention is paid to them. The hippocampus focuses the mind on the current context by recirculating the transient perceptions of the immediate past to the prefrontal regions for its current evaluation. Such recirculation provides a working memory, which protects the system from distraction. The hippocampus records the space/time context of such experiences and spreads associative learning to extensive regions of the nervous system. 

What Is Knowledge? - Recall In Context
During REM sleep, LTP circuits within the hippocampus replay significant waking experiences and increase synaptic strength for their links to the sensory and recognition regions of the cortex. Over many sleep/wake cycles, neuronal reverberation, where linked nerve cells fire in rhythm, record the combinatorial patterns in all the linked groups of cells.

Such memories are recorded both for events and experiences as well as for semantic concepts (ideas converted into words and sentences). The remembered links provide the context for the recall of episodic memories, after months and years. With damage to the hippocampus, the nervous system loses its ability to store new knowledge by bookmarking, storing and consolidating its episodic memories.

What Is Knowledge? - The Formation Of A Belief
A London taxi driver is known to choose the shortest path to his destination after evaluating numerous possible routes. Science has linked this process to the hippocampus. An animal in a cage chooses a path through a maze to reach a food dispenser. As it rambles through the maze, its hippocampus uses eye movement and head direction data as an inertial compass to chart its geographic movement and position. These eye and ear coordinates are mapped by head direction cells, grid cells, and border cells in the entorhinal cortex. 

The tactile, gustatory, olfactory, spatial, and motor activities produced by the free exploration of novel objects trigger precise contextual combinatorial links in multiple brain structures. Each time it reaches a food dispenser, its working memory records the context of the successful route to the goal. From assembled memories of such routes, the animal's intuition selects the best route to the goal. This website suggests that intuition is an algorithmic process, which makes decisions by evaluating innumerable choices and inhibiting irrelevant ones. The animal believes that this particular route will best lead it to its goal. It is this belief, which empowers its knowledge.

What Is Knowledge? - Learning Through Errors
Beliefs lead to expectations. Failed and successful expectations enable the mind to narrow down its beliefs. The anterior cingulate cortex decides from the levels of dopamine, which indicate the expectation that a particular answer is more likely to be correct. In tests, where subjects gained or lost money, dopamine production was small, with small gains or losses. Dopamine was not released for expected losses, but was released for losses, where a win was expected.

As the animal continues to make its choices, its mind assembles a memory for the more successful paths to a goal. In order to avoid a continual multiplicity of choices, the intuitive process inhibits memories of other routes. Intuition inhibits options and prevents decision paralysis. The chosen route reinforces belief and the choices along the way become increasingly subconscious and instantaneous. A large part of knowledge is subconscious and acquired through such trial and error.

What Is Knowledge? - Mirror Neurons
Knowledge is also conveyed between people through the mirror neuron network. This network enables an observer to experience the physical activity of an observed person. A mirror neuron fires both when an animal acts as well as when it observes the same action being performed by another. Neurons are function specific. Vernon Mountcastle first discovered that specific neurons in the premotor area of the cortex fire during motor control activities. Researchers, experimenting with monkeys, report that specific neurons fire when an animal reaches for a peanut, pulls a lever, or pushes a door. Iaccomo Rizzolati and Vittorio Gallasse discovered that neurons in the same regions also fire, when the monkey watches another monkey perform similar actions. 

The monkey had no neural circuits linking it to the motor systems of another animal. Impulses from visual regions convey visual information. Firing in motor regions imply motor activity. Yet, its system identified another animal's action and triggered the precise internal motor circuits required to carry out the same action. The mirror network in an observer translates behavior patterns of other people into his own personal subconscious experience. The receipt of coded interpretations from many regions enable the mirror neurons to fire and enable the observer to sense the pain, or anger of an observed person. A massive amount of knowledge is communicated in the community through such non verbal channels.

This page was last updated on 24-Jan-2016.



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