Better off not even introducing this…
In a small but pleasant park just off the town’s central square, two middle aged companions were juggling and passing six spinning clubs between them in a manner which indicated they had been accustomed to doing so for several years. The clubs were red and silver, glinting in the slanting sunrays of the diminishing afternoon, appearing to dance with baffling complexity to the naive eye while moving in quite predictable and slowed down patterns to the jugglers in the know. Suddenly, the one on the right executed a nifty double-spin flourish twirl with the club landing in his right hand, tossing it behind his back and over his right shoulder, while at the same moment launching a triple high spin crossing pass diagonally from his temporarily unbusy left hand across to his partner’s left hand. Their usual signal for a momentary pause. He unceremoniously caught the whirling club handle as it whizzed by over his right shoulder, missing his face by an inch or two. Then abruptly all was at rest. And he began to speak:
– You cannot know.
— I know.
— Umm… what seems to be befuddling you here?
– Well, I said “You cannot know.”
— I know.
– What do you mean?
— I mean I am aware that you commenced this rather self-referential conversation by claiming that I cannot know.
– oh. Yes, I know that.
— That’s odd!
— Umm… what seems to be befuddling you, here?
– well, it’s that you…
— Never mind, I know. Again! (pauses with smile) 🙂 What I meant was that it is peculiar that you both attest that I lack even the capacity for knowing while you blithely claim to simply know, yourself. Which signals that you either harbor a dim opinion of me or a too sparkling one of yourself.
– Oh, I didn’t mean to convey that at all. Sorry.
— I know you didn’t; it was a joke. 🙂 Score is 3-0 now by the way.
– We are contesting? How did you get ahead so fast?
— I receive one point every time I know something, which I believe you meant to indicate was beyond the limits of possibility. Certainly I deserve a point when I accomplish the impossible! And you receive a point… well I am not sure when, depends upon your response to what I found odd.
– Ah, OK. I can clear that up. It applies to me as well, of course. We are both doomed to not knowing. It is a human predicament.
— Well then since you yourself have said “I know” once now already in this dialog, and besides this have made universal statements which imply that you have some sort of knowledge relationship towards them, we are going to have to get anal, unfortunately, to establish what exactly it is you mean by knowing and not knowing.
– It’s true that anal is unfortunate. Allow me to try and simplify things, but first there is a new question that is nagging at me.
— Please go ahead.
– Well, its the bit about your accusations of universalism.
— Oh. yeah, that usually provokes either keen interest or a skeptical objection in them.
– Them? Who are them?
— You know: Neo-Kantians, either militant or idealistically green academes who’ve become hopelessly enamoured and hood-winked by Kant’s bogus demonstration of natural limits to human knowledge due to our idiosyncratic cognitive constitutions.
– (taken slightly aback) uh, it is true that I hold Kant in high regard, but green or … and hang on here, what do you mean bogus demonstration?
— I think we are jumping ahead now. The relevant question was more: what do you mean? Specifically about the way you are tossing around the word “know”.
– (gathering himself) Well, undeniably, and practically without even the need to say so, there is a difference between knowing how to make an omelet, or navigate from your house to the post office, and knowing whether or not evil is imaginary, or whether the universe has a physical boundary, or whether men and women both perceive ‘yellow’ the same way.
— Hmmm. I’m afraid that now, in addition to all the other questions which have come up that we’ve needed to put a pin on and return to for later clarification, there are now two additional puzzles.
– (groaning under the weight of the increasing recursion of their conversation) OK… what are these two new objections now?.
— Well, they are not entirely new, just re-illustrated from a different angle.
– Go on.
— a rewording of my earlier questions… (his voice trailed off in distraction)
At that moment, a captivatingly fetching brunette jogged by wearing a track suit top and wonderfully brief cobalt blue shorts. sweat imparting an angelic gleam to her brow, neck and shoulders. She glistened a sweet acknowledging eye smile to the juggler on the left in passing, who guilelessly sighed in appreciation at the muscle tone in her effortless calves.
— I mean, well, first, I am questioning whether there really is a meaningful difference between knowing how and knowing that… in other words between the knowledge implicit in being conversant with how to jog across a park with perfect economy of muscles and motion and buttock (sigh!) on the one hand, for example, and being conversant with something more obtuse, on the other. Like why some individuals seem to possess abundant will power.
– (nodding) I can sketch you a hint on that one, namely that the graceful running involves physically pragmatic repetition besides which it is objectively and independently verifiable by numerous ogling onlookers, whereas the other more abstract ‘knowledge’ is neither objectively measured nor pragmatically obtained. So: the first example we can agree deserves the label ‘knowledge’ in ordinary language because it is functional and demonstrable repeatedly, whereas with the second, I think we are merely fooling ourselves and elevating our favorite opinions. (uttered with satisfaction)
— I see. That is a discriminating observation you make, although I reserve against conceding the point yet. (pondering)
– But tell me your second objection!
— Well, it’s the meta-knowing example of course. How is it remotely possible, under your view then, namely that one cannot know anything which isn’t concrete, that you are in a position to know that there is an obvious distinction between these two classes of putative knowledge? An assertion you make with unconscious authority.
– (not without suspicion) Umm, it is not entirely evident here that you are not saying the same thing twice. Isn’t it so that there is really only one objection?
At this moment, a perhaps once lovely blonde, mid 30s, distractedly approached their circle. Aswirl in a dense cloud of chores and necessary timely things to accomplish, she veered around the two friends, her visage temporarily oscillating between its default analytic frown and downright derision over their obstructing of her passage. The juggler on the right partially removed a balanced scimitar prop from his knapsack in a gesture of mock menace at the instant she passed, instigating a furtive sideways glance.
— I believe them to be dissimilar. (glancing quickly at the sun) Though the hour grows late, and I am to prepare crevettes and broccoli for dinner. But I am confident it is one thing to speak about possible distinctions between capabilities, procedures, and methods for doing things that we have cognized via familiarity and or physical practice and purely reasoned truths we have won perceptions about on one hand, (pauses) and quite another thing altogether to ‘know’ in a flash of intuition that these two things are qualitatively different, on the other hand.
– Crikey, you are being subtle… or obtuse.
— Perhaps explaining my thoughts about the first matter will help shine light upon the second.
– (consulting a digital watch) Yes, ok. Next Thursday then? Same time? I’ve been working on a new way to steal flaming torches between two jugglers moving in a tight circle.
— Sounds fabulous. Will we need a town permit to light the kerosene? (But his friend was already departing…)
[ Image : The fabulous Jane Goodall engaged in a far more profound conversation (than this article) with a dear acquaitance. ] (link)
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