Knowledge and Reason

Knowledge, in the sense applicable to a human mind, is more than just an awareness of reality. It is an understanding of reality. Implicit in the concept of knowledge are the axioms of existence, identity and consciousness. Knowledge must have a subject (something must exist), content (things must have a specific identity for anything to be known about them) and it must be held by a consciousness.  Perceptions (the involuntary integration of sensations) are man’s units of information about reality. However, man does not have the ability to retain perceptions. Apart from the perceptions of the immediate moment, knowledge is retained in the form of concepts. The ability to think and form concepts is reason. Knowledge thus rests on perceptual data and reason.

Apart from simple concepts like ‘Length’ or ‘Red’ which are abstractions from perceptual data, most concepts depend on other concepts. For example, the concept ‘Illusion’ depends on concepts like ‘Reality’, ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Truth’. The concept ‘Virtue’ depends on the concepts ‘Action’ and ‘Value’. Thus knowledge has a hierarchy. One cannot properly use a concept if one does not understand (or accept) the concepts that it depends on.

Here are a few examples that violate the hierarchy of knowledge.

“Everything is an illusion”. The concept ‘Illusion’ is used to deny the concept ‘Reality’ on which it depends.
 “All property is theft”. The concept ‘Theft’ is used to deny the concept ‘Property’ on which it depends.
“Change is the only constant”. The concept ‘Change’ depends on a fixed standard but the assertion denies any fixed standards.


5 Responses

  1. UnknownPhilosopher,
    Now with the background of this post let me address your post again.

    “Religion is the faculty that allows man to obtain and use his knowledge”
    Grasping religion requires one to have first acquired a lot of knowledge. Religious incantations can have no meaning if you dont understand the words first.

    “There might be something above reason”
    Since knowledge is acquired by reason, it is impossible to know anything that is beyond reason.

  2. When you put a concept like “all property is theft” and defeat it as presented you can see the rationalization involved with its creation. By denying property they have justified their own thievery or attempts at it.

    This is an awesome blog.

  3. Phoroneus,
    Thanks. I would like to point you to Ayn Rand’s works if you have not already read them.

    K. M.

  4. Been there, read that, bought the philosophy :).

  5. From comment 2: …a concept like “all property is theft” …

    Strictly speaking, that is a proposition, not a concept. A concept is designated by a single word: all, property, is, theft. A proposition integrates words/concepts into an assertion about reality.

    Ayn Rand discusses the use of a word as a symbol for a concept, in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, pp. 10-11 and 163-174, but also see pp. 23, 71, and 177 for “qualified instances of concepts.”

    P. S. — K. M., thank you for picking the topics you have chosen. They are a blend of the timely and the fundamental.

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