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The difference between knowing and believing

What is the difference between what is known and what is believed? It may seem like an obvious question, but if you look below the surface and really investigate the difference between knowledge and belief, you may find yourself second-guessing some of your most basic assumptions.

As a general definition, knowledge is something that is believed to be true and can be backed up with evidence. A belief is something that is believed to be true, but there is not adequate evidence.

The difference between knowledge and belief seems pretty clear. However, how much evidence does it take to change a belief into knowledge? And, who decides what kind of evidence is reliable? Should knowledge be based on empiricism (knowledge that comes from experiencing the physical world), reason (knowledge that comes from logic), or a combination of both?

a) Think about someone in your life who loves you—it could be your mother, significant other, child, or even a pet.
- Do you know this person loves you, or do you believe this person loves you?
- State your argument for why you chose to categorize the idea as either knowledge or belief.
- Give 3 pieces of empirical evidence for the knowledge or belief, as well as 3 logical reasons.
- After looking through the evidence, do you still maintain your original categorization of knowledge or belief? Why?

Solution Preview

OK. Think about Plato: for him, knowledge was about eternal forms, reality that does not change. Opinion is for the masses - it is something arrived at through self interest or egocentrism. Opinions and beliefs are changeable, and, in fact, are often the product of manipulation of some kind. Knowledge derives from struggle, even asceticism, to reach beyond the changing world to see what never changes.

For Descartes, as well as St. Augustine before him, there is the simple question of certainty. How can we be certain of something. Both Augustine and Descartes have the following thought experiment: doubt everything: our world, our senses, our feelings, etc. What do we have left? A person. A self that doubts. A self, more fundamentally, that thinks. Therefore, if we doubt, we must think. And if we think, we must exist. From this, we get absolute certainty.

What else do we know? Descartes did not follow up on his thought experiment. When we come to the conclusion that I am ...

Solution Summary

The differences between knowing and believing is determined.