i got a dance, ain’t got no steps

when i was back there in philosophy 100,
there was a person there (earl, if i
remember correctly, conee… something
like that). young guy, probably a
grad student as i understand now,
shaved cueball-bald. anyhow…

this guy was trying on the socratic
style, kicking ideas around circle-
-fashion (while leading us to some
predetermined answer). and it was
reasonably fun, too (as these things
go, for me).

and the semester-kickoff question was,
“what is knowlege?”
and the answer… after a bunch of
give-and-take (along with some take-
-while-pretending-to-give or what
have you)… that we arrived at
(having been led to it… “is this
really *enough* so far? have we
considered such-and-such *example*?)
was that
“knowlege is justified true belief”.

now ain’t that just like a philosopher:
you give ‘em *one* question and they
give you back three *more* questions
and pretend to’ve given an *answer*!

because i’ll be hornswoggled if it
doesn’t feel like it oughta be easier
to *know* a thing than to, for pity sake,
*justify* it somehow! i’m looking
into *understanding* something and
you give me back, what? *ethics*?

and what about “belief”? geez!
who the heck even *thinks* they know
what somebody else even *means* when they
claim to *believe* something?

“is this the way to the kitchen?”
“i *believe* so…”

okay, i get it… but if you really
*believed* it, you’d just say “yep,
right down that way” (or something
like that…the issue of anyone
having reason to *doubt* it
never having crossed your mind).

by saying you *believe* it, you mean
you *don’t* know it… not for sure.
this my-best-guess-as-of-now interpretation
isn’t at all rare, so i hope readers
will recognize it from their own lives.

but then, in some other *context*,
“what i believe” will turn out to mean
something like “what my people are taught to
say and what i’m prepared to say in order
to go on standing with my people”.

both very different from the way we might “believe”
an object we’re looking at *is* as it *appears*
and will be there if we reach for it
(or what have you; for me this looks like
a pretty typical example of what i take to
be the most natural “default” idea about
what “belief” means in my dialect).

and maybe *the* basic philosophical move
is “draw a distinction”.

but sooner or later, you’re going to have
to *fix some terms* so you can see eye-to-eye
and do some honest-to-boole *reasoning*.

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    Vlorbik On Math Ed ('07—'09)
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