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Ch. 2: How Do We Know What We Know? 
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Post Ch. 2: How Do We Know What We Know?
Ch. 2: How Do We Know What We Know?

Please use this thread for discussing Ch. 2: How Do We Know What We Know? :slap:



Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:43 pm
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I can't resist asking this question. What did you think about How Do We Know What We Know? :whot:

This chapter was a hodgepodge of ideas, which didn't fit together that well despite some similar motifs. Burton started off with a logical and reasonable argument that
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Logic and reason rarely are "convincing."

He discusses blindsight, which I read about in Phantoms in the Brain as a neurological demonstration that the part of the brain associated with the senses is separate from the part of the brain that is self-aware.

The Challenger study, if viewed honestly, shows rather strongly that our memories of our own lives aren't as accurate as we believe them to be. Ironically, I read about that study over a decade ago, and reminded me of where I was when I heard about the Challenger explosion, making me more confident of my memory.

While much of that chapter was material I'd seen before in various places, it was fine to be exposed to it again, all in one place.



Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:19 pm
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Yes, the very real subconscious effect on our conscious lives.

Events of your life that you easily, or unwittingly, omit from you conscious thought train, can linger deep within manifesting in unintentional mannerisms.

Your subconscious experience will effect the depth and nature of your knowing impulse.



Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:42 pm
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I do have to agree though, this chapter is a hodge podge of ideas. I am not even going to say that I am the smartest person in the world, but I am having an extremely hard time reading this book. I have read numerous books similar to this but this on is just a pain staking read.



Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:03 am
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While some chapters of this book are a hodgepodge of ideas, I don't view that as negatively as you seem you.

While the loose organization of the material can be distracting, especially when you try to summarize what's being said, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with it. Since Burton is talking about interesting stuff and the individual sections are easy to follow, it's acceptable for him to glide from subject to the next.



Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:26 am
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I believe that I will have to muddle through the book to get a better feel for it. Let me see what Chapter 3 has in store for me.



Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:26 am
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I didn't find Burton's opening question to be that hard to answer: is more conscious effort, or less, the answer to obtaining a feeling of knowing? Maybe I'm not getting it. If you don't have a feel for physics, then of course the answer is to grind away at it until you understand and get the "felt understanding." You won't get that by anything but conscious effort. On the other hand, if the problem is some existential crisis, then of course you would try a different technique, let your mind go off on its own, perhaps.

I can understand the comments on "hodgepodge," because the transitions Burton makes are not always clear to me. He goes next to the abnormal state of consciousness called blindsight. That is an example of a" faulty expression of a feeling of knowing." He tells us that other faulty expressions are less radical, but common, as in the Challenger study. In that case, though, the area of the brain responsible could not have been the same as for blindsight.

So, after consideration of the Challenger study, Burton's perspective would seem to be that this feeling of knowing that is so central to our ideas of ourselves nevertheless may fail to lead us to objective truth. We can't always trust our feeling of knowing because, for one thing, our memories we base our certainties on aren't as accurate as we think.

Our sense of knowing can also betray us when it makes us refuse to see matters of simple reason. We feel so secure in the feeling within our own heads, that we will defy all other evidence, things we do "know" on some level but refuse to acknowledge. Burton says that the theory of cognitive dissonance applies here, but he says it accounts only for people in rather extreme situations such as cults, not to "regular folks." It does not, to him, explain why we will stick to a false belief "because it feels correct even when we know better" (p. 13).

Burton gives us several examples of "consciously choosing a false belief because it feels correct even though we know better" (p. 13). They are all interesting cases. There are "delusional misidentification syndromes" that all feature the choice to believe what should be unbelievable. Burton admits that these syndromes do not share "a single area of the brain or a single definitive physiology" (p. 17).

Now he brings in the mental states of familiarity, realness, rightness, and correctness, saying those are closely linked to the feeling of knowing. Each of these mental states can be strong enough to essentially turn us into irrational beings at times, asserting our inner "truth" against mere outward reality.

I'll try to shorten up these posts.

DWill



Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:18 pm
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I have to agree that some of this was hard to read.

For me difficulties arose is the looseness of definitions especially the placement of knowledge into the emotional category without really explianing what the consequences of that are.

I found that the end of chapter summaries were very helpful and focused the topics of the chapter quite effectively.



Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:43 pm
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page 17:
"...the most striking shared characteristic of these delusional misidentification syndromes is that the conflict between logic and a contrary feeling of knowing tends to be resolved in favor of feeling."

I thought this was the most thought provoking statement, thus far. Reading the quoted statement gave me an idea; several actually. Burton has given example after example of the "feeling" winning out over logic, reason, and hard evidence. Consider the evolutionary development of the human brain. First came the brain stem, which regulates the autonomic nervous system (involuntary movements, such as breathing, digestion, etc.). Second to develop was the midbrain; which includes the amygdala. The amygdala is the brain structure that decodes emotions. Last to come along was the thinking part of the brain, the forebrain.

Evolutionary Layers of The Human Brain

I was thinking that given our pre-human ancestors had to live in the world without benefit of the forebrain (no conscious thought), they would have had to rely on the midbrain and feelings to keep them alive and procreating. Doesn't it make sense that feelings trump thinking -- feelings came first. Thinking is an add on; a bonus if you will.


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Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:20 pm
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