How reliable is knowledge?
We depend on knowledge in our daily lives. We presume that what we consider "knowledge" is true or at least highly likely to be true. But, how reliable is any of what we call "knowledge"? This raises some questions:
- How can we know that any purported knowledge is in fact true?
- How can we verify that any knowledge is true?
- How can we determine how to verify any knowledge?
- How can we have any confidence in our belief in any knowledge?
- What can we really do when we are unsure whether any knowledge is really true?
- What can we confidently say about the truth of any knowledge that we believe in?
- What statements can we safely make about the reliability of any knowledge?
- What disclaimers should we give regarding the reliability of any knowledge?
- How certain do we need to be before we can assert that a statement or claim is in fact knowledge?
Ultimately, we need to be able to point to a piece of knowledge and ask and get the answer to one simple question: How reliable is this knowledge?
This implies that there needs to be some record of the history of asking and answering these questions for each and every bit of knowledge.
But, even with such a historical record, how reliable is any of that history and how can we even believe that any of it is reliable?
Maybe the bottom line is that every bit of knowledge is of dubious reliability, even if we do not quite express or acknowledge it.
Nonetheless, we need to have some sense of the reliability of every bit of knowledge.
Trust probably has a role. To wit, if we know who believes a bit of knowledge, we can then judge that person or institution's credibility for having good reason to believe in that knowledge.
Ultimately, we do depend on our own judgment of the veracity of any knowledge, but at least some of us know better than to trust our own judgment too far.
There are also two quite different statements any of us can make about knowledge:
- Do we believe and accept that a given bit of knowledge is valid?
- Do we have good reason for that belief?
Maybe a simple statement about why we believe in the validity of any knowledge is good enough or maybe even as good as it gets.
It would be nice for a knowledge web to have links for each bit of knowledge that say who believes it and who or what they can reference as to why they believe it. That is clearly not enough to judge the ultimately reliability of a bit of knowledge, but is surely a great start.