Re: [asa] The empirical basis of knowledge

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Fri Mar 23 2007 - 16:30:36 EDT

I'm reminded of something that a former colleague (whom coincidentally I ran
into at lunch today after 15 years), once said. A quiz went round the
physics department at work asking people to assign probabilities to various
things (like England winning the world cup football, etc). One of the items
in the quiz was "God". My former colleague put down zero. Another guy put
down 10^(-100). The 10^(-100) person turns to the zero guy and says "Now
THAT's an act of faith".

Glenn made some phrase like I KNOW it's true (in capitals), and in
emphasizing the word "know" I was taking it to mean with probability 1.
When you put down a zero or a one as the probability, you have absolute
certainty with no room for doubt. Empirical observations always leave room
for doubt.


On 3/23/07, Dave Wallace <> wrote:
> Iain Strachan wrote:
> > To be honest, I'm not happy with the concept of "Knowledge", and the
> > idea that you can KNOW something is right anyway. What does it mean?
> > All it can mean is that a fact is determined to be true with probability
> 1.
> >
> I am not happy either with that kind of language. As a finite being I
> think of all most all of our knowledge as having a probability
> associated with it and that the probabilities are always less than 1 or
> greater than 0. Even mathematical theorems, could have a reasoning error
> is some step. Typically the probability I assign to knowledge is very
> subjective, although the relative probabilities are probably fairly
> good. When the probability gets very close to 1 then we say that we
> know something but of course only God knows things absolutely for sure.
> Dave W
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Received on Fri Mar 23 16:31:29 2007

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