[From Dag Forssell (950507 1800)]
(I have not yet seen the digest for May 6)
[Joel Judd 950505.0800] responding to Rick M. (950504):
Is there not some semantic clarity needed for "belief" and
"knowledge" from a PCT point of view? Strictly speaking, how
does a control system know the difference between knowledge and
We are dealing not with one control system, but with the entire
HPCT hierarchy, where memories "behave" by being specified as
reference signals, and memories supplement real time perceptions by
being fed back up the perceptual levels. At any one time, I don't
think there is any difference between belief and knowledge (as I
said (950501 1150). Both words mean acceptance of something as
true. The difference comes in the next section, where we deal with
what is accepted (fantastic stories, by the gullible, or accepted
after scrutiny by the skeptic) and recorded in those memories in
the first place.
Without bringing too much philosophy into the picture, I would
think the state of a control system hierarchy at any given
point in time _is_ its knowledge, or its state of knowing.
That state is based on previous experiences, as is belief.
My understanding of knowledge is that it is based on evidence;
experiences that can easily be replicated. You and I both have
plenty of experience with the physical world and corresponding
knowledge of food, water, streets, bathtubs and perhaps experiments
with magnetism and acceleration in physics experiments. My
understanding of the word belief is that it suggests an acceptance
of something as true in the absence of evidence. Thus I don't see
that belief is based on previous experiences. It is based on
stories, fairy tales, suggestions and guesses, and (as in the life
sciences) scientific rumors.
Whether _I_ know the earth revolves around the sun or I believe
it makes no difference to the state of my hierarchy, does it?
You appear to say that knowledge and belief are synonymous. As I
have said, once accepted as true, they are.
What seems to concern people is the _basis_ for that
belief/knowledge. Having some sort of rational, objective basis
are the reasons for a Scientific Method.
Yes indeed. As PCTers we do keep in mind, however, that the
"Scientific Method" as it is usually practiced, (seeking
Independent Variable -- Dependent Variable relationships) is
appropriate for the inanimate physical sciences, but has been
inappropriately applied in the life sciences.
More to the educational point, if one wanted to emphasize
skepticism, then it might be better to say--given the apparent
ontogeny of a control system--that we actually value belief
Quite the other way around. Skepticism leads to dependable
knowledge, but exposes belief as waporknowledge - fantasy, if that
is what it is. Thus skepticism mitigates the enormous damage that
can be done by various incompatible beliefs held around the world
today; beliefs firmly held by millions or billions of people for
many centuries; beliefs based on stories told and retold with great
eloquence, parables and allegories perhaps written as educational
software for illiterate people long ago, enhanced with miracles for
suitable dramatic effect with a trusting audience; beliefs elevated
to divine status over time -- still without verifiable foundation
in the experience of even a single person.
This would be especially true if, as you believe, we can't know
the best way to run an economy, government, family, etc.
You are not quoting Rick quite correctly.
Nobody knows, for example, the best way to run an economy, a
government, a family, a culture, etc.
In a future, once PCT becomes widely understood, I think remarkable
progress will be done in these areas, because we will shift from
beliefs and miscellaneous misunderstandings to knowledge about
them. That is my conviction based on belief, not (yet) experience
or knowledge. Beliefs do motivate us, don't they (just like real
knowledge does--there is no difference inside the brain once an
idea has been accepted). What I know and understand based on
replicable evidence is PCT and, with less compelling demonstrations
and more room for alternative detail explanations, HPCT. So while
my belief is subject to revision, it does have some basis that is
meaningful to me.
As you say, it would be more valuable to say "I believe (or
imagine) I know." If one admits _and_ understands what such a
statement means, then saying as much would be less dangerous
than to say "I know."
I think you are right, but the step from saying "I imagine I know"
to "I know" is small. We say "I know" all the time on all kinds of
subjects, when in reality all we have is beliefs. This applies not
only to the many religions in the world, (which are _all_ belief)
but also to a very large assortment of prejudices, political
beliefs, preferences, and "skills" which may be based on anecdotal
experiences (one's own or stories from others) generalized to take
on validity far beyond what the original experience (if there was
one) warrants. Beliefs about the inherent value of sundry
political views, conventional psychology, implications of PCT for
management practice (Bill P. is the first to apply the brakes on
that one, as when I overstate them), and other subjects appear
regularly on CSGnet.
As autonomous living control systems we learn to genuinely respect
and even love each other despite the fact that we hold large
numbers of conflicting beliefs about "the meaning of life," GOD or
no, naive left liberals who want to take care of people, right
conservatives who want people to help themselves, teetotalers,
lacto-vegetarians, new-age aquarians etc. etc. Every one of us
holds many questionnable beliefs!
That's because in such a scheme Knowledge is the belief that
what is known doesn't change.
What comes first here? You say Knowledge - belief - known. I
guess I would agree if you said Knowledge is a belief that is based
on replicable evidence of aspects of the world that don't change.
I think a believer could read your statement to mean that belief
that does not change becomes knowledge. I am inclined to believe
that believers believe such, but would not agree that belief
becomes knowledge just because the belief has a 4,000 year history
of eloquent storytelling by intelligent, decent, wellmeaning people.
Basic knowledge in the physical sciences has not changed in the
last 300 years, but been refined and extended. This is not
inflexible dogma but scientific progress which has yielded
And it's the unwillingness to change (or entertain the
possibility) that makes systems inflexible, dogmatic, and so
Your use of the words inflexible and dogmatic suggest that beliefs
are arbitrary, without foundation in replicable experience.
I hope these musings offer "semantic clarity needed for "belief"
and "knowledge" from a PCT point of view".