Sunday, December 19, 2004

Questions to Answers to the Cycle of Questions and Answers

A close friend of mine all of a sudden came up with, what I considered to be, quite a thoughtful question, which likewise triggered a decent amount of refelction in my mind. He asked, "If you are looking for an answer, you go to someone who is higher in knowledge than you, right? But what if there is noone higher in knowledge than you? Who do you go for help or advice?"
Intensely provoked by the philosophical nature of his question, and various other little thoughts thats started to set forth small sparks in my mind, I answered, probably quite inadequately, "You go to yourself, you go through yourself, but before anything else, never stop searching."
Later on I discussed this idea and certain other ideas with another friend that very night, And as a result, I found some food for thought, that I am anxious to preserve, so that I could look upon it from a different perspective at a later, perhapes more mature point in my life.

The initial question or questions before I adress the reasoning behind my answer is, how, or at what point of endeavour does a person become convinced that there is nobody else more knowledgable than him/her on a particular issue? Or more generally how does a person evaluate the knowledge of someone else or oneself, and in relation to what?

Let us assume that there exists a hypothetical method by which the evaluation of someone else's knowledge, in relation to one's own is possible. How would the nature of such endeavour be? At first there must be an input stage, where all the relevant characteristics required for evaluation are gathered. Then comes the evaluation process, where the characteristics are judged against some criterion (which here would probably be, or be related to, the knowledge of the person performing the evaluation). But to conclude that there exists no person who is more knowledgable than oneself, one has to evaluate every living person, and possibly the accounts of every dead ones if they exist. But this process is not only tiresome but in its ultimate form it is quite impossible. This is becase it would take the evaluator, a huge amount of time to go through every possible person, and by the time he/she has gone through a considerable amount of people, more people will be born and grow and there will be more people to evaluate. So it seems that this proposed process of evaluation can only be approximated (and even that, not so closely). Besides this temporal barrier there are various other factors including communication (e.g. language), and geographical isolation that limits a person from evaluating every possible person.

It seems that one can't really tell whether the world has run out of people who are more knowledgable than oneself. And before one could actually stop looking for a superior one, ones lifetime expires. Hence, ideally, can one ever reach the level where one could ask this question that started off this discussion?

I guess in my obsession with describing the mechanism of this search, I have ecaped the bigger question of, whether an evaluation of knowledge is, at all possible. If, by the word "knowledge" we just mean awareness of information then I guess, a simple search and compare method is adequate: One finds a person, learns what this person knows about the issue that is in question, and compare ones own knowledge with it and comes up with a simple a conclusion of the form: this person knows more than me or this person knows less than me. But when we are looking for answers that beg for reasoning (rather than the data), really, is there any proximate answer? Isn't every different answer an answer? What will one accept over what? Or would one accept any answer at all. In the case that one isn't happy with the other people's answers one just has to look within oneself, one just has to appeal to ones own creativity. But needless to say, ones own reasoning is related to how many such answers one comes across. I will come back to the idea of creativity, but let me beacon attention at another idea related to this discussion.

When do we ask questions to begin with? Is it when dont we understand something? When don't we understand something? Is it when we see a pattern? Or when we dont see a pattern? And having seen a pattern, do we ask questions to find the reason behind that pattern?
Well maybe its a pattern that we try to see in things. Maybe the answers we seek involve recongnizing some sort of a pattern that we can assign to an observed phenomenon. And maybe the pattern allows us to code the information about the phenomenon into our brain. Then these patterns are not really ultimate answers. They are just aids to what we call understanding. Maybe the act of understanding is not such an ultimate act anyway, and maybe there is no such thing as finding THE answer. Hence comes creativity. The more creative a person is the more successful then he/she is in finding an answer. The ultimate source of a new answer then is the self. At any rate the pattern then has all to do with ones mind, whether someone else understands your reasoning is probably dependent on how successful you were to make that person identify with the pattern that you have seen. And another aspect of this pattern is that, if this pattern is not ultimate, and if it is relative to the human mind (or even a few or one individual's mind) only, then can we even approach a level where we can try to understand ultimate causes of phenomenon. But wait; phenomenon that we percieve* are dependant upon the means which we have available to percieve them: our brain and our sensory apparatus. So it seems more than probable to me that an ultimate understanding of anything around us is close to impossible. However what is interesting to me is that, despite our limitations, we can think about the realm of ultimate, we can think in terms of the realm of ultimate.

We as living beings, have one unique limitation (perhapes among other things), and that limitation is perception itself. Since we percieve, we are subject to limitation. The act of perception would not lead us to ultimate answers, for I would argue that perception itself is relative to its machinery. Food for more thought: Maybe there is some act bigger than perception that can render an ultimate or close to ultimate asnwer. Maybe the act of existence is a closer aid to render an ultimate answer. But then again the consciousness of existence can be argued to be a perception, in which case existence itself is not an ultimate state or truth.


tm said...

That was a hell of a read. I don't know where to start. I'll need some time try to come up with an answer to that question.

Nab said...

I've got my own insight of the question at Nineteen. Here I am commenting on your own article. First impression: you have said heck of a lot of things, yet very little to answer the question explicitly. You spoke alot about knowledge and finding people who are more knowledgeable than you. You tackle the issue in a very algorithmic method, saying that one has to literally search and evaluate (not estimate) in order to know that there exists none more knowledgeable than him/her. I'll come back for more on this issue, for now I'll go write about my own insight onto the original question.