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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal


P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   ISSN 2043-0728

Issue number 74
28th December 2003


I. The Board of the International Society for Philosophers

II. 'Where is I?' by D.R. Khashaba

III. Essays on Knowledge by Catherine McAuley Students



2003 has been a great year for Pathways and the International Society for

Back in the Spring, after talks with the University of London, I announced a
new program of tutorial support for the University of London External Programme
leading to a Diploma and BA Honours Degree in Philosophy.

In May, my article "Pathways to Philosophy Seven Years On" appeared in
'Practical Philosophy', the Journal of the Society for Philosophy in Practice.
The article looked back over what had been achieved, but also asked whether
Pathways would still be going seven years from now.

The network of Pathways web sites has continued to grow, the most recent
addition being 'The Ten Big Questions' in August, showcasing the talents of the
Pathways 'Ask a Philosopher' panel.

November saw the launch of a second Pathways newsletter, 'Philosophy for
Business'. The third issue of the business newsletter is due to go out today to
over three hundred corporate, business and private subscribers around the world.

As reported last week, earlier this month the first group of Pathways Schools
students graduated from Catherine McAuley High, Sydney Australia. More
philosophy essays by these 14-16 year olds are reproduced below.

During this time, the International Society for Philosophers has continued with
the same setup as it had when it was first formed back in April 2002. Our
working partners, The Philosophical Society of England, has a Council and a
formal Constitution. It seems to me high time we had something too.

That is why I am setting up an ISFP Board which will oversee the running of the
Pathways web sites and philosophy programs.

One of the main tasks for the ISFP Board will be to examine essay portfolios
submitted for the Associate award, as well as dissertations submitted for the
Fellowship award. Previously, this work was undertaken by our official Examiner
Dr Martin Gough of the Open University. I very much hope that the Board will
continue to benefit from Dr Gough's wide knowledge of philosophy. However, I
believe that candidates can only gain from having several opinions on their
work rather than just one.

Invitations to join the Board were sent out this month to the more senior
Pathways Mentors and contributors. The response has been fantastic. Here is the
initial roll call of Board members - I hope that many more will join in the
months and years to come:

Tony Bellotti, UK
John Brandon, UK
Steven Ravett Brown, USA
Rachel Browne, UK
Matthew Del Nevo, Australia
Hubertus Fremerey, Germany
Simone Klein, Austria
Jurgen Lawrenz, Australia
Tim LeBon, UK
Dmitry Olshansky, Russian Republic
Brian Tee, UK
Justin Woods, Australia

As I wrote in my letter of invitation:

"Since the launch of the ISFP in April 2002, I have benefited from the help and
advice of many people. The formation of a Board is the logical next step which
will continue a process of consultation which is already well underway, as well
as giving formal recognition to your valued contribution to the Pathways
project. Board members will have a major influence on the future direction of

"I envisage the Board as being the think tank of the ISFP, as well as its
policy making body and conscience, initiating new projects and also  keeping a
watchful eye on the day to day running of Pathways.

"The formation of a Board represents the coming of age of the ISFP."

(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2003


University of London Diploma and BA via Pathways:

Pathways to Philosophy Seven Years On:

The Ten Big Questions:

Philosophy for Business newsletter:




Thanks to Professor T. R. Miles, a previously unpublished lecture of Gilbert
Ryle's has appeared in the journal, 'Philosophy'. "Courses of Action or the
Uncatchableness of Mental Acts" encapsulates Ryle's philosophy of mind in an
attempt to explain why both Cartesian Introspectionism and behaviourism fail to
'catch' mental acts. I seek to show that, while Ryle adequately explains why
Introspectionists and behaviourists necessarily fail to 'catch' any mental act,
there is a more fundamental reason which Ryle, as an Empiricist, has no place
for. If mind and body are two dimensions of one thing, then all actual human
doings can be represented in terms of bodily happenings, yielding linguistic
formulations. Subjective reality remains ineffable because language deals only
with objective things and happenings, not with subjective realities. To deny or
to forget those realities and to believe that the actually existent is all there
is, is a grave error.

Prefatory note

Thanks to the generous initiative of Professor T. R. Miles, an important,
previously unpublished, lecture of Gilbert Ryle's has appeared in 'Philosophy'
(Vol: 75, no 293, pp.331-351). "Courses of Action or the Uncatchableness of
Mental Acts", prepared only two years before his death in 1976, continues
Ryle's lifelong concern to exorcise the Cartesian 'ghost in the machine' and
encapsulates Ryle's philosophy of mind in a fresh attempt to explain the reason
why both Cartesian Introspectionism and behaviourism fail to 'catch' mental
acts. In examining Ryle's important paper, I seek to show that, while the
reason advanced by Ryle adequately explains why Introspectionists and
behaviourists and others are ever doomed to fail to 'catch' any mental act,
there is a more fundamental reason which Ryle, with his Empiricist approach,
has no place for in his philosophy.


Ryle begins by depicting the problem of the uncatchableness of mental acts from
an introspectionist perspective. When we try to describe 'the ways in which we
had been mentally occupied' while thinking, our attempts 'are always total
failure.' Why? Ryle rejects en passant the Freudian explanation of the
elusiveness of mental acts by inventing a Subconscious or Unconscious Mind in
which they hide away. He then suggests it might be 'our ideas of
act-description or process-chronicling that [are] the source of the
trouble'. To illustrate this suggestion he offers an allegory. A camera-proud
boy at the zoo after happily snapping a variety of the zoo's denizens, follows
a finger-post marked 'Mammals' and takes photos of a lion, a wolf, an otter,
but looks in vain for a mammal. The boy sees 'Danger' notices displayed here
and there, but cannot have a photo of Danger to keep on his album. 'The term
'danger' is semantically too sophisticated or of too High an Order to permit it
to occupy sentence-vacancies that welcome specific terms like "lion", or even
generic terms like "mammal" and "danger".'

Ryle then promises 'to show, in partial analogy, that our powers of
thought-description can be baffled by their would-be objects being, like
dangers, semantically of too High an(d) Order'. He is to find a place 'for the
notion of Thinking, between our so-called "outer" and our so-called "inner"
lives, between reductionism and duplicationism about "mental acts" and "mental
processes".' So, by analogy to the distinction between the lion and the otter,
on the one hand, which the boy could snap, and, on the other hand, the Mammal
and the Danger that he could not locate, Ryle now draws a distinction, with an
abundance of illustrative examples, between an action, on the one hand, and, on
the other hand, a course of action or chain-undertaking or Super-action. An
example of action is eating this piece of cake or whistling to your puppy; an
example of a chain-undertaking is dieting or puppy-training. Dieting,
puppy-training, exploring, researching, are not actions but 'purposive Higher
Order chain undertakings under which various actions proper are tactically


I will now offer some comments to show why I find this explanation interesting,
instructive, enlightening, but not completely satisfactory, because it offers to
give us Hamlet, leaving out the Prince.

Gilbert Ryle is right about the uncatchableness of mental acts, and he is right
in holding that neither reductionism nor duplicationism about 'mental acts' and
'mental processes' can give us the understanding we need. However, Ryle's own
position is a species of reductionism. In common with all Analytical
philosophers, he thinks that when we have created a conceptual distinction,
that's where we have to stop. They are interested in 'mental acts', 'mental
processes' -- as acts and processes -- and the conceptual pigeon-holes in which
we can conveniently range those acts and processes. The activity itself which
does all that, which is truly uncatchable because unobjectifiable, is of no
practical importance and can be left out of the account.

Ryle, speaking of chain-undertakings, says, 'A snapshot cannot, but a
cinematograph-film might show an explorer exploring.' I would say that neither
would a cinematograph-film, nor anything in any way objective, show an explorer
exploring. The cinematograph-film would show what Ryle calls 'variegated
infra-acts' (which he emphatically and correctly distinguishes from the overall
chain-undertaking), but only the idea of exploration in the explorer's mind can
make of those infra-acts an integral part, a meaningful moment, of the activity
of exploration.

Ryle argues that the behaviourist would be wrong in concluding that dieting is
an action or an activity, since it is a course of action. These distinctions
are useful but they can never be hard and fast; besides, we don't need that for
showing that behaviourism does not give an adequate account of mental events. No
action, however simple, however seemingly instantaneous, is actually an
irreducible particle of action. The reception by the eye of a ray of light (I
intentionally put it as naively as possible) is no more susceptible of being
reduced to atomic constituents than our good old solid matter has proved to be.

He admits: 'We have no regulations to fix what shall and what shall not count
as a single action rather than as a combination or sequence of numerically
different actions; and we have no regulations to fix what shall count as an
action and not as a mere reaction, reflex, output of energy, automatism, or
spasm.' This admission virtually negates the distinction. It is, strictly
speaking, impossible to find any 'single' action that is truly single. I have a
cup of coffee before me. Not even each single sip is a single action: I stretch
my arm, hold the cup, raise it to my lips, sip, swallow: each of these 'simple'
acts in turn can be broken down into others. A single instant, a single
impression, a single reflex, a single spasm, are all fictions, useful and
indispensable fictions, but fictions nonetheless.

While rightly seeking to show the inadequacy of behaviourism and reductionism
in dealing with chain-undertakings, Ryle reduces the chain-undertaking or
supra-action to a token word without any content. After giving a long list of
examples 'of familiar kinds of things in our adherence to which we are engaging
in courses of action o[r] chain-undertakings', he says, 'A person follows a
programme of any of these and other kinds ... only by regularly or duly (etc.)
conducting his appropriate infa-actions in intentional subordination to the
programme.' Where does that leave the programme? The programme of course is an
idea, but an idea which is and must be of very poor specificity. No
infra-action is included in all its minute details in the programme, and yet it
is not a chance happening or an arbitrary action. It is shaped by the programme
in virtue of a plasticity in the programme; but that plasticity would be
impossible if the programme were nothing but an abstract idea; the plasticity
comes from the creativity of the mind in which alone the programme has its

The behaviourist, when he finds that 'the student's supposedly unique action of
studying the German language cannot be equated' with this or that particular
action, is driven to identify it instead 'with some particular but jellyfishy,
"internal" act or process', and this, Ryle finds, is absurd. 'The
category-difference of, say, the particular action of eating a piece of toast
from the Higher Order course of action of dieting was misconstrued as the
supposed mere "sortal" difference of doing a particular overt or bodily thing
from doing a particular crypto or "mental" thing.' But the fault lies not in
propounding a distinction between an overt or bodily thing and an internal or
mental thing, but in regarding that 'thing', as an act, and, equally seriously,
in seeking to identify the 'Higher Order course' with anything whatever. The
supra-action, chain-undertaking, programme, or however you name it, is not to
be identified with this or that, but is to be found in the mind, as a creative
issue of living intelligence.


Ryle believes that the uncatchableness of mental acts is explained by their
being thought-complexes involving subordinate clauses. That is a good piece of
logical analysis. But what sustains those injunctions (programmes, etc.)
comprising the subordinate clauses? What gives them the virtue of unfolding,
realizing themselves in a manifold of related particular acts, processes, etc?
It is that they inhere in a living, active, creative mind, that itself is
uncatchable not because it is a phantom or a slippery jellyfish or a second- or
third-order logical entity, but because it is a reality that, since its nature
is to be the arche and aitia of all existence, cannot itself exist

Second-order concepts have no existence. Empiricists conclude that they are
nothing but words. No; they are not mere words: they are realities without
which existents do not exist for us. They constitute the reality of our being
as intelligent beings.

Further on we read, 'Waiting for a train, like keeping a secret o[r] postponing
writing a letter, is not an action. ... Rather it is a course of action or a
chain-undertaking with a negative supra-purpose tactically governing its
infra-actions and inactions.' Ryle's argument, in common with all Analytical
philosophy, suffers from a mental blind spot. When Analytical philosophers have
succeeded in giving a good analysis of a concept, they are no longer interested
in the meaningfulness of the concept. Being fundamentally Empiricists they are
not only ready to, but are determined to, forget about the mind behind the


Under the rubric 'Application', Ryle sums up what he means to achieve. I will
quote this short paragraph in full:

     I want, in the end, to achieve an impartially anti-Dualist
     and anti-Reductionist categorial(,) re-settlement of at
     least some 'mental acts' and 'mental processes', including,
     especially, the cogitations of Le Penseur. I am hoping to
     have found, in this notion of courses of action, a hitherto
     unsponsored categorial hostel in which the logical
     grammarian may, at once unmysteriously and unreductively,
     at once unprivately and publicly house the notion of
     pondering. In this hostel it will be under the same roof as
     (though on a higher and airier floor than) such notions as
     dieting, waiting, wheat-growing, exploring, spring-cleaning,
     studying, puppy-training, etc.

I have already stated the view that Ryle's 'anti-Reductionist' position is
itself a species of reductionism. By 'anti-Dualist', moreover, Ryle obviously
means to indicate a position opposed to the assertion of the reality of
subjective states -- in other words, the reality of the mind, hence the
scare-quotes wherever the word 'mental' occurs.

Ordinary Language philosophers seem to think that by collecting as many
specimens as possible of particular instances of a given concept, they have
exhausted or come as closely as is practically possible to exhausting the
meaning of the concept. They have not absorbed the first lesson of the Socratic
elenchus, namely, that drawing up an inventory of instances is not the same
thing as grasping the meaning of the concept. Ryle again and again lists tens
of examples to show us that dieting is not only not the same thing as, but also
not the same kind of thing, as eating; that practising is not only not the same
thing, but also not the same kind of thing as doing. That is all very good as
far as it goes, and the distinction drawn between the concept of action and
that of a course of action is a useful and important distinction. But that
bypasses the question of what is behind not only a course of action but even
the simplest action -- for the simplest of actions cannot bring itself about;
its antecedents cannot bring it about: Hume long ago shattered that myth; only
the creativity of an autonomous mind can bring anything about.

Ryle affirms, 'Only where there is exploration, innovation, origination,
enterprise or the essaying of something new, can there be experimenting; only
where there is intentional repetition, acclimatisation, rehearsal,
consolidation or self-drilling can there be the intention to school oneself in
something.' That is well-said. But we are nowhere given any hint as to whom or
to what that exploration, innovation, and intention are to be credited. Ryle at
this point would of course be irritated by my stupidity: the whole point is that
these things are not to be credited to anyone or any-what because they are
no-thing, no-action. But I will persist in being stupid: because they are
no-thing and no-action they are a higher, purer, kind of 'thing'. They are
projects, intentions, etc., which will never have any actual existence --
agreed! -- but whose particular existent instances could never come to exist
but for the mind in which they germinate and breed their progeny blessed with
respectable existentiality. If our insistence on this brands us with stupidity,
let us on top of that be impudent enough to say that those who deny it are
simply obstinately refusing to acknowledge that they themselves are not merely
existent but have a reality over and above their existence.

All of this applies pari passu to the problem of thinking. Someone trying to
solve a problem, as Ryle rightly affirms, 'is certainly to be described, with
hardly a tinge of metaphor, as exploring or researching.' Ryle also rightly
affirms that the thinker's thinking 'does not reduce' to the 'subordinated
various infra-actions, steps or moves'. What then? My point is that we cannot
stop here. There is still one more thing that we need to bring out: the
'various infra-actions, steps or moves' cannot come into being, cannot happen,
without the reality (which in my usage is not the same thing as, but opposed
to, existence) of a mind behind them.

Ryle concludes, 'We now know one unmysterious reason why our attempts, whether
introspective or behavioural, to "catch" oneself or another thinking performing
the mental acts of which, while still grammatically hobbled, we expected Thought
to consist is the same as the reason why we would equally vainly try to catch
oneself or someone else in the here-and-now act of puppy-training' etc. I am at
one with Ryle in maintaining that both introspectionists and behaviourists are
equally engaged in a wild-goose chase. But I further maintain that the reason
why they will never catch their goose is not for the 'unmysterious reason' that
thinking is a Higher Order undertaking and that introspectionists and
behaviourists fail to note the distinction between actions and courses of
action, but rather the -- in a sense -- truly mysterious reason that we have
minds whose nature is to be real but never exist.


Today, neuroscientists and philosophers of mind are like a child standing
before a mirror, perplexedly saying, Here is my nose, here are my eyes, here
are my arms... but where is I? The I, the mind, is not a 'ghost in the
machine', for that was Descartes's gravest sin, that he broke up the whole
person into a machine that could not move itself and a mind that was a mere
phantom. Spinoza saw at once that that was a nonstarter: he restored the
wholeness of Nature, the wholeness of Reality, the wholeness of the Person, but
philosophers would not listen and continued to knock about errantly between
Cartesian dualism and Empiricist phenomenalism.

Ryle, like all Analytic philosophers who share a common Empiricist background,
in showing the error of Descartes's dualism did not, like A.N. Whitehead,
restore the wholeness of the whole but was content with the objective half.
Naturally, if mind and body are two aspects or two dimensions of one thing, as
Spinoza thought, then all actual human doings can be successfully represented
in terms of bodily happenings. The temptation then to forget about the 'inner'
(the spatial metaphor is bad but pardonable) aspect is great, and great are its
pernicious consequences.

Because the Cartesian body was confessedly a machine, the mind inhering in it
could be justly pilloried as a 'ghost in the machine', but I, writing these
words, know that I am I and am not a category mistake. Ryle would say that the
fact that I obviously and necessarily stammer in making this statement shows
that I am speaking of a chimera. I answer, No; my reality is ineffable because
language has been developed to deal with objective things and happenings, not
with subjective realities. The poets trick language into conveying subjective
realities -- love, hope, fear -- and philosophers, to give articulate
expression to those realities, have to clothe those in myth as Plato knew. To
deny or to forget those realities and to believe that the actually existent is
all there is, is the death of humanity.

(c) D.R. Khashaba 2003

E-mail: dkhashaba@hotmail.com

Web site: http://www.Back-to-Socrates.com



Students were set the following essay question:

     'In view of advice from the philosophical think-tank
     formed last year from six eminent professors, we shall
     be introducing legislation to ban the use of the verb
     "to know" its derivatives from all official documents.'
     - Comment on this imaginary extract from the Queen's
     speech at the opening of Parliament.

Philosophical scepticism represents the classic challenge to the concept of
'knowledge'. What this question is asking is, Why would it matter so much if we
gave up talk of 'knowing' things? Couldn't we get by perfectly well talking
about belief instead?

Let's see how three smart Australian school girls responded.


Caitlin Hosking

The idea of ÔknowingÕ[1] is what upholds our society. Although we can never
truly be sure of any fact, we must believe that we ÔknowÕ certain things and
trust our senses and judgement to fulfil the needs of our society and indeed
keep ourselves sane.

We have never really ÔknownÕ anything. What we ÔknowÕ is only ÔknownÕ to our
human senses. How can we judge what we know with what could be false
indicators. Therefore by creating this law the Prime Minister is only stating
that we cannot say we know what we are not sure we know.

Although we can never really trust our senses to completely tell the truth,
ÔknowledgeÕ is what we perceive through our senses and judgment. It is not what
we are sure to be true but rather what we perceive to be true through
experience. What we know at a point in time is in fact the sum of our
experiences up to that moment. Ultimately the Prime Minister is therefore
dispensing our rights as human beings to judge what we know by stating that we
cannot know anything.

This new law would dramatically effect our everyday lives. For example, many
jobs could not function properly. Scientific exploration as we know it would
cease to exist, as scientists would have no basics to build on. 

Education would also stop functioning as teachers would have nothing to teach
children and children could not learn any fact, meaning that the future
generation would be doomed with no knowledge whatsoever.

Without knowledge we would be unable to think for our selves and make our own
decisions therefore destroying free will itself.

Taking action over possessed knowledge has in the past led to chaos and
destruction. For example, introducing a new species (like the cane toad) into
an environment has proved to be a dilemma. We believed we knew all the factors
before we introduced the species however we were wrong and this action led to
serious damage. Perhaps without knowledge, this would not happen.

However without any knowledge the damage would be far worse. For example if we
forwent all knowledge we would run the risk of annihilating our countries
ecosystem through ignorance. This would occur due to the lack of knowledge of
how well the ecosystem can harvest introduces species.

Even ignoring our societies thirst for knowledge, we in ourselves could not be
sure of nothing. For example, we could not know nothing because we would know
that we know nothing. Even knowing that we know nothing is knowing something.
Even if we were simply unsure of everything we would know we are unsure. We
always know something.

Without knowledge we would be wandering without passion, free will, jobs,
friends, sentiment, intelligence and essentially lives. We simply could not
live without knowledge, it is against instinct and evolution. It is not
possible to know nothing.


1. To be sure or definite of


Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy

Internet Encyclopedia of philosophy http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/

(c) Caitlin Hosking 2003


Alysar Aboumelem

To know something is to feel certain that something is a fact or the truth, or
to have learned and understood. To have much knowledge, to be knowledgeable and
wise is considered to be a good thing in todayÕs society, and in fact in many
societies of the past. Why then, would the Prime Minister announce that the
verb  Ôthe knowÕ is to be removed from all official government documents? What
event, or what ideas or concepts could lead to such changes being suggested?

A parliament, government, or legislative body is normally relied upon by the
people of a state/ nation to produce laws/rules that are in the best interest
of the people. So we must ask ourselves, why is it considered to be in the best
interests of the state/ nation to have the verb ÔknowÕ removed from legal
documentation? Normally when the right to do something is removed from the laws
of a nation, and is replaced with a law banning that something being done, it is
because the right was abused to do damage to a person/ society. Would the
removal of the verb ÔknowÕ fall under this category? Has the word been abused
or taken for granted? Has it become something that is so often used in the
wrong context that it would really be beneficial to society to have it removed,
even if only to ease the confusion surrounding the true meaning or purpose of
the word? But how can it be said that the word is used in the wrong context
when we are not even sure of the best context to use it in? In fact, many
people, if asked, would struggle to define the verb know, because it is seen as
being self-explanatory. But can anyone truly know anything?

Following with the definition above, to know something is to be certain of its
truth, certain that it is a fact. But can any person ever be truly, definitely,
one hundred percent certain of something, sure enough to say that they know it?
We say that we are advanced enough to know that the world is round. Yet we
havenÕt seen for ourselves evidence that the world is round, so how can we
profess to know this? We are told by others who have evidence that the world is
round, but how can we know that this is the truth, and that the whole thing is
not a lie? We assume it is the truth, much in the same way that we assume
many other things that we claim to ÔknowÕ. These assumptions are often mistaken
for true knowledge, if such a thing exists. When it comes down to it, there are
very few things that can be called true knowledge, and those things are more
individual than universal, in that one person might know something to be a true
fact and say that they, as an individual, know it, whereas another person might
not truly know that something is true, they might just believe it to be so.

Which brings up the whole issue of beliefs. While knowledge is defined as what
is or can be known, a belief is written as being something you believe and
accept as true; faith or trust, and to believe is to trust and have confidence
in; to accept as real and true. The basis of both is in truth. Beliefs deal
with truth in that they are accepted as being true or right, but proof is not
always necessary. Knowledge on the other hand, deals with truth in that
supposedly what we know, what the majority of us have been taught, is right, or

But there are many people who often confuse what they believe with what they
know (if they indeed know anything, i.e. what they think they know isnÕt just

This may happen because they are stubborn, or easily confused, or maybe even
because they believe something so strongly, and are so firmly convinced that it
is right and true, that they convince themselves that they no longer believe
this thing to be true, but know it to be true, therefore they would say know it
as a fact.

Perhaps then, one could attempt to clear their mind and grasp that most of what
they think is knowledge are actually assumptions, and they could then say that
they know nothing. But in admitting this fact to themselves, they are actually
being contradictory, for they do know that they have no knowledge, which is
knowledge in itself. 

From the thoughts presented above, it would seem that the word, or rather the
verb ÔknowÕ is the source of heated and stimulating arguments and ideas.
Perhaps this is because it is one of those issues that are very difficult to
classify or generalise. This is because the term ÔknowÕ refers to a concept or
idea, as opposed to words which refer to classifiable objects which are easier
to generalise. 

It may be easier now to understand then why the government would make the
choice to remove the verb ÔknowÕ from official government documentation. Issues
that governments deal with tend to be more important than everyday situations
which arise for average people, and so if the word ÔknowÕ can cause so much
confusion and disturbance in these matters, then it would be best for all
concerned if the government were to find a different word to use.

(c) Alysar Aboumelem 2003


Rebecca Abdou

"Know - to feel certain something is a fact or the truth; or to have learnt and
understood; to perceive directly; grasp in the mind with clarity or certainty;
to have fixed in the mind."[1] To understand this topic we firstly must be able
to discuss the word freely, which is not how we are. To explain the words 'to
know' would be to explain our minds and how we know. 

If we were to be banned from the word 'know', how would we as humans be? We
would not be able to speak our minds; we may not be sure and would have to be
reassured over and over again. Knowing is a part of our everyday life and if,
in fact, we were unable to be sure of many things then why would we be able to
think. Even though we can only assume to know things for certain, we all need
to be in no doubt that things are the way they are, therefore we must know. 

We cannot know nothing because then we are, in point of fact, knowing we know
nothing.  But also, we can never be unsure we know anything, because we know we
are unsure that we can, in fact, know. We can't say other people don't know
anything because we know that everybody at least knows something or we could
not exist and be ourselves. 

If we were actually banned from saying the actual word 'know', many issues
would be brought up about it and we would probably talk about it and its
consequences in the end. For example, a builder would not be able to say he
knows a building or a house is safe in all aspects, and in the end we may never
be able to live or use these particular things because we would not know for
sure if they were safe. Also scientific exploration would cease to exist, as
they would not be able to show they knew something was true or proven.

We all 'know' our feelings and we all need to know our feelings. If we weren't
able to 'know' our feelings then we would be very confused and we could put
things out of proportion and take things out on people we didn't mean to. Also,
to know is part of our instinct; for example, if the prime minister were to say
the word 'know' was banned, we would first think 'how can we ban this word
because our whole life is based on knowing so we could not be able to not

"Common knowledge is a phenomenon which underwrites much of social life." [2]
Can somebody actually know everything? Can we know what another person is
thinking? For example, If a married couple are separated in a department store,
they stand a good chance of finding one another because their common knowledge
of each others' tastes and experiences leads them each to look for the other in
a part of the store both know that both would tend to frequent. Since the
ex-partners both love cappuccino, each expects the other to go to the coffee
bar, and they find one another.

How can we be certain that we have the ability 'to know'? Can we just assume
everybody has the ability ' to know'? We will never fully be sure of all these
questions; therefore we know we cannot know the answers. "If a pedestrian
causes a minor traffic jam by crossing against a red light, she explains her
mistake as the result of her not noticing, and therefore not knowing, the
status of the traffic signal that all the motorists knew."[3]

To know includes all of our daily needs and activities. We must be able to have
this in our vocabulary or we may have troubles that we don't need. This verb is
part of our everyday language and it may disturb the way many production areas
operate.  We must be able to know as instinct, feeling and as the way we are.  


1. Maquarie Dictionary
2. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/common-knowledge/
3. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/common-knowledge/

(c) Rebecca Abdou 2003

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