Knowledge and Information LO30700

Date: 10/13/03

Replying to LO30695 --

Replying to LO30695 --

Hal Popplewell,, wrote:

> So my assertion that knowledge may only be detected by action
>(internal or external) still stands unchallenged.

Dear Mark, Hal, and other readers,

I wonder whether the questions of 'What knowledge is' (or for that matter,
'What action is') were ever meant to be answered in a final and conclusive
sense! But, through the ages, these have remained with us as focal points
for discussion, producing steady variety in our appreciation of our own
engagement with life, world, and language.

Since the Hal-Mark debate has focused so much on 'knowledge', could I,
with your permission, invite 'action' to join us on the stage. There is a
lot of deep reflection on action, so much so that the topic remains open
to ever new interpretations. It starts with recognising different types of
action. For example: In one reckoning, preparing a football field is not
the same type of action as playing football (on that field), which in turn
is not the same type of action as watching the game! One major distinction
between them is with respect to the effects they leave. Preparing the
field leaves a 'prepared field' -- anyone can play on it, and do other
things too! Playing the game leaves the scores, which have a particular
meaning in particular communities. Watching the game leaves the spectators
with many stories they tell each other!

To formally refer to these subtleties, some thinkers, such as Ryle, have
distinguished between 'task verbs' and 'achievement verbs'. It so happens
that 'to know' is classed as an 'achievement verb'. Some references:

So, as Hal says, there is a kind of action involved in referring to the
'achievement' (as in Ryle) that is knowledge. Also, as Ryle argues, there
is a 'task verb' associated with each 'achievement verb'. There is
something you 'try to do' in order to 'achieve'. This indicates, there is
some other kind of action involved in making the 'achievement' that is
knowledge possible. In other words, somebody has to prepare the field and
somebody has to play the game, for the 'factual' knowledge of the scores
to be possible.

This makes me very interested in Hal's reference to the meaning of
'factum' (facere):

> Main Entry: fact
>Pronunciation: 'fakt
>Function: noun
>Etymology: Latin factum, from neuter of factus, past participle of facere
>Date: 15th century
>1 : a thing done: as a : obsolete : FEAT b : CRIME <accessory after the
>c : archaic : ACTION
>2 : archaic : PERFORMANCE, DOING
>3 : the quality of being actual : ACTUALITY <a question of fact hinges on
>4 a: something that has actual existence <space exploration is now a
>b: an actual occurrence <prove the fact of damage>
>5 : a piece of information presented as having objective reality - in
>: in truth

> A fact IS reality, actuality, truth.

I do not know if there is an English verb to correspond with 'facere', but
the sense would be something like 'to factate' or 'to factify' or 'to
facture' (not only 'manufacture') -- the task-verb-type action that makes
something achieve 'facticity'.

The interesting point is, if we take the more archaic meanings of 'factum'
(instead of the more contemporary meanings Hal took), we arrive at a
slightly different picture: A fact is something produced by some kind of
action. This leads to the question: What kind of action produces
facticity? One answer, following English writer Bliss Carman: "What are
facts but compromises? A fact merely marks the point where we have agreed
to let investigation cease." Reference:

Thus, although a fact IS TAKEN as reality, it is nothing but the result of
an acceptable decision to stop some ongoing investigation! This is where
Mark's comments about truth/falsity/etc. appear connected -- because, one
usual (conventional, traditional) way to decide to stop some ongoing
investigation is by satisfying ourselves that some 'truth condition' (or
verisimilitude') has been met. However, of course, this NEED NOT be the
only necessary and sufficient condition for stopping an investigation in
all situations. There might be other conditions too, e.g., when a story
becomes consistent (as in a crime investigation).

Thank you for your kind attention.


Dr. D. P. Dash


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