Private vs. Public Knowledge

August 10, 2014

I want to think about a difference in the kinds of things we "know."

One the one hand we can discuss publicly and agree on ways to adjudicate differences: state capitols, feet in a mile, physics, chemistry, facts in the simple (not primarily honorific) sense.

On the other hand we have things that are personal commitments. This is not something has been noted, but consider.

  • I know what I want to do with my life.
  • This is the person for me.
  • I am attracted to this person.
  • I believe in God.
  • This is how I want to raise my family.
  • I have an intuition.
  • This is|was my dream.
  • I know who I am. This is my self. This is me.
  • I have a warrior within.
  • I am a hero.
  • I can do this.
  • I have responsibilities to my kids, to my country, to morality.
  • I know abortion is wrong | right.
  • I will buy this house.

At times we know these things. And these are among the most important things we know.

We don't vote on them. A vote might matters somewhat sometimes but the truth of these statements are not determined public.

This too simplistic a division. Some things probably fall more or less between these. Each item needs to be considered individually.

These things are (personally) important. Perhaps more important than the atomic properties of barium, though the latter may be more important for technological advances of mankind.

Though these are "personal" they are not arbitrary. We cannot believe anything we want.

If science is a public knowledge, ascertainable by everyone (who adopts the appropriate criteria), I want to call these other sentences private knowledge.

And in our lip-service to science, we often neglect to think of how science cannot answer any of these questions. This is often coupled with a nagging suspicion that our commitment to science is at least unscientific.

Why do we say we "know" these things, in the same way we "know" the capitol of South Dakota? [Pierre.]

We extend the word "know" to apply to both of these things based on different reseblances to the family of things we say we "know."

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