Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On knowledge

In commemorating (celebrating? mourning?) the third anniversary of his invasion of Iraq, the President today commented that he knew at the time of the invasion that Iraq was also involved in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
From a philosophical point of view, knowledge is extremely hard to define, but almost everyone agrees that you cannot know something that isn't true. We've thought that since about the time of Plato. And almost every philosopher believes that in addition to a belief being true, one must have good reason for believing it, in order for him to know it. Again, Plato thought this a couple of hundred years before Christ.
When you think that you know something but it turns out that it wasn't true, you didn't know it, you simply believed it strongly and were wrong about it.
Now, we still have no evidence that Iraq or Iraqis were involved in the terror attacks. In fact, it seems unlikely that a Baathist could have had much truck with al Qaeda--secular pan-Arabism and ultra-puritan interpretations of Islam are not very similar. So, what Bush claims to know is false and he had no good reason to believe it.
Apparently they either weren't teaching philosophy anymore at Yale--this would explain why Bush claimed his favorite philosopher as Christ (why the Son of God would pursue wisdom is unclear)--or he was sleeping through that lecture.

4 comments:

Gilad said...

OMG did you just compare Bush to Plato???

Tyler said...

Yes, I suppose I did. But I did it to Plato's credit and Bush's discredit. So I think it was justified. And, of course, of any two things there are an infinite number of similarities.

Gilad said...

I would argue (really just for the sake of argument) that if you drew a Venn Diagram of Bush and Plato you would wind up with a mutually exclusive set....

Tyler said...

Both share the property of not being God, being human, not being a car, either being human or not being a car,.... It's a not very fun philosophical game, but....