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The European Word "Know"

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Metaphysically (away from the physical), Aristotle and Aquinas doubted the human mind could arrive at Certainty on any subject since man's knowledge, differing with each man, is limited to sense-perceptions. Plato said Certainty occurs in the intellectual world, as opposed to the visible world, by means of Ideas or Forms which possess eternal Beings. Aquinas said humans know what they know through confrontation with actual concrete objects because the intellect sees and abstracts the universal in the particular thing. Intuition, an immediate awareness, is deemed truth when unassociated with reason or testing. In Secular Realms, historically the Western world has a variety of opinions about the 1200 AD Indo-European word "Know" ('to recognize by the senses or the mind'). Whereas the verbs in French (connaitre, savoir) and German (kennen-wissen) express all shades of meaning, English has only one verb "to know" but it has a wider scope. In one philosophy book, "knowledge" is defined as any intellectual acquaintance with a fact or matter, ranging all the way from the simplest perception to the most profound understanding of a complex theory. Acquaintance is equated to first-hand apprehension of qualities in persons and things. A recent definition of "knowing" is the immense body of true and justified beliefs that consist of facts learned from ones own direct observations and facts learned from others. For Belief to be considered knowledge, they say, it must carry conviction.

European "Knowing" seldom concerns the nature of a thing (What it is) and instead tends to focus on "What it does" and "How it appears," as learned from outside ones Selfhood or as made up in ones mind. Hence, to "Know" makes something crystal clear and natural, like breathing. Also, most elementary tests of knowledge are ones ability in action, knowing how to do something. Reliable knowledge is defined as any claim-to-know that is substantiated as trustworthy for a given purpose. Europeans say the following. What is not "Knowing" is the acquiring of information--like names, definitions, explanations, and descriptions. Rather, these are beliefs that something is true or factual and thus always contains an element of doubt because it is learned from outside oneself. This information is coming from what one has been taught by others or ones interpretation of what ones senses have reported. Since humans dislike a state of doubt, they tend to believe something and to rest content with that belief. When they chose a belief relating to matters about which they know nothing, they fit it in with their religion and ethical needs and desires. For those things which cannot be supported on rational ground, justification is shown by having Faith in their existence. Faith is rigid in that there is no opportunity to determine if it is true or false.

Out of these "know" contexts have come the Western offspring words: cognition, ignore, denote, note, notion, nominal, gnostic, diagnosis, quaint, agnostic, incognito, and acknowledge. Some applications of Secular Knowing include: (1) Clever: natural skill, ability, adroitness; (2) "Shrewd" originally meaning wicked, dangerous. It involves the manipulation of pre-existing successful patterns into situational combinations as a result of keen perception, judgment, and ability to penetrate beyond superficial appearances. (3) Science is knowledge reduced to law and embodied in a system. (4) To Comprehend is to know something thoroughly and at the same time to perceive its relationship to certain other facts and ideas. (5) To Understand is to be fully aware, not only of its meaning, but of its implications. (6) Experience is knowledge one has internally absorbed. As an act of knowledge, those forms of information deemed to be a fact, regardless of how "Fact" is defined, is what today's society refers to as "knowing." Whatever comes in from outside ones Selfhood is Information -- i.e. entering in-form. It is derived from persons, books, media, or observations in a casual and haphazard manner and possessing varying degrees of importance.


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