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How Do you Know That What you Believe is Actually True?

How do you know that what you believe is actually true?

How do you know that what you believe is actually true?

There are twelve main methods by which you gain and verify your knowledge. Unfortunately, not all of them are reliable.

Below is the list of twelve methods, which of these are reliable and which are not? To what degree can you safely rely upon "belief" originating from these methods?

1. Sense perception.

Belief based upon the direct evidence of the senses: Sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing.

2. Reason and logic.

Belief built on logical, inductive/deductive reasoning from a base which was provided by sense perception.

3. Majority Opinion.

Belief based upon the consensus opinion; the majority view. It is trending on Twitter, so therefore is must be true.

4. Faith.

Belief even in the absence of proof, definite evidence or logical argument.

Belief based on revelation from the divine authority of God.

5. Mystical Intuition.

Intuition has been defined as "sixth sense"- a form of innate knowledge (Gut feelings).

6. Rational Intuition.

Intuition has also been defined as "unconscious knowledge asserting itself".

This means that your mind has subliminal evidence that is acknowledged by the subconscious mind, but NOT noticed by the conscious mind. The unconscious mind sends a message to the conscious-mind in the form of a non-verbal "gut feeling".

(For example, some people when they lie, may blush slightly, and may shift in their seat. These slight changes are noticed by the viewer's subconscious mind; but the viewers conscious mind remains oblivious to these subliminal signals. The result is, the viewer might get a gut feeling that the other person is lying, but they don't know HOW they know).

7. Celebrity Status.

Belief based upon the guidance of a famous person or authority figure, ie a celebrity or royal endorsement.

For example if the Queen eats Kellogg's cornflakes, therefore, so should you.

Political position: "Tony Blair says there are Weapons of Mass Destruction that can be mobilised within 45 minutes; therefore, it must be true - after all, he is the prime minister".

8. Expert Status: Belief based upon the guidance of an expert.

For example, you might be willing to believe Albert Einstein on any questions you may have pertaining to mathematics or physics.

And you may believe the Attorney General on any questions you have pertaining to constitutional law.

9. Magical Mysticism.

Belief based on supernatural insight. (For example, the spirit world, tarot cards, crystal balls, spiritualists etc.)

10. Tradition.

Belief based upon "timed honoured practice" or cultural customs.

11. Whim worship. Wishful thinking.

Belief in whatever you think will make you happy, simply because you want something to be true, (or not true).

"I don't believe in Darwinism because I hate the idea that I am evolved from a monkey. I prefer to think I am from the angels".

12. Scepticism.

Scepticism is the rejection of the concept of "belief".

Scepticism is the belief that, nobody can know anything for certain.

Categorical knowledge is impossible.

A sceptic would say, "Certainty is impossible. There is no such thing as objective knowledge, there is only personal opinion. That is one thing I am sure of!"

How do you know? Check your method.

Epistemology (Greek episteme, "knowledge"; logos, "theory"), branch of philosophy that addresses the philosophical problems surrounding the theory of knowledge. Epistemology is concerned with the definition of knowledge, the sources of knowledge, the kinds of knowledge possible, ie how do you know that what you believe is actually true?

Which method of knowledge is being assumed in the following phrases and, on that basis, which of the following statements are reliable and which ones are not?

  1. I know the force required to be exerted is 70 Newtons, to two significant figures because; Force = (mass x acceleration) measured in kg/ m/s 2.
  2. I know it's true, because my mum told me.
  3. I know it's true because, they were all talking about it on the bus.
  4. I know it's true because I saw it with my own eyes.
  5. Better sell your shares now, because the Daily Mail says that the share price will go down soon.
  6. I have a gut feeling this is going to go wrong.
  7. I know you said it, because I heard you say it. I was there, remember?
  8. The astronauts on Apollo 13 were saved by the grace of god. It was a miracle they got home alive.
  9. You don't have to reinvent the wheel.
  10. I have prayed on it and I have received the answer from God.
  11. I just know I'm right. My instincts tell me so.
  12. It doesn't really matter because if it was meant to be, it will happen anyway.
  13. Don't be so negative, have faith in me.
  14. Trust me; I'm a trainer.
  15. I can see that this wire is loose, therefore the current cannot flow, and the oil will not be preheated, and therefore the engine will be less efficient.
  16. Look. I am the boss, so I am right!
  17. I don't know: You don't know. Nobody can be sure of anything.
  18. We should follow precedent. It has worked for us up till now. If it isn't broke don't fix it!
  19. You are the only one who thinks that, so you are probably wrong.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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