MCAT CARS Compares Facts, Knowledge, and Beliefs

CARS 62: MCAT CARS Compares Facts, Knowledge, and Beliefs

Session 62

Are you up for a philosophical challenge? Follow along with a great practice passage that teases apart the differences between knowledge, beliefs, and facts.

Jack Westin is here to help us as we do another round of passage breakdown. Check out their free MCAT CARS passages that come right to your email inbox. If you’re looking to sign up for his course, text CARSCOUPON to 44222. Click the link to activate $100 off coupon.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Link to article:

https://aeon.co/essays/knowledge-is-a-stone-age-concept-were-better-off-without-it

I’m against knowledge. Don’t get me wrong: I’m as keen on the facts as the next person. I’m no friend of fake news. I want truth rather than falsity. It is specifically knowledge I’m against, not true belief. Knowledge asks more of us than true belief, and it isn’t worth it. In reality, the concept of knowledge is a hangover from a stone-age way of thinking that has long outlived its usefulness. We’d be far better off without it.

Philosophers are fond of showing how knowledge goes beyond mere true belief. To see the difference, imagine that you are convinced, on no very good grounds, that a horse called Meadowlark will win the 3:40 race at Ascot tomorrow. And then suppose it does in fact romp home. We wouldn’t say you had knowledge it would win, just because your belief turned out to be true.

What more than true belief is required for knowledge? A natural thought is that your belief needs to be backed by good reasons. It can’t just be a guess that happens to turn out right. But this doesn’t seem enough either. Imagine a friend buys you a lottery ticket as a gift. You don’t think much of the present, because you’re convinced that it won’t win, for the very good reason that it’s one in a million. And in due course it indeed turns out not to be the winner. Even so, we still wouldn’t say that you had knowledge that the ticket was worthless. Your belief might have been eminently reasonable, as well as true, but it still seems too happenstantial to qualify as knowledge.

For those philosophers who work in epistemology (the ‘theory of knowledge’), the holy grail is to pin down the nature of knowledge and explain why it matters. But despite thousands upon thousands of articles devoted to the topic, the philosophers haven’t been able to come up with a good story. I say that’s because they’re barking up the wrong tree. The notion of knowledge doesn’t in fact pick out anything important. It’s a crude concept we have inherited from our prehistoric ancestors, and it positively handicaps us in our dealings with the modern world.

Before the emergence of modern humans, our prehistoric ancestors couldn’t grasp such sophisticated representational notions as belief. Instead, they worked with a rough distinction between those thinkers who were in contact with the facts and those who weren’t. This rudimentary way of thinking lives on in the concept of knowledge. But we don’t need that concept anymore. The modern notion of true belief is far more subtle and flexible. Yet somehow the archaic concept of knowledge keeps us in its grip, like an old lover we can’t get out of our system. It messes us up in so many ways. We really need to forget about knowledge.

[04:40] Paragraph 1, Sentences 1-2

I’m against knowledge. Don’t get me wrong: I’m as keen on the facts as the next person.

Jack says:

The author says he is against knowledge but he’s keen on facts. Aren’t facts and knowledge the same thing? Well, not to the author apparently. The author wants you to know that there’s a difference between a fact and knowledge.

Just go with this. Get rid of your own interpretation of knowledge. Start thinking about knowledge from the perspective of the author. 

'It takes a very mature person to let go of their own opinions and their own perspectives and to just completely listen to the author's.'Click To Tweet

[5:55] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

I’m no friend of fake news.

Jack says:

The author is bringing up something that is more culturally relevant right now with fake news.

[06:05] Paragraph 1, Sentence 3

I want truth rather than falsity.

Jack says:

The author is backing up the fact that he likes facts.

[06:15] Paragraph 1, Sentence 4

It is specifically knowledge I’m against, not true belief.

Jack says:

It’s getting a bit more confusing here but just go with it. But now, we know that facts and true belief are under one category while knowledge is another. For now, the author is against knowledge and that should be enough.

[06:55] Paragraph 1, Sentence 5

Knowledge asks more of us than true belief, and it isn’t worth it.

Jack says:

The author wants us to know that knowledge is more than just facts. We don’t know what that “more” is but let’s just go with it.

[07:22] Paragraph 1, Sentence 6

In reality, the concept of knowledge is a hangover from a stone-age way of thinking that has long outlived its usefulness.

Jack says:

Here, the author is saying we’ve outlived the concept of knowledge. We don’t necessarily use that kind of knowledge the way we did before.

[07:53] Paragraph 1, Sentence 7

We’d be far better off without it.

Jack says:

For now, the main idea of this paragraph is that the author is against knowledge. We’ve outlived its usefulness and that knowledge is different than facts.

A lot of students can panic not knowing about anything at this point. But that’s okay. You’re not going to know everything. Just laugh this off and keep going. Be confident. 

'If you lose confidence at this point, paragraphs 2, 3, 4, and 5 are going to be a blur and you're less likely to get all the right answers.'Click To Tweet

[08:48] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

Philosophers are fond of showing how knowledge goes beyond mere true belief.

Jack says:

The author seems to set up an argument against philosophers.

[09:00] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

To see the difference, imagine that you are convinced, on no very good grounds, that a horse called Meadowlark will win the 3:40 race at Ascot tomorrow.

Jack says:

It’s an example. Just keep reading and see where this is going. They want to show us what knowledge is to a philosopher.

[09:38] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3

And then suppose it does in fact romp home.

Jack says:

And so the horse won that race at Ascot. The author is just setting up an example

[10:00] Paragraph 2, Sentence 4

We wouldn’t say you had knowledge it would win, just because your belief turned out to be true.

Jack says:

The author is saying this is not an example of knowledge. It’s just a true belief. Now, we know that knowledge is not a prediction.

[10:52] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

What more than true belief is required for knowledge?

Jack says:

The author is throwing a question here.

[11:02] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

A natural thought is that your belief needs to be backed by good reasons.

Jack says:

The author is saying that your belief needs to be backed by reasons and this is for knowledge. Knowledge needs good reasoning.

[11:20] Paragraph 3, Sentence 3

It can’t just be a guess that happens to turn out right.

Jack says:

Now, it’s suggesting you have to have reasons to have knowledge.

[11:40] Paragraph 3, Sentences 4-6

But this doesn’t seem enough either. Imagine a friend buys you a lottery ticket as a gift. You don’t think much of the present, because you’re convinced that it won’t win, for the very good reason that it’s one in a million.

Jack says:

You’re convinced here that it’s not going to win. You’re predicting and you’re also giving a reason that you’re one in a million.

[12:20] Paragraph 3, Sentence 6

And in due course it indeed turns out not to be the winner.

Jack says:

Your prediction comes true again.

[12:27] Paragraph 3, Sentence 7

Even so, we still wouldn’t say that you had knowledge that the ticket was worthless.

Jack says:

So you didn’t know that it was worthless. It just turned out to be that way.

[12:40] Paragraph 3, Sentence 8

Your belief might have been eminently reasonable, as well as true, but it still seems too happenstantial to qualify as knowledge.

Jack says:

The first two paragraphs basically said that knowledge is more than belief. And now, they’re saying it’s not just predictions. It’s also not reasoning. They’re basically trying to convince you that there’s a lot to knowledge. And maybe that’s not necessary anymore and that most of this is just true beliefs.

[13:20] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

For those philosophers who work in epistemology (the ‘theory of knowledge’), the holy grail is to pin down the nature of knowledge and explain why it matters.

Jack says:

The author is saying that there’s this theory of knowledge.

[14:12] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2

But despite thousands upon thousands of articles devoted to the topic, the philosophers haven’t been able to come up with a good story.

Jack says:

The author is saying that the philosophers still haven’t come up with a good story as to why knowledge matters. This is at least from the author’s perspective.

[14:37] Paragraph 4, Sentence 3

I say that’s because they’re barking up the wrong tree.

Jack says:

The author is saying the philosophers are wrong.

[14:47] Paragraph 4, Sentence 4

The notion of knowledge doesn’t in fact pick out anything important.

Jack says:

The author wants you to know that it’s useless.

[15:14] Paragraph 4, Sentence 5

It’s a crude concept we have inherited from our prehistoric ancestors, and it positively handicaps us in our dealings with the modern world.

Jack says:

The author is saying knowledge is something we have inherited from our prehistoric ancestors and that it’s messing with our ability to handle the world. This is all you have to know that knowledge is not necessary and it’s old.

[16:22] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1

Before the emergence of modern humans, our prehistoric ancestors couldn’t grasp such sophisticated representational notions as belief.

Jack says:

The author is setting up why we have to have knowledge in our prehistoric people because we couldn’t understand belief. So even the past used knowledge.

[16:50] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2

Instead, they worked with a rough distinction between those thinkers who were in contact with the facts and those who weren’t.

Jack says:

The author is setting up why knowledge was so important for those people at that time.

[17:37] Paragraph 5, Sentence 3

This rudimentary way of thinking lives on in the concept of knowledge.

Jack says:

We’ve outgrown the need for knowledge.

[17:47] Paragraph 5, Sentence 4

But we don’t need that concept anymore.

Jack says:

The author doesn’t like knowledge.

[17:56] Paragraph 5, Sentence 5

The modern notion of true belief is far more subtle and flexible.

Jack says:

The author is setting up the difference here.

[18:11] Paragraph 5, Sentence 6

Yet somehow the archaic concept of knowledge keeps us in its grip, like an old lover we can’t get out of our system.

Jack says:

The author doesn’t like knowledge. It’s old and archaic. We don’t need it. What we need are true beliefs and facts.

Apparently, people are perceiving the world today based on knowledge. And this is why the author is writing this to suggest we change the way we look at knowledge and facts.

Keep in mind that today, we do have knowledge and this is why the author is writing this.

[19:00] Paragraph 5, Sentence 7

It messes us up in so many ways.

Jack says:

This is how the author thinks of knowledge.

[19:06] Paragraph 5, Sentence 8

We really need to forget about knowledge.

Jack says:

Again, the author is saying how we don’t need knowledge and that we should just forget about it.

[19:40] Take a Break

If you find that you’re struggling with a passage, don’t do more passages. This is how you prevent burnout. Keep track of how much work you’ve done mentally. Give yourself that necessary break when you’ve done too much.

'Take a break and reassess what you did and how it affected you.'Click To Tweet

The reason this passage is so tough was that the author never defined knowledge. They just said knowledge is more than beliefs. This bothers students that it makes them want to try harder.

So if you get questions on whether or not facts and true beliefs are flexible, they should be, at least to the author.

Again, be committed to what you’re reading. Don’t give up and take a break if you need to.

Links:

Meded Media

free MCAT CARS passages

Link to article:

https://aeon.co/essays/knowledge-is-a-stone-age-concept-were-better-off-without-it

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