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©2001 Zhan Huan Zhou
Updated Feb-10-2001

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What You Know, Part II

©2001 Zhan Huan Zhou, Winter 2001, Issue 2

Before examining the first postulate "You don't know that you don't know," I must first make an addendum to article from last issue. I made a spelling error in with regard to Michael's last name. It should be spelled "McMillan" not "MacMillan." Next of all, Mr. McMillan informed me that it was actually his grandfather, Don McMillan who imparted the wisdom to him so I must give credit where it is due.

Perhaps this exemplifies a point: I didn't know that I didn't know. With this statement, you would think I was in first year, but in fact, I am in fourth year. This appears to be a contradiction. In fourth year, I'm supposed to know that I know. This made me re-evaluate the four postulates. Since I am taking Phil 100 this term, I will apply my "knowledge" and take an epistemological stance. For those of you who don't know what the word "epistemology" means, it is defined in Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth Edition) as "the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge esp. with reference to its limits and validity."

We must first choose a sphere to which the postulates apply. The sphere encompasses at least academic knowledge gained in lectures, labs, and projects. But how far does this sphere extend? We know that it cannot apply to things of personal nature, such as knowing that the postulates came from Mike's grandfather, and not directly from Mike. This solves the contradiction discussed earlier because my error was outside of the realm that could be accounted for by the postulates. The limits of the sphere will be examined in a later article, but for now, the minimum size is sufficient.

Let's continue by examining the first postulate. How many times have you been introduced to a new topic that you knew absolutely nothing about it? First of all, you didn't even know that such a concept existed. And secondly, you can't even draw upon any previous knowledge because the concept is so foreign to you. It would be impossible for me give you an example because it would have to be something you are familiar with. If it is something you are familiar with, it is something you know, not something you don't know, so it can't be that "you don't know that you don't know" thereby nullifying the example. (I almost sound like a true epistemologist with this speak). What we can establish is that when coming to university in first year, there were concepts in calculus, programming, physics, and other subjects that were completely new to you. Coming out of high school, you thought you knew when you actually didn't. In other words, "You don't know that you don't know," successfully defending the first postulate.

Stay tuned for next issue when I examine the second postulate, "You know that you don't know."