Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

The Veridicality of Conceptual Discernment
by Ed Thompson


Knowledge is often signified by "justified true belief." It is this author's opinion that another signification would better help those seeking truth and understanding--and the value which flows from them. In this short essay, I will explore some past thinking errors (about knowledge and certainty) and offer productive solutions to these errors.


Let's start with a thinking error; one which has tended to boggle the otherwise value-producing capability of thinkers: the Fallacy of Infinite Precision.

[author's note: to my knowledge, this is the first time a fallacy has been coined for this aspect of reality]

The Fallacy of Infinite (acontextual) Precision--or, perhaps it should be called the Heisenberg Fallacy?--would state something (for example) like:
We don't know "pi" (3.1415926 ... ), because it's a simple sign for a complex number, and we don't know this complex number in its entirety (down to the last digit).

The fallacy above states that we have to know everything about something, before we can know anything about something. This is absurd--and there is a better way to go about things.

The relevant, unanswered question here is:
Can we differentiate (discern, distinguish) pi from its closest, known cousins, e.g. 22/7 (a simple sign for a number close to pi)?

The answer is yes:
Pi: 3.1415926 ...
22/7: ~ 3.1428571

In fact, you could pick any number and do this calculation, arriving at an effective distinction. So then, in the present context of knowledge, we can know what pi is; because we can distinguish it from all other known entities.

PRODUCTIVE SIGNIFICATION - Is knowledge a belief?

Integrating the view above renders a more productive signification of knowledge: BEING ABLE TO DISTINGUISH SOMETHING FROM ALL OTHER KNOWN ENTITIES (VERIDICAL CONCEPTUAL DISCERNMENT) IS WHAT "KNOWLEDGE" IS. A more familiar name for veridical conceptual discernment is--Yep, you guessed it!--contextually-absolute certainty.

Knowledge cannot be false (internal contradiction), as can ill-formed beliefs. But this has only led thinkers--such as Hume, or Kant--to limit knowledge to that which is uninformative (Now why don't you meditate on the irony of that, for a minute or two!). As his thought was the clearer of the two, I will focus on a rebuttal to Hume.


Hume's main argument is that you cannot ever proceed from the particular to the general. A viciously-stultifying implication of this notion, is that laws (invariants) of nature cannot ever be discovered. Indeed, with a law serving as a standard reference, you COULD proceed from the particular to the general (and scientists successfully HAVE!).

Here is a clear example (from Hurley's Logic textbook) of proceeding from the particular to the general--with contextually-absolute certainty; ie. with veridical conceptual discernment:

One is a prime number.
Three is a prime number.
Five is a prime number.
Seven is a prime number.
Therefore, ALL odd numbers between zero and eight are prime numbers.

Most definitely, material entities (e.g. Morning Star, Evening Star, Venus) could be substituted in for the numbers in this "particular-to-the-general" sorites; IF A LAW SUBSUMED THEM (Hume should be rolling over in his grave right about now!).


What explains the clear, counter-intuitive--to Hume, at least--example above (of going from the particular to the general with contextually absolute certainty; or: veridical conceptual discernment), is an expanded a priori zone of a rational agent.

Rational agents (e.g. humans) can discover the ABSOLUTE TRUTH of the conclusion, by merely examining particulars--while holding context. There was no pre-existing a priori rule that "ALL odd numbers between zero and eight are prime numbers" but this does not stop a rational agent--who can discover the aspects of reality by examining particulars against a refence standard. In the widest examples (axioms), the reference is the sum of all experiences.


It follows that we really know things; and that we can prove it! Veridical conceptual discernment is, perhaps, the most productive signification of what knowledge is, as it transcends the limitations of alternatives and offers a clear path for identifying knowledge--and for differentiating it from mere belief.

Potential Question:
Why not, in the interest of parsimony, name it: Veridical Discernment?

Humans have 2 powers of awareness: perceptual and conceptual. Perceptual power only identifies THAT something exists, not WHAT something is.

In its identified purpose (knowing THAT; not necessarily knowing WHAT), perception is veridical--but this purpose is too limited to explain a growing body of productive knowledge--such as that which the sciences display.

Conceptual power is used for discovering WHAT exists, and explains our successful building of a body of knowledge by which we help guarantee those values--food production, shelter building, esteem building--that we need to survive as humans.

The main thesis of this article was that:
Being able to distinguish something from all other known entities (veridical conceptual discernment) is what "knowledge" is.

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