Knowledge is Five Bindings of Truth. How Good is It?

Knowledge is a series of bindings of truth, from the initial sensation and perception, to spoken and written language, and its home in memory. Truth — it is such an absolute word, can we even use it? Truth is existence independent of an observer. We depend on error-prone observation to know it, but plainly the world exists without us. We apprehend truth better by understanding the errors of knowledge.

Binding is an act of fastening, securing and uniting. Books have binding. Books are a stack of papers bound on one edge, a spine. I bound books with glue in my father’s print shop. Sometimes books are stitched with thread. Websites are also bound, pages linked to a central domain name. A common thread runs through the content. Books are covered, stating the title and author. Websites are covered with a home page. A binding and cover give the impression of a unified identity, as if knowledge is ever tidy.

Binding is also associated with footwear. Mechanical bindings are use to attach feet to skis. Once bound, the skiier can move across snow at a rapid pace. It is good fun and exercise but skiis also compel the skiier in just one direction. A person is more agile on snowshoes or foot, able to cut across fields. Knowledge, too, limits agility, mental agility. Knowledge binds a mind, compelling it to look in a particular way, occluding other directions.

Knowledge is a series of five bindings of truth, summarized in the figure and table below.

Name Description Types of Error
Sensation Visual stimuli in the lifeworld are captured as images on the retina. (Other physical stimuli are processed by other sense organs.) Attention to stimuli depends on the importance of the viewer. Images on the retina are two dimensional, completed by the mind.
Perception An image on the retina is carried through the optic nerve to the brain for interpretation and consolidation into memory. Experience is interpreted, classified and blended to form single memories.
Speech Speech organs evolved first for basic bodily functions such as feeding and breathing. It evolved into language. Spoken language is localized. Words can be used to speak of things even when they are not present. Words can be used to speak of things that do not exist. They can used for persuasion
Written Learning to read, the brain becomes encoded with the specific shapes and sounds of words. Written words are correlates of spoken words. Written language has similar errors as spoken language. In addition, written language does not require the presence of a speaker. A dead person can speak.
Memory Human and computer memory has different systems for short-term and long-term memory. Input is encoded differently for concrete and abstract inputs. Memory is encoded into neural or digital format. Neural memory is non-deterministic while digital memory depends on explicit instructions.

The five bindings stretch the truth. Supposing each binding gives the same distortion, our final grasp of truth is only a fifth of the original, twenty percent. What good is knowledge? Is it a lie, a movie, a trip into the Matrix? Twenty percent is actually quite functional. Consider the Pareto Principle. The principle states that for many events, eighty percent of the effects come from twenty percent of the causes. For example, eighty percent of a company’s business comes from twenty percent of its customers. Think too of a driver in the rain. The driver’s visibility is greatly reduced, sometimes less than twenty percent. The painted white guidelines on the road are still enough to get a driver home. In many cases, your knowledge is still a good guide.