Can we know something that has not yet been proven true

Before analysing this title we must understand what it is to know what is meant by the term ‘to prove true’. A proof is something we take to be true, something that justifies our beliefs; it is not the same as to reach 100% certainty, but to reach such a level that allows us to draw the conclusion that an argument is true. And knowledge is the established understanding of the connections between the data we perceive from the world around us, for example to gain mathematical knowledge; we understand the connections made between the question and the result. However, do we always need proof to know something?

Some would say that they know God exists because they have proof; they take the bible or miracles etc. to be true, and therefore consider these enough proofs for their argument. By the same token, we need some kind of proof in order to establish these connections, and therefore to achieve knowledge. A proof, as stated earlier is something we take to be true. This means that it does not necessarily have to be true, i. e. correspond to reality. We can have empirical proof, for example seeing Joe in his house justifies my belief that he was at home, the proof was seeing that he was inside his house.

And I took this perception to be true. I believed this. And therefore it constituted a fact. However I could have made several assumptions and this could not be necessarily true. I could have made a mistake and seeing a man inside Joes house, made the false assumption that it was he, through mistaken perception. This would therefore mean that I have achieved a wrong proof, but it is still a proof to me; and, I know that Joe is inside his house as I have justified his presence inside his house by seeing him. False proof therefore will bring false knowledge, as it justifies false beliefs.

As with the argument of the existence of god. Some believe in the existence of a God. Some Christians take the bible and other scriptures and miracles to be true, and so to be proofs to justify their argument. It in this way that some may say that they know that god exists. However these proofs are very subjective, in this way, anything that one believes to be true is a proof. In fact, not too long ago it was proven that the earth was flat and at the centre of the universe. This was common knowledge, everyone believed it, and had had proof to justify this statement.

After all they had no knowledge to contradict it, therefore they took it to be true. They had restricted knowledge and drew the sensible conclusion; if the earth were not flat we would all be falling off at the sides of it. Similarly, people believed that the earth was the centre of the universe and that the sun revolved around the earth because they had proof to back up their belief. After all they had no knowledge of other planets or other constellations, they saw the sun and the moon rise and set, and drew to the conclusion that they rotated around the earth and therefore the earth was at the centre of the universe.

This knowledge was also enclosed in many books, and few dared to question this knowledge, that many simply accepted because it made sense. However Christopher Columbus and Galileo Galilei proved them wrong, these men dared to question, and discovered new knowledge. They had new beliefs that was then justified by some kind of proof and led to new knowledge. Christopher Columbus had this belief that the earth was not flat but in fact round.

He travelled to Greece and visited an ancient library, which is said to have contained copies of documents from the destroyer library of Babylonia, which contained in-depth geographic studies and which contained in them indications to the earths surface being in fact round. This, combined with his own imperial proof, in seeing that the horizon of the ocean was indeed rounded, were all part of his proof, which led to his knowledge. Similarly Galileo Galilei turned his belief into knowledge as he famously said after many years of study: ‘eppur si muove’ which translated means ‘and yet it moves’.

It’ of course is referring to the earth’s movement around the sun. These are all proofs. We have then established that the process to achieve knowledge is through belief and proof; hence, knowledge is justified belief. However, proof is not necessarily empirical. I may not have seen Australia but I know it exists, similarly I have not seen other planets but I know that they exist. They are facts and I take them to be true because they make sense and there is no proof, to my knowledge, that contradicts these facts. Therefore I draw to the conclusion that my belief in Australia’s existence is true.

And is therefore my knowledge that Australia exists. Although not all proofs are empirical, most universal knowledge tends to be proven with scientific experiments. This is because the results of scientific experiments are taken to be true globally, as it is empirical proof and therefore considered more valid than perhaps rational proofs. It is because of the very nature of proof that much of the knowledge we have could potentially be false. However, as we do not seek 100% certainty, we accept what we know to be true until proven otherwise.

In fact we do not often question our knowledge, we do now question whether 2+2=4 or whether the sun will rise in the morning, proving that we can indeed only know what has been proven true; but because of the very nature of proof, truth must be something mutable and not fixated and rigid. But in order for us to make these connections, we must have proof. Although this proof can sometimes be based on assumptions, which can be true or false, they can also be based on facts. For example the proof that the earth was flat was based on false assumptions, whilst scientific proof is based on scientific facts.

But even the knowledge back then, although based on false proof, was dependant on these proofs in order to be knowledge. Proof is needed in the validation of a belief or argument, and validation is necessary to knowledge. If we do not believe an argument we would not know it. For example, we may not believe in the existence of the devil, but only with the necessary proof, either empirical or rational, could we say that we knew the devil did or did not exist. Proof is what makes the difference between belief and knowledge and it is a crucial part of our quest to knowledge.

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