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What “I know” means

If meaning is use, as per Wittgenstein and John Austin, then what does “know” mean?

I’m going to guess that the most common usage of the term is in the phrase “I know,” as in:

1. “You have to be careful what you take Lipitor with.” “I know.”
2. “The science articles have gotten really hard to read in Wikipedia.” “I know.”
3. “This cookbook thinks you’ll just happen to have strudel dough just hanging around.” “I know.”
4. “The books are arranged by the author’s last name within any one topic area.” “I know.”
5. “They’re closing the Red Line on weekends.” “I know!”

In each of these, the speaker is not claiming to have an inner state of belief that is justifiable and true. The speaker is using “I know” to shape the conversation and the social relationship with the initial speaker.

1., 4. “You can stop explaining now.”
2., 3. “I agree with you. We’re on the same side.”
5. “I agree that it’s outrageous!”

And I won’t even mention words like “surely” and “certainly” that are almost always used to indicate that you’re going to present no evidence for the claim that follows.

4 Responses to “What “I know” means”

  1. How about the construction, “I know, right?” which seems to cross your first two social shaping categories, but tests the respondent’s agreement with the assumed social understanding.

    As well, “clearly” is a word that *certainly* precedes some logic that is often anything but clear, even (especially) to the speaker. :)

  2. I guess it means something like “I have been informed of that before”.

    These all seem to be “modal” verbs — basically, the equivalent of shorthand for a level of certainty about information — except that they are not on a numerical scale per se, but rather on a scale of different modes (hence “modal”) of acquired knowledge. For example: In this vein, “I think” would mean that the following information arises from “thought processes”.

    :) nmw

  3. When asked if he believed in God, Carl Jung responded, “I don’t believe, I know”.

  4. A few random thoughts on Knowing

    Know – directly perceived; immediate gnosis.

    A friend is discovered to have lied. Your response: “I knew it!”

    Directly perceived – “I have known her” – to have sexual intercourse with.

    In each case the knowing is direct, immediate, incontrovertible.

    In the Western tradition, the process of coming to knowledge may prevent the possibility of knowing.

    In the Eastern tradition, knowing implies satori, enlightenment.

    Four ways of knowing: Sensing and Thinking – the obvious and accepted ones; Imagination and Intuition – the less obvious and often unaccepted ways of knowing.

    And then there is Emotion – not a way of knowing in itself, but rather the proof that one knows.

    Creation – that which is known

    Consciousness – That which comes to know

    Decartes might have been closer to the truth if he had declared, “I know, therefore I am”. But of course, he couldn’t, because he didn’t know. He kept thinking and that prevented him from knowing in any other way.

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