What is knowledge? What is a belief? What does it mean t be certain or to make a mistake?

These are more complicated matters than most people imagine, and it's the last topic Ludwig Wittgenstein, possibly the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century, devoted his mind to. Not only was he a superior thinker, he was a superior writer who wrote in everyday language for the most part, little if ever did he use jargon. That didn't make his thinking obvious for he really liked to hone down to the skeletal remains of what a word or concept means.

His style in his later philosophy was to think out loud, asking himself and his students questions, using thought experiments and self-examination to proceed. These are the last paragraphs of On Certainty, his last work, assembled by his philosophical associates and published posthumously. 

671. I fly from here to a part of the world where the people have only indefinite information, or none at all, about the possibility of flying. I tell them I have just flown there from... They ask me if I might be mistaken. - They have obviously a false impression of how the thing happens. (If I were packed up in a box it would be possible for me to be mistaken about the way I had travelled.) If I simply tell them that I can't be mistaken, that won't perhaps convince them; but it will if I describe the actual procedure to them. Then they will certainly not bring the possibility of amistake into the question. But for all that - even if they trust me - they might believe I had been dreaming or that magic had made me imagine it.

672. "If I don't trust this evidence why should I trust any evidence?"

673. Is it not difficult to distinguish between the cases in which I cannot and those in which I can hardly be mistaken? Is it always clear to which kind a case belongs? I believe not.

674. There are, however, certain types of case in which I rightly say I cannot be making a mistake, and Moore has given a few examples of such cases.
I can enumerate various typical cases, but not give any common characteristic. (N.N. cannot be mistaken about his flown from America to England a few days ago. Only if he is mad can he take anything else to be possible.)

675. If someone believes that he has flown from America to England in the last few days, then, I believe, he cannot be making a mistake.

And just the same if someone says that he is at this moment sitting at a table and writing.

676. "But even if in such cases I can't be mistaken, isn't it possible that I am drugged?" If I am and if the drug has taken away my consciousness, then I am not now really talking and thinking. I cannot seriously suppose that I am at this moment dreaming. Someone who, dreaming, says "I am dreaming", even if he speaks audibly in doing so, is no more right than if he said in his dream "it is raining", while it was in fact raining. Even if his dream were actually connected with the noise of the rain.

Religious people confuse belief and especially belief held with certainty with knowledge. This is a fundamental mistake. 

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Marvin: Freeze? I'm a robot. I'm not a refrigerator. 

Marvin: I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed. 
Trillian: Well, we have something that may take your mind off it. 
Marvin: It won't work, I have an exceptionally large mind. 
Trillian: Yeah, we know. 

Marvin: Life? Don't talk to me about life! 

Marvin: You can blame the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation for making androids with GPP... 
Arthur: Um... what's GPP? 
Marvin: Genuine People Personalities. I'm a personality prototype. You can tell, can't you...? 

Marvin: [as they are gazing at the wonder of Magrathea] Incredible... it's even worse than I thought it would be. 

[Arthur and Ford have each been unexpectedly hit in the face by some unknown flyswatter-like thing
Zaphod: [after finally also being hit in the face] Zarquon! What was that? Geez... 
Marvin: [depressed] I'd make a suggestion, but you wouldn't listen. 
[even more depressed
Marvin: No one ever does. 

Marvin: [as Vogons fire at the group] Don't see what the big deal is... Vogons are some of the worst shots in the galaxy... 
Marvin: [one hits Marvin, leaving a smoking hole in his head. he turns] Now I've got a headache! 

Marvin: I've been talking to the main computer. 
Arthur: And? 
Marvin: It hates me. 

[last lines
Marvin: Not that anyone cares what I say, but the restaurant is at the *other* end of the Universe. 

Trillian: Marvin... you saved our lives! 
Marvin: I know. Wretched, isn't it? 

Marvin: I've calculated your chance of survival, but I don't think you'll like it. 

[Marvin, Trillian, Ford, Arthur and Zaphod are being fired upon by Vogons - the others flee as Marvin only very slowly walks away
Marvin: I don't know what you're all worried about. Vogons are the worst marksmen in the galaxy. 
[he is shot in the back of the head
Marvin: Now I've got a headache. 

Marvin: This will all end in tears. 

Marvin: [Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod have gone through the portal and left Arthur and Marvin behind] I told you this would all end in tears. 
Arthur: Did you? Did you? 

Marvin: Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to take you to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction, 'cause I don't. 

Arthur: I think that door just sighed. 
Marvin: Ghastly, isn't it? All the doors on this spaceship have been programmed to have a cheery and sunny disposition. 

Marvin: I have a million ideas, but, they all point to certain death. 
Arthur: Thanks very much, Marv! 

"The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy: Episode #1.2" (1981)

Marvin: Sorry, did I say something wrong? Pardon me for breathing which I never do anyway so I don't know why I bother to say it oh God I'm so depressed. 

Marvin: I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed. 

Marvin: Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they tell me to take you up to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? Cause I don't. 

Marvin: And then of course I've got this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side. 
Arthur Dent: Really. 
Marvin: Oh, yes. I mean, I've asked for them to be replaced, but no-one ever listens. 

Marvin: Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust or just fall apart where I'm standing? 

"The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy: Episode #1.5" (1981)

Marvin: The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million: they were the worst, too. The third ten million I didn't enjoy at all. After that, I went into a bit of a decline. 

Marvin: "Reverse primary thrust, Marvin." That's what they say to me. "Open airlock number 3, Marvin." "Marvin, can you pick up that piece of paper?" Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to pick up a piece of paper. 

Zaphod Beeblebrox: There's a whole new life stretching out in front of you. 
Marvin: Oh, not another one. 

Marvin: [talking about his long wait for the others] The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million... they were the worst too. The third ten million I didn't enjoy at all. After that, I went into a bit of a decline. 

"The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy: Episode #1.3" (1981)

Marvin: It gives me a headache just trying to think down to your level. 

Zaphod Beeblebrox: Into the interior of the planet. That is where we have to go. Down into the very depths of time itself where no man has trod these five million years. We are not gonna be great. We are not gonna be amazing. We are gonna be amazingly amazing! 
Marvin: Sounds awful. 
Zaphod Beeblebrox: Can it, Marvin. 
Marvin: Life. Loathe it or ignore it. You can't like it. 

Slartibartfast: Is that your robot? 
Marvin: No. I'm mine. 
Arthur: Well, if you call it a robot. It's more like an electronic sulking machine. 
Slartibartfast: Bring it. 
Marvin: "Bring it. Bring it." 
Slartibartfast: On second thoughts, leave it here. 

Trillian: What are you supposed to do with a manically depressed robot? 
Marvin: You think you've got problems. What are you supposed to do if you are a manically depressed robot? No, don't even bother answering. I'm 50,000 times more intelligent than you and even I don't know the answer. 

"The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy: Episode #1.6" (1981)

Marvin: [talking about the Ultimate Question to the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything] It's printed in the Earthman's brainwave patterns, but I don't suppose you'd be interested in knowing that. 
Arthur Dent: You mean you can see into my mind? 
Marvin: Yes. 
Arthur Dent: Well? 
Marvin: It amazes me how you manage to live in anything that small. 

Ford Prefect: [discussing the teleporter while their ship is plunging into the sun] Someone will have to stay behind and operate it manually! 
Ford Prefect: But that means whoever does wouldn't... 
Trillian: [quietly] ... make it. 
Zaphod Beeblebrox: [Ford, Trillian, Arthur and Zaphod consider this before all turning to stare at Marvin as Zaphod grins slyly] Hey, Marvin kid. How ya doing? 
Marvin: Very badly I suspect. 

Awesome! And draining at the same time...

I have been meaning to read Hitchhiker's Guide for years. Maybe now is a good time.

" I'm just saying there must be ways for people to get what we're talking about here without a college degree."

I struggle with that issue since I have no formal advanced education. I must confess to frequent use of the "mouse right click" to look up definitions. I can keep pace that way but it is still a "bumpy road" to navigate.


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