Reality doesn’t seem to be same as it appears to be. For example - Quantum mechanics says that matter is governed by some kind of wave with the wavelength given by de Broglie’s equation.

Do philosophers now agree that true knowledge comes from thinking and not from looking at things ?

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    I have no data on the topic but i'd say most reasonnable people would say you need both. At the very least it's what the scientific method is about.
    – armand
    Oct 26 at 4:07
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    Do you think we would have realized that matter is some kind of wave with wavelength given by de Broglie's equation, just by pure thinking, without looking at anything?
    – causative
    Oct 26 at 4:32
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    No, it comes form thinking AND experience. Oct 26 at 6:16
  • @causative after observation , a conclusion is reached that things are not as they seem to be. That by product of observation is primarily in the mind. Oct 26 at 6:49

2 Answers 2


The short answer is no.

People pick up a lot of knowledge by looking at things with no conscious thought. I know my workshop is a mess just by looking at it. I know what a laryngeal granuloma looks like from seeing one on a screen. I know the flag of Australia from looking at a picture of it. I know I can come across as a condescending a-hole, because I looked at a comment that told me so. And so on ad nauseam.

You do have to make a conscious mental effort to reach an understanding of how certain aspects of the world inter-relate, and the effort required can be very considerable, depending on the subject matter. Einstein famously took years to figure out General Relativity. However, cogitation alone is rarely enough to reach a 'true' understanding, since you need to check that your conclusions are indeed in accord with reality, and for that you need to look at things.

Incidentally, quantum mechanics doesn't necessarily say that matter 'is' some kind of a wave.

  • Haven’t you read de Broglie’s equation…? if there is mass and velocity then there is wavelength. At rest, velocity is equal to zero. Oct 26 at 6:46
  • I have a PhD in quantum theory. I remember very well the time I spent forty years ago being fascinated by de Broglie's book on the subject, and reading every other book I could find in the poorly stocked library of the place where I studied. So, yes, I have read de Broglie's equation, and cogitated on its significance over several decades. Oct 26 at 6:52
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    And yes, I am aware that an object at rest has zero velocity, but thanks for pointing it out. At my age I am inclined to forget things like that. Oct 26 at 6:54
  • True knowledge, like true facts, seems elusive, and prone to revision. If you are at zero velocity too long, you start hearing honking sounds, so people will let you know. If the music isn't turned up too loud.
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 26 at 10:40
  • @MarcoOcram Glad to know that you have a PhD. I am saying that where there is mass there is momentum … where there is momentum there is wavelength… So there is some kind of wave which applies to the masses. Thanks. Oct 26 at 11:13

Do philosophers now agree that true knowledge comes from thinking and not from looking at things ?


Even very bright philosophers would be extremely unlikely to produce any good science just by thinking, even by thinking logically. You have to look at the world. For a statement to have a chance to be true of the real world, you have to start from whatever empirical data you have about it. Otherwise, your conclusion will just be wishful thinking.

Science progresses by being contradicted by the facts of the real world. Science has moved from Newton's false universal theory of gravitation to Einstein's still possibly false but much better General Relativity by being contradicted by the astronomers' careful observations of Mercury's position on its orbit around the sun.

Children grow up by looking at the world around them. The brain of a human being deprived from birth of sensory perceptions of the world would not mature to allow rational thought.

Animal species didn't need an acquaintance with quantum mechanics to survive, at least until now, so our natural perception of the world is good enough for us to survive, prosper and reproduce. This means that if we want to improve our understanding of nature, we have to look at the world more carefully than we need to in everyday life.

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