After researching for quite some time, all forms of knowledge about properties of concrete particulars I can think of, rely on a comparison with some sort of reference. Some simple examples might be:

  • I know a certain object is white because I can compare it to objects of other colors and conclude it is different.
  • I know a certain object is 3 meters long because I can compare it to a 1 m reference and realize it is 3 times longer.
  • I know it is raining because I can compare today's weather to yesterday's, a sunny day.

Is there any form of knowledge about properties of concrete particulars that can be obtained without the need for a comparison? Is it possible to know about concrete particulars without a reference? Are there any theories, doctrines or philosophers that might help me better understand and answer this problem?

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    Not clear... "I know it is raining because I can compare today's weather to yesterday's, a sunny day." NO; I know it is raining because if I go out walking in a short time I'll be wet. Jul 6, 2017 at 11:14
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    That was just a silly example, but assuming that being wet is the way you know that today is raining, that form of knowledge would still be based on a comparison. You know you are wet because you compare the feelings of being wet (clothes sticking to your body, cold, heavier clothes, moisture on your skin...) with the feelings of being dry (no sticking clothes, no moisture on your skin ...). Let´s now assume that ever since you were born you were always wet and continuously had those feelings. Would you still be able to know that you are wet and thus that it is raining today? Jul 6, 2017 at 11:38
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    I feel like this question is possibly more about semantics than about epistemology. I don't believe that it's raining because I compare it to when it is not raining, I believe it's raining because there is a check list of things that are required to be happening if its raining and i can see that all of those things are checked off so I conclude that its raining. You could then say "well but you only believe that those are the case because you're comparing them to when they are not the case" and that's where it becomes a matter of semantics.
    – Not_Here
    Jul 6, 2017 at 11:59
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    But to that point, I really think you should change the use of 'know' to 'believe', because saying "lets pretend that know really means believe that you know" is just going to cause a headache later down the line. I know you want an answer about epistemology but even if you use the word 'believe' instead of 'know' in your question, you will still get the answers relative to epistemology that you're looking for. Or just use 'know' on its own and don't try to redefine it because the pragmatic intent of your question is clear.
    – Not_Here
    Jul 6, 2017 at 12:04
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    What do you mean by 'form of knowledge'? All of your three examples involve properties of concrete particulars (a 'certain object' in the first two, the local area in the third). Are you asking whether our knowledge of the properties of concrete particulars is always grounded by comparisons? Jul 6, 2017 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


I don't think you need to compare qualities to feel them, i.e. to feel their effects. You only need to compare them when you want to distinguish them from other qualities. Therefore we can say the effects are felt, whereas the differences are thought! This is a key distinction. By the same token, we can say numbers are thoughts, therefore they are known via comparison. But all that is felt and thought is ultimately by reference to our own self (or soul I'd argue). It is the soul that both feels and thinks, hence the ultimate reference. Number one is first deduced from the intuitive unity of our self, and the other numbers from multiplying just that.

  • Two comments: First, please try to at least back your posts with some reference. Sorry to say that again and again, but SE cannot care for your thoughts, no matter how good and relevant they are. Second, there is loads of good philosophical writings on the problem of inference from intuitions to propositions/knowledge. Most of those who actually argue instead of merely stating, agree that it's not that easy.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 7, 2017 at 17:25
  • Perception pramana (pratyakṣa) could be the philosophical terminology and reference since ancient. It also may be the seeds inside the 8th Alayer consciousness that feels, thinks, and measures which some philosophers identify with the commonly called soul... May 31, 2022 at 1:56

You are simply wrong in assuming that comparisons are always required. Suppose you had been born and raised in an area in which it rained continually- do you suppose you would not know it was raining because you did not have the experience of a sunny day to compare it with? Suppose you were the subject of an experiment in which you were born and raised in a lab in which the only objects you ever encountered were white- would you not know they were white? Do you suppose that you only know that a concrete particular is a screwdriver if you are able to compare it with a spanner?

Your example of the 3m long stick is by definition correct- you can only know it is 3m long because the meter is defined as a specific reference length, so you must make a comparison to define the length of the stick in terms of the reference length.

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