We know that knowledge is very important and powerful, but does robust knowledge require some sense of consensus and disagreement?

How would one even approach this kind of question? It really makes me curious, because, first, I have to know what knowledge is, and second, I need to know the consensus and disagreement required for such knowledge.

I don't know at the moment. I am quite confused but I would really be curious and appreciate the inputs given.

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    Hello, welcome to PSE. Could you say just a little, please, about what you mean by 'robust' knowledge ? What does it contrast with ? Best - GT
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 9:05
  • I made some edits which you may roll back or continue editing. You can see the versions in the "edited" link. Welcome! Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 14:39
  • You should start by making clear what "robust knowledge" is. The loose colloquial meaning used on Quora, where an identical question was asked, won't do. You can read on [IEP's Metaepistemology]() what can be said with a more precise meaning, but even then all opinions are controversial.
    – Conifold
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 1:00
  • I don't know what you mean by 'robust, but certain knowledge is not a matter of consensus. It is what you know. As for how to approach the question, Western philosophy has no explanation for knowledge since it requires having an explanation for consciousness. Consequently it has to make do with 'justified true belief' which, as this phrase indicates, is not knowledge. For Aristotle certain knowledge is identical with its object and I would suggest investigating this idea. .
    – user20253
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


It really makes me curious because first I really have to know what knowledge is, and second need to know the consensus and disagreement required for such a knowledge. I dont know at the moment I am quite confused but I would really be curious and appreciate the inputs given.

Regarding "Robust Knowledge' my view is that you are pointing to 'some truth' which can not be easily challenged as 'rising sun' or 'an eclipse' on earth our planet -

the building up of consensus takes a long time e.g. the theory of relativity which took 100 years to confirm and still being challenged from a few quarters.

The stages of 'disagreements' flow through the time as the humankind is always 'in quest' of fresh insights, building up models of his world, and the horizon of knowledge extends- leading to 'newfound disagreements'.

some landscape is described below-

I think the best way is to find the answers oneself by traversing the terrain!

How a psychologist/philosopher views – the acquisition of knowledge

knowledge refers to awareness of or familiarity with various objects, events, ideas, or ways of doing things. Consider, for example, the question: What is real? Is the bottle on my desk real? Are the trees outside my window real? What about the number pi? What about the pain from the slight cut on my finger? These quickly give rise to the question of how do I come to know things in the first place? With some reflection, it becomes clear that, at least to some extent, what is real for me depends in part on how I come to know things.

For example, my perceptual, cognitive background structures allow me to experience and understand the bottle on my desk in a particular way; different perceptual or cognitive background structures would result in a different reality. The tribesmen interpreted the bottle dropped from airplane (in a film)as a gift from the gods, and the film tracked how that meaning permeated the tribe and impacted its members. This brief example highlights the two broadest angles philosophers take regarding knowledge, which is that of “epistemology” and “ontology.” Ontology refers to the question of reality and is about determining what can be said to really exist in the world. In contrast, epistemology refers to how we humans know things. A “theory of knowledge” would explain what knowledge was, how humans could come to know things, what truly existed in the world, and the relationship between the two.

One of the oldest and most venerable traditions in the philosophy of knowledge characterizes knowledge as “justified true belief”. it remains the most dominant conception of knowledge. Thus, for many, knowledge consists of three elements: 1) A human belief or mental representation about a state of affairs that 2) Accurately corresponds to the actual state of affairs (i.e., is true) and that the representation is 3) Legitimized by logical and empirical factors.

To be clear about this last element, it is not considered knowledge if, for example, a child, when asked about the molecular nature of water, says “H 2 O” simply because he is parroting what he has heard. In contrast, a chemist who answers “H 2 0” has knowledge because his representation is meaningfully networked and justified by much prior knowledge and careful deductive work.

Justification, is central to this idea of knowledge. The question of what kind of justification is necessary to constitute knowledge is the focus of much reflection and debate among philosophers. Three approaches that have been taken in an attempt to answer - how justifiable beliefs are formed are:

1) foundationalism, which attempts to articulate foundationally true beliefs, from which other conclusions can be derived;

2) coherentism, which argues that knowledge consists of systems and must be evaluated on the degree to which the system has logical coherence that corresponds to external facts;

3) reliabilismreliablism, which argues that there are good and bad ways to develop beliefs, and that justified beliefs are those beliefs that are formed based on good and reliable methods.

Philosophers often divide knowledge up into three broad domains: personal, procedural, and propositional.

Personal knowledge relates to firsthand experience, idiosyncratic preferences, and autobiographical facts.

Procedural knowledge refers to knowledge how to do something, such as how to play basketball or ride a bike.

Propositional knowledge refers to general truth claims about the world and how we know it.

By what mechanisms do we come to achieve knowledge? The two most dominant answers to this question in philosophy have come from the rationalists and the empiricists. The rationalists argue that we utilize reason to arrive at deductive conclusions about the most justifiable claims. Rationalists tend to think more in terms of propositions, deriving truths from argument, and building systems of logic that correspond to the order in nature. Rene’ Descartes and Immanuel Kant are some of the most famous rationalists, in contrast to John Locke and David Hume, who are famous empiricists.

Empiricists tend to argue that the most basic knowledge we achieve about the world comes from our senses, the direct observations that we make about the world.

The distinction between the rationalists and empiricists in some ways parallels the modern distinction between philosophy and science.

As the scientific method emerged and became increasingly distinct from the discipline of philosophy, the fundamental distinction between the two was that science was constructed on empirical observation, whereas the initial traditions in philosophy (e.g., Aristotle) were grounded more in utilizing reason to build systems of knowledge.

The birth of science gave rise to the Enlightenment, and arguably the defining feature of the Enlightenment was the belief that humans could use reason and scientific observation and experimentation to develop increasingly accurate models of the world.

Such models were conceived to be “true” in the sense that they described ontology (the way the world was) in a manner that was separate from subjective impressions. The Periodic Table of Elements is a great example of the success of the idea that nature can be objectively described.

But in many disciplines, especially in the social sciences and humanities, since the 1960s there has been an increasing chorus of voices that challenge the conception of scientific knowledge as being a pristine, objective map of the one true reality.

Instead, many have argued that human knowledge is inherently based on context, that is created in part by the way the human mind organizes and constructs perceptions and also by the way the social context legitimizes certain ideas in various historical and political times, and that these elements cannot be completely divorced from our “knowledge”.

These scholars fall under the broad term “postmodernism” to highlight the contrast in assumptions regarding the nature of knowledge in contrast to the modernist assumptions of the Enlightenment.

Although several modern philosophers seriously doubt whether a successful theory of knowledge can be built, there nonetheless have been identifiable developments in mapping knowledge domains and attempting to develop educational systems that begin with the basic structure and domains of knowledge.

A second system that has been gaining some notoriety lately is that of Big History, which attempts to create a macro-level perspective of humans since the beginning of time.



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