Meta-knowledge  Edit

'Meta-knowledge is the knowledge of what we know' - Neil Bearden, 2015

The Free Dictionary defines meta-knowledge as 'the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered or learned'. The concept of meta-knowledge is of large importance in cognitive and epistemic research, and should be distinguished from meta-learning or meta-information.

For class purposes the concept of meta-knowledge is interesting as it allows us to think about what we know about what we know. For example, we should realize we often overestimate the precision of what we know, a phenomenon often explained as overconfidence. A practical application is the estimation of students of the probability of ending up with a job offer at the end of the year. Most students tend to overestimate the chance that they will end up without an offer.

Motivated reasoning / confirmation bias

A particular application where meta-knowledge is useful is the case of motivated reasoning or confirmation bias. We often set out looking for an answer, consciously or unconsciously, with an idea of what the answer should be. While looking for the answer, we will interpret information in the way that it will fit our preconceived idea of what the answer should be. This effect is so strong, that even experts who are aware of this effect fall in the trap of motivated reasoning.

Earl From Texas

Earl is a scholar from Texas who is tasked with the objective of finding out whether the death penalty is an effective means of deterring criminal behaviour. Earl has two studies at his disposal: one study compares Texas with its neighbour state, and one looks at Texas throughout the ages. The first study shows that Texas has much lower crime rates in the category for which the death penalty exists than its neighbour state. The second study shows that crime rates were not different in Texas in times that the death penalty was not executed. Earl therefore concludes that Texas should stick with the death penalty, as the first study is clearly more relevant. One simply cannot compare the Texas of now with the Texas of a long time ago: times have changed.

In the room next door, another Earl is struggling with the exact same question. Only this earl has its studies switched: the study comparing Texas to its neighbour shows similar crime rates, while the historic study shows that Texas crime rates have dropped upon implementing the death penalty. Earl concludes that clearly the second study is more relevant, as Texas should be compared to Texas and not some other state with completely different population, religion and economic circumstances.

Earl from Texas is a guardian angel for all of us: whenever we interpret data, language, discussions, ideas, we should think of Earl and wonder whether we are not a little bit like him today.

External links

·         Wikipedia -

·         The Free Dictionary -

Socrates Edit

One of the classic Greek philosophers, nowadays credited as one of the founders of modern Western philosophy. He is the main character in many of his students' writings, especially in Plato's.

Socrates was concerned with ethics, and applied a questioning method, later known as the Socratic method, to have conversations with fellow Athenians. Socrates met his end after a public trial where he stood accused of corrupting the minds of Athens' youth and impiety. When asked to counter the sanction that was demanded against him, Socrates responded by saying that he felt the city ought to pay him a reasonable wage for all the work he has been doing for the good of the city

The Oracle of Delphi

When Socrates heard that the Oracle of Delphi had claimed that Socrates was the wisest man in Athens, he reportedly was shocked. He went around the city discussing courage with army generals, wisdom with politicians and piety with priests. After all these discussions, Socrates concluded that the Oracle had been right in the sense that 'I [Socrates, sic.] know one thing, that I know nothing', which made him wiser than the many men in the city who thought they knew something but ultimately knew nothing at all.

Harry Frankfurt - On Bullshit Edit

The Free Dictionary defines bullshit as '1. Foolish, deceitful, or boastful language; 2. Something worthless, deceptive or insincere; 3. Insolent talk or behaviour' To bullshit is '1. To speak foolishly or insolently; 2. To engage in idle conversation.'

For MDM purposes, the latter definition is most relevant. People who bullshit are people who just talk

Harry Frankfurt wrote an essay, 'On Bullshit', on the idea of bullshit. According to Harry, a bullshitter should be distinguished from a liar, as a liar cares deeply about the truth.  A liar's primary aim is to disguise or hide the truth from the listener, and therefore a liar has a very intimate and caring relationship with the truth. A bullshitter, on the other hand, doesn't particularly care about the truth, he just talks to disguise or obscure the facts of the matter which is actually discussed.


·         Demons, Dreamers and Madmen: The Defense of Reason in Descarte's Meditations

·         The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays

·         Necessity, Volition, and Love

·         The Reasons of Love

·         On Bullshit

·         On Truth

·         Taking Ourselves Seriously & Getting It Right

Further reading

·         Harry Frankfurt - On Bullshit

·         Wikipedia Harry Frankfurt - On Bullshit -

Karl Popper - Problem of Demarcation  Edit

Sir Karl Raimund Popper was an Austrian-British philosopher who is, among other things, known for his philosophy on the problem of demarcation. Popper argued that scientific theories, as all of human thinking, are abstract in nature, and can only be tested through the predictions these theories make. The true distinguishing characteristic of a scientific theory should be whether the theory is falsifiable. Only if the predictions of a theory can be proven to be false, the theory can be regarded as truly scientific. This implies that psychoanalysis and most branches of economic 'science' are not truly science, according to Popper.


·         The Two Fundamental Problems of the Theory of Knowledge

·         The Logic of Scientific Discovery

·         The Poverty of Historicism

·         The Open Society and Its Enemies

·         Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics

·         The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism

·         Realism and the Aim of Science

·         Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge

·         Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach

·         Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography

·         The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism (with Sir John C. Eccles)

·         In Search of a Better World

·         Die Zukunft ist offen (The Future is Open) (with Konrad Lorenz)

·         A World of Propensities

·         The Lesson of this Century

·         All life is Problem Solving

·         The Myth of the Framework: In Defence of Science and Rationality

·         Knowledge and the Mind-Body Problem: In Defence of Interaction

·         The World of Parmenides, Essays on the Presocratic Enlightenment

·         After The Open Society

·         Frühe Schriften

External links

·         Wikipedia -

Michel de Montaigne Edit

Michel de Montaigne was one of the most significant thinkers of the French Renaissance, whose influence is still relevant today. He is well-known for his skeptical remark 'Que sçay-je?' or 'What do I know?' This quote signifies a lot of Montaigne's thinking, as he is widely regarded as one of the first thinkers freely embracing doubt about oneself.

External links

·         Works by Michel de Montaigne at Project Gutenberg -,+Michel+de