How do we know what we know?

It is said that we live in a post-modern world today. In the modern era, knowledge was considered to be prestine and trustworthy. There was general optimism based on the idea that everything can be understood; every problem can be solved.

Post-modern thinking threw all that into question. Our methods to obtain knowledge were considered to be unreliable. Nothing that we thought we knew can be trusted. All our knowledge is subject to our perceptions and paradigms.

It begs the question: “How do we manage to develop technology that works?” It is difficult to believe that nothing we know represents real knowledge when one looks at the world around us. Perhaps some knowledge is not reliable, but some of it must be. The real situation seems to lie somewhere between the modernist optimism and the post-modernist pessimism.

Well, I felt that someone needs to set the record straight. So, I decided to write a book about it. Recently, after a long while, I finally published the book, called “How do we know what we know?” In the book, the different methods of gaining knowledge are carefully considered and compared. I hope that it gives a more sober view of knowledge in all its various forms.

Oh, and by the way, I also made the cover. Do you like it?



Feel holidays

Ever seen the Eiffel tower? No, not a photo of it. The real thing. With your own eyes. Was it a big deal? Or perhaps the Victoria falls? There are many things in this world to see and many people spend large amounts of money to go on trips to see these things. They would take photos when they are there and come back to tell everybody about how amazing that was. Perhaps that makes one feel … mmm, I should save up some money to go on a trip to see it myself. With my own eyes.

Well, due to the nature of my work, I often get opportunities to go some places. Some times these places include some amazing sights. Things that one has seen photos of and that are famous for some reason. For instance, not too long ago, I had the opportunity to go to Paris for a conference and then had some time to go sightseeing.

So there I found myself looking at the Eiffel tower with my own eyes. Yes, it is different from seeing a photo of it. One gets a real perspective of its size. One can also get a sense of its surroundings, which somehow adds to the sensation. I didn’t go up in the tower. That is not something I’d enjoy due to my fear of heights. So what else is there to do about it? Oh, I can take a photo or two, or ten if you like. So I did that. What else? Well that’s just it. Once you’ve seen it, took the pics, bought the t-shirt, perhaps went up, its done. Somehow all that leaves me a bit vacant.

It is not only the case for the Eiffel tower. Any sightseeing that may be associated with some famous place in the world just does not appeal to me that much. There is simply not so much to it for me. Perhaps other people feel differently about it. People often still have that wow-feeling that they had when they were small, but somehow I’ve lost that. I do not get wow-ed by seeing famous sights.

As a result, any holiday that is designed arround going to some place to do sightseeing simply does not succeed in being a great holiday for me. So, such expensive overseas trips are a complete waste of money, as far as I am concerned.

That does not mean that all overseas trip are like that. It depends what one is looking for. I’ve recently discovered a different kind of overseas trip. These trips are not about what you see but rather about what you feel. So I call them feel holidays. These holidays are for instance planned arround going to see friends or family that live in other countries. It makes one feel happy, feel companionship, feel love. Often one may feel emotions that one haven’t felt in a long while. That makes them worthy holidays for me, much more valuable than sightseeing holidays.

I’m currently having such a feel holiday. Perhaps I’ll tell you about it some other time.


Ok, so I guess one cannot agrue that South Africa is the best country in the world. (If you meet a person that has that opinion, back away slowly and don’t make any sudden moves.) However, that does not mean one needs to hammer on all the negative points all the way.

The reasons unbeknownst to me, there is basically only one radio station that plays my taste of music and for which I have good reception at my house. Now there is this DJ in the afternoons on this radio station. He’s very popular, judging from all the awards he wins. But, oh dear, does he ever love to wallow in the mud. If it’s not about the number of serial killers that are prowling around our neighbourhoods, then it is about the latest corruption scandal in the government or the most horrific way that somebody died somewhere.

It is starting to affect me. I’ve noticed that I’m becoming wary to go out or worried about the future situation that I may have to face. Even grocery shopping has a raised level of stress, simply because I’m trying to avoid certain situations that I heard about on radio.

This is not helping. If the discussion about these negetive aspect could somehow lead one to improve the situation somehow, then one could understand and even welcome such discussions. But, in general one cannot do anything about these things. So, it only serves to upset me. If it upsets me it surely upsets more people, because I’m sure there are a large number of people listening to this radio station during the afternoon drive home. What is the long term affect of such negativity? A general mistrust in our fellow citizens? More people walking around with guns? An increase in the number of people emigrating to Australia?

Now, I do understand that the name of the game is to attract as much reaction as possible to increase the ratings. However, does this have to be at the cost of our general well-being? Why not rather focus on the positive aspects of this country? Surely, there is enough that is uplifting which one can talk about.

The day will come when I’m going to buy a bigger antenna so that I can tune into a different radio station. Either that or a one-way ticket.


The word revival means to give life to something that has lost it somehow; to restore something (or someone) back to life. It is obvious why would want to revive a person or a pet, but what about something other than a person, an animal or a plant? Would one bother to revive a hobby society if there is nobody interested in it anymore?

One would revive something if it has some value beyond its revitalized state. This is how I felt about this blog. The last entry was posted in 2011. Then it went quiet. Part of the reason was that the interaction died down, perhaps because many of the regular visitors closed their blogs and moved on.

However, while it was active it was a source of joy, not only for me, but I think also for those that visited regularly. Therein lies some value. Some evidence if that is that more than 6 years after the last entry this blog still receives a reasonable amount of traffic.

It is obviously not reasonable to think that one can go back to a situation that existed before. I don’t expect that. It is gone, with only the record of the previous entries to remind one of that. A revival does not have to be a regurgitation of the past. A revival should also be a renewal – starting new ideas and pursuing new avenues.

That is part of the reason for writing in English. The previous entries were exclusively in Afrikaans. So the renewal is to be less exclusive and to explore broader vistas. It is not that I’m ashamed of my native language. I’m proud to speak Afrikaans. However, while almost all native Afrikaans speaking people can speak English, the opposite does not apply.

So, to explore broader vistas and hopefully attract visitors from further afield, I decided to blog in English. Hopefully, I’ll be placing regular entries from now on.

Reg en geregtigheid, regverdigheid en regte

Daar word vertel dat wanneer kinders in hulle kleuterstadium is, dit die beste tyd is om vir hulle te leer van reg en verkeerd. Op daardie stadium van hul lewens soek kinders blykbaar hul sekuriteit in reëls wat verduidelik wat hul mag doen en wat nie. Ek is nie ‘n kindersielkundige nie, dus weet ek nie of dit waar is nie. In ieder geval is daar ‘n stadium in mens se lewe wat mens dinge wil sien as wit of swart. Dit wat reg is word beloon en dit wat verkeerd is word gestraf. En daar is ‘n mooi reguit blou lyn wat tussen die twee getrek is.

As mens ouer word leer mens dat daardie blou lyn baie dof kan wees en op plekke is dit soms ‘n groot grys area. Mens leer ook dat diegene wat verkeerd doen nie altyd gestraf word nie en dat diegene wat reg doen nie altyd beloon word nie. Wanneer mens dan op ‘n keer uitroep dat dit nie regverdig is nie, kom iemand en vra: wie het jou vertel dat die lewe regverdig is?

Ek dink dit is in die aard van die mens om te soek na geregtigheid en dat mens eers die smart van ongeregtigheid sou moes ervaar voordat mens daardie soeke na geregtigheid in jou eie gemoed kan versmoor. Eers dan, so dink ek, kan ‘n mens self ongeregtighede pleeg. Maar dis nie my doel om nou hier die gedagtes van kriminele elemente te analiseer nie.

Mens lees in die Bybel van sonde: wat sonde is en wat die gevolge van sonde is. Mens lees ook dat God ‘n God van geregtigheid is wat die sondaar straf. Mens lees ook dat God ‘n God van liefde en genade is. Dit spreek dus van uitnemende vindingrykheid dat God ‘n manier gekry het om reg en geregtigheid steeds te laat seëvier terwyl hy aan die mense vergifnis kon skenk.

Die wêreld wil egter nie meer weet van reg en geregtigheid nie, want dit lyk nie uit die alledaagse lewe of dit alles regverdig is nie. In die plek daarvan kom nou die regte van die mens. In stede daarvan dat ‘n owerheid reg moet toepas, kan elke mens nou veg vir sy regte. Nou sit ons met ‘n wêreld wat op sy kop gedraai is. Mens lees van ‘n oorvloed vlugtelinge wat Europa instroom sodat hulle dansky hul regte op die Europeërs se onkoste daar kan loop leeglê. Mens lees van onluste omdat onwettige immigrante voel dat daar nie aan hul regte voldoen word nie. Iewers het iets verkeerd geloop en reg en geregtigheid het in die slag gebly.

Die indruk word geskep dat die Bybel baie naïef is oor regverdigheid in die lewe. Maar dan hoef mens maar net Job of Prediker te lees. Die Bybel leer ons dat mens versigtig moet wees om regverdigheid te vereis, want geen mens is vanuit homself geregverdig nie. Ons kan bloot op genade hoop.



Nuwe insigte

Aan al diegene met wie ek altyd so lekker oor filosofie gestry het en teenoor wie ek altyd ruiterlik erken het dat ek eintlik niks van filosofie weet nie, julle sal dalk verheug wees om te hoor dat ek toe vir my ‘n boek oor filosofie gaan koop het. Moet egter nie vir my vra watter boek dit is nie want jy gaan waarskynlik terleurgestel wees.

Ek het nou al ‘n redelike ent in die boek in gelees. En … ?

Wel so vêr moet ek sê dat my opinie oor filosofie tot ‘n groot mate bevestig is. Daar is maar min daarvan wat die moeite werd is om oor huis toe te skryf. Mens kan die klomp filosowe min of meer in drie kategorieë verdeel.

  1. Die wat eenvoudig snert praat
  2. Die wat goed kwyt raak wat in elk geval algemene kennis is
  3. Die enkelles wat iets sinvols kwytgeraak het

Vanuit die derde kategorie moet ek eers bietjie stilstaan by Descartes. Dis nou die ou wat gesê het “I think therefore I am.” Wel die storie daaragter is dat hy wou bepaal wat hy met sekerheid kon agter kom bloot deur filosofies daaroor te dink. En al wat hy op die ou end met sekerheid kon verklaar was dat hy bestaan.

I rest my case.


Niven se wet

So met die gedagte aan hier in SA bly, dink ek nou sommer weer aan iets wat ek ander dag raakgelees het. Een van my voorliefdes is wetenskapfiksie en een van die wetenskapfiksie skrywers wie se boeke ek destyds verslind het is Larry Niven.

Nou die dag kom ek toe af op Niven se wet. Dit beweer dat die produk van sekuriteit en vryheid ‘n konstante is. Met ander woorde, as jy gaan moeite doen om baie sekuriteit in jou lewe te kry dan gaan jy op ‘n manier ‘n mate van jou vryheid moet opgee. Daarteenoor, as jy iemand is wat ‘n groot waarde plaas op jou vryheid gaan jy noodgedwonge ‘n mate van sekuriteit moet inboet.

Dit het my nogal laat dink aan die situasie wat ons hier in SA het. Mense kan tot ‘n groot mate hier in ons land maak nes hulle lus het. Juis om daardie rede is mens nie altyd so veilig nie. Nou moet mens noodgewonde allerande sekuriteitsmaatreels implimenteer om ‘n mens te beveilig. Die gevolg is dat mens dan skielik nie meer so vry is. Jy moet jouself letterlik opsluit.

Is dit dan anders in ander lande? Wel miskien kan jy daar in die aand gaan rondloop sonder om onveilig te voel, maar as mens mooi oor die saak dink dan besef jy dat jou vryheid op ‘n ander manier daar ingeperk word. Die rede hoekom dit so veilig voel daar is juis omdat die samelewing daar meer gereguleer is. Jy is nie so vry om te doen wat jy wil nie. Snaaks dat dit so moet werk.

Vir my is my vryheid baie belangrik. Ek hou nie daarvan om deur iemand beheer of ingeperk te word nie. Maar my sekuriteit is ook belangrik. Ek wil nie onveilig voel nie. So nou kom dit neer op ‘n kompromie. Hoeveel is ek bereid om van die een in te boet ter wille van die ander. Die lewe is nou eenmaal maar nie eenvoudig nie.