'In view of advice from the philosophical think-tank formed last year from six eminent professors, we shall be introducing legislation to ban the use of the verb "To know" and its derivatives from all official documents.' - Comment on this imaginary extract from the Queen's speech at the opening of Parliament.

In the absence of any further information, it is hard to guess the reasons that the members of the think-tank may have had for the advice they provided. Perhaps the six eminent professors are all sceptics of some colouration who believe that "knowledge"is impossible. Perhaps they are merely "local sceptics"who believe that knowledge in politics is impossible. Perhaps they are merely cynics about the possibility of knowledge having anything meaningful to contribute to official documents. Or perhaps they are of the opinion that knowledge is merely a justified belief, so it would be more intelligible in official documents to use the phrase "justified true belief". And of course, there may be other motivations that might be attributed to these allegedly learned scholars. Perhaps they are conducting a psychology experiment to see just how gullible the government is.

Given the wide range of possible motivations for the action, it is hard to see how to comment meaningfully on the Crown's imaginary intentions.

On first reading, the planned legislation appears to be just plain silly. "To Know"is more than just to believe. It is to believe with adequate justification. If we dispense with an already existing word for "a belief in the truth of a proposition for which there is sufficient justification to have confidence in its truth", we would just have to invent another. And if official document writers restrain themselves from coming up with a suitable acronym for this phrase, then they will just cause their output to become that much more incomprehensible than it already is. Even without this additional obfuscation, official documents are often known to befuddle trained lawyers.

On the other hand, and with a second thought for the consequences, the suggestion is probably not so silly after all. In the realms of political shenanigans it would probably be a good idea to reinforce the position that no law or regulation could ever have "adequate justification"for the costs being imposed on the populace. After all, official documents are almost always an exercise in legalized extortion. So it would probably be to the benefit of us poor down-trodden citizens if the framers of those threatening missives were not allowed to claim to "know"their extortion is justified.

As a third thought, and a bit of an irrelevant aside, it would be an interesting exercise in political research to determine just how often the verb "to know"and its derivatives actually do appear in official documents. Personally, upon reflection, I would suspect that it does not appear all that often. The function of official documents is to dictate, demand, command, and prohibit. Knowledge never seems to come into play when one is engaged in extortion. "Do what I want, or else!"Where is there an opportunity to express knowledge?

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