Study of Knowledge
Epistemology – The Study of Knowledge Jeff Castro PHI 200 Dr. Akins February 4, 2013 Epistemology – The Study of Knowledge The study of knowledge has always been the journey toward truth and understanding. Epistemology deals with the creation and distribution of knowledge in certain areas of inquiry. Humans should be free to gain, study and question knowledge and claims without repercussions in any social, cultural or religious setting.
As we move forward in our understanding of life, religion and nature, we have changed our way of thinking through philosophy.
We are less ignorant and uneducated about the truths of the world and how we as human beings perform in it. Knowledge and the confirmation of knowledge can be confirmed by propositional and procedural knowledge or knowledge by acquaintance. Propositional knowledge is expressed in declarative sentences or indicative propositions of one’s knowledge based on the known or knowing that. If someone says “all birds have feathers” they are stating or asserting a proposition that is factual or somewhat factual.
Procedural knowledge is the knowledge used in the performance of a task, such as knowing how to replace brakes on a vehicle.
It is learned knowledge through doing that act. Knowledge by acquaintance is experience based knowledge learned through casual interaction, such as knowing a place or person well (Mosser, 2010). Knowing for certain is always questionable because everything can be challenged. For the three identified ways of attaining knowledge, the most challenged one is propositional knowledge.
Propositional knowledge receives the most skepticism because of the statements it brings forward, like “I believe that”, “I know that” and “I think that” (Steup, 2005). These statements are based on one’s beliefs, thoughts and ideas which can be questioned.
If knowledge is based on one’s beliefs or opinions it will bring challenges, but remember an individual’s ideas based on beliefs or opinions should respected. We are certain of the other two due to experiencing or performing acts to solidify the knowledge. But then still can be questioned because of different procedures or experiences can still result in a different or validation of an outcome or answer.
To justify what we really know is inherited, learned or experienced. We cannot really be certain of our knowledge because we can be tricked or limited by our sense that provides us this information to confirm or deny what we know or learn.
Knowledge at one point is imperfect, but the truth at that point and is reinforced by the progress of science to be an absolute truth to some degree and as Vladimir Lenin says, “There is no impassable boundary between relative and absolute truth. ” (Bogdanov, 1908). The normal order of the world is how we perceive it through our senses.
It can play tricks on us and deceive through illusions that the mind receives from sight, sound, taste and touch. How humans recognize what is real and not real through their senses is known as empiricism (Mosser, 2010).
Empiricists view that there is no such thing as innate knowledge, but instead knowledge is received from experience. On the argument side you have rationalism which view knowledge to be innate. It argues that the knowledge of God, mathematics and science cannot be explained by the senses (Mosser, 2010). But this does contradicts how we learn, because without the senses how do we learn mathematics, science or the knowledge of God (the bible).
Innate knowledge is derived from the mind, but requires other things to support or build the mind, the senses.
Let’s break down the five senses (vision, sound, touch, smell and taste) and try to understand what can be limited and why. Vision can be received or altered based on the ability to distinguish objects, the depth or field, color, contrast, or even color blindness. Sound can be affected by the volume or pitch that is received by the ears. Touch can be affected by your haptic perception and how sensitive one’s outer skin is. Smell and taste can be affected by our bad habits (smoking and drinking), disease or medications.
So the limitations of one’s senses can fool and be limited by our own doings and by the aging process (Gwizdka, 2010).
Cognitive relativism is the idea of the knowledge we hold of the real world requires assistance from our mental/mind to build and support and that things being the truth or false are relative to a society, group or individual. I also realize that there are cognitive bias, notational bias and culture bias, which prevents us from seeing or analyzing something objectively with our senses (empiricism) which we cannot discount. So to really assert a position of truth would depend on who interprets it based on moral, ethical, or social view (Slick, 2012).
Friedrich Nietzsche developed perspectivism which supports cognitive relativism in that there are many possible perspectives to determine any possible assessment of the truth to be determined. This means that there is doubt and uncertainty about how we see the world and the truth about it based on perspectives.
The limits to human perception or cognition are bounded by each individual and how they can comprehend or process what they are receiving. The processing of the knowledge can be expanded upon through the use of one’s innate knowledge.
We limited ourselves based on what we only know and what is in front of us. If we can make sense of the world beyond what our senses take in we would be much better off, but remember it is all based on one’s perspective of faith, ideas, thoughts and knowledge. Skepticism is originally was defined as someone who simply looked at things and now it is someone who doubts claims. Skepticism forces claims to be justified (Mosser, 2010).
When assessing epistemology on the bases of what is known and the unknown we will still question everything for it is uncertain that we really know the truth about something.
Yet there will still be limits on what we question because some are based on faith, which is an individual’s belief in their religion. There are several types of skepticism: moral, religious, metaphysical and scientific. Each identifying a particular area to question or doubt, but what I find most questionable or intriguing are the religious skepticism or theological skepticism which examines faith-based claims and scientific skepticism or empirical skepticism which uses the scientific method of examining claims.
Religious skepticism does not mean one would be either an Atheist or Agnostic.
These skeptics question religious authority, but are not anti-religious just because they question specific or all religious beliefs or practices. One of the first religious skeptics was Socrates, he questioned the legitimacy of the beliefs during his time of the existence of various gods and this led to his trial and execution. Scientific skepticism seek proof through deductive argument before accepting any knowledge in any area, such as health claims, environmental claims, parapsychology, etc.
Carl Sagan originated scientific skepticism and was a world-famous astronomer and astrophysicist well known for supporting the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) and questioned that there was more than earth in our and other vast universes. There is also a sub-set of scientific skepticism which is call activist skepticism who seek to expose or prove false publicly what they see as the truth behind extraordinary claims (Klein, 2000). Socrates claimed that he knew one and only one thing: that he knew nothing, which was in line with being a Pyrrhonist.
He questioned everyone who claimed to have knowledge, hoping to learn from them, but he never claimed that gaining knowledge was impossible and never claimed to discover any knowledge. As such proof of never recording anything to prove or disprove his knowledge (Mosser, 2010). Sagan wrote in his publications “Too much openness and you accept every notion, idea, and hypothesis—which is tantamount to knowing nothing. Too much skepticism—especially rejection of new ideas before they are adequately tested—and you’re not only unpleasantly grumpy, but also closed to the advance of science.
A judicious mix is what we need. ” (Sagan, 1995).
Both men were skeptics who believed in questioning and challenging claims and exhibited a fascination with discovery. I believe it is in our nature to question everything to ensure we have validated the claim, but as Sagan has stated there is a fine line before tilting it too far to the left or right. I believe the two skepticisms try to get at the answer of how humans came to being. The religious skeptic will question all religions by comparing claims and questioning why to find the ultimate truth of our existence and our true meaning.
The scientific skeptic will require proof in the way of science before accepting knowledge to be true (Munchin, 2011).
By taking the two and trying to analyze and form a more complete set of questions to develop a more sensible truth or theory behind the human existence would possibly help me understand or rationalize the questions of “why” and “how” in my mind. But I understand there are limits to what I chose to believe as my ideas or perceptions (Shogenji, 2011). The decision between right and wrong is relative to one’s society or cultural background.
Relativism in the Muslim world would be a death sentence (honor killing) and we would see it as radical relativism. It is easily defendable in their culture and country because it is viewed as a norm or way of life, but not so within most other countries.
It is all about perspective because we to at one time burned people at the stake for being witches. Ignorance and lack of education or knowledge made it defensible and accepted at that time. So is radical relativism defensible, it is all about an individual’s or country’s perspective, religious beliefs and culture to decide one way or the other (Mosser, 2010).
The basic understanding of philosophy and how it affects our lives is sometimes transparent to most people because they only do without thinking. We have gotten so busy with our tethered lives we do not take the time to question why something is true or not, we move around like mindless beings. Epistemology gives us that way to question and seek knowledge to validate truth and to hope to truly understand the “why” and “how” of our lives and everything in and around us.
Humans should be free to gain, study and question knowledge and claims without repercussions in any social, cultural or religious setting. But this is an ongoing battle to be free from repercussions or persecution of our thoughts, ideas and actions when publically projected. Some countries and cultures still lash out in the way of medieval and barbaric manner at anything that does not fit their way of life and interactions, but it is all relative and it still falls within the study of philosophy.
Choosing to accept this or not, based on beliefs, ideas and religion is your choice, but to understand and have a greater degree of insight of knowledge and truth is true epistemology. References Bogdanov, A.
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