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The theory of knowledge is an area that has been examined by many philosophers in attempt to understand the working of the human mind and its reasoning. However, there is still much to be understood in certainty and definite conclusions have not yet been made on this topic. This paper attempts to explain this theory by specifically looking at the definition and concepts related to knowledge such as truth, justification and rationality. It also examines the beliefs and views on knowledge of some of the ancient philosophers including Chuang Tzu, Nyaya-Sutras and Nagarjuna. Knowledge so far has no clear or distinctive definition. However, attempts have been made to explain this concept.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, knowledge is the “acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles as from study or investigation”, or it can be said to be the “acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience or report”. According to philosophers of the tripartite theory of knowledge, knowledge is defined as a justified true belief.
Epistemology, on the other hand, is a branch of philosophy which aims at: understanding such concepts as belief, memory, certainty, doubt, justification, evidence and knowledge; and inquiring into the criteria for the application of such terms and so, in particular, the criteria for identifying the scope and the limits (Cooper, 1999). It, therefore, aims at studying the theories of knowledge that have been advanced by philosophers.
The source of the human knowledge is another concept that attempts have been made to explain. There are two main traditions that have been used to explain this: the first one is rationalism, which explains that the human knowledge is based on reason, while the second tradition is empiricism, which explains that the human knowledge is based on experience. Many modern scientists have chosen to believe in empiricism, but it has been argued that a combination of the two traditions makes more sense, hence it is justified. Knowledge is basically a belief that someone has in something. However, knowledge, whatever the means or ways are used to acquire it, be it experience or reason, can be enhanced and maximized because of the capacity of the human brain, as it has been explained by many scientists, to make it have a better understanding of things and situations and never to be exhausted.
In order to form a belief that is reliable, there has to be evidence of it. This in turn leads to justification of our beliefs. As the tripartite theory of knowledge explains it, justification is formed by the difference between just believing that something is true and between knowing it. For a belief to be justified, it has to be supported by some other idea so that it can be relied on. The idea supporting it must also be believed to be true and finally, it is important that we have a credible and good reason for us to believe that the idea supporting our belief is actually true. This put together constitutes knowledge.
It is also vital that our knowledge is true for it to be totally perceived as knowledge. Truth basically refers to the ability of information being consistent with evidence and also other truths about it. Therefore, if information is believed to be true and it is actually known to be true, it constitutes reliable and hence true knowledge.
Rationality, on the other hand, can be explained to be the ability of one to act by reason in relation to the facts of reality of a certain situation. The facts of such a reality entail knowledge that one has over the same issue. Therefore, if the knowledge one is possessing is false, they will not act rationally; while if they have true knowledge, they will be able to act rationally. It is important to point out that it is possible for one not to act rationally without their knowledge because they have the wrong knowledge, hence information about a certain situation. However, this could be avoided by people choosing to reason carefully about a situation before they act on it.
Some of the ancient philosophers such as Chuang Tzu, Nyaya-Sutras, and Nagarjuna have greatly contributed to the formation of some concepts of knowledge. Thus, Chuang Tzu, an ancient Chinese leader who followed Buddhist practices, is majorly commended for his contribution in building the theory of knowledge in the ancient times based on his belief in Taoism. The Taoists believe that those connected to the way are the ones who live in full sympathy and harmony with nature. They also believe that it is impossible for the intellect of human beings to understand that of the Tao. Taoism believes in intuitive wisdom and logical reasoning and not rational knowledge; it also does not trust the conventional knowledge and reasoning.
Some of the ideas of Chuang Tzu on knowledge came up as a result of his critical analysis and judgment of situations. He did not believe in wealth acquisition, as this interfered with one’s ability to see and understand the world and be able to get its meaning. He always wanted to understand nature with new eyes, including his concerns and questions about the heaven and earth. He also developed interest in human existence and understanding and questioned appearance and reality like justification of the reality and the existence of the things we believed to see. Through such questions, he explored the possibility that more meanings and explanations of circumstances of the world have not yet been explained. This left a gap for other philosophers to explain some of his beliefs and answer the questions he raised.
According to the Nyaya Sutras, liberation can only be attained by acquisition of knowledge of the different sixteen categories, including Pramana (means of valid knowledge), samsyana (doubt), prameya (objects of valid knowledge), and prayojana (purpose) among others. Nyaya Sutra believes that valid knowledge can be obtained through inference, perception, verbal testimony (word), and comparison (analogy). In relation to this, Cooper (1999) explains that a capacity for recognizing similarities is required for knowledge gained through perception and inductive inference to be extended to novel cases, and that the reliability of some people and their testimony is a sui generis source of knowledge, irreducible to inductive warrant.
According to Cooper (1999), perception is that knowledge that arises from the contact of a sense with its object, and which is determinate, unnamable and non erratic; inference is the knowledge preceded by perception, and it includes priori, posteriori and commonly seen knowledge; comparison is the knowledge of a thing through its similarity to another thing previously well known; and word is the instructive assertion of a reliable person.
As Vatsyayana further elaborates Nyaya Sutra’s beliefs, it is explained that knowledge of truth removes false knowledge, hence making faults disappear and that the consequence of knowledge is the idea of avoidance or acquisition, or indifference (Cooper, 1999). He further explains that the Pramana (means of knowledge) reveals the identity of the body, soul, senses, object, fruit, re birth, activity, faults, cognition, pain, and release.
Nyaya Sutra, in explaining what really counts as true knowledge, argues that both orthodox and unorthodox are stereological purposes of gaining knowledge. It is further explained that knowledge of the truth leads to release and that false knowledge results into streams of births and deaths. It can be seen from the above discussion that according to Nyaya Sutra, one can have perceptual knowledge of something without that thing being conceptualized or linguistically represented.
Nagarjuna also made some contribution on knowledge by his teaching on the doctrines of truth in the Buddhist religion. According to Nagarjuna, there are two stages of components of truth according to the Buddhist teachings: conventional or instrumental truth and direct or ultimate truth. Nagarjuna criticized and questioned many philosophical assumptions and beliefs that had been made and that existed at the time. He questioned the belief of existence of stable matter, selfhood, distinct separation between bad and good, and the ability of living a cursed or blessed life. His belief on the concept of emptiness (sunyata) was that there was no autonomy of existence and this gave people freedom to be connected with other worlds. It has been pointed out that Nagarjuna’s ideas and beliefs on the concept of emptiness influenced many Buddhist thoughts.
In conclusion, it is important to point out that the theory of knowledge is a vast subject that is still studied so as to help understand the human mind, its reasoning and functioning in dealing with situations. From the above discussion, it can be seen that many efforts have been made in the ancient days to try and comprehend this vast subject, and a lot is still being done now by the modern philosophers to help get a proper understanding of the same. However, it is important to mention that there has been a great improvement and advancement of this theory as many studies are being carried out on this subject.
Knowledge can be defined as a possession of a firm foundation of information about a particular topic. This helps someone to gain an ability to learn fast the new things related to the topic. Consequently, the person is able to make a clear judgment on the topic. Day by day, we are faced by challenges and forced to make choices. Each choice we make needs a deep thinking to come up with an essential idea. This develops a firm foundation on knowing things. There is always a desire of discovering a new way of tackling things: either by improving the old ones, or coming up with brand new ideas. A good knowledge foundation is vital, in cases where there is too much information (Rand, 1979).
There are two traditions that try to explain where we get our knowledge. The first one is imperialism and the other is rationalism. Imperialism explains that our knowledge develops from the experience, while rationalism argues that our knowledge is governed by reason. The two theories when combined can come up with a better explanation. The ways of forming beliefs should be made wisely. This is because the beliefs made are possibly true.
It is believed that knowledge is governed by some factors. These include truth, belief and justification. First, one should have a belief in what he or she knows. This is by understanding and having information on the topic. The truth behind the topic should also be known. This would help one defend the argument if a need arises. The other factor is justification. If one cannot justify his or her belief, it would be difficult to persuade others on the topic.
We mostly gain our knowledge through our senses; the way we perceive things. As much as our senses can help, so much they can hurt us. We just need to find the extent to which our senses affect our knowing. Awareness of the outside world is a factor that needs to be focused on. The experience we get from the world is partly determined by the world itself and partly by us. However, the world does not have control over us. Therefore, it is our responsibility to avoid negative change.
It is important to familiarize with new ways and relate them with the ones already known. This process is innovative and will help refine our knowledge. Knowledge is a full understanding of information. Doubt is an essential step towards gaining knowledge. This is because when one doubts something, he or she develops an urge to know the truth about it. In the process, one will gather supportive information to defend his or her argument. Therefore, doubting brings us closer to knowledge. Doubt comes as a result of lacking facts, or having a variety. It happens when one considers the possible outcomes, when the evidence provided is insufficient, or the truth in it is not applicable.
To find knowledge and the ways of understanding, one can see a vacuum in which doubt would fit. It is found that knowledge is equivalent to evidence provided. The evidence is a fruit of research. One cannot avoid understanding when looking for evidence, which is a basic foundation of knowledge. Doubt is full of uncertainties, but knowledge is full of knowing and certainties. However, doubting is a path which leads to knowledge. Uncertainty makes one want know the answers.
To my mind, knowledge is the product of our experiences. The ability to understand things comes as a result of practicing our brains. There is a need to keep our minds active. This also enhances brain cells growth. Therefore, knowledge is not an inborn thing. Research has shown that knowledge is gained through practice. The events or situations through which one passes make one gain more knowledge. For example, if one is faced with a challenge, he/she must get a way of escaping. He or she will possibly think of what to do. This requires one to get an idea, and in trying to improve it, his or her knowledge is increased.
However, knowledge is of two types. One type is called priori and the other - posteriori. Priori is the knowledge which is independent of experience. It is often governed by reason and is non-empirical. Prior knowledge is acquired exclusive of any form of experience. In his argument, Chomsky points out that one must possess innate knowledge. He uses empirical evidence, basing the argument on field of linguistics. On the other hand, posteriori knowledge is dependent on experience. It is empirical and comes later in life. Evolutionary psychology gives a solution to the problem. It explains that a very small part of the human brain is used, and so there is a room for utilizing (Kyburg, 1961).
Epistemology has various branches, which try to extend knowledge in different perspectives. These are empiricism, idealism, rationalism, and constructivism. Lack of concepts and ideas at birth posed several questions in epistemology. Looking at them one by one will help understanding the theory of knowledge more. Empiricism is the theory of knowledge that takes into consideration the experience. This experience is generally based on observations through the use of senses. The knowledge is treated as empirical.
Another branch of epistemology is idealism. Idealists hold that knowledge is acquired. This is through priori process, by understanding of concepts and not by deriving from experience. However, the extent of this type of knowledge over experience varies. This is according to different idealists. Some argue that knowledge can only be acquired priori, while others claim that some knowledge can be gained posteriori. In spite of their different argumentation, the idealists have a common concept; they belief that knowledge is ideal. That is, the knowledge is guided by reason (Klein, 1981). To the sense data and reason of empiricism and idealism respectively, rationalism came to add a third factor - system of thinking. All the three areas are equally important. The forth branch is constructivism. It argues that knowledge is a combination of structures made by human, but not a true discovery of the objectives. A way of constructing knowledge is the main emphasis of the constructivists (Santayana, 1923).
Holding beliefs which cannot be justified has become a major problem. Even though some can be justified, the process is long and the argument just circumnavigates. It is time to discard the old things and concentrate on justifiable beliefs. Pretending to know too much will only magnify the argument. Various reasoning chains have been imposed to find an escape from the problem. These are infinites, foundational-ism, coherent-ism, and found-heretics. The aim behind these chains is to bring an end to the unnecessary arguments, which promote nothing other than wasting time and resources.
It is possible for justifiable series to exist. An individual can be having many reasons but keep them until a need arises. This is motivated by a desire to avoid chief competitors. So, it is possible to have many logical arguments but retain them for analysis of a particular solution.
Foundational-ism claims that foundations should support other beliefs, instead of themselves requiring justifications from other beliefs. The beliefs are self-evident. This implies that they can be justified. Lack of support from other beliefs is the main challenge in the foundational-ism. This has proved to be impossible. Each belief needs justification from other beliefs (Llkka, 2002).
Coherence rejects the assumption that pattern of linear justification enhances regress of a problem. In order to curb circularity, somebody’s belief is to be justified according to how it fits to the system of which it is a part; that is, according to its coherence with the other belief system. The theory has an advantage in that it avoids the infinite regress, not having to claim special status. This method is challenged in ensuring that the system is corresponding to reality. This is because there can be coherence even when the system is wrong. Found-coherence came to unify foundational-ism and coherence (Karl, 1972).
Trying to prove every aspect of nature would mean remaining stagnant. It would not help if one fails to make a second step, simply because the first step was shorter than he or she expected. A second step can make one discover more good things. Justification of a belief must not necessarily have reference to the belief. It is possible to justify using other beliefs. This is contrary to foundational-ism. This implies that nothing is independent. As a result, in the 19th century, the justification of the belief lost favor. It was also realized that knowing something is different from regarding it.
Epistemic culture came to distinguish between the settings of knowledge production and emphasized their context aspect. The culture is taken as a field, which has helped us to understand things the way we do. Study of epistemology is helpful in many applications. It is used in law firms while giving proofs. In conclusion, people should consider ignoring beliefs that do not contribute to the growth of the society (Russell, 1912). In doing so, they will get time to embark on the development issues. Thus, there is no need to stagnate in justifying beliefs, which are not knowledge.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Charles Peirce, Edmund Husserl
Epistemology revolves around the question of what is knowledge, how to acquire knowledge, and the limit at which there is a possibility of knowing a given element. To understand these questions about knowledge, we must understand the notions connected to it, such as belief, truth, skepticism, theory of knowledge, and justification. It is necessary to understand the three different forms of knowledge. These forms include acquaintance knowledge, knowing that and knowing how (Huemer, 2002).
Bertrand Russell is well-known for uniqueness in solving "knowledge by description" (knowledge that) and "knowledge by acquaintance" in Problems of Philosophy. Gilbert attributed to it by highlighting the division between differentiating of knowing how and knowing that in The Concept of Mind. Epistemology is a way to evaluate the people’s virtues (Monk, 1999).
The first of these virtues is beliefs. Having beliefs is the presence of a strong relationship that with no doubt something will happen, precisely in epistemology. Belief amounts to believing that a certain proposition is true. Beliefs hold an ideology in someone/something even at a moment when something is wrong. Truth is a state of turning positive prior to a situation. It is also a commitment to establish the right mode of performing a task. The opposite of true is a lie. Humans do not desire truth at all, but "the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth".
History of acquiring knowledge goes back to the ancient times of Plato and Socrates. Plato strongly believes that the world as we view it is not the real way it stands; our senses lie to us. He states that the real world can only be approached intellectually. Thus, he believes that knowledge cannot only be exchanged from the teacher to the student, but rather that education consists of directing the students towards what is real. The student makes further research and analysis determines the real true answer.
Like knowledge, innateness is a term that can have many different meanings. Conventionally, innate familiarity is thought of as something imbedded in the genes, while knowledge is thought of as information acquired from the surroundings. An additional way to consider innateness is as something predictable. Plato used the term hypothesis to mean an understanding that a person wants to achieve. To do this, you have to ask yourself a lot of questions on the topic you are going to research in order to distinguish different qualities of an object, its characteristic and what defines it from others of the similar grouping. The ability to learn is within every person. An individual should be pointed the direction to go, and then he/she should use the ideas laid to him to learn more. Therefore, the best education must teach an individual as whole self and not just a part of it. This should also be applicable in the whole society; when teaching the society, then you can be obliged to teach the whole society and not just a single person.
Plato strongly believes that knowledge can only be achieved by self searching to find and unlock the answers. This is a convenient method of tackling problems as it allows a person to question themselves about the nature of the problem. The method puts the person in a better position to understand the problem. However, proper guidance should be provided, as in the case of setting a pathway to direct a student on problem solving. The power of self beliefs brings about the power of understanding. This will enable a person to see the intellectual instead of the visible. It gets a person in a position to think what can be achieved rather than look at the challenges ahead.
Through Plato’s philosophy, many areas of working get affected. This includes religious beliefs, political matters, literature, and arts. Through the practice of philosophy, people are more able to associate with each other for exceptional needs or when faced with similar calamities. It is through philosophy that people are able to appreciate each other as philosophy calls for respect for other persons.
Plato asserts that universal knowledge infatuated by human beings is not purchased, but is “innate”. Religion binds the people of the world. It is through philosophy that there has been a massive uprising of religious groupings. This is because people have allowed themselves to think deep about them and ask questions about religion. Every community will feel an attachment to something specific or something that connects them. Those willing to share together will attend no matter the location of the venue. This is because people seem to be attached to things because their own will tells them to do so and have a belief (Pluto, 2010).
Politically, people with the same agenda come together. Those that loose do not just abandon the people that never voted for them in the first place, but on the other side, they work hand in hand to fight a common enemy; though most push the agenda forward in the aim of benefiting themselves and win the crowd. People with the same problem should help one another to overcome their problems in group. Once the groups get formed, they should not be disbanded after use and instead they should focus their energy in some other way to continue helping the needy.
Plato believed that every person should have access to quality education and up to the level that a person can manage. He believed that everyone has different capabilities, which is particularly true, since people were differently created with different talents. To educate every child is not an easy task; therefore, the government should take that responsibility. This will give the children at least a direction in life. Plato also believed that the rulers should be intellectuals with vitreous minds, which I particularly support. The rulers should be bright people with the country at their heart to guard and care, whereas the soldiers of the nation should be courageous and have military skills in order to be admitted to the military. The workers should be hardworking, obedient and with low tempers. Also, these few people should be shown how to learn and given chances to learn on their own and come up with well documented research projects on their own.
A candidate doing his own research will be better placed to understand all the theories formulated in the book. A person learning on his own and doing some research can adapt to new conditions at the job as he will be already used to solving the questions. When it comes to education, it should never in any way be gender biased. All should be allowed to learn together and interact.
When the scenery of scientific perceptive is correct, the premises of verified knowledge must be true, most important, better known than and prior to the conclusion. Unless these circumstances are satisfied, the essential truth will not be suitable (Cooper, 1999). Practically speaking, how one copes with any existing environment should judge one’s ability to absorb intelligence. A person should be fully equipped to deal with every environment that he is put. Despite different upbringing of people in terms of religion, beliefs and customs and sex, inborn distinction and not heredity should power a person capability to adapt and dissolve in every environment.
There are those that are valid only in a certain field and are termed as talented, whereas there are those that pose unique powers to at least have a mark in every field and are termed as highly intelligent. Thus, it is particularly true to say that not every person is intelligent, though it is an empirical saying. If to look closely, it becomes vivid that the remarks contribute an extremely large part to how a society can be structured and governed. People with different capabilities will hold different offices and authority as per their power to adapt to the different problems arising from the dockets that they hold. Many people applying for job fail as they reason that the interviewer is only interested on their career mastery, rather than the whole concept of having brains about the rest of the universe. Why would an interviewer at a job interview panel be in the interest of knowing whether the interviewee is competent to hold the rest of the world? Whereas it is already proven through a conducted test on his career, he is qualified.
Knowledge is a combination of several intellectual factors that contribute to wisdom. This is capacity to take quick mapping of a problem by coming with conclusive and reliable ideas within a short time account. It has become exceedingly difficult due to the improvement of the specialized knowledge required of various kinds of fields in the world today. Suppose that a person is conducting a research in scientific medicine; the task is quite hard to accomplish as it is likely to absorb the whole of his potential intelligence energy (Samuel, 2011).
Just as there is a specialization in the world today, knowledge may seem as a special branching in the field of wisdom. It is not complicated to find people trying to enquire what knowledge you have in a certain field. When allocated a task, many people will at first look at whether you have the knowledge to accomplish the given task, and after performing the task, they will examine whether you have the required wisdom to manipulate the task to achieve a better outcome than the required. If an individual posses a lot of wisdom, the person is qualified to adapt in any situation (Cooper, 1999).
With every increase of knowledge, in some degree wisdom can be taught through self regulations or by other life experiences. The whole society requires wisdom more than ever as it has never needed it before, and this starts as early as possible in life; and if knowledge continues to increase, so as to adapt in such an environment, the world will need wisdom in the future even more to solve the technical adaptation of problems, either natural or artificial.