Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Good Knowledge, Bad Knowledge

PRIMARY PROPOSITION: The foundation of our knowledge can only be gained through use of any one of our five senses.

knowl·edge
ˈnäləj/

2. awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.

Knowledge is a fairly broad word; however, in this post, the word will be defined as quoted above directly from Google. My proposition is that knowledge can only be gained through our five senses. This is essentially the main principle of empiricism, where knowledge only comes after we experience something. Before moving onto my main point, I’d like to create a second proposition to further clarify what the boundaries of experiences are.


 

SECONDARY PROPOSITION: Experiences are registered through any one of our five senses.

What this essentially means is that we gain experiences through any one of our five senses, which include: sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. To argue a point that was made in class earlier in the week, someone mentioned the following example:

  • Scenario: When you read a book and the author addresses that a character touches lava and states that the lava is hot, you don’t actually experience the warmth of the lava yourself.

Yes, it is true that someone who lacks the understanding of what warmth and heat are, will not be able to visualize or otherwise experience what the character in the book is doing. However, the point here is that even if the reader is unaware of such concepts, the very basic idea that should be grasped is that the character IS touching hot lava rather than the idea that the character is touching HOT lava. While many authors aim for imagery to help readers relate to the story and the emotions of the characters better, ultimately, it should be noted that the reader in this particular case is experiencing sight – registering the text into their brain, and not being burned by lava.

Therefore, what the reader is experiencing is reading text off of a book with one of their five senses.

To further solidify my point, imagine if you had no senses whatsoever. How would your experiences be registered? Would you have any memories? A personality? What knowledge can you gain from that? (if you are thinking of reasoning knowledge, this point will be touched upon further into this post)


PRIMARY PROPOSITION (PART TWO): The foundation of our knowledge can only be gained through any one of our five senses.

 Simply put, the chain looks a little bit like this:

Senses lead to experiences that form knowledge.

This all follows the primary proposition, in which knowledge can only be gained through any one of our five senses since experiences are derived from our senses. Going by the Google definition, it states that knowledge is the “awareness or familiarity gained by experience […]”, so it all fits together rather nicely. However, again, before anything else, there are more points that likely need to be refuted before I can prove my point.


PROBLEM: Logical Reasoning / A priori Knowledge

 Many people who are not empiricists believe in a knowledge that is obtained through reasoning (deductions, assumptions, etc), where none of the senses need to get involved for knowledge to be obtained. This is not true, but to a degree.

While my example above regarding total loss of senses does mean you cannot make any memories or register experiences, it does not necessarily cover those who were born with all of their senses and end up losing their senses later. Going by this second example, we can therefore see that logical reasoning and deductions can still be done (whether these assumptions are correct or incorrect) while a person is stripped of their senses as they still remain with their consciousness intact, in which consciousness is defined as an awareness of ourselves and the environment.

However, logical deduction and reasoning still must have a basis to be able to set up some premises and a conclusion. Therefore, you can only make assumptions after you have something to go off of (experiences). Without experiences as the foundation of setting up your assumption, the scenario would end up being exactly the same as my first example with complete total loss of senses from the get-go.

KEY PHRASE: Experiences (which come from senses) are the foundation of our knowledge.

Of course, with the word “foundation” being known essentially as the building blocks.


PRIMARY PROPOSITION (PART THREE): The foundation of our knowledge can only be gained through any one of our five senses.

> If the foundation knowledge of can only be gained through experiences
> And experiences can only be acquired through any one of our five senses> Then the foundation of knowledge can only be gained through any one of our five senses.

Finally, we approach the syllogism. These premises and the conclusion come directly from my argument above and have been laid out in a fairly straightforward manner. The ‘building blocks’ (foundation) of knowledge all come from our experiences, which come from our senses. This is not discounting the fact that knowledge can be gained through assumptions or critical thinking and deductions, but merely stating that you cannot come up with a conclusion without having anything at all to start with.

All in all, I believe I have made my point. If anyone has any sort of rebuttal, feel free to attack in the comments.

 
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