Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Midterm Assignment

After discussing my ideas with a few of my classmates and doing some research myself, I have begun to think differently about where I believe knowledge comes from and how it is obtained. Learning and gaining knowledge is reliant on both ourselves and those around us. We obtain and retain knowledge in different ways depending on the place in which it is coming from. I came across a Wiki page on Bertrand Russell who “promoted the distinction between “knowledge by acquaintance” and “knowledge by description”” which helped me develop my ideas about knowledge and where it comes from. My proposition and supporting ideas are based on those of Bertrand Russell but adapted to reflect my thoughts.

Bertrand Russell, 1951


Knowledge cannot be effectively obtained only through description.

Knowledge by acquaintance:

It is non-inferential, direct and obtained by direct experience between a person and what the person is gaining knowledge from. Gaining knowledge through acquaintance is, in my opinion, a more effective way of gaining knowledge. It is not clouded by bias or confusion in communication.

Knowledge by description:

It is inferential, indirect and obtained through description received from another person. Knowledge obtained through description can not be entirely justified because it is not being gained first hand. When knowledge is passed through individuals it may lose some of it validity.


Knowledge by acquaintance: You look at the colour of the sky and learn that it is pink. You are gaining knowledge about the colour of the sky as you are directly perceiving and experiencing it. This form of knowledge is more reliable and can be justified by the person gaining it because they are surrounded by the experience and obtaining the knowledge from it first hand.

Knowledge by description: Your friend tells you that the colour of the sky was pink yesterday. Your friend is directly telling you that the sky was pink but you are not directly perceiving it. This form of knowledge is not completely accurate in that the person gaining it has no way of proving it as they are not directly surrounded by the experience.

pink sky


If knowledge is obtained by means of direct experience

And is non-inferential

Then the validity of this knowledge can be justified


2 Responses to Midterm Assignment

  1. aileen4 says:

    I feel your ideas are very simple and precise. Rather than clouding your post with irrelevant aspects or side topics, you’re able to convey your ideas easily. I agree with your perspective of knowledge and also think the best way to take something in is by direct experience; our everyday lives are proof of it. But I also think that viewing something from a secondary source definitely is not as effective, but still is to a certain degree; it allows you to see and understand things from a some else’s point of view which would ultimate aide in understanding the topic more thoroughly.

  2. ktay says:

    Your post is very concise and easy to understand, with an effective use of visuals. Perhaps consider putting your syllogism at the top of your post, so the reader can think about it as they read the post. I agree with your point to an extent, but not everything can be experienced directly. For example, going to the Moon is not something the mere mortal can experience first hand. Therefore, in order to gain some understanding of this experience, most people have to rely on the second hand knowledge of those that did go to the Moon. It would be ideal if everything could be experienced by acquaintance, but not possible for all things.


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