Experience An Essence
For centuries, philosophers have been arguing over what constitutes knowledge. I have an answer.
Proposition: Knowledge is experiencing the essence of a truth.
How did I come to this conclusion?
If knowledge must be a personal experience
and if experience is a true event or stimulus that is perceived, understood, and remembered
and if truth is definite regardless of human thought
and if truths have an essence
then knowledge is experiencing the essence of a truth.
Experience is defined as a true event or stimulus that is perceived, understood, and remembered. What this means is that something external (outside of the mind which is experiencing) has stimulated the mind. The recognition that something is happening is the act of perceiving it. To understand it is done through the act of reasoning. We take in what we have sensed and make conclusions based on our senses. Note that our conclusions must be true for it to constitute knowledge. Finally the experience must be remembered, meaning that somewhere in the mind we must be able to think back to the experience or at least have affected the mind in some way.
The philosophical tool of using the senses to gain knowledge is known as empiricism. Extreme empiricists, such as Locke, rely only on their senses and do not believe that pure reason can lead to true knowledge. The opposite of this tool is known as rationalism which relies purely on reason to gain knowledge. Descartes was a famous rationalist. With my theory, knowledge must start empirically and have some element of reason in order to experience something.
Knowledge must be a personal experience. Now that experience has been defined, we can look into this next statement. For a person to have knowledge, that person must be the one with the knowledge. Sounds obvious, right? If Person A knows something, that does not necessarily mean that Person B knows the same thing. Knowledge is not a shared item, it must be known personally.
What can be defined as true? If you were to look it up in the dictionary, you would come across something along the lines of “in accordance to fact or reality”. Essentially what that is saying is that for a statement to be true, it must line up with what reality shows us. The tricky part about truth is that humans make mistakes. Humanity once thought it was true that the earth was flat. Just because they all believed it, doesn’t make it true. A truth is a truth even if no one in the world believes it or knows about it. If someone states, “there is no God,” then that statement will either be true or false. We may never be able to prove or disprove the statement, but that doesn’t mean that there is no certainty in an answer. Whether that person is right or wrong is the real question of truth.
Essence can be known as a property or group of properties of something without which it would not exist or be what it is. This definition makes essence almost sound like something that can be seen or observed, so allow me to explain a bit farther. An essence is the very core of something, the very being of what that thing is. When you hear the word sunshine, the feeling that comes over you when you think of sunshine is how you’ve experienced its essence. Its essence does not lie in the word itself, rather it lies in all the indescribable ways that thing exists. The very attempt of describing an essence takes away its essence and turns it into the human invention of language.
Therefore, to experience the essence of a truth means to personally perceive, understand, and remember how you experienced the very essence of something that is true.
The idea of essence ties into what is known as propositional knowledge. We can distinguish the difference between a statement and a proposition. Think of a proposition as being an idea or a concept. A statement is the way that is used to express the idea. The statement consists of words, grammar, and syllables, while the proposition is what is being represented by those words.
Essence = Proposition ≠ Statement
Knowledge is experiencing the essence of a truth. Knowledge cannot be passed on from person to person in a way that is impersonal or untrue. You can gain knowledge from another person if you are actively trying to perceive, understand, and remember what it is they are explaining, if what they are explaining is true, and if you experience the essence of what they are explaining. The fact that you have read this post does not mean you have knowledge of my theory of knowledge. To have the knowledge of my theory, you must experience the essence of what I am trying to explain. The language I am using to describe this theory cannot capture its essence, but if you come to the realization of what the essence of this theory is, then you will have gained knowledge.
If you would ever like to test this theory in a situation, I find it is helpful to lay out premises and find which are a matter of truth and which are a matter of propositional knowledge (essence). Here is an example:
Statement: The sun is bright
Premise 1: The sun exists (matter of truth)
Premise 2: The sun is bright (matter of truth)
Premise 3: You have internalized the essence of brightness and the essence of the sun (propositional knowledge)
With all premises being true, you can successfully say you have knowledge. Congratulations!