Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Epistemology: A Summary – Sydney

When we started the epistemology unit in philosophy, I had three statements that I wanted to explore:

  1. Knowledge is what can be observe or what we can think about.

I think that knowledge begins with input from the 5 senses, but it can also be ideas we come up with independently of sensory information. Knowledge can also be what we interpret this sensory information as. Essentially, knowledge can be anything, but I think that knowledge can fall into one of the two categories (either sensory information or independent ideas). Knowledge can fall in the middle of the two, but I think it still leads back to one category where the knowledge was initiated.

  1. Knowledge is limited by ourselves.

I think there is only so much that our minds can do or think about. We can mentally extend ourselves, as in being able to learn/think about new things, but once again that’s limited by our mental ability.

  1. Knowledge is mainly individualized.

I don’t think that knowledge can really be collective – we can know the same things, but not in the exact same way as another person, because we don’t have their experiences and cannot truly see the world the way they do.

Out of these three statements, I decided to pursue the third one: knowledge is mainly individualized. To help me in my search, out of the two readings I found, I thought that “The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge” was the most useful and relevant to my topic. While the content of this article was mainly mathematical, I was able to decipher the idea that this article relates to my topic.The authors discuss group knowledge and how it begins with individual knowledge: although there can be groups of scientists sharing knowledge, the information really begins individually. Looking back at it now, this idea seems sort of like a variation of the “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?” discussion because the points made about group knowledge or individual knowledge coming first could definitely be argued. This reading led to me next question: is it possible to have collective or group knowledge without individual knowledge?

Unfortunately, during our discussions in class I was unable to talk about this question with my peers. Instead, we talked about knowledge as true belief, and our perception of reality vs. what reality is actually like. I talked to Kiana about knowledge being true belief. We thought that one person may believe something, and therefore to them it would be true knowledge. This relates to my topic because Kiana also mentioned how one person’s belief may be justified to one person and it would be knowledge to them, but this might not be the case with everyone else around them. As a result, this also suggests the idea that knowledge is individualized. When I talked to Dom, Liam, Adam, and Sam, we spoke about the difference between our perception of reality and what reality is actually like. We discussed the idea that our perception of reality is reality until that perception changes. I think this also relates to my topic because it implies that everyone has different perceptions. Our perception is coloured by our previous experiences and knowledge, and is also ever-changing. As a result, no one can have the exact same perception of reality as another person, and therefore cannot have the exact same knowledge as another person – it all leads back to knowledge being individualized! In my opinion, of course. Regardless, I thought that the discussions I had in class were useful and I hoped to carry these ideas with me as I pursued my active learning,

For my Phil’s Day Off this time around, I decided I wanted to make a video. I wanted to demonstrate the difference between my sister and I’s experiences, even though we were essentially experiencing the same activities. This would provide an example that shows how knowledge is still individual, even though it may be based upon similar experiences. I was successful – through filming this video, it cemented my idea that knowledge really is based on perception. I couldn’t film exactly what my sister experienced, because I would still be viewing what she saw through the lenses of my own experiences, and the tangible objectivity of a camera and filming something represented how I could never get in another person’s head and know what they know in the same way that they do.

From my reading, discussion, and active learning for this epistemology unit, I have come away with three findings: first, I found that going out with more intention is more useful. This is specifically in regards to my active learning piece. It helps to have a plan, and I was able to think more actively about everything I did and how it related back to my topic, rather than blindly navigating through my day and then reflecting at the very end and stretching for any point that could possibly be related to philosophy.

My second finding is that technically, there is no answer to any question we may have. I think that this has not only been my biggest finding in the epistemology unit, but also the biggest thing that philosophy has taught me. I think that we can say that we may think that we know something, but there will always be something or someone who can contradict it.

This leads to my third finding from the epistemology unit: everything leads back to perception. When I mean perception, by the way, I’m essentially talking about point of view. Everything we may think or know is based upon our point of view, which will never be the exact same as another person’s. However, like I stated before, there could definitely be a person who disagrees with me on this point (or any other point I’ve made, for that matter), and we will never ever know for sure who could be the closest to being “right.”


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