Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Epistemology Synthesis

KNOWLEDGE IS…

At the beginning of our Epistemology unit, I came up with three statements that I (at the time) thought summed up all the facets of knowledge. Those three proclamations were:

  • Knowledge is stone cold, true fact, completely unaffected by personal opinion.
  • Knowledge is unlimited.
  • Knowledge is impossible.

Looking back on those initial three statements really paints a clear picture of how much my thoughts about knowledge have transformed throughout the unit due to multiple youtube videos, several discussions, and actually reading the booklets handed out by Mr. Jackson. In regards to my first statement, I now believe that knowledge in general does not necessarily have to be capital T “true facts”. This concept was well illustrated in Natalie’s blog posts exploring her question, “Can knowledge be false?”. I found this question fascinating because it directly challenged what I believed to be true at the time. She used the example of parking your car outside your house before heading inside. Once inside your house with your car out of sight, you have reason to believe that the car is still parked at the curb (knowledge), because you know that you physically just maneuvered the vehicle into that spot. However, who are you to say that your beloved Honda wasn’t stolen within those ten seconds that it took to walk into your home? The fact that the location of your car cannot be a capital T Truth in this situation makes it potentially “false knowledge”, and therefore possibly untrue, yet it still remains knowledge because it’s possessed by your brain in the form of thought (even though it is tainted by assumption). My pondering on the subject of fake knowledge was further clarified during class discussions, when we talked about the difference between true, true belief & justified true belief.

I do still agree with my second statement, “Knowledge is unlimited”. Nothing has come up over the course of the unit that has led me to think otherwise. Human brains have a massive (and in my opinion, endless) capacity to hold information, and to pull specific bits of it out when it’s needed and then safely store it back in its specific drawer when it becomes no longer useful to the situation. I don’t think one person has a bigger holding space for knowledge over another.

I’m not even really sure what I was going for with my third statement. I think(?) that since I believed that knowledge could only be defined as stone cold, true fact, and that nothing could ever really be proved to be 100% true unless you witness it with your own two eyes, we as common human beings could never truly have all knowledge. My reasoning for this was “there are things that the vast majority of the human race will never see, so why should we believe what one tiny percentage of mankind has to say about it?” I used the infamous moon landing as an example: There were only two men on the Apollo 11, and together they’ve made a large portion of the world believe that they did in fact land on the moon. But, in my mind, I thought, “Why should I buy into that? I wasn’t personally there to experience it, so how can I know for sure that it really happened?” What Mikayla the more experienced philosopher knows now is that Past Me was rejecting the moon landing because it wasn’t Justified True Belief (or Capital T Truth). However, back to my original point- I was taking the definition of “knowledge” too heavily. At the beginning of this unit, knowledge, to me, was just big important facts straight out of encyclopedias, and impossible to be known for sure as the truth simply because I would never experience it. Now, I view it more as any little scrap of information or even assumptions found in everyday life – very reachable and common, not even necessarily “true”. I now see knowledge as not an impossibility but as an inevitability.

INITIAL QUESTION

After sorting through the million questions that were running through my brain during this unit, I settled on the one that intrigued me most: Can positive thinking overpower fears/dislikes to affect an outcome? I seemed to gravitate towards questions that explored the power of thought Vs. the power of memories/prior knowledge. I was kind of scared that my question wouldn’t relate much to others’ questions and box me into a corner, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Other questions that I explored:

  • Is it possible to have a completely original thought?
  • Schizophrenia- how does it work? How does the brain ignore one version of knowledge that it already possesses and proceed to re-introduce another?
  • Why are some people street-smart while others are book-smart? What makes some knowledge more personally reachable to certain individuals than others?
  • How do we know for sure that the truth is the truth?

READING

Rather than reading an article, I watched a Youtube video, “The Scientific Power of Thought”. I explained in my reading blog post what the video taught me (see below).

“The video sums up a scientific study exploring the power of thought. According to the video, studies have shown that THINKING about doing something gives a person the same reactions and works the same sensory skills of the brain (and therefore provides the same benefits) of actually physically completing the exercise. Two group of individuals practiced the piano for two hours per day for three days, only one group practiced MENTALLY (imagining themselves doing the exercise). The result was that the exact same changes took place in the brain as the group that physically sat at the piano and practiced, and at the end of the three days, both groups had the same accuracy in their piano-playing. This incredible feat of the mind made me wonder, “If the brain has so much power over what our body can physically do/improve at/respond to, and just THINKING about playing piano is almost exactly the same as practicing, would I be able to overcome all of my fears and dislikes by simply picturing myself doing -and ~enjoying~- an activity?” Would my brain react and change from the signals triggered by a positive little motivational movie that I play for myself in my head? The video has given me reason to think that the reformation of thought and reaction is completely possible, but my active learning will be the real test.”

The reading, or rather, the watching, really set a strong foundation in the formation of my ideas and helped me feel that I was moving in the right direction.

DISCUSSION

I didn’t have many meaningful/relevant discussions about my question SPECIFICALLY, but I had lots of thorough and concise conversations about Epistemology in general. Many of these discussions vastly expanded my interest in the unit, and multiplied the number of questions I was tossing around in my head. I would say I was very productive in my discussions, and I contributed more than I knew I was capable of. One question that I heard, (Alicia’s question) particularly sparked my interest because I felt it related to my topic the best:

“I would say the most relevant perspective to my own topic that I heard during our conversations was Alicia’s question, “Is knowledge based on our past or present experiences?” We didn’t exactly have a deep discussion about it, but I did some thinking about it on my own and I felt that it helped strengthen my investigation. It’s kind of exactly my question, (Can positive/forced thinking affect the way we feel about something we already have strong feelings about) but from a different angle. The way her question was worded helped me think of my own query as a battle between past and present experiences, and gave it more layers and deeper roots. If you ate broccoli for dinner yesterday and absolutely hated it, you have knowledge that broccoli is gross. However, if mom makes it AGAIN tonight, and you tell yourself that it’s the most delicious food in the world, will your positive thinking trick your brain and physically affect your palate? It’s a toss-up between memories (the past) and the power of your thoughts (the present).”

Below is a massive yet completely unreadable mind map that I sketched out during class discussions. It links the conversation topics that we were provided with to any questions that came up in my mind along the way, and who I was talking with at those specific times.

New-Mind-Map_5c9bm4ud

ACTIVE LEARNING

My goal for my active learning was to test whether the power of my memories or the power of my thoughts was stronger. I forced myself to eat broccoli (my least favourite food) and listen to country music (my least favourite genre of music) for an hour, to see if I could force myself to fall in love with them. The result was:

I’m not proud to admit that by around seven minutes in, I was swaying along to Sam Hunt. Honestly, I don’t even know why I hated country music so much in the first place. It’s kind of feel-good music. When I erased the negative thoughts that I’ve just gone along with and assumed I possessed for the majority of my life, I was able to take on a fresh view, and that view was something I really never expected to see. Letting go of my prior knowledge (I don’t even think it can really be called “knowledge”) was a vulnerable yet extremely interesting experience for me.

The broccoli was a bit of a different story. (I know, misleading title.) I couldn’t force myself to LOVE it, but eating the whole plate of it definitely was not as bad as I thought it would be, and I got through it easily, with absolutely no gagging. The intriguing thing about my contact with the broccoli was that I could feel myself slowly liking it less and less as I got less and less focused on trying not to hate it. I think that happened because I was still allowing myself to acknowledge the vegetable as something that I had a personal opinion about.

My active learning was a success! I came out of it with my question fully answered, and my mind finally clear on the fact that the brain is more powerful than memories/assumptions. Phil’s Day Off was extremely helpful to me, and I would say I definitely achieved my goal.

 

 

 

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