Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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If you practiced yodeling enough you could probably do it in your sleep-Benedict Mendes

So, for this midterm I had no idea what I wanted to do at first, but after the first free writing session I came up with a proposition.

Knowledge can be presented in practiced actions that do not require thought

I came up with this because when I thought of really knowing something, I thought of being familiar with an action or a subject. When one is extremely familiar with an action they can reproduce it at any time without effort or even thinking of it, save the momentary “I am going to do this action” thought. In a sense, to me knowledge it at it’s most valuable when it can be reproduced without thought, because of experience and familiarity with it. The premises preceding this proposition make things a little more clear.

If knowledge is defined by being familiar with a subject

and

If knowledge in the mind can be separate from knowledge in the body

then

Knowledge can be presented in practiced actions that do not require thought

 

The truth of the premises is debatable, as both premises are subjective to the reader or writer, but to me these premises are true and they are what I base my opinion of knowledge on.

 

For the first premise, the reason I define knowledge as being familiar with a subject is that the definition of experience is pretty much being really familiar with something. For example, an experienced chef will be able to tell you how to make dishes in certain ways and how to bring out certain flavours because they themselves have gone through these processes hundreds, even thousands of times. Because they have experience with it they are able to easily produce dishes with their gained knowledge.

 

The second premise basically is talking about the difference between conceptual knowledge and applied knowledge. Reading a manual on how to set up an IKEA chair is different than actually physically setting up the chair, that’s the idea that this premise draws from.

 

And of course, the conclusion. If my premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. Basically, what I’m saying is that once you become familiar enough with something, especially an action, you can replicate it without thinking, and it is in that action that the most valuable knowledge lies. This means that something like muscle memory, when your body physically remembers certain actions, is more valuable than knowledge of how to do an action.  For example, I am a musician and I play piano. When I learn a song I learn it slowly, I have to think about each and every note I hit and constantly use the sheet music for reference. As I get more and more familiar with the song I can start to go faster, and when I’m going faster I can’t rely on the sheet music as much, I have to simply know where some notes are. Eventually I can memorize the song and play it anytime that I sit down at the piano, this is because I have ingrained every key hit, every note into my body and I can replicate it without hesitation. Even when I’m playing a song I have memorized completely, I can think about something else while my body continues the action. Even if I make a mistake, I know the song so well that I can register it and remember to correct it in the future. It is at this point that knowledge is at it’s best and most valuable. Being able to reproduce a song without thinking means I have to know every little detail, every rhythm, every note, every key, I have to have a lot of experience with the song. Because of this, I have more knowledge of the song than someone who does not have as much experience with it but is able to look at the sheet music. Of course, the mind is part of the process of learning the song and transferring what I see on the page to the actions in my hands, but once I know the notes and keys I no longer have to rely on the mind to monitor my actions as I perform them. When the body no longer has to rely on the mind to replicate an action is when you know you have basically the best knowledge possible of that thing or action.

 

This argument lines up a little bit with the thinking of Kant with his mindset of “All knowledge comes from experience” and the belief that the physical world is real. It opposes Descartes because if there is no physical world then the actions I perform would not matter, and therefore would have no place in knowledge. It’s based a lot more empirically than it is rationally, because really an action is about the feel of it. The experience of how your body moves and how it performs the action is more important than the concept of what the action does, it’s using your senses to judge how you’re performing the action rather than the mind and reason.

 

In conclusion the entire argument is a little bit like a more complicated version of “practice makes perfect”, it’s all about repeated exposure to an action or a subject. The longer you practice an action for the easier it will get until you can do it without needing to think, your mind can think about something else while your body does the thing. It is in this that the most valuable knowledge lies.

 

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