Studying knowledge is something philosophers have been doing for as long as philosophy has been around. It’s one of those perennial topics—like the nature of matter in the hard sciences, that philosophy has been refining since before the time of Plato. In order to answer that question, you probably have to have some idea what the term “know” means.
Okay, a definition is tough to come by. But philosophers have been attempting to construct one for centuries. As with most things in philosophy, the definition is controversial and there are plenty who disagree with it (as seen just in our own classroom). But as these things go, it serves as at least the starting point for studying knowledge.
P1: Knowledge is acquired through experience.
If you look up the literal definition of knowledge, you will see that the explanation is 1, facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. And 2, awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. I think it is safe to assume that both of these state a common ground of similarity on the bases of how knowledge may be explained. I want to focus in on the theoretical part of the definition, mostly because it intrigues me that knowledge could be claimed whilst also claiming theory. Theory and knowledge seem to completely contradict the other, so researching this was especially crucial to making this premise true. I can explain theory to be the lesson initially taught or learned, with basically no basis. It’s hard to have a theoretical knowledge basis without having the practical aspect along with it. I strongly believe you do not hold a basis of knowledge until both sides of the “know” have been met. Back to my premise, though both of these are contradictory they share something. Acquired experience. Everything we know, is what we have learned through experience. Whether it be through education, communication, or any means of grasping onto a new concept, our knowledge originated through acquiring new experiences.
P2: Experience shapes our perception.
It is not really possible to separate what we call reality from our perceptions since our perceptual mechanisms are our only contact with phenomena. There is a significant “translation” of the various sensory data (that we are able to detect), by the brain and other parts of the perceptual system, in order to create a somewhat seamless experience of our world. It obviously works well enough to provide us with a (at the very least) sufficient survival capability. It also works well enough that we are able to develop considerable agreement between individuals about the details of our perceptual experience. Four people standing on separate corners at an intersection witness an accident; but each observation was different. Often, conclusions are directly opposite from one another based on perception. Even so, our understanding of reality is always expressed as recall. The present is but a point of rapid transition between future and past. We experience the present moment; but only after analysis of the data in our brains do we comprehend what has happened. The problem is that recall is imperfect. Therefore, not fully grasping the passing moment, we fill in the gaps with many assumptions and/or imagination. That is the objective reality we claim. However, even the highest demands of objective proofs by scientists are dependent on private and personal subjectivity. In other words, how do we find answers when we fail to even understand the questions. Perception is our reality. If you perceive me as having power and influence, then I have power and influence whether or not it is true.
C: Knowledge is subjective, and objective.
The distinction between objective and subjective normally refers to judgments and claims which people make. Objective judgments and claims are assumed to be free from personal considerations, emotional perspectives, etc. Subjective judgments and claims, however, are assumed to be heavily (if not entirely) influenced by such personal considerations. Knowledge can be based around both of these two topics, as our perception leads us to believe that something it true, we genuinely believe that it is. I think subjectivity and objectivity can be closely related with practical knowledge versus theoretical knowledge, as each share a contradictory side in similarity, as well as differing majorly. Knowledge is subjective because of its unsteadiness. Knowledge isn’t always valid or correct, it’s subjective. We know what we acquire, and it doesn’t guarantee solidarity.
Knowledge is objective because knowledge is what it is. You cannot argue you carry the knowledge. You may argue the conception, and the validity, even if it is right or wrong, but you cannot argue that the knowledge has somehow been placed there.
Proposition: Knowledge is self-determined. I say this with the strong belief and knowledge that we acquire knowledge through experiences, and that bases our perception. If these are true, than it would have to conclude that everyone’s knowledge is determined by their own person. Of course my thoughts and reality are different from yours, because I have acquired different experiences throughout my life time, altering my perception, and altering my knowledge. Just as your experiences have shaped your own knowledge.
A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea that there isn’t universal knowledge. Descartes thought that only knowledge of eternal truths – could be attained by reason alone; other knowledge, the knowledge of physics, required experience of the world, aided by the scientific method. Also, since conscious sense experience can be the cause of illusions, then sense experience itself can be doubt able. As a result, Descartes believed that a rational pursuit of truth should doubt every belief about reality. On the other hand, Aristotle’s theory of knowledge was based on his strong belief in Logic. He developed the principles of reasoning. He argued that the possibility of error forces the mind to determine the truth validity of a given statement. This meant the intellect must have adequate reasons, which can ensure the proposed judgment conforms to reality. He believed that such reasons, were the foundation of perfect knowledge, perfect knowledge being knowledge through causes.
Shout out to Google for defining all the big fancy terms, Wikipedia for making me read pages of useless information about famous philosophers, and my Mom for taking the time out of her day to discuss this annoyingly intriguing topic of knowledge.