Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Epistemology Discussions – Jessica Lewis

 

During our class discussion time, I first spoke to Laike about my question about is it possible that knowledge is passed? We both agreed that it is passed, and then I brought up the idea of knowledge being passed through the generations and how we acquire it. For example we don’t have to learn vision, its automatic. Laike brought up the example of jelly fish and how they know to move up, down and can even produce light. We spoke about the possibilities of where this knowledge the jelly fish have could have come from?

 

The second person I spoke to was Natalie, We together discussed how we would define knowledge, wisdom, information and understanding. We said that to us, wisdom is what comes with age, information is facts (for example the color of my eyes and the combination of my genes ) , we also said that understanding something or someone is making the connections between things and finally we decided that knowledge is in  everything and everyone. In this discussion I tried to make a connection to my own question. I came up with the idea that yes, knowledge is passed however is can also be created within. Knowledge is everywhere and we are constantly evolving and with that change its untrue to say that every part of my knowledge came from previous ancestors.

 

After discussing with Natalie I spoke to Kyle. Kylie brought up the idea of ignorance, which we then explored more as a group, with Liam. We spoke about how people can choose to take knowledge however  they please. A second thing we spoke about is that knowing everything is impossible because knowledge is everywhere there will always be something somebody could learn.

 

I then spoke to David about whether knowledge is from the past or the present. We both decided that its both. I brought up the idea that everything once was in the present and one day everything will be in the past so knowledge comes from all areas of life.  Again we brought up the idea of how knowledge is everywhere. Another topic we spoke about is how knowledge is passed and how it is justified. Knowledge is passed by anything, take me knocking on a wooden table. From knocking on the table the knowledge is passed to my senses which then tell me that a sound is produced when I tap hard enough on the table. Also intangible knowledge can be passed in a classroom between and teacher and a student. Me and David also spoke about the idea of not needing to prove our knowledge, for example failing a test doesn’t mean you don’t know it. Maybe failing it means you didn’t study enough or you had a bad sleep but it doesn’t mean your not knowledgeable.

 

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Individual Knowledge vs. Collective Knowledge – Sydney

The descriptive implication is that history and sociology of science can proceed neither by focusing exclusively on individual researchers nor by focusing exclusively on aggregate properties of scientific communities. Rather, both levels must be considered in understanding how groups come to further scientific knowledge… An accurate historical record of science ought to incorporate both detailed descriptions of the achievements of individual scientists and also a social history of the relevant scientific communities and institutions, including an analysis of how learning methods are shared and research results are communicated.
– “The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge,” Conor Mayo-Wilson, Kevin J. S. Zollman, David Danks.

At the beginning of this unit, I started with three propositions:

  • Knowledge is what can be observed or what we can think about
  • Knowledge is limited by ourselves
  • Knowledge is mainly individualized

I chose to explore my third proposition, knowledge is mainly individualized. To aid me in my search, I came up with this statement: if knowledge is created by our experiences, and experiences come from sensory information and our interpretation of it, and no one can experience the exact same thing as another, then knowledge is individualized. However, as much as I wanted to explore this statement, the reading I found was not related to it.

I read “Plato, Pascal, and the Dynamics of Personal Knowledge” by Michael Friedrich Otte, Tânia M. M. Campos, and Alexandre S. Abido; as well as “The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge” by Conor Mayo-Wilson, Kevin J. S. Zollman, and David Danks. The material in both of these readings was mainly mathematical. They talked about figures and mathematical examples of how the concepts they mention could be used, but I was hoping to find the more humanities-based perspective on the idea of collective and individual knowledge. I did, although find a point that was mentioned in “The Independence Thesis,” which provided evidence for my idea. “The Independence Thesis” mentions that groups of scientists/researchers are all individual. This suggests that there is such thing as group knowledge, but it is first based upon individual knowledge.

This led to my next question: Is it possible to have collective or group knowledge without individual knowledge? This is a question I hope to use to guide my ideas further and bring up in future discussions.

 

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Passing Knowledge Through Generations – Jessica Lewis

I can pass a book and physically pass someone the knowledge of how to hold the book, also the book itself can represent knowledge. However knowledge can be passed in a classroom from a teacher to a student and a parent to a child.  After evaluating two pieces of reading the main question i am faced with is Can knowledge be passed?

The first reading that i read was Knowledge passed down through the generations by Prairie Gleanings. This reading used the example of a man who’s father once gave him some gardening advice. The Father told his son to set the deck near the top and leave the grass a little longer. The son soon figured out that his fathers father had told him the same and so forth through the generations. This is one of many examples of how knowledge can be passed through the generations.

The second reading that I was able to take information from is called Is Knowledge inherited? . In this Reading the writer talks about vision is automatic to us and how we do not have to learn how to see. This is an extended example that also relates to my first point about how knowledge is passed through generations.

 

 Vision is autonomic. We do not have to learn to see. So are the motor muscle reflexes involved in species locomotion.

 

 

 

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Confusing Confucius and Philosophical Fry

To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.

In the “Futurama” episode “Reincarnation” a specific bit has Professor Farnsworth on the search for the particle that all life is stemmed from. SPOILER he finds it and goes through an existential crisis at having finally solved what he has spent his whole life working for. Without this search for this specific bit of knowledge, his life no longer had meaning and he lost his way. In the particular bit, Fry goes about his comically perceived bumbling ways and asks why this certain event had to happen in this specific way. At first he was brushed off for being an idiot but the professor actually did some hard thinking about this question. Why did this thing had to happen this specific way? If an idiot can question it, why can’t a knowledgeable man of science figure out how else to question the universe. This is my convoluted way of showing that knowledge isn’t defined by how smart a person is perceived but by their experience.
Knowledge is defined as “facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.” Following this quote knowledge is also proposed as the awareness that there are things that we do not know and we simply have to accept it. To me, knowledge isn’t defined by how much schooling you’ve done, how high your education level is. I define knowledge by your experience and your personal history. Someone who has grown up on the streets has accumulated their own specific brand of knowledge; what streets to avoid, which house is safe, which people to avoid. While upper middle class have more knowledge on the finer things in life, more education based knowledge. These two don’t exist higher than one another in the way that one is deemed “dumber.” We have grown to accept the social connotation that people who don’t do well academically or financially are perceived less knowledgeable. This is clearly not the case as we know but this social construct hits deep and exists to this day. How many teachers give up on a kid because they aren’t doing well in one course but find that they are absolutely brilliant in another way? How many people deem immigrants and refugees lesser due to their lack of western understanding? Knowledge is so much deeper than how we stroke our beards and think about mathematics. People will go through their whole lives and not be truly knowledgeable. We have to be open to the idea that there is a pursuit of knowledge that we will never find. Life is this weird combination of practical experience and thinking that somehow took us from hunter gatherers to ones that carry personal computers with the worlds information right at their fingertips.
But then again, what do I know? I connect major philosophical thinking to a shitty 90’s/00’s show about a guy who was frozen and wakes up in 3000.
 

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Experience: The Flint of Knowledge

To bring forth my blog post on knowledge I’d first like to quote Plato: A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers“. 

Proposition: The birth of all knowledge has/will only arise from experience.

If birth can be defined as the beginning or coming into existence,
and if knowledge can be defined as true; justified, observed belief,
and if experience can be defined as practical contact with and observation of events.
Then all knowledge comes from experience.

Birth:
Birth is defined as the beginning or coming into existence of something. With this information we can infer that the subject in question has never existed or begun previously, thus it is new. In relation to knowledge (a forever changing and developing force) birth will always be intertwined. When speaking about knowledge one can know that the world was not born with textbooks and “how to” guides in hand; knowledge was built through the discovery and “ah-ha” moments of people all over the world. Through the birth of new ideas along with trial and error, the world has vastly developed and gained millions of textbooks worth of new knowledge. As the world develops new birth will arise (as seen with Apples, Blackberries, Androids and Samsung’s) the world will never stop in the pursuit of knowledge.
Knowledge:
Knowledge can be defined as facts, information, and skills acquired as well as the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. With this we can infer that knowledge originates from experience. To come to this conclusion one must find that before a fact is created or new information arises, one must be witness to such fact. If the fact has already been established one may be passed on such knowledge through an education, a book, a movie or by a friend or family member.
Experience:
Experience can be defined as the contact with or observation of an event or situation as well as the practical contact of such event. With this we can further infer that in order to develop further or create knowledge one must first experience the situation. In order to come to this assumption one must know that before knowledge comes a moment, event or situation this we know as “the experience”. When experiencing something one can witness new or existing knowledge for example if I drop a ball I can witness the use of gravity pulling it down to earth just as Newton did; or I may be the first person in my class to look out the window and discover that it is snowing.
In conclusion in order to create new knowledge one must experience/witness a situation or event.
 

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Infants Can Cry and I Can Write a Midterm – And Nothing May Be True

The mind gains knowledge through processing information in stimuli and internally rationalizing it. This I know to be true, but it cannot stand alone. Therefore, the following propositions must also be taken into account for us to all take this statement as true:

If the brain is a blank slate aside from instinctual qualities

And if those qualities include rational thought

And if knowledge does not have to be true to be known

As long as those statements are all true, then our final statement on how we gain knowledge also applies. Therefore, rather than prove my statement, we can prove the propositions that come before it, as the statement would logically follow as true.

The brain is a blank slate, aside from instinctual qualities.

This statement serves as two ideas in one, two ideas that would at face value contradict each other, but that can live in a balanced harmony to explain the brain and how it is. First, we can define what the blank slate is. Although cited in history many times, the theory was popularized in John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

The idea behind the Blank Slate theory is that at birth, an infant emerges with a mind blank of anything – thoughts, personality, instincts, and even the ability to process information. From there, processing, personality, thoughts, and all other basic brain functions are learned through sensory experience.

This theory obviously stands as undeniable pure empiricism, and because my statement does not, we are simply going to modify Locke’s theory as so many others have. Locke wrote his Essay Concerning Human Understanding in the late 1600’s, and by the late 1800’s Wilhelm Wundt had characterized all repeated human behaviour as human instinct, the most basic definition. From there, many psychologists and philosophers alike have toyed with the idea of instincts. For this statement, we’re going to use the criteria outlined in the book Instinct: An Enduring Problem in Psychology. The criteria go as followed:

To be considered instinctual, a behavior must:

a) be automatic
b) be irresistible
c) occur at some point in development
d) be triggered by some event in the environment
e) occur in every member of the species
f) be unmodifiable
g) govern behavior for which the organism needs no training (although the organism may profit from experience and to that degree the behavior is modifiable)

Warning for Baby Nudity

In layman’s terms, an instinct must be a behaviour that can occur in every human being when stimulated in a certain way, and it must be a behaviour that overrides reason and rational thought, therefore requiring no prior skill. Think fight or flight, a popularly cited and discussed human instinct. As for infant instincts, there are quite a few recorded that are cited by psychologists and parenting websites alike.

The instinctual qualities we are born with include rational thought

Once again, to answer this we must address and answer two things. The first is to define what rational thought is (and the purpose it plays in this statement on epistemology), and the second is to state that we are born with that rational thought.

Due to the nature of the word rational an the amount of people who have studied, defined, and warped it’s definition. this case, rational thought is the ability to process information, eg. rationalism, the theory that reasoning is the main source of our knowledge. Of course, because of our reliance on empiricism for the blank slate theory, we’ve reached a point here where rationalism and empiricism play an equal part in the gaining of knowledge.

With our definition of rational thought defined as the ability to process information through reasoning, we can safely assume infants are born with the ability to reason at the most basic levels. It’s undeniable that infants cry when they require attention, and in this case we can assume that the following basic reasoning is occurring.

“I’m hungry, so I will call for my mother.”
“My diaper is soiled, I will call for an adult.”
“Something has startled me, I will call for help.”

We can also apply the instinctual qualities earlier defined to rationalizing, further cementing the idea. Infant rationalizing is instant. For example, an infant will cry immediately after being started. It’s irresistible, babies cannot resist crying when they need help, unless serious trauma has rendered them silent. It occurs immediately at birth, a point in development. It is triggered by stimuli in the environment, such as fear, discomfort, and hunger. It occurs in all infants who are born healthy. It does not vary or change. And, finally, it does not need any prior training. In fact, quite the opposite, as most healthy infants come out into the world screaming.

Knowledge does not have to be true to be known.

This is perhaps the hardest statement to prove, if only because once we define knowledge and truth, we are left with something that still must be believed with perhaps a little bit of faith. Or, perhaps not, because even if it’s untrue it is known.

Either way, let us use the most literal dictionary definition of knowledge.

noun knowl·edge \ˈnä-lij\
: information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education
Although the dictionary is often not the best source for defining words in depth, in this case I’ve chosen the most basic definition for a very basic reason – this definition is the one most people recognize and ascribe to. Since humans have created language, humans can define language, and in this case knowledge is understood as information, understanding, and skills that are gained through experience.

As for truth… Well, truth is unknown. That is to say, there is no giant checklist that will say whether what we know is really a truth or not, and when so many things are either subjective or wholly based on perspective, we may never know. Because of that, humans have the potential to be knowledgeless if knowledge MUST be true to be known, so we will simply say that knowledge as potentially untrue is fair.

The mind gains knowledge through processing information in stimuli and internally rationalizing it.
Finally, we’ve gone through our propositional statements and defined them to the point where we can say that this statement is true.
The mind gains knowledge, (which does not need to be true,) through processing information in stimuli, (empiricism,) and internally rationalizing, (and instinct all humans are born with, and also rationalism) it.
With this statement, many (if not all,) schools of epistemology can argue their case. After all, as long as the stimuli is there and as long as the brain is functional enough to rationalize it, then it can be known. It can be known as competence and acquaintance, it can be argued as a true belief or not, it can serve itself to foundationalism or anti-foundationalism, and it can do almost any conceivable mixture of these schools.
 

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Communicating Knowledge

The demonstration of knowledge is one of a complex nature. With over 1000 written languages, 6900 spoken
languages, 130 forms of sign languages, and the universal body language, communication has evidently become the
most commonly accepted means of demonstrating knowledge. From personal experience, I have come to the belief that non-verbal communication is a more universal means of communication than verbal communication. This ideology ties into the epistemological theory of propositional and competence knowledge. My concept of the communication of knowledge can be broken down into the following syllogism:

  • Premise 1: If non-verbal forms of communication, such as sign language and body language, are more universal ways of conveying the understanding of knowledge.
  • Premise 2: And if verbal communication is very limited in its range of communication and leads to the most amounts of confusion and misunderstanding.
  • Conclusion: Then non-verbal communication is cos a better means of demonstrating knowledge than verbal communication

Before delving in further to my understanding of knowledge, there are some terminology that needs to be defined in its regards to my syllogism.

  • Knowledge: Information gained through rationalism and empiricism.
  • Communication: The expression of knowledge to another being in a way that both people comprehend
  • Non-Verbal Communication: A form of communication that uses the body to convey knowledge, ways such as facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures, it is also more universally understood.
  • Verbal Communication: A form of communication that uses speech to relay information and is limited by language barriers.
  • Better: A more effective or efficient means to convey comprehendible information.
  • Universal: Being able to demonstrate knowledge to others regardless of their language or nationality.
  • Demonstrating: Relaying information to other individuals through actions or words.

Now, onto my first premise: If non-verbal forms of communication, such as sign language and body language, are more universal ways of conveying the understanding of knowledge. 55% of communication is demonstrated through non-verbal cues humans display either subconsciously or consciously. Generally, people world wide have the ability to demonstrate their opinions, feelings and knowledge of things through their body language. When you feel as if you’re under attack, naturally you would become tense and have defensive posture. Displaying knowledge through the human figure may seem strange, but we do it on a regular basis. When we agree, understand or know something, we tend to be more open with our body language. In opposition, when we don’t understand, think something is wrong or don’t agree with something, we tend to have closed body language. This is a concept that majority of people have the capacity to recognize.

My second premise: if verbal communication is very limited in its range of communication and leads to the most
amounts of confusion and misunderstanding, addresses the verbal aspects if communication. While there are some individuals who are great at speaking, they still use and manipulate their body language to convey a certain message. This can lead to misunderstandings and confusing quiet easily. Not to mention the one dimensional aspect of language that is created by having one mother tongue or in some cases, multiple. This barrier restricts the how widely a message can be spread.

How does all this relate to competence knowledge and propositional knowledge? Competence knowledge is explained in one of our class readings as knowledge that is understood through demonstration while propositional knowledge is explained as the processing of information, usually through words. This direction connects to my syllogism because non-verbal communication can also be interpreted as competence knowledge and verbal communication can be understood as propositional knowledge. So by following my syllogism, competence knowledge is a better means of knowledge than propositional.

I have come to make these conclusions through experiences such as interacting on a daily basis with a variety of people and through my own personal realizations. To me, there is no ‘right’ answer for what knowledge is. Knowledge is whatever we allow it to be. It’s intangible and carries from person to person. I think that the most common experience I have in regards to this is when two people witness the same event and both tell entirely different versions of it. Their body language will convey more about the emotional connection and understanding to the event rather than the words that come pouring from their mouths. At the end of the day, people struggle to communicate their true intentions through words, but non-verbal communication will always prevail.

 

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Knowledge

“Knowledge is power” – Francis Bacon 


  1. If power is the ability to influence people and events
  2. And if knowledge allows us greater influence on people and events
  3. Then, knowledge is power.

Power gives us the ability….

  • To defend ourselves from inequality
  • To manipulate/influence others
  • To climb up in the social scale (education, money…etc.)
  • To have our own beliefs and ideas about truth

Every single individual has a certain amount of power due to their existence, influence on their environment and being different from every other human being. The fact that there is no other human designed the exact same way as us, (even identical twins have distinguishable fingerprints,) makes us exceptional and matchless. Our uniqueness can either make us feel confident or insecure. Power is usually used in a negative connotation because it can be extremely corrupt. Often, when people experience emotions of greatness, they lose focus of reality.  We have the ability of shifting our power to a ephemeral height and authority or to a state of humbling self control. When you are aware of things that other people aren’t, you feel more confident which results to you feeling more powerful in the situation compared to someone who is oblivious. You can use that against people in multiple ways. Whether by being condescending or using it as a skill to get more opportunities, you have a higher potential of succeeding. This could also be sustained by education or a certain training. Individuals can abuse their knowledge of others and situations to get what they will benefit from; sacrificing others along the way. The return of their actions might seem so wonderful and pleasing that they conceal the flaw and inhumane effect it has on others. This is a way of manipulation and influence on others. Power is overwhelming however, when managed well, a Utopian outcome can be a result of knowledge.

Finally, If you have knowledge, you are aware of your rights so you can defend yourself which prevents you from being taken advantage of. It is important to not abuse knowledge, rather grow from it. Knowledgeable people have their own perspective and ideas; they are usually leaders. However, It is important to listen to others and learn before we speak.

Progress is created by being open to new ideas and I believe a large portion of knowledge is being able to learn from other people who have different views and difficult experiences.

“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” -Albert Einstein

 

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Emotional Confusion

My original question of, “where does emotion come from and what is it?”, it has come to my attention that i will be pondering this for a very long time. Do we have these answers? from my research it has come to my attention that we as people understand where in the brain emotion comes from, and what structure makes it up, yet we don’t have any solid answers on why we feel emotion and aspire for things apposed to other animals of just reacting seemingly unconsciously? Because we don’t have any ways of solving these questions, we only have educated theories of “trusted” scientists and doctors. which really, are just opinions. What ARE emotions?

one interesting theory i came across that seems to be the most mind boggling and opposing opinion of what i thought emotions are. it is called the “James-Lange theory”. composed by psychologist William James, He believes reactions and emotions work hand and hand. most believe that our emotions come first and influence our reactions based on the emotion we are feeling. This theory states the reaction comes before a bodily emotion to the reaction. More of , “we are afraid because we run” as apposed to “we run because we are afraid”…Anger

i find this really interesting as i perceive it in myself as an emotion before a reaction. before i react to something i think about how it made me feel and how i would want to handle the situation. saying that, there are situations where i may be frustrated and i react to something in a way i regret and my reaction came first and the emotions of what had just happened hit me like a wave. lets take on board for a minute if this theory was true, would this be implying that we don’t have control over our actions, but we have control over our emotions? or that we don’t truly have free will, we are more like atoms reacting with things around us?

this opens many more possibilities and questions for me to look into, and has actually changed my own theory a little. although i havent come any closer to finding an answer, this will ponder me for a very long time. i wonder if we even have the technology or the capacity to understand certain things like this, or if we ever will. Something so involuntary and effortless yet so complicated to understand and solve…

 

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Economic Epistemology

Image courtesy of Cliff Kule

In recent years I’ve been curious about the fluidity of presumed objectivity at the heart of modern economics. Chiefly, its occasional lack of ability to explain the behaviours of markets:

Central bankers still debate whether it’s possible to recognize asset bubbles when they occur, and whether they can or should be deflated. Regulators and bankers are still at odds over new financial products such as credit derivatives: Do they simply improve the market’s ability to process and reflect information, or do they also present new dangers of their own? This is a failure that left the world unprepared for the most recent financial crisis, and the economics profession has been far too complacent about it. Economists can’t be expected to predict the future. But they should be able to identify threatening trends, and to better understand the conditions that can turn a change in prices into a financial tsunami.

Following events such as the financial crisis of 2008, and rising levels of destabilizing inequality (especially in the United States, at the center of the world economy) in the years since, a growing number of economic minds have begun conceiving of a “Brave New Math:”

While the limitations of GDP have since been echoed by many prominent economists including Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen (whose landmark 2010 report included dozens of important socio-economic measures drawn from the developing world), there has been little change in the obsessive overreliance on GDP as the primary economic barometer. And if GDP was an unreliable indicator in the pre-globalized world, it is woefully misleading today. Increasingly, understanding the quality of GDP and its composition, especially the weighting of its four constituent parts—consumption, government spending, investment, and net exports—is most important to our long-term national health. Yet few governments have managed to divorce themselves from the simple GDP figure, regardless of how irrelevant it has become.

Editorialists at the New York Times have opined that:

“Infinite growth in a finite world is impossible, growth based on speculative finance is unstable, and since the 1960’s, GDP growth and self-reported well-being have been completely uncorrelated phenomena. In this sense holistic, deep-reaching change of both thought, education and practice is needed. Indeed, we were brought together by an increasing realization that our global economic troubles aren’t just a few bad apples; the problem is indeed the apple tree.”

 Writers at the Guardian have called for an expanded undergraduate economics curriculum

We propose that neoclassical theory be taught alongside and in conjunction with a broad variety of other schools of thought consistently throughout the undergraduate degree. In this way the discipline is opened up to critical discussion and evaluation. How well do different schools explain economic phenomena? Which assumptions should we build our models upon? Should we believe that markets are inherently self-stabilising or does another school of thought explain reality better? When economists are taught to think like this, all of society will benefit and more economists will see the next crisis coming. Critical pluralism opens up possibilities and the imagination.

From a certain perspective it could be stated that we are reaching the end of an economic paradigm, giving us something of a real-time example to examine in the realm of Epistemology, as old truths are investigated, and assumptions are tested against the possibilities of the new.

Or not.

That’s the thing about shifting paradigms: How do we know that the existing paradigm is flawed to its foundation? Might it require merely ‘tweaks’ as opposed to full-scale revolution and regeneration?

How do we ensure that this conversation has a means of happening democratically?

 
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